Any activity can now be called terrorism or terrorist-related, innocent Palestinians subject to possible long-term imprisonment.[dropcap color=”black”]R[/dropcap]ogue states make their own rules, mindless of inviolable international laws, norms and standards. On October 19, Israel’s repressive counter-terrorism bill passed its 2nd and 3rd readings – criminalizing legitimate resistance as terrorism, expanding regime authority to counter it extrajudicially.
Any activity can now be called terrorism or terrorist-related, innocent Palestinians subject to possible long-term imprisonment. Charity officials providing aid to anyone linked to or associated with Hamas or legitimate resistance groups can be arrested, charged and prosecuted.
Children wearing clothing bearing the Hamas name face arrest, detention, and grueling interrogations amounting to torture. The law authorizes Big Brother surveillance, more intrusive than already, replicating how the NSA operates, monitoring all phone and online communications.
Israeli Law Professor Yael Berda called the measure “scary and undemocratic…criminalizing an entire population for identifying with an organization that Israel considers terrorist (true or false)” – first introduced in 2011, redrafted several times, never brought to 2nd and 3rd readings until now, required for passage.
It expands the definition of terrorism to virtually anything considered a (real or invented) threat to public safety, well-being, property, infrastructure, the economy, religious sites or the environment.
It makes no distinction between alleged attacks against civilians, soldiers or police. Vandalism against (Israeli) religious sites is now terrorism.
Terrorist organizations are any authorities say so for any reason or none at all. Members or supporters face harsh punishment.
Any alleged terrorist crime incurs “double the penalty set for the same crimes, but no more than 30 years” imprisonment. Administrative detentions (without charges levied or trials) can be ordered more easily than before, subjecting victims to indefinite imprisonment.
Punishment for allegedly intending to conduct a terrorist act is equivalent to committing it. Noted Israeli lawyer, human rights champion Leah Tsemel calls the new law “not…about terrorism. It…remove(s) restrictions from everything to do with opposition to occupation,” criminalizing legitimate resistance.
“When it comes to the occupation, there is no rule of law,” she explained. Israel always operated extrajudicially – now with more police state authority than before.
A passage in the 100-page measure reads as follows:
“The law substantially strengthens and widens the powers of the police and the General Security Services (Shabak or Shin Bet) to suppress any legitimate protest activities against Israeli policies.”
“It also enables the use of ‘secret evidence’ in order to take preventative measures against these activities, which impedes the possibility of objecting to these repressive decisions based on their merits before the judiciary.”
According to Yael Berda, “(y)ou don’t have to do anything to be considered a terrorist. You can publish an article or make a comment in cyberspace, and you will be criminalized.”
“If you are located in the physical environment of terrorist activities, you are guilty.” The measure applies specifically for Palestinians and Arab Israeli citizens – Jews as well for opposing regime authority.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) denounced the new measure, saying “in its current form, (it) seeks to perpetuate and normalise problematic arrangements that are currently set out in emergency legislation and regulations from the time of the British mandate.”
“(D)efinitions included in the bill are very broad and could apply to people and organizations who are not engaged in terrorism. Such broad definitions give excessive discretion to law enforcement authorities to determine ‘who is a terrorist,’ with potentially serious implications.”
“For example, the definition of ‘terrorist act’ may apply to protests, including ‘disturbances.’ The definition of ‘member of a terrorist organization’ includes people who did not take any active part in the organization. The broad definitions contained in the bill and the draconian powers that it gives to authorities could potentially lead to serious human rights violations.”
The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel condemned the measure, saying it “substantially strengthens and widens the powers of the police and the Shabak to suppress any legitimate protest activities against Israeli policies.”
It’s specifically designed to criminalize legitimate resistance – “to further suppress the struggle of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the pursuit of their political activities in support of Palestinians living under Occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
Humanitarian and cultural activities are vulnerable. So is independent journalism, legitimately criticizing repressive state policies. Its passage assures greater collective punishment – all the more urgency to resist this vile, freedom-destroying regime.