Israel’s legal system – an important basis of its claim to be a liberal democracy – acts in concert with the government to support and enable the detention without trial of large numbers of Palestinians living in Israel and the Occupied Territories. As of January this year, according to figures provided by the Israel Defence Forces and the prison service (thanks to Israel’s Freedom of Information Law), 794 Palestinians were being held under what is known as ‘administrative detention’. Dictators like holding referendums, and the Israeli legal system prides itself on following due process. It feels virtuous because a court hearing is needed for these ‘administrative arrests’ to be extended. The system is so efficiently oiled these days that the hearings are very brief. Any offence – getting a parking ticket in East Jerusalem, mislaying documents or failing to produce them at a checkpoint, being affiliated to a Palestinian group, having relatives who are involved with a banned group, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time – can expose an ordinary Palestinian to arrest.
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