Enough With Administrative Detentions

Haaretz Editorial
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Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday
Defense Minister Benny Gantz on MondayCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz Editorial

Fifteen administrative detention orders have been issued recently, 12 of them to residents of East Jerusalem; all the detainees are Arabs. This phenomenon should concern every citizen in Israel, Jew and Arab alike.

The orders grew out of the clashes that took place last month in Arab locales and mixed Jewish-Arab cites. No one denies that those who commit acts of violence must be brought to justice, but one cannot ignore the detention of Israeli citizens or residents without legal proceedings. This is an alarming seepage of the obscene procedures used by Israel to control the occupied Palestinian population; about 480 Palestinians are now in administrative detention without trial, according to data from the Hamoked organization.

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Although Israelis are quite indifferent to the issue of administrative detention, it is important to understand its practical significance. On Monday, for example, Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed an administrative detention order against a 28-year-old Israeli citizen living in Lod, who is suspected of shooting at a group of young people during the riots in the city. The citizen was arrested for the first time last month, but wasn’t charged. He was detained for about two weeks, released and arrested again.

On Tuesday, after it had been agreed that he would be released, an administrative detention order signed by the defense minister was submitted, based on intelligence received by the Shin Bet security service in his case. As it was impossible to use this information as part of a regular legal proceeding because that would risk exposing its source, the defense establishment issued an administrative detention order against the suspect for four months.

Thus it was decreed that an Israeli citizen should be locked up for four months without being charged, and without access to the investigative material in his case, as per the rules of the “secret” kingdom of administrative detention. On Wednesday a court suggested to the state that it reduce the period of administrative detention, but since by law the defense minister has the authority to extend an administrative detention order, it’s possible that the order will be extended beyond four months.

One cannot divorce the public’s indifference from the fact that administrative detainees are almost always Arabs, or from the implicit assumption that Arabs are guilty until proven innocent. This is a racist attitude that must be uprooted, because one cannot agree to such a serious violation of civil rights, anyone’s civil rights.

Administrative detention is a draconian measure that should be used only in exceptional cases, when there is a danger to public safety and there is no other way to avoid it, as stipulated in international law. That’s how it should be in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and all the more so within the Green Line. If the state has evidence against the detainees, let it file indictments and put them on trial. And if not, it must release them immediately.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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