Friday, August 7, 2015

Moshe Ya’alon’s innovation: the Jewish ‘troubles’

The phrase, ‘’the troubles’, is a euphemism. It refers to the thirty year (1968-1998) conflict between Northern Ireland and England that killed perhaps 3,600 and wounded and maimed perhaps another 50,000 (“The troubles”, bbchistory, no date). That conflict was about the constitutional status of Northern Ireland: did it belong to England--or to the Republic of Ireland (ibid)?

Some say that conflict wasn’t about religion. They say it was territorial (ibid).

But the truth was, it did involve religion. The overwhelmingly Protestant majority of Northern Ireland wanted to remain as part of England. But Northern Ireland’s predominantly Catholic minority wanted to become part of the Republic of Ireland (ibid).

The conflict was marked by the escalation of violence from both sides and repressive British measures. These measures included what’s called ‘administrative detention’--arrest without charge coupled with imprisonment without trial.

The more repressive the British measures became, the greater became the resistance against Britain. The repression often drove the undecided into resistance (“Soldier’s stories”, Northern Ireland Conflict, thehistorychannel, no date).

The British had used administrative detention before—in the pre-state Jewish Palestine. It had the same effect: it drove many Jews to join the rebellion against British rule.

On Sunday, August 2, 2015, Israel’s Security Cabinet authorized  ‘administrative detention’ against Jews (Itamar Eichner, Tova Tzimuky, “Security Cabinet authorizes new measures against Jewish terrorists”, YNETnews, August 3, 2015). Jews could now be arrested without charge and be held without trial for a period of six months—a period which could then be renewed repeatedly by the Defense Minister (“Ya’alon okays administrative detention for Jewish terror suspects”, Times of Israel, August 2, 2015).

The first Jew in Israel to be arrested and incarcerated under ‘administrative detention’ is an 18 year-old boy. His name is Mordechai Meir. He was arrested August 4, 2015, less than two days after the Security Cabinet’s authorization.

Mordechai Meir was arrested because Ya’alon was reacting to a July 31, 2015 arson attack in an Arab village, during which an infant Arab had been killed. Ya’alon was outraged by the attack (Yaacov Lappin, “Ya'alon: We will not allow Jewish terrorists to harm Palestinians”, Jerusalem Post, July 31, 2015).

Ya’alon didn’t wait for an investigation. He jumped very, very quickly to the conclusion that this attack had been done by ‘Jewish terrorists’ (Jack Khoury, Chaim Levinson, Gili Cohen, “Palestinian Infant Burned to Death in West Bank Arson Attack; IDF Blames 'Jewish Terror' “, Haaretz, July 31, 2015).

Why did he jump so quickly to that conclusion? He wanted government permission for administrative detention. He’d wanted it for at least 16 months (Amos Harel, Chaim Levinson, “Israeli Defense Minister Supports Holding Extreme Rightists in Administration Detention”, Haaretz, April 13, 2014).  

That arson attack was just what he needed. He used it to convince his superiors. He got his ‘administrative detention’.

That’s how Mordechai Meir got arrested. He wasn’t arrested for the arson attack. His arrest had nothing to do with it. He was arrested for other activities he is suspected to have committed “in recent times” (“Following International Outcry, Israel Applies Administrative Detention To Jewish Extremism For First Time”, mintpress, August 5, 2015). 

This is a first for Israel. It means that the Jewish Israeli government, for perhaps the first time in Israel’s history, has done exactly what drove many Jews to revolt some 70-75 years ago against the British: it permitted the arrest and detention of Jews without due process.

The arrest and incarceration of 18 year-old Mordechai Meir challenges Israel. Democracy is founded partially upon the idea of due process for its citizens. Israel is a democracy. But administrative detention denies citizens that due process.

His arrest also has the potential to divide Jews. There is already a growing tension in Israel between Religious-Right-Zionists and those who are non-religious-Left and non-religious Center-Left (Etgar Keret, “Strangers in Their Own Country”, Tablet, December 23, 2014) . The arrest and detention of Religious-Right-Zionist activists could enflame this tension (“Anti-Semitism in Israel”, ahavat-israel, no date).    

Is Israel destined to repeat Ireland’s ‘troubles’ over a land dispute? Do we face a Jewish version of religious clashes similar to the Irish ‘Troubles’?

Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon pushes Israel in that direction. He forces Israel into an Irish-like dilemma: is Judea-Samaria part of Israel, to be possessed, settled and defended by Jews; or, does it belong to Arabs, such that we should remove Jews from it and return it to its ‘rightful owners’?

When the Jewish Ya’alon arrests and incarcerates Jews without due process over Judea-Samaria, he brings a unique innovation to Israel. He introduces into the Arab-Israel conflict a Jew versus Jew conflict.

That doesn’t help Israel. That invites ‘the Troubles’ into Israel.

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