Friday, October 20, 2006

How Israel Does It

A couple items on the agenda. First, Martin Peretz points us to a stellar editorial by Harvard Law Professors Gabriella Blum and Martha Minow. Like Peretz, I am unfamiliar with Blum, but know (of) Minow. Her book, "Making All The Difference: Inclusion, Exclusion, and American Law" ranks as one of my all time favorites, and her work on genocide and post-conflict resolution issues has been superb. All and all, she is a cutting-edge liberal legal theorist and someone with mucho credibility.

Anyway, Blum and Minow call the US out on our appalling detainee treatment bill by referring us to the example of...Israel, which is a) under a significantly higher risk of attack and b) has far, far more human rights protections for its detainees than we do. If they can abide by basic norms of procedural protections, why can't we? Blum and Minow elaborate on the Israeli policy:
Unlike the US bill , the Israeli law provides for a first hearing of the detainee before a high-ranking officer immediately upon his detention; a detainee has a right to legal representation; a first judicial review of the detention warrant has to take place in a district court no longer than 14 days after the first arrest, and every six months thereafter; and the detainee can appeal his detention before a Supreme Court judge. The court must revoke the detention order if it finds that the release of the detainee would not threaten national security or if there are other special reasons that justify it.

Regulations promulgated under the law stipulate conditions for detention. These include provisions on medical treatment, clothing, food (including the right to purchase items in a canteen), outdoor exercises, religious practices, correspondence with the outside world, and even cigarettes. Unlike the US bill, in Israel, the detainee also has a right to meet with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The chief of general staff can permit other visitors, such as family members.

The rules are slightly different for Palestinians held from the West Bank, but they too are (to quote Peretz now) "either tried by criminal courts or detained by administration detention. In either case, these prisoners' detention is reviewed every three or six months, also with a right of appeal to a Supreme Court justice."

One can argue that this isn't ideal, but it surely represents a better way of handling this situation than the Bush administration "screw rights, we talking about terrorism!" approach. Israel is in a far more precarious state than we are, and yet it managed to pass a detainee treatment law liberals here can only dream of. When it comes to detainee treatment, the left would do well to push America to emulate the Israeli model.

Second, the US is pushing Israel to relax restrictions on Arab-Americans visiting the Palestinian territories. Which is good--I am not a fan of these increased restrictions, which don't seem to be justified by whatever marginal security benefits might flow from it. The bad part is how we're phrasing the request:
"They are being treated as Arabs and not Americans," one senior official said. "They basically treat them as second-class citizens."

I see. How dare they treat these law abiding Americans as if they were Arab? The horror! The shame! No wonder Israel doesn't give them any rights. If they only knew this people were Americans this whole mess could have been avoided.

I humbly submit that all persons, regardless of race or background, should be treated like first-class citizens no matter where they live. Insofar as these restrictions are justified, they are justified applying to all persons traveling to the Palestinian territories, regardless of background (which is why blanket, race-based prohibitions are not justifiable). Certainly, there are good reasons why Israel might want to restrict some people (primarily but not exclusively Arab) from traveling to the Palestinian territories. There are plenty more people who do not fall within those "good reasons", and they should be given the chance to travel, American or not.

Finally, a New Republic article lays the groundwork for a possible emerging Saudi-Israel alliance. I've actually heard whispers in this direction myself--much of it stemming out of the surprisingly pro-Israel response that come out of the Arab nation during the start of the most recent Israel/Lebanon conflict. The article claims that a full-blown public bond is still far-fetched (but, then, it was for Israel and Egypt as well). However, both Israel and Saudi Arabia share a fear of growing Iranian hegemony, as well as a fair amount of other regional interests in common. Saudi Arabia seems ready to revive talks on their stalled 2002 peace plan, and Israel has become more vocal in its openness to talks with the country.

All of which is to say, very little concrete has manifested itself...yet. But the pieces are moving into position, and this could revolutionize Middle East politics as we've known it.

1 comment:

Disenchanted Dave said...

Martha Minow is great. Thank you for reading Peretz so we don't have to.