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No Count: Administrative Non-Persons in Israel, the US and Ron Paul

by Pini Herman

February 23, 2012 | 1:38 pm

Human Commodities, No Charge, No Trial, No Rights

Forty-two years ago I got kicked out a Modern Israel Society course being taught at Tel Aviv University’s first Mechina (Preparatory Year) by the professor who took exception to my raising the topic and asking about Israel’s “Administrative Detention.”  The professor let me back in the next session, probably because I would have decreased his class attendance count by one. 

I was counted, whereas there was no way of counting the mostly Israeli Arabs, often poets and other literary types at the time, who were held incommunicado, never charged, never brought before a judge under a British pioneered “Administrative Detention” which can be renewed indefinitely by Israel’s Minister of Defense or a delegated military commander.  It was then I came to appreciate the existence of a formal constitution, which Israel lacks, which has within it the right that everyone be counted, even if in the U.S. slaves were only counted 3/5 a person and native Indians only if they were tax-paying.

Bradely Bursten in Haaretz writes about one aspect of Israel’s struggle toward democracy:

This week alone, in an extraordinary expression of the power of non-violence, a 68-day hunger strike by one jailed Palestinian forced Israelis, for the first time, to truly face and begin to debate the carefully hidden practice of administrative detention, imprisoning Palestinians without trial, criminal indictment or other due process.

This week, under threat of a possible High Court order, and with an international media spotlight on the case, officials struck a deal under which the prisoner, Khader Adnan, will be freed in April.

We in the US also have our dark corner akin to Israel’s “Administrative Detention”, some might point to Guantanamo.  I think its a bit closer to home and was bravely raised by LAPD chief Charlie Beck who is arguing that undocumented immigrants should have IDs and that California should issue drivers licenses to them if they pass the test.

The US constitution has no express power to limit immigration (as it has no express power to limit marriage as U.S. District Judge Jeff S. White ruled this week).  Desperate to stop the huddled masses, the courts used the “importation of persons” that is slaves, as the legal basis. Ron Paul Forum discussants argue that federal immigration laws are unconstitutional, they may very well be correct.

Migration to the U.S. was limited on the basis of commerce and even in 1875 the first immigration law was framed as barring the “importation “of Chinese workers.  Therefore, even today, people interdicted attempting to enter the United States without proper documentation are legally considered having the same constitutional rights as a keg of nails.  These people, estimated to be numbering in the thousands, can and sometimes are being held indefinitely at US taxpayer expense in immigration lockups without benefit of any US constitutional rights.  It is our U.S. equivalent of Israeli “Administrative Detention.”

Pini Herman, PhD. has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography,  Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work,  Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position (I was recently notified that with 40,000 visitors this year the 15 year old study of the LA Jewish populationwas third most downloaded study from Berman Jewish Policy Archives in 2011) and is immediate past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com To follow Pini on Twitter:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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