In what is the perhaps the greatest attack on Israel’s democracy, Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has requested—and has received--the right to expand his use of an undemocratic (and potentially illegal) bureaucratic device called, administrative detention.
Administration detention is a tool. It’s non-judicial. That means it’s outside the law. It isn’t constrained by a nation’s justice system. It allows one person to control a population with the stroke of a pen.
A large number of countries around the world use administrative detention to combat terrorism and control illegal immigration (Dua' Nakhala and Pekka Hakala, “Israel’s Policy of Administrative Detention”, Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union, Policy Department, The European Parliament, May 10, 2012, p.4). But it’s also used to protect a ruling regime (ibid).
It’s a dictatorial device that simplifies population control. For example, unlike legal imprisonment, which is the result of a legal process which justifies that imprisonment, administrative detention requires no justification. In fact, it’s normally not even connected to a crime. It’s a pre-emptive measure. It’s not based on law. It’s based on one man’s presumption that a suspect is likely to commit a crime (ibid).
That’s not democracy. That’s thought-control. With administrative detention, you can be arrested because of what someone thinks you think.
That’s a very slippery slope for a democracy. It’s a practice fraught with danger because there’s no legal protection for the arrestee.
A democracy is built upon law. It’s built upon legal rights. Ya’alon now needs no law. With administrative detention, he’s above the law.
Administrative detention is criticised by human rights organisations because it’s a blatant breach of civil and political rights (Whitney-Ann Mulhauser, “A State of Emergency: Israel’s Use of Administrative Detention to Indefinitely Detain Palestinians”, The Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, hrbrief. org, February 6, 2014). As explicitly proclaimed in Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to a fair trial is a fundamental right in all countries that respect the rule of law (ibid). The majority of countries in the world are parties to that Universal Declaration of Human Rights — including Israel (ibid).
Nevertheless, according to Amnesty International, “Israel has used administrative detention orders to punish Arabs for their political views and affiliations, which have, in the past, included members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian Parliament, journalists, students, prisoners of conscience, and human rights defenders “ (ibid). Israel now extends this violation to Jews.
Already, one Jewish 18 year-old, Mordechai Mayer, has been arrested under an administrative detention order (Ben Hartman, Lahav Harkov, Yaakov Lappin, “American Parents of Jewish terror suspect decry arrest as 'undemocratic'”, Jerusalem Post, August 5, 2015). This arrest comes as a result of a fatal fire-bombing of an Arab house in an Arab village. Israel’s civil authorities and police have said that ‘Jewish terror’ committed this attack--even though several clues found at the fire suggest that Jews may not have committed it (Ari Yashar, “Arab Media Reports IDF Confiscated Duma Arson Footage”, Arutz Sheva, August 4, 2015). But even as this Jewish youth was arrested, Israeli police actively sought the public’s help for information about the attack--an action that suggested Mayer’s arrest may have had no basis in fact or evidence (Ben Hartmen, “In rare move, police ask for public to help them find suspects in Duma attack”, Jerusalem Post, August 4, 2015).
What’s become increasingly clear to many in Israel is that Moshe Ya’alon has decided to attack certain young religious Jews who live in the Judea-Samaria outback. He claims this fire-bomb attack was committed by these youth. But he presents no proof. He claims these youth belong to an unnamed and unidentified ‘violent extremist Jewish organization’ (ibid). But he shows no proof. He calls these youth ‘Jewish terrorists’ (Yaacov Lappin, “Ya'alon: We will not allow Jewish terrorists to harm Palestinians”, Jerusalem Post, July 31, 2015). But he reveals no proof.
Although few of these youth have been convicted of attacks against Arabs, Ya’alon, the military administrator of Judea-Samaria, appears to have declared open war against them. He’s called them ‘terrorists’ (ibid). He’s called them responsible for ‘price tag’ attacks against Arabs (Tovah Lazaroff, Yaakov Lappin, Lahav Harkov, Khaled Abu Toameh, “Israel approves use of harsher measures against 'Jewish terrorists'”, Jerusalem Post, August 2, 2015). He’s labelled them as belonging to ‘unlawful associations’ (ibid). He’s created such a passionate case against them, the Prime Minister has given him a green light to use ‘all necessary steps’ to stop them (ibid).
In other words, because he’s found no evidence against these youth, Ya’alon’s gotten the State to give him the right to arrest them anyway—because he believes they’re guilty. He’ll hold whomever he wishes—without charges--for a period of six months. Then, he’ll have the right to extend that incarceration.
But by using this right to detain individuals indefinitely without charge or trial, Ya’alon undermines Israel’s democracy. He undermines the right to a prompt, free, and fair trial that’s been enshrined for decades in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (Whitney-Ann Mulhauser, ibid). His administrative detention may help him ‘take those youth off the hills’. But it exposes those youth to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment (ill-treatment) as outlined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the ICCPR” (ibid). It also exposes Israel to ever more accusations of Human Rights abuses.
Ya’alon doesn’t solve a problem with his administrative detention. He exacerbates a problem. He opens a flood-gate of Human Rights accusations against Israel—by Jews.
Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, calls itself a democracy. But Moshe Ya’alon abuses its citizens with perhaps the most anti-democratic behaviour possible: rule by the whim of a single military ruler. He trashes the democracy he cherishes.
He harms Israel. Remember, the treatment of Arab prisoners in Israel’s prisons, especially those held through administrative detention, is part of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) legal complaint against Israel at the International Criminal Court (Allison Deger, “Exclusive: Palestine seeks to charge Israel with ‘apartheid’ and war crimes at The Hague”, mondoweiss.net, June 25, 2015). Aiming a totalitarian reach over a specific group of religious Jewish youth isn’t going to help Israel survive. It will help to destroy Israel.