Israel has placed six Palestinian youths from the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya under nighttime curfew for periods ranging from two to four months. To do so, Israel invoked a British Mandatory-era emergency act.
The youths are Anwar Sami Obeid, Muhammad Elayyan Elayyan, Fayez Muhammad Mheisen, Muhammad Musa Mustafa, Adam Kayed Mahmoud and Mahmoud Ramadan Obeid. The six were released on December 24 after being arrested for “disrupting the public order,” and were given 72 hours to reply to police notification of the curfew order issued by the general prosecutor of the Israeli army.
For more than six months, the Palestinian town of Isawiya, home to some 20,000 residents, has faced a dramatic spike in police raids that have completely disrupted their lives and thrown the neighborhood into chaos. Israeli authorities regularly demolish the homes of Palestinians there.
As B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – has explained, in 1945, the British Mandatory government enacted Defense (Emergency) Regulations. These included, in part, provisions against illegal immigration, establishing military tribunals to try civilians without granting the right of appeal, allowing sweeping searches and seizures, prohibiting publication of books and newspapers, demolishing houses, detaining individuals administratively for an indefinite period, sealing off particular territories, and imposing curfew. In 1948, Israel incorporated the Defense Regulations into its own corpus of laws, pursuant to section 11 of the Government and Law Arrangements Ordinance, except for “changes resulting from establishment of the State or its authorities.”
In 1951, following debate on administrative detention, the Knesset plenum decided that the Defense Regulations oppose the basic principles of democracy and directed the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee to draft a bill for their repeal. Nevertheless, the Regulations were not abolished, because they served as the legal basis for the military rule then imposed on Israel’s Arab citizens and for breaking strikes by workers.
Over the years, Israel has used these regulations extensively in the Occupied Territories to punish and deter. The Regulations served as the authority for Israel to demolish and seal hundreds of houses, deport residents, administratively detain thousands of persons, and impose closures and curfews on towns and villages.