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The weather was bitter cold and rainy on February 3, 1992, when I made my Wrst 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 Palestinian intifada (uprising), which had been going on since December 1987. This round of arrests had netted hundreds of Palestinians suspected of membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The roundup was in retaliation for that group’s role in organizing opposition to the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations launched at Madrid the previous November and for some recent attacks on Jewish Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. That day in Hebron, Tsemel and her colleague Na´ila Attiyeh, an Arab Israeli lawyer, had eight clients scheduled for extension-of-detention hearings. In this procedure, which usually takes place on the eighteenth day of detention, a prisoner is taken out of interrogation and brought before a military judge. If the detainee has not yet confessed, the military prosecutor typically uses the hearing to request an extension of the detention order so that the interrogation can continue. Extension hearings generally take place in prisons, frequently in the absence of a defense lawyer. On this occasion, however, the hearings were being conducted in the judge’s oYce of the Hebron court. Prologue xv When we arrived at the court, Tsemel, Attiyeh, and I went into the oYce of the judge, Shmuel Knobler. The small room quickly Wlled up. In addition to Knobler and the three of us, there was a court secretary, a military translator, a military prosecutor, an agent of the General Security Services (GSS), and two soldiers serving as guards. When the Wrst prisoner was brought in, a gaunt man shackled hand and foot, Tsemel began asking him questions in Arabic about his interrogation . He did not have the chance to utter more than a few words before the judge and the prosecutor shouted for them to be quiet. Although lawyers are permitted to attend extension-of-detention hearings , they are prohibited from communicating directly with clients who have not yet confessed because these people are still “under interrogation.” Following that exchange, the GSS agent insisted that I leave the room, probably out of concern that I would be privy to discussions about the interrogation of the detainees. The judge agreed and I left, frustrated at the lost chance to witness the extension-of-detention process Wrsthand. Out in the lobby, I joined the wives of two of Tsemel’s clients. They were both young women in their late twenties. One was wearing a hijab (head scarf) and traditional dress; the other, bareheaded, wore slacks. We sat in silence for a long time, shivering from the cold in the unheated lobby. Eventually we struck up a conversation. They told me about the arrest of their husbands and how their houses had been torn apart by soldiers . One of the women had brought along a bag of clothes because her husband had been wearing pajamas when he was arrested. Israeli soldiers passing through the building stopped in the administrative oYce to chat with the secretaries, get Wles, drink coVee, and warm themselves near the electric heaters. I took a walk around the building and came upon the courtroom. Looking in, I saw about a dozen Palestinians sitting in silence. Eventually an old Palestinian man came out of the courtroom to Wnd out when the court session would begin. He asked a couple of Israeli soldiers , who told him to go back and wait. Another hour passed. This time three Palestinians, including the old man, came out to ask again. They went into the secretaries’ oYce, where they were told that the hearings had been canceled. Soldiers were sent to clear the Palestinians out of the courtroom. As they were leaving the building, they tried to get some information from the secretaries about when the hearings would be rescheduled, but no one answered them. After they were gone, soldiers opened a metal door in the hallway between the lobby and the courtroom . Out of the dark room, a holding cell, came Wve or...


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MARC Record
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