Observer op-ed on ‘hunger strikers’ exposes double standards on administrative detention coverage

The Guardian’s coverage of Israel’s administrative detention of a Palestinian “baker” (who, in his spare time, found time to ‘volunteer’ for Palestinian Islamic Jihad) named Khader Adnan was as one-sided as it was obsessive.  They published  five separate pieces (over a ten-day period) sympathetic to a terrorist (who went on a hunger strike to protest his detention) held due to his involvement in a movement responsible for terror attacks claiming over 200 Israeli lives since the 1990s.

(The “baker” can be seen in this video imploring his fellow Palestinians to carry out more suicide attacks against Israelis.)

Yesterday, May 12, The Observer (The Guardian’s sister publication) published an official editorial titled “Hunger strikers expose an inhuman system“.

The editorial begins:

“The disclosure that six of almost 1,600 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to protest against the Israeli policy of “administrative detention” are close to death has profound implications for Israel and for the stalled Middle East peace process. The rule of law and fair and proper judicial processes, where those accused of a crime may be charged and are guaranteed an opportunity to speak in their own defence in open court, is a key human right that a properly functioning democracy should guarantee even in a troubled period of peacetime.”

Vital context ignored by the editorial includes the fact that administrative detention is a practice inspired by the recognition that the criminal law’s reliance on strict rules of evidence are not suited to handle the challenges presented by terrorism.  The reasoning behind administrative detention often is based upon fear that the suspect is likely to pose a threat in the near future. So, it is meant to be preventive in nature rather than punitive. 

The administrative detention practice used to imprison Adnan is a judicial method similarly employed by other democratic states around the world, including the the EU, UK – and the U.S.

In fact, Israeli detainees are allowed judicial review, generally within eight days, while in the UK the length of time (which was 28 days until 2011) is now two weeks. The U.S. can hold terror suspects indefinitely.

A U.S. Homeland Security Affairs report concluded that (for these and other reasons) Israel’s use of administrative detention is more respectful of prisoners’ rights than in the U.S. and Britain.

Further, while Israel uses administrative detention purely to prevent acts of terror against its citizens, many countries in the EU use this type of detention for asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.

The Observer editorial continues:

“Indeed, according to the UN’s special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, over the past year the number of administrative detentions has almost doubled despite the period of relative peace in Israel.”

Much like Harriet Sherwood’s false claims that rockets have only “sporadically” been fired into Israel (when, actually, 627 deadly projectiles were fired at Israeli towns in 2011 alone), the notion that Israel has “relative peace” is profoundly misleading. 

In addition to rockets from Gaza, each month there are typically dozens of terror attacks in Israel proper as well as in the West Bank. Here’s a breakdown of terror attacks in Israel for the month of April, 2012, most of which never get reported by the MSM.

West Bank and Jerusalem – 60 attacks: 2 explosive devices; 2 small arm shootings; 2 stabbing (in Jerusalem); 54 firebombs (22 in Jerusalem).

Green Line – 1 stabbing attack (in Kfar Saba).

The Observer editorial further warns:

“There is an evident risk of violence for both Israelis and Palestinians should any of the hunger strikers die.”

And, there is a much greater risk that Israeli civilians will die if the Palestinian terrorists are released, a humanitarian concern the author of this polemic clearly did not consider.

The Observer editorial continues by issuing a further warning to Israel on why they must give in to the terrorists’ demands.

“At a time when more and more observers are increasingly convinced that the two-state solution is failing, the nonviolence of this hunger strike is already deeply suggestive of what a Palestinian civil rights movement might look like – should Palestinians abandon the demand for their own self-determination and, instead, insist on full equality within a binational state.”

I guess it was lost on the author that the only reason such prisoners affiliated with violent terrorist movements are behaving ‘non-violently’ is the fact that they’re incarcerated and unarmed.  Further, ignored in the passage is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the terror suspects subscribe to an ideology intrinsically opposed to mere “self-determination” and hostile to the existence of a Jewish state within any borders. 

The “non-violent” Palestinian prisoners currently engaged in a hunger strike include the following suspects, who were re-arrested by Israeli authorities for continued terrorist activity after being released in the Shalit deal:

Abbas al-Sayyid – Senior activist in Hamas.  He was sentenced to 35 life sentences for his role in the terrorist attack in the Park Hotel terror attack in Netanya on Passover evening 2002 which killed 30.  After he was arrested, he confessed during questioning by the GSS (General Security Service) that he organized and led the terrorist attack, and even afterwards he sought two more explosive belts to commit additional attacks.  His arrest prevented a number of planned attacks on Israeli citizens.

Muhannad Shrim – Senior activist in Hamas and al-Sayyis’ assistant.  He was sentenced to 29 life sentences for his involvement in the deadly“Park Hotel” terrorist attack in 2002, which killed 30 and injured 160.  During questioning after he was arrested, he told police how he transported the terrorist bomber from his apartment before the attack.

