The practice of prolonged detention without charge or trial is frequently used against Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank, but has seldom been invoked in the judicial system within present-day Israel.
This case underscores the blurring of lines between the occupied territories on the one hand, and present-day Israel, on the other.
The young woman, whose identity is under a gag order, allegedly sent a text message to her family at the beginning of October saying that she wants to become a martyr “for Jerusalem and the country.”
Her father turned her in to the Nazareth police, who immediately arrested her.
While the state prosecutor found there was not enough evidence to charge her with a crime, defense minister Moshe Yaalon ordered her detention as a preventive measure.
Israel’s administrative detention law, a holdover from British colonial rule, allows imprisonment without charge for six-month periods, which can be renewed indefinitely.
“It’s a draconian procedure,” Nadeem Shehadeh, a lawyer with the civil rights and legal advocacy group Adalah, told The Electronic Intifada. “It violates most of the basic principles in a democratic society, like the right to due process.”
“People don’t know why they are being detained, almost all of the evidence being used against them is secret – the defendant’s lawyers cannot even see what is in it,” Shehadeh added.
A Nazareth district court approved the order on 15 October.
In addition to the girl’s text message, the government presented Facebook posts she wrote over the summer as further evidence. The government also submitted secret evidence to the high court.
This is not an isolated case. Since October, there have been signs that Israel is using the repressive measure more frequently.
At least 24 Palestinians from East Jerusalem were administratively detained last month, prisoners rights group Addameer told The Electronic Intifada. Three of them are minors.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem along with the rest of the West Bank in 1967. Although its annexation of the city is null and void under international law, Israel applies its civil law there, rather than the military courts regime it operates in the rest of the West Bank.
Human rights groups have regularly criticized the military courts for failing to provide minimal due process rights to those brought before them.
On 3 November, Amnesty International released an action alert condemning the detention of the three children.
Amnesty says administrative detention has been used “to detain a wide range of people who should have been tried in the usual way, or people who should not have been arrested at all.”
Even the Nazareth judge who first approved of the detention of the young woman said: “An administrative detention order causes serious harm to the freedom of a person who has been detained even though they have not committed any violation of criminal law.”
He claimed, however, that its use was justified in this case.
In the high court’s 3 November approval of the detention, Judge Uzi Fogelman wrote that administrative detention is inherently “predictive and speculative” but emphasized that “we are now in a time of security tension.”
In recent weeks, Israel has increased its criminalization of what civil rights advocates argue should be protected speech, by charging people with incitement.
According to Addameer, most of the recent administrative detentions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem relate to allegations of incitement on social media.
Meanwhile, authorities ignore pervasive incitement against Palestinians. Indeed, human rights groups recently criticized senior Israeli officials for fanning it.
And while Israel is in the process of lowering the threshold to convict a person – in practice Palestinians – of incitement, Adalah’s Nadeem Shehadeh says administrative detention can be used when there is not enough evidence.
Shehadeh says this happens frequently in the occupied West Bank, increasingly in East Jerusalem, and now also against citizens of Israel.
Last month, Israeli forces arrested approximately 1,200 Palestinians amid a sharp increase in confrontations and deadly violence. Of those arrested, 171 were being held under administrative detention orders, according to the human rights group Al-Haq, bringing the total number of Palestinians held without charge or trial in Israeli prisons to over 550.
In a rare move last summer, Israel placed three Jewish West Bank settlers under administrative detention following the arson attack on the Dawabsha home in the West Bank village of Duma, which killed three members of the family.
However none of them are the suspected perpetrators of the attack.
The killers have yet to be arrested even though the defense minister admitted that Israel knows who committed the crime.