Police officers on Thursday raided a youth center in Nof Ayalon, a small community northwest of Jerusalem, where far-right activists were holding a conference on the issue of administrative detention, the practice of holding suspects without charges.
The Honenu organization, which provides legal counsel and financial assistance to settler extremists and other right-wing activists, said that the conference was attended by well-known activists including Bentzi Gopstein, former Knesset member Michael Ben Ari, Noam Federman and Baruch Marzel.
The group said that “large police forces” surrounded the youth center; according to Hebrew news site NRG, only a few police cars were at the scene.
A participant in the conference said that the gathering was devoted to “coping with administrative warrants.” He noted that on hand at the conference were “some youths who were ordered not to come near [the West Bank] under such administrative warrants. We held a discussion on how to deal with this legally and publicly. We can hold hunger strikes, or decide not to recognize the warrants as binding and then be arrested, or we can protest outside the homes of those who sign these warrants.”
A police spokesperson confirmed that officers were sent to the conference.
“Some youths who took part are people who recently received administrative warrants. The warrants specify that they are not allowed to contact other activists. These are activists who violated the warrants and met there. The police forces arrived in order to carry out arrests due to the violation of the warrants. Two activists were detained,” the spokesperson said.
The chairman of Honenu, Shmuel Medad, who took part in the conference, told the NRG new site, “They’ve lost it. It seems that even a conference against administrative warrants irritates the Israel Police. Unfortunately, the police receives license to act as if there are no limits to the force or resources they can utilize.”
Activists who attended said police officers confiscated cellphones they used to document the raid.
The police and the military have massively increased the use of administrative warrants and detention without charges against suspected Israeli Jewish extremists since the killing of the Palestinian infant Ali Sa’ad Dawabsha and his father, Sa’ad Dawabsha, in a firebombing in the West Bank down of Duma in late July. Police suspect the attack was carried out by Jewish terrorists.
Detention without charges, a procedure used extensively against Palestinians in the West Bank, allows security forces to arrest suspects for extended periods of time without having to present evidence against them or seek a conviction. Its legality has been contested by many human rights groups, and while some in the country hailed the defense minister’s decision to use the procedure against Jewish extremists, many left-wing organizations and human rights groups were critical of the move.
Administrative warrants can be issued not only to detain people but also to prevent them from entering a certain area. Inside sovereign Israel the sole figure with authority to sign such warrants is the defense minister. In the West Bank every regional IDF commander or any commander given the power by a regional commander can sign administrative warrants.