Administrative Detention — Not for Arabs Alone
An administrative detention order is now being used to hold a young Jewish man against whom no evidence has been found to support the allegation that he committed a crime. Honenu, a legal aid organization for Jews who find themselves unfairly treated by the justice system in matters concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, is representing this 21-year-old.
Honenu lawyer Asaf Gonen explained that the young man is being accused of arson and assault. Carmel Dangor of Kan News (the Israel Public News Corporation) tweeted that he is being held for his supposed involvement in the violent incident near Givat Ronen on January 21, in which a car was set alight and two elderly Jewish activists were injured as they engaged in anti-settlement political provocation together with Arabs from the town of Burin.
Her tweet reads:
The State has recinded its indictment against the rightwing activist for assault against leftwing activists at Givat Ronen — and they sent him to administrative detention. At this time, he is the only Jew in administrative detention.
המדינה חזרה בה מהגשת כתב אישום נגד פעיל ימין על תקיפת פעילי השמאל סמוך לגבעת רונן – ושלחה אותו למעצר מנהלי.
נכון להיום, הוא היהודי היחיד במעצר מנהלי >
— Carmel Dangor כרמל דנגור (@carmeldangor) March 11, 2022
Honenu described how the man was held by the Security Service (Shabak) for a week before letting him meet with a lawyer and then he was held for a further two weeks. In her series of tweets, Dangor wrote that the judge allowed the two-week extension because the prosecution claimed that there is evidence justifying the extention and that it intended to hand down an indictment.
At the end of the two weeks, however, the State Attorney’s Office was unable to put together a case against him as there apparently is no evidence that he was involved in the crime. Regardless of this, instead of releasing him, Defence Minister Benny Gantz signed a document sending him to administrative detention for two months.
An Earlier Case of a Jew Held in Administrative Detention
The last time a Jew was put into administrative detention was two years ago when Naftali Bennett was Defence Minister. Eliya Ben David was suspected of having thrown a rock that moderately injured an Arab man in Judea-Samaria. He was released from prison after one week of interrogation when the judge determined there was no evidence to prosecute, but as he was leaving court, he was picked up by the Shabak under an administrative detention order signed by Bennett. After Bennett had had the opportunity to review the court protocol, he rescinded the detention order and Ben David was released the next day.
The Shabak based their request of administrative detention upon the claim that Ben David was a terrorist who was planning another “Duma”-type attack against Arabs. According to a separate tweet posted by Dangor, the detention order signed by Gantz makes a similar claim regarding the currently held suspect — that there is intelligence pointing to him as a dangerous man who was responsible for a number of incidents and that he poses a future threat as well.
We have not heard of any attacks attributable either directly or indirectly to Ben David. There are three possible explanations for this: (1) he became cautious, assuming he was being followed and, understanding that eyes were on him he went underground, perhaps to emerge sometime in the future; (2) his experience perhaps ‘scared him straight’ and made him decide to turn over a new leaf (as did one of the suspects tortured and released after no evidence could tie him to the Duma fire but he did admit to other acts of violence); or (3) he really is not a terrorist.
Back to the Current Case
Until proven otherwise, the young man currently being held in detention is considered innocent of the suspicions against him. In fact, if no evidence was found upon which an indictment could be brought down, then the public must be suspicious of any claim that there is intelligence lying behind the administrative detention order signed by Defence Minister Gantz. If there is intelligence regarding a future attack, that should have been announced up-front, rather than suggesting they had sufficient evidence to indict. Will this turn out to have been another case of trying to pin something on a man innocent of the charges because Shabak is under pressure to find someone to blame, in this case, for the Burin violence?
Justification for Administrative Detention
Horrified to see that a man against whom no evidence could be found was put into administrative detention, it raises the question of use of administrative detention for Palestinian Arabs as well. When there is a suspicion, based on intelligence to which the public is not privy, that someone is planning a terrorist attack, that person can be held in detention for six-month renewable periods of time. As I wrote in an article concerning Hisham Abu Hawash, this means that
the individual is being held for something he or she might potentially be planning to do in the future. This stands in contrast to criminal prosecution and imprisonment for acts the person committed in the past and for which there is sufficient evidence to determine guilt.
The only way that anyone, Jew or Arab, can be held in administrative detention depends, therefore, on the existence of credible information regarding an impending future terrorist act that has not yet been carried out. Israeli citizens need to trust the security services when they make such claims because we have no way to objectively verify what they tell us.
In 2020, then Defence Minister Bennett, who had access to classified information, did not see that such intelligence existed regarding Ben David. Will Bennett, now our Prime Minister and of course with access to classified information, intervene and at least check whether or not there is sufficient intelligence to hold the young man currently in detention? Given the experience with Ben David, the public should demand such oversight in order to maintain trust if it is deserved or insist on revamping the approach to dealing with acts of violence committed by Jews in Judea-Samaria.
Instead of responding to acts of violence committed by Jews in Judea-Samaria after the fact, however, the best approach would be to ensure law and order and reduce the incidence of terror attacks against Jews. Feeling unprotected — and there are many instances of this, such as in the Jerusalem envelope region, at Hizme, and even within Israel on the road to Eilat — some young Jews take it upon themselves to protect their communities and commit acts of vigilantism. This is not healthy for the young men, for their communities, nor for Israeli society as a whole.
However, acting out of the frustration of not being able to apprehend a viable suspect in any case of violence should not lead to desperate measures. Administrative detention of the young man represented by Honenu certainly seems like a desperate measure.
Honenu makes the sad statement that:
One need not look as far as eastern Europe to find how a dictatorship operates. Woe to the State of Israel whose Defence Minister signs such a dictatorial and inhumane order . . . when there is no evidence. This is administrative tyranny, something that exists in no other democracy in the world.
The Most Absurd Part
Honenu released a statement today in which they say that the Haifa court that originally heard the case (and released the man) criticized the involvement of Shabak. The judge pointed out that this was not a crime against Arabs but against Jewish activists and, therefore, the Shabak had no reason to be involved. It is a case of criminal assault and arson that was not based on racism or nationalist motivations and, therefore, should be investigated as a criminal case using regular criminal investigation procedures and not the special procedures available to the Shabak in situations of imminent danger.
Upon the reading of this judgement and the release of the young man at the end of the court session, he was then picked up by Shabak and placed under administrative detention. Did I not just say this was absurd?
Or should I perhaps say that there is something evil here?