It is with a sense of depressing familiarity that I am, once again, writing about yet another defender of Palestinian human rights imprisoned without trail by Israel. Hasan Safadi’s “crime” is that he spoke out and wrote against Israel’s human rights abuses. He is a journalist and human rights defender who has been kept in an Israeli cell for more than a year now, even though he has not been brought to trial and found guilty of any charges laid against him; nor has he had the chance to defend himself.
This is a frequent occurrence in occupied Palestine, but it is all-but ignored by the Western media, which too often extol the virtues of Israel’s supposed democracy.
Israel, though, is not a democracy. The oppressive Israeli regime that dominates the lives of millions of Palestinians under occupation and apartheid is nothing less than a military dictatorship.
Safadi is detained under an Israeli law euphemistically dubbed “administrative detention”. This allows Israel’s ministers and secret police to imprison Palestinians without trial or charge. It is done on the basis of completely secret “evidence” presented to a military “court” by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency. Shin Bet is notorious for assassinations, torture, kidnap and spying on every aspect of the private lives of Palestinian civilians.
Administrative detention legislation dates back to the so-called “Mandate” period, the British occupation of Palestine which ended in 1948. It has been adopted by Israel and is, in practice, an apartheid law; aside from a tiny handful of cases when it has been used against the most radical of extremist Jewish settlers, it has almost always just been used against Palestinians.
On the rare occasions that they ever face prosecution at all for their crimes against the indigenous population, Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank are dealt with under Israeli civilian law. Unlike Palestinians, they are granted access to lawyers and a civilian judge.
Two different sets of laws for two different racial/national groups: this is the textbook definition of apartheid.
Hasan Safadi, 26, is a press officer for Addameer, a Palestinian human rights group that works to protect the thousands of political prisoners who languish in Israeli prisons. With its tireless work, the group is a constant thorn in the side of Israel’s oppressive colonial regime. He is also a journalist who has written for numerous publications, including Assafir, a newspaper published in Lebanon.
It is no surprise, then, that Israel would want Safadi out of the way. He was first taken by Israeli occupation forces in May 2016. According to Amnesty International, he was “interrogated for 40 days; he told his lawyer that he had been subjected to sleep deprivation and tied in stress positions during his interrogation.” In other words, he was tortured. He was also denied access to his lawyer for 10 days.
He was charged with visiting an “enemy country” — Lebanon — and was due to be released at the start of December, but Israel’s “defence” minister, the ultra-right racist Avigdor Lieberman, ordered his “administrative detention” to be renewed for another six months. Under Israel’s dictatorial internment law, such orders can be renewed indefinitely, and so amount to indefinite detention without trial on the orders of politicians and spy agencies. This is hardly the legal system that you would expect to see in a democracy. Some Palestinians have been held behind bars in this way for many years.
Earlier this month, Safadi’s internment was extended for yet another six months. When news of the latest extension came through, Addameer noted that the order was “scheduled to be confirmed by a judge at a time set in the next 48 hours.” This is further evidence that, in the reality that is everyday life for Palestinians, Israel is a military dictatorship, not a democracy. Indefinite internment without trial on the orders of a secret police agency notorious for murder, kidnapping and torture is not the action of a democracy.
Searches of Haaretz and Ynet websites for Safadi’s name this week turned up no results. This may be because the case was initially under an official gag order. Or it may simply be that – much like the British press – the mainstream Israeli media is institutionally servile, and far too ready to accept official narratives and lies.
Israel must be compelled by boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) to release all political prisoners. The case of Hasan Safadi once again gives the lie to the claim that the state is “the only democracy in the Middle East”; indeed, the claim that it is a democracy at all.