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Being jailed at the whim of biased politicians – A clever way to silence opposition

Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir takes part in a march to the Evyatar outpost, near Nablus, April 10, 2023. (Photo: Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

The old corrupt adage, made popular by the head of Joseph Stalin’s secret police, “Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime,” may soon be realized in the State of Israel if a new proposed bill, about to be introduced into the Knesset, gets passed. 

It’s a measure that would add discretionary power to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, allowing him to direct police to imprison anyone deemed suspect, without even having been charged with a crime. Such jail time could be protracted, for up to half a year – and even beyond, with the added punishment of placing heavy restrictions upon the “movements, communications and access to employment or international travel without needing to file charges or to present evidence,” according to the Times of Israel.

Perhaps even more shocking than a law, which could potentially trample the civil rights of all Israeli citizens, is how they have chosen to introduce the bill itself. Knowing that this type of radical legislation would raise many eyebrows, including those of the Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, they have cunningly disguised it as a “private member’s bill” as opposed to a government bill, permitting any preliminary objections to be bypassed, since it will be filed by one of Ben Gvir’s party lawmakers. Why do they give such little credit to people who think they will not notice such a deliberate detour attempt? 

While the wording of the bill will target "those suspected of terror," without clear and exact definitions of what constitutes such behavior, the interpretation of such a claim can be excessively broad and highly subjective.

At this moment, administrative detentions, of mostly Palestinian terror suspects, “allows individuals to be held without charge for six months at a time, renewed indefinitely, while allowing military prosecutors to keep suspects from being able to see the evidence against them,” according to the Times of Israel.

Internalizing such loss of basic human rights on Israeli citizens, whose protesting and freedom to dissent the actions of their government, could very likely be used against them to permanently silence and marginalize their voices, and you have a recipe for autocracy. 

Given Ben Gvir’s hostile track record against those who stand in the way of his personal political wish-list, why wouldn’t he apply these tactics toward political rivals, activists, protesters, political writers and analysts or anyone he deems a threat to all that he hopes to accomplish? In short, it’s a quick fix to silence any would-be opposition. Because who wants to run the risk of being locked away indefinitely?  

Simply make a convincing argument that, left to wander freely in the public, a particular individual has the capacity to execute terror in the homeland, and the possibilities are endless! But jail is only the beginning. In the attempt to hermetically silence such potential “terrorists,” sweeping restraints can also be placed upon them, that would make it impossible for them to speak freely, either in person or through social media posts. It would also be able to monitor purchases and services, essentially controlling all actions and freedoms of that person, rendering it nothing more than a social straight-jacket. 

Ironically, Ben Gvir’s prior profession, before entering politics, was that of a defense attorney, aiding Jewish terror suspects and extreme activists, from ever seeing the inside of a jail cell. In those cases, because they served his personal goals and beliefs, their acts of terror were justified. One example is a case where Jewish settlers were held in administrative detention for taking part in a deadly settler rampage in the Palestinian town of Huwara. Additionally, they planned to terrorize those who live there. But, again, in Ben Gvir’s eyes, those are the “good terrorists.”

It is exactly this kind of lopsided lack of fairness, and deference to political allies, which causes Israelis to cry foul and even accuse the present government of creating a banana republic, where unprincipled and ruthless leaders use the force of police and military to suppress their detractors. 

One would think that the job of a national security minister would be to protect the country’s citizens from internal harm by those who are a real physical threat to them, but, with a little creativity, that definition can so easily be expanded to also target loyal, hardworking citizens who simply are distraught by the direction they see that a one-sided, very biased, right-wing, extremist government is taking.  

Not only does it have the possibility of completely ignoring the liberties of minorities, within the country, but bills, such as these, have the potential to expand the loss of rights to ordinary citizens, who now have to fear that what they say could literally be used against them in a way that would be Israel’s own novel form of cancel culture taken to the max.

If our political leaders really care about keeping Israelis safe within their borders, they should concentrate on cracking down on the known mafia members who live amongst us, violent family members, who pose a real threat to their own, and who are often known to police, as well as extremists, both among Israeli Arabs and Jews, who seek to take the law into their own hands. Just those sectors of Israeli society should keep law enforcement busy for years to come. Cracking down on the real threats, which are too-often ignited, would go a long way in helping to curb the enormous crime waves that have plagued the country in recent months. 

In the meantime, it also wouldn’t hurt members of this present government coalition, especially those within the Likud party, who are supposed to be the more “moderate” politicians, to take a good look in order to understand from where the complaints are coming and why Israelis feel justified in their fears that sweeping reforms and overbearing policy changes, such as this, will result in the loss of the democratic and free society that has been the hallmark of the Jewish State since its inception.

Once they understand the fight to retain our liberties, they might be more willing to abandon aiding and abetting those who hope to turn Israel into a one-voice, one-religion, one political viewpoint country that more resembles its surrounding neighbors.

A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.

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