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Courting Conflict

Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza

Lisa Hajjar
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 335
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  • Book Info
    Courting Conflict
    Book Description:

    Israel's military court system, a centerpiece of Israel's apparatus of control in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, has prosecuted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. This authoritative book provides a rare look at an institution that lies both figuratively and literally at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lisa Hajjar has conducted in-depth interviews with dozens of Israelis and Palestinians—including judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, defendants, and translators—about their experiences and practices to explain how this system functions, and how its functioning has affected the conflict. Her lucid, richly detailed, and theoretically sophisticated study highlights the array of problems and debates that characterize Israel's military courts as it asks how the law is deployed to protect and further the interests of the Israeli state and how it has been used to articulate and defend the rights of Palestinians living under occupation.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93798-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. xv-xxiv)

    The weather was bitter cold and rainy on February 3, 1992, when I made my first visit to the Israeli military court in the West Bank town of Hebron. Over the previous six months, I had been to the military courts in Ramallah, Gaza City, and Nablus. That day, I went to Hebron with Lea Tsemel, a Jewish Israeli lawyer who has been representing Palestinian clients in this system since the early 1970s.

    Two weeks earlier, the Israeli military had launched a large-scale arrest campaign, part of an ongoing eVort to stamp out the Palestinianintifada(uprising), which had been...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    The Israeli military court system is the central subject of this book, as well as the main setting for a sociological inquiry into law and conflict in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, an area I refer to collectively as “Israel/Palestine” (see Chapter 1). This duality, subject and setting, reflects the fact that the military court system is both a product and a site of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To describe a court system — or any institution — as a product points toward one set of questions that this book addresses: Why and how was this institution created? What purposes...


    • CHAPTER 1 A Political Geography of Law and Conflict
      (pp. 23-48)

      Law inspires, commands, and narrates social life. It creates or identifies categories of social being and meaning, marking boundaries to connect and differentiate its subjects. It authorizes, prohibits, and in other ways regulates desires and relations and the activities to pursue them. It constitutes a terrain of social action and interaction where individuals and groups operate to define, promote, and protect their interests and their rights. It provides a form of ideological reasoning that influences the ways in which people understand their own place in the world, their relations with others, and their ideas about justice and fairness, order and...

    • CHAPTER 2 Legal Discourses and the Conflict in Israel/Palestine
      (pp. 49-76)

      The Israeli state has made prodigious use of law to maintain and legitimize its rule over Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and to punish and thwart resistance. Three bodies of law have been particularly important: international humanitarian law (especially the Fourth Geneva Convention), the British Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, and original Israeli military laws. Israeli domestic law also figures into an analysis of Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza because it was extended to annexed and appropriated areas and to citizens who have settled there.

      Opponents and critics of Israel’s occupation also have used law...


    • CHAPTER 3 Going to Court
      (pp. 79-95)

      The Israeli military courts and the compounds in which they are located exemplify how architecture can provide for control and surveillance. The space itself operates as a technology of power to facilitate or impede visibility and to regulate movement and interactions. The physical design and management of the courts reinforce the disciplinary potential of the space, as people internalize the possibilities and limits of their own position.

      Power relations are visible in the military courts and provide a stark reflection of power relations in the broader context of Israel/Palestine. In the courtroom, although the judges’ bench and the prisoners’ dock...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Face and Arms of Military Justice: Judges and Prosecutors
      (pp. 96-131)

      The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is the longest military occupation in modern times. According to the official Israeli narrative, the military administration, established in 1967 to govern Palestinians in the occupied territories, has exercised its powers legally and acted reasonably and with relative restraint under the circumstances of enduring conflict (see Chapter 2). Indeed, Israel’s use of law, rather than resorting exclusively to force, is a core component of this narrative of legitimacy and restraint.¹

      However, the legality of military and emergency laws, the means by which they are enforced through the military court system, and...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Politics of Language: Translators
      (pp. 132-153)

      Language provides a particularly useful point of reference to analyze social relations and political identifications in multiethnic societies where different languages “coexist,” like the groups of people who speak them. In many contexts, language is politicized through a discourse of rights, notably the right to self-determination; the collective “self” is often defined, at least in part, linguistically. Hence, language bears directly on contestations over the boundaries and powers of the state. In turn, governmental practices include the regulation and control (including promotion or suppression) of language usage within a state’s domain. In multiethnic societies riven by conflict, language may be...

    • CHAPTER 6 Cause Lawyering and National Conflict: Defense Lawyers
      (pp. 154-184)

      When rights are the stakes of a conflict, politically engaged lawyers often play important roles. Their professional knowledge of the law, political vision, and commitment are vital resources for articulating rights claims and challenging rights violations. In the course of those struggles, lawyers’ skills can be put to the tasks of defending those who are fighting for rights and formulating strategies to marshal law to their aid.

      “Cause lawyering” is a concept developed by sociolegal scholars to highlight and analyze the involvements of lawyersas legal practitionerson behalf of a cause other than — or greater than — the...

    • CHAPTER 7 Political Subjects, Legal Objects: Defendants
      (pp. 185-217)

      In the Israeli military court system, the “defendant” category includes Palestinians from all walks of life. All Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza are potential defendants, since all are subject to the jurisdiction of this court system. And hundreds of thousands have been actual defendants, among a population that now numbers 3.6 million.²

      There are no firm figures of the number of people who have been prosecuted in the military courts since 1967.³ But according to a widely acknowledged rule of thumb, approximately 50 percent of Palestinians who are arrested are released or administratively detained without charges, and...

    • CHAPTER 8 A Suq of Deals: Plea Bargaining
      (pp. 218-234)

      Is this really alegalsystem? This is a recurring reaction I encountered when describing my research on the Israeli military court system. What people were asking, in essence, was what possibly could be learned that wasn’t already obvious: that the Israeli state has the power to punish Palestinians and that punishment is what they get. Such skepticism is understandable and, in many ways, is an accurate assessment of the problems and limits of law in the context of conflict and military occupation.

      But, I would reply, we must think about “law” neither as some pristine ideal nor as a...

    • Conclusion: The Second Intifada and the Global “War on Terror”
      (pp. 235-248)

      The secondintifada, which began on September 29, 2000, has been the most intensely deadly and destructive period in Israel/Palestine since 1967.² It terminated the interim, shattering any prospects that diplomacy might have held for an end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and a two-state solution.³ Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps have been laid waste, and Israeli buses and cafes have been blown apart in paroxysms of violence that Richard Falk aptly termed a “death dance.”⁴ The dance metaphor is so fitting because it cuts through the nationalist polemics and polarizations that have been generated...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 249-252)

    On September 19, 2002, I spent my last day in an Israeli military court. I went with Andre Rosenthal, a leftist Jewish Israeli lawyer, to Erez, the court located in a base at the edge of the Gaza Strip. On the drive from Jerusalem to Gaza, we talked about changes in the military court system over the last few years, the political situation in Israel/Palestine, and the trials and tribulation of defense lawyering. Rosenthal wondered aloud whether all the work he and others have done in the military courts made any difference in the larger scheme of things and whether...

  9. APPENDIX: The Institutional Structure and Administrative Features of the Military Court System
    (pp. 253-258)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 259-300)
  11. Index
    (pp. 301-312)