Partners for Progressive Israel joins the international call on the Israeli government to either release all administrative detainees it currently holds or bring them to trial. We stand with Israelis against preventive detention, human rights organizations, and the United Nations in calling upon Israel to end the practice of administrative detention. This practice has recently taken a face and a name: the Palestinian journalist, Mohammed al-Qiq from the village of Dura. Al-Qiq who was arrested and held without charges demanded to exercise his right to a speedy trial; when his request was denied he went on a hunger strike that revealed the cruelty of a process in which detainees are powerless to seek legal redress, and he has displayed for all to see the horror of the detainee use of this tactic of last resort; photographs and even the sounds of the pain and agony of the 33-year-old father of two who was hospitalized and near death in Afula have saturated the news media. Al-Qiq has suffered impairment to his hearing, speech, his heart and unknown other permanent physical damage as he uses his starving body to send a most powerful message about the politics of the occupation. After 94 days and on the brink of death his hunger strike ended on February 26. Al-Qiq will be released without charge or trial on May 21 and his detention will not be renewed. His medical condition is critical.
Prolonged arbitrary detention with no recourse to evidence or trial constitutes a breach of international law. Yet, since 1948, Israeli administrative arrests have drawn on a colonial draconian law of ‘secret evidence’ of the British Mandate government’s Emergency Regulations that was transformed into a 1979 Israeli Law on Authorities in State of Emergency.
Israel currently has 584 Palestinians in administrative detention, the highest number since 2008. Al-Qiq requested to be transferred to a hospital in Ramallah claiming that his relocation from the West Bank to Israel is “a flagrant breach of international law,” which prohibits the transfer of people from occupied territories. The High Court of Justice, however, has almost always refrained from exercising its authority in such cases and while in some cases Justices have shortened detention time, they have for the most part approved the detention orders. Organizations like B’tselem have called on the government to either release or try the detainees and in the case of al-Qiq, Haaretz and two Israeli women peace activists, Anat Rimon-Or and Anat Lev have worked on his behalf. Protesters, however, see a chipping away of Israeli democracy and the creation of a repressive regime by slow inoculation, as people get used to trampling of rights of “others” in this case Palestinians only to find out too late that they could themselves become in a blink of eye, an ‘other’.
The role of democracy is not only to assure governance by the majority, but to protect the rights of the minority. Contrary to assertions on the political Right to the effect that Torah does not mention democracy, the rights of the minority are the foundational ethics of Torah, a constant reminder (Zachor) that the Israelites are bidden to always remember the minority, the powerless and the stranger. The Israeli government is tramping on Jewish democracy and the Torah, calling into question Israel’s claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East.”