For decades, the Israeli military has engaged in the policy of “administrative detention” of Palestinians under the auspices of national security. Thousands of people, some only a few years old, have been rounded up on suspicion, held indefinitely without charges, sometimes for many years. This has been roundly, and repeatedly, condemned internationally.
Today, the Israeli cabinet has voted to extend the policy to apply to its own citizens, and officials started talking of open-ended detention of suspected “Jewish terrorists” involved in price tag attacks, like last week’s in the Palestinian village of Duma which killed an 18-month old.
Facing international criticism for their failure to make serious efforts to prevent “price tag” attacks by settlers against Palestinians, Israeli officials seem to believe that they can avoid charges of a double-standard by using the exact same standard, at least officially, toward both citizens and people under occupation.
Yet the double-standard problem was only partly a legal one in Israel, and mostly a reflection of the occupation mentality of policy makers, who believed that harsh, and often arbitrary, treatment of demonstrators would eventually beat the Palestinians into submission, and end resistance to the occupation.
The cabinet has empowered them to do so, but it remains to be seen if the Israeli military will really just start rounding up settlers on suspicion in the same manner, particularly with support of the settler movement so critical to the far-right government. More importantly, however, the administrative detention policy hasn’t ended Palestinian resistance to the occupation, and at times has fueled more unrest (particularly when small children are taken in the night by the military). It’s a failed policy, and there’s no reason to believe it will work any better against the “price tag” movement.