Israel’s old habit of ignoring the rule of law dies hard

First published by the Arab Weekly on 3/11/2019

It seems Israel operates above the law when it comes to its citizens but uses administrative detention at will to incarcerate Palestinians and other foreign nationals when it chooses.

Have you heard of her? A demonstrator holds a picture of Jordanian citizen Hiba al-Labadi during a protest in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, October 31. (Reuters)

“If I die, put my corpse in administrative detention.” That was the message from a defiant Palestinian-Jordanian woman to Israel.

Hiba al-Labadi, 24, was taken into custody by Israeli authorities August 20 at the Allenby Bridge while on her way to a family wedding in the West Bank city of Jenin. She was accompanied by her mother.

Her arrest was reportedly related to meetings she allegedly had with Hezbollah affiliates during a visit to Beirut, where she was visiting her sister. Jordanian citizens wishing to visit Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories must obtain a visa in advance of their trip.

The fact that she must have been issued a visa to enter Israel, despite Israel’s knowledge of these allegations, implies that she was a target and that Israeli authorities used her wish to attend a wedding in the occupied territories to take her in.

The accusations against her, which were not made public, came in a statement from the Shin Bet. This suggests she was arrested for posts she published on her private Facebook page, which expressed support for Hezbollah and violent attacks in the West Bank.

Labadi’s lawyer, Juwad Bolous, who visited her during her detention, said that since her arrest she has been interrogated for 16 consecutive days without being allowed to see her lawyer.

Bolous said interrogators cursed at and spat on Labadi, threatening to arrest her sister and her mother. Most interrogations lasted hours while she was handcuffed and tied to a chair.

“All the means of torture and oppression were used to force her to sign a damning confession but despite the cruel investigation, she did not confess,” said Bolous.

In a letter published October 8, Labadi wrote: “The Israelis threatened me with administrative detention if I did not confess, saying they did not have evidence against me but they could renew my detention for seven-and-a-half years.”

Labadi has been on hunger strike to protest her administrative detention since September 24. Her health deteriorated significantly and, reports by Palestinian journalists said, she was transferred from Jalma Prison to a hospital in Haifa for treatment but was remanded in custody soon thereafter.

Another Jordanian citizen, Abdulrahman Miri, has been held by Israel since he tried to attend a wedding in the West Bank on September 2.

Despite protests by the Jordanian government to release its citizens, Israel has refused. Jordan recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv as it assesses its response.

Compare this with the fate of an Israeli Embassy guard who killed two Jordanians in July 2017 and was repatriated to Israel under the guise of diplomatic immunity. While the Israeli Foreign Ministry sent a memorandum expressing “deep regrets and apologies” over the incident months later and pledged to take legal action in the case, the Israeli perpetrator never faced justice. Neither, for that matter, did the Israeli soldier who killed Jordanian Judge Raed Zeiter in March 2014 face justice for that crime.

It seems Israel operates above the law when it comes to its citizens but uses administrative detention at will to incarcerate Palestinians and other foreign nationals when it chooses.

Israel uses administrative detention to keep individuals in custody indefinitely without charge or trial. The detainees are not told of which crimes they are being accused or shown any evidence against them. The result is that it is virtually impossible to defend oneself against an administrative detention order.

Examples of Palestinians held repeatedly under administrative detention include Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Aziz Duwaik and Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar.

Jarrar was released in February after 20 months of imprisonment without charge. She was

rearrested October 31. PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said the Israeli forces’ raids in the West Bank “are meant to terrorise and intimidate the entire Palestinian people while the abduction of activists, writers and representatives is nothing short of illegal abductions.”

Ashrawi called on the international community to condemn the “illegal use of administrative detention, which has allowed the occupation authorities to detain at least 54,000 Palestinian men, women and children since the beginning of the 1967 occupation.”

Ironically, the legal basis for Israel’s use of administrative detention is the British Mandate 1945 Defence (Emergency) Regulations, which were amended in 1979 to form the Israeli Law on Authority in States of Emergency. The practice has been severely condemned by human rights organisations.

Activists in Israel recently began an internet campaign that included a photo of Labadi with the caption “Have you heard of me?” in Arabic and Hebrew, to draw attention to her administrative detention. “Want to know what I’m accused of? Me, too.”

If it has evidence against any of the detainees, then surely a democracy, which Israel claims to be, would charge the individual and bring that evidence to the court to rule on whether they have committed any crime. If it has no evidence, then it must let them go instead of subjecting them to this psychological torture and, in the process, smearing them as extremists.