|Southwest Asia News Digest
Fatah's Barghouti Calls for Popular Resistance
Nov. 19 (EIRNS)Speaking from his Israeli prison cell this week, Palestinian Tanzim leader and Fatah central committee member Marwan Barghouti urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian factions to lead a "popular resistance" to stop Israel's settlement construction and "Judaeizing" activities. He also said that it is not possible to make peace with the current Israeli government.
Barghouti, who has been in an Israeli prison for over five years, and who is, by far, the most popular Palestinian leader, is quoted by the Palestinian daily Al-Hayat al-Jadida of Nov. 19 as having said, through his attorney, "I have always called for creatively combining negotiations with resistance and political, diplomatic, and popular activism. I warned against relying exclusively on negotiations, but some were late to discover this." He added, "Whoever thinks it's possible to make peace with the current Israeli government is delusional."
In an interview with Reuters, where he answered questions submitted in writing through his lawyer, Barghouti advocated reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. "I do not see that there are fundamental political differences between Fatah and Hamas," he said. When asked if he would run for President of Palestine, he replied, "When national reconciliation is accomplished and there is agreement on holding elections, I will take the appropriate decision."
Israeli High Court Rules Prison Privatization Unconstitutional
Nov. 20 (EIRNS)In a landmark decision that is expected to have worldwide impact, the Israel High Court of Justice issued a ruling that privately run prisons are unconstitutional. This is the first ruling of its kind anywhere in the world, since no one has hitherto succeeded in taking the issue to a national supreme court. Private prisons already exist in the U.S., France, Germany, and other countries. The issue does not just concern prisoners; it affects the limits of privatization of government responsibilities.
Ha'aretz quotes attorney Gilad Barnea, who represented the petitioners, that the ruling does two significant things. "First, it defines the bounds of what is permissible and not permissible in transferring the powers of the state to private hands. Second, the ruling takes the social compact and turns it into an element of human dignity ... which means that if something contravenes the social compact, it can be annulled." This, Barnea added, "is an international precedent."
Israel has already passed a law and contracted with one prison to a private company, A.L.A. Management