Israel’s draconian system of arrest and detention

Sandy Tolan writes: Imagine being confined to a small sliver of land, in plain view of a wider homeland that you cannot touch. Your house is in a refugee camp, surrounded by fine red-roofed homes built by and for strangers who seized your territory without warning or permission.

The strangers, perched on hills that make it possible for them to spy into your home, are protected by one of the world’s most powerful armies, with its tanks, rockets and helicopter gunships supplied by the top military power on earth. The soldiers tightly restrict your movements through your own territory.

They subject your family to random searches at military posts along the road, where you are forced to submit your documents and sometimes to strip down to your underwear. At night, without warning, the army may enter your home and take your teen-aged children. In fact, they often do.

Once you finally find out where they are, they may or may not face any charges. If they are not charged, the military courts can hold them there indefinitely. If they are, the chances they will be found innocent are 1 in 400.

Imagine that you lived in such place, in a land you had long dreamt would be your own sovereign country, but which is now cut up into tiny enclaves that keep you thus confined. What would you do?

If you chose to resist, how would you do so?

Oday Khatib fought back by singing. Unlike many of the boys and young men in Al-Fawwar, the Palestinian refugee camp near Hebron, who fought occupation by throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, Oday, the internationally-recognised singer of the acclaimed Ramallah-based Al Kamandjati music school, has long found his resistance in Palestinian protest songs.

“He is not interested in throwing stones or getting involved in this,” Oday’s father, Jihad, said in an interview with my colleague Anan Abu-Shanab. Oday’s brothers have long hurled stones, but “since he was nine years old he was interested only in music”.

Nevertheless, Oday was arrested on March 19 under questionable circumstances at Al-Fawwar refugee camp.

His family says Oday was standing on hill, waiting to meet a friend. Nearby, his father said, children were throwing stones, “and when the soldiers chased the kids, it did not come to his mind that the soldiers would go for him. Otherwise he would have run away”.

The Israeli military spokesman asserts that Oday was arrested “after security forces identified him engaged in rock throwing during the course of a violent riot”. (“Violent riot” is a curious description for a clash between well-armed soldiers wearing chest protectors, helmets and face shields, who fire live ammunition at stone-throwers.)

Oday is charged under Section 212 of Military Order 1651, which states that anyone convicted of throwing stones “[a]t a person or property, with the intent to harm the person or property shall be sentenced to ten years imprisonment”. In other words, the law is so sweeping that if you throw a rock at a road sign, you could go to prison for a decade. Oday’s trial is scheduled for Monday, April 8. [Continue reading…]

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