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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Some context about Khader Adnan

Khader Adnan, a Palestinian Arab who has been on a hunger strike since December, has become a cause célèbre among trendy leftists and the human rights community for being held in administrative detention without formal charges.

Here is typical coverage from Al Jazeera, from Friday:
Sixty-one days. That is how long it’s been since Khader Adnan has eaten.

The 33-year-old Palestinian was taken from his home in Arrabeh village near Jenin in the occupied West Bank at 3:30am on December 17. One day later he began his hunger strike to protest against the "humiliation and policy of administrative detention". Adnan, like hundreds of other Palestinians, was arrested under a military order that Israel has named "administrative detention", which allows prisoners to be held without charge or trial for periods of up to six months, spells that can be renewed indefinitely.

Sahar Francis is a lawyer with Addameer, a prisoner rights groups based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, and a member of Khader Adnan’s legal team. She visited the hunger striker in Ziv hospital in Safad, Israel, on Friday.

She described her client, who remains shackled to his hospital bed, as "mentally perfect, but physically very weak".
Adnan is being called "heroic." Thousands rallied for him in Gaza and the West Bank. Twitter users elevated him to sainthood status.

There are two major points about the situation that have been woefully under-reported, though.

One is that Adnan is a leader of Islamic Jihad, the most hard-line terrorist group in the territories. He has been a leader of the group for years, calling for Islamic Jihad to continue to have weapons even under PA rule. He was arrested by the PA as well, and even embarked on a hunger strike against the Abbas regime while in PA jail only a year previous to the current hunger strike.

The other is that administrative detention is perfectly legal and necessary.

An Israeli military judge rejected an appeal by Adnan last week, saying he had reviewed the evidence and found the sentence to be fair.

Israeli military officials generally use administrative detention to hold Palestinians who are believed to be an imminent risk to the country’s security. They say that if the evidence against the accused was made public, it would expose Israeli intelligence-gathering networks in the Palestinian territories. They say the process is under full judicial review by Israel’s military and the Supreme Court.

These policies were created not by Israel but by the British during the mandate. In fact, they were originally much more sweeping.

Administrative detention is a critical tool in the fight against terrorism. It does need to be monitored closely to ensure that it is not abused, and it needs to be used sparingly, but it cannot be abolished without putting countless people in danger.

Israel is hardly the only Western democracy to apply administrative detention rules on suspected terrorists. The US has much looser standards on who can be detailed - witness Guantanamo Bay. Great Britain, Ireland and Australia each have rules allowing people to be detained without charge under varying circumstances. Most European countries have administrative detention rules for illegal immigrants and asylum seekers, even if they have no ties to terrorism.

The European Convention on Human Rights states:
the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;

In other words, the concept of arresting someone under suspicion of planning a terror attack is well supported in Western laws and even humanitarian law. And for good reason - it is cometime necessary to stop acts of horror.

Certainly it is reasonable to demand evidence; it is equally reasonable for evidence to be suppressed if there is reason to know that the revelations may compromise security further, as long as there is a decent judicial system in place to guard against abuse.

We do not know the specifics of Khader's case.

But we do know that Israeli legal systems have been reviewing the case every step of the way. We know that Khader is a leader of a terrorist organization. We know that the PA considered him a threat as recently as September 2010.  And we know that only about 10% of Israeli prisoners are being held under administrative detention rules; hardly evidence that they are being routinely abused.

And we know one other thing: None of those "human rights" activists who have jumped on the Adnan bandwagon are telling the entire story about him or about administrative detention.