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Adnan's Victory

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Message Uri Avnery
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ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION is not an Israeli invention. Israel inherited it from the British colonial regime, as part of the Emergency Regulations, which were described by the future Israeli Minister of Justice as "worse than the Nazi laws." But when Israel came into being, the regulations remained in force or were supplanted by similar laws "made in Israel."

Successive security officials have maintained that administrative detention is absolutely essential in the "fight against terrorism."

Their point of view can be illustrated by a case in which I was involved. When I was the Editor in Chief of the Haolam Hazeh news magazine, an Arab Israeli journalist -- let's call him Ahmad -- who was working for our Arab edition, disappeared. After searching for some time, I learned that he had been taken into administrative detention. Since I was a Member of the Knesset at the time, I was allowed to speak with a senior officer of the Security Service (Shabak or Shin Bet), who disclosed to me, in confidence, the reason for the arrest.

It appeared that the service had caught a member of Fatah from abroad, who was carrying a message to two Arabs in Israel, asking them to set up Fatah cells in the country. Fatah, at the time, was considered a dangerous terrorist organization. One of the two was Ahmad.

"Frankly," the Shabak officer told me, "We have no idea whether your man is a terrorist or was chosen at random by the Fatah people in Jordan. We have no evidence that could stand up in court. We certainly cannot disclose in court that we have caught the messenger. But we also cannot leave Ahmad free, because he may well be a dangerous terrorist. What would you do in our position, bearing the responsibility we have?"

Frankly, I don't cherish the idea of being blown to pieces by a suicide bomber. But I answered that under these circumstances, Ahmad should be released at once. However, they kept him in prison for months. When he was finally released, he emigrated to America. That may well have been a condition for getting out of prison.

I have already written about a different case that concerned me directly and which taught me the inherent danger of this practice. In his first extensive interview after coming to power in 1977, Menachem Begin disclosed that 20 years earlier, when Isser Harel (nicknamed "little Isser") was in charge of all Israeli security services, he proposed to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to put me in administrative detention as a Soviet spy. Harel had a pathological hatred for me and later wrote a whole book about it.

The accusation was quite ridiculous, because I have never in my life been a communist, nor even a Marxist. At the same time that Arthur Koestler wrote his ground-breaking book "Darkness at Noon" I, then a teenager, thought that something must be very wrong with a system which condemns almost all its founders as imperialist spies. Later, whenever an Israeli delegation was invited to Soviet Russia, the KGB struck my name out. (Viewers of the excellent British TV series "Spooks" will recognize at once that this is exactly the hallmark of a master spy.)

Ben-Gurion was not one of my greatest fans or, to put it simply, he hated my guts. Since I attacked him every week, that was quite understandable. However, he was also a shrewd politician and was afraid that my arrest might cause a scandal. Therefore he told Harel that before arresting me, he should enlist the support of Begin, the leader of the largest opposition party.

Begin told him: "If you have evidence, please show it to me. If not, I shall fight against your scheme tooth and nail." Ben-Gurion dropped the idea, and Begin sent his most trusted lieutenant to warn me.

If Begin had supported my arrest, who would have doubted that the Shabak had solid proof of my treachery? My voice would have been silenced, my magazine destroyed.

IN A democratic state, there is no place for administrative detention, nor even for trials in which vital evidence is withheld from the accused and defense lawyers. There must be better ways of protecting informers and other secret sources of information. For example, allowing defendants in such cases to choose lawyers only from a restricted list of those with the highest security clearance.

This, by the way, did indeed happen in the most sensitive security trial of all: that of the nuclear whistleblower (or "spy") Mordechai Vanunu.

The deal worked out in the Adnan case exposes the irrationality of the system. If Adnan was so dangerous that he had to be imprisoned without charge or trial, how can he be released? And if he was not so dangerous, why was he held in the first place?

IN THE end, Adnan has created a paradox for himself and his comrades.

The very essence of his and his organization's ideology is that there is no effective method of resistance to the Israeli occupation and oppression but violence of the most extreme kind. Non-violence, in their view, is nonsense. Worse, it means capitulation and, in the end, betrayal. Islamic Jihad now accuses Hamas of flirting with this idea.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)
 

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