Equality under the law…writes Michael Kuttner

August 7, 2015 by Michael Kuttner
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Recent events in Israel have once again highlighted the ongoing campaign to combat extremism and hate crimes, whether terrorist or criminal in origin.

Michael Kuttner

Michael Kuttner

It is important to emphasize that Israel faces a unique set of circumstances not faced by any other democracy. It is surrounded by terror groups which are dedicated to its destruction and which see the deliberate targeting of civilians wherever they may be as legitimate acts of martyrdom. In the face of these threats Israel has had to employ extraordinary means to apprehend and try perpetrators of terror.

One of the tools used is Administrative Detention. A brief explanation issued by the Ministry of Justice follows:

Where sufficient and admissible evidence exists against an individual, the authorities are required to bring that individual to justice, rather than adopt such measures as administrative detention. Thus, these measures may be used as the exception only when the evidence in existence is clear, concrete and trustworthy but for reasons of confidentiality and protection of intelligence sources, cannot be presented as evidence in ordinary criminal proceedings.

Issuance of administrative detention orders against detainees who pose a danger to public security in Samaria and Judea or the Gaza Strip, in those cases outlined above, is recognized by international law and is in full conformity with Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949.

Moreover, local legislation governing the process grants all relevant individuals the right to appeal the order to a Justice of the Military Court of Appeals, for judicial review. Petitioners may be represented by counsel of their choice at every stage of these proceedings and have a right to examine the unclassified evidence against them. All individuals have the additional right to petition the Israeli High Court of Justice for a repeal of the order. The judicial organs reviewing each and every order carefully examine whether the criteria outlined in case law and legislation are fully met.

Furthermore, the measure is used only in cases where there is corroborating evidence that an individual is engaged in illegal acts that endanger the security of the state and the lives of civilians, and each order is subject to judicial review with right of appeal. Note that an administrative detention order is limited to six months and its extension requires reevaluation of the relevant intelligence, as well as further judicial review and appeal.

While administrative detention has been used in the past mainly to deal with Arab terror, it is now being utilized to deal with Jewish extremists who take the law into their own hands. There are many critics who deplore the draconian provisions of this law but as it has not been banned by the Supreme Court and is closely monitored it continues to be an important tool in the fight against extremism.

Those who break the law and engage in desecration of places of worship, attacks on individuals who differ politically or in sexual orientation or who participate in terror activity must be combated regardless of whether they are Arabs, Muslims, Christians or Jews. In other words the full force of the law must be equally applied.

Having made all this clear it is vital to point out a few glaring inconsistencies in the coverage of such events by media and political pundits alike.

Jewish extremists who engage in unlawful activities are a minority fringe. Their words and actions certainly grab the headlines but their behavior is outside the consensus of mainstream society. In addition and this is extremely important, Israeli society in general from left to right of the political spectrum, condemns their flouting of the law. Thus the recent murder by an ultra Orthodox man of a young girl taking part in the Gay Parade in Jerusalem has been denounced by all sectors of the population, religious and secular alike. Likewise the torching of an Arab house which resulted in the death of a baby and serious injury to others has evoked universal condemnation by Government & opposition politicians as well as by Israelis from all walks of life. It should be stressed that despite no arrests having yet been made or suspects named, it is assumed by the media and others that extremist Jews are the perpetrators. This may in the end prove to be the case but the indecent haste to pin the blame on certain groups before guilt has been proven is not conducive to keeping an open mind. Unfortunately there will always be unhinged, lunatic and warped individuals in any country. The test is whether society condemns and clamps down on such fringe people and enforces the rule of law.

This is where the difference between the Jewish State and our neighbors stands in stark contrast. When the Fogel family, mother, father and three of six children were murdered in cold blood in 2011, (all having their throats slit), this heinous crime was celebrated by all the terror groups in Gaza and the West Bank. Following the murder of Jewish worshippers as they prayed in a Synagogue in Jerusalem, there was dancing in the streets of Gaza, Bethlehem, Nablus & Ramallah. The international media & politicians were quick to claim some sort of moral equivalence between these murders and Israeli actions against Hamas and similar terror groups. The UN was silent as were most of the Arab States. European leaders were not surprisingly, muted in their reactions. The usual suspects refused to connect the dots between Islamic/Arab incitement, delegitimization and hate education and its inevitable consequences.

The same black hole of moral selectivity holds sway today. While we certainly cannot and must never descend to the barbaric norms of our neighbors we should at least demand that the rest of the world take note of the glaring comparisons when reporting on such incidents. There is after all a yawning gap between a society which punishes all transgressors of the law and one which glorifies such criminals and names schools and town squares after them.




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