Jamal al-Hor – Hamas activist who was sentenced to five life sentences forterrorist attacks and involvement in murder.  Among other things, he was involved in the planning of the attack at “Café Apropo” in Tel Aviv with other members of a terrorist cell he founded which came to be known as the “Tzurif squad”.  Three young women in their early 30’s were killed, one of whom was in her third month of pregnancy, and 48 others injured.

Wajdi Joda – Head of the ‘Democratic Front’ in the Nablus region.  Joda personally recruited the terrorist who committed the suicide attack at Geha interchange on December 25, 2003.  In the attack, four Israeli civilians were killed, among them three women and 21 injured, when the bomber blew himself up at a bus stop in the evening.

Finally, the editorial claims that they oppose the use of administrative detention by all countries. Yet, a quick search of the Guardian’s website demonstrates a disproportionate focus on Israel.  Out of 13 total references to “administrative detention” on their site in 2012, in some critical or pejorative manner, only one didn’t focus on Israel. 

The subtext of the Observer editorial, suggesting that releasing dangerous terrorists from prison will help the ‘peace process’, is only exceeded in absurdity and cynicism by the Guardian Group’s evidently serious suggestion that they aren’t obsessively critical of the Jewish state.

10 replies »

  1. Adam while you are correct about the time limit in the UK now, it was only back in 2005 that the then UK Government wanted to extend the time limit to 90 days.
    A move which had overwhelming support from the public in the UK but not from the politicians and media.

    ‘A YouGov poll for Sky News shows overwhelming popular support for the government’s position, with 72% believing the maximum detention time should be extended to 90 days. Of those, 41% said that it should be granted only with the approval of a senior judge. The government has already said extension should be authorised by a senior judge with appeal to the high court.

    The poll found that 16% backed a proposal by rebel Labour MPs to extend the current limit to 28 days.

    The lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, nevertheless indicated that the government would have to give ground.

    He told ITV’s Dimbleby programme: “We in the government think that the 90-day provision is the right answer. There is an issue about whether it can get through the House of Commons. If it can’t get through the House of Commons, there will need to be a compromise.”.’

    It would be surprising if The Guardian/Observer had forgotten the overwhelming support of the British public for the detention of terrorists as the above is taken from a piece written by Patrick Wintour in The Guardian on Monday 7th November 2005.

  2. Adam –

    Thank you for this article. It is so important to be able to identify who is being held and why and also that there are ongoing attacks.

    The situation is continuously being portrayed as if there are no bad actors among the Palestinians, only victims.

    It can be frustratingly difficult, for those of us who have to respond to claims against Israel, to find the supporting information that we need, easily and in one location.


    • Thanks so much! Also, per your moniker, am I correct to assume that you were involved in the opposition to the proposed Park Slope co-op boycott of Israeli products?

      • Yes, Adam, I am guilty as charged and a victorious opposition, too, I might add. That is me featured on the Daily Show

        I am finding my laurels to be very restful at the moment. Guys like you, Elder and Divest This! were great resources to me during our campaign. I don’t know how you guys keep it up.


  3. “Hunger strikers expose an inhuman system” Is that shrill enough for everybody? Should the temporary incarceration of people deemed to represent an immediate threat to the lives of innocent people be described as inhuman?

    “Israel cannot claim the moral high ground while it is holding Palestinians without charge”
    If the sentence ended after the word “ground” I think it would sum up the editorial position of the paper as well as a description of its reportage, and directive for its staff.
    “…according to the UN’s special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights…”
    Am I mistaken, or is that the notorious Richard Falk, who the Obama administration called on to resign only a short time ago? We all know, of course, why he has the job in the first place. (Indeed, is there a special rapporteur on the human rights of any other specific people?)

    “At a time when more and more observers are increasingly convinced that the two-state solution is failing…” The word “observers” appears so neutral, no? It sounds to me like they’re getting all their ducks lined up in a row.

    To take a widely practiced policy and single out only Israel for it’s application at minimum represents a biased double-standard, and, it seems to me, boils down to classic anti-Semitic agitprop.

    Administrative detention done with the right judicial safeguards, as it seems Israel is doing, is a fair response to terrorist threats to its innocent civilian population as well as the existence of the state itself.

    Let’s face it, there are other ways of expressing concern for hunger strikers than the way this editorial goes about it.
    I would say that the editorial is a propaganda effort on behalf of those Palestinians and other “observers” to whom a two-state solution has never been desirable, at least, as long as one of the two states isn’t under the control of the Arabs.

  4. We must NOT FORGET why are this people in jail, we must remember the one’s who died and the ones who suffered and the reason why they are in jail.They are using every trick that is possibly to be free and to murder us again, if they wont to die in the name of Allah and to be a Muslim marter let them!! In the name of thousands of Israelis that died beakose of this parasites! Who cares what the rest of the world thinks, the ones that protest are nothing but a bunch of antisemites who are waiting for Israel and the Jews to disapeer, NEVER AGAIN!! In the name of my big family that I had never known in Poland don’t give in!! (Sorry for my English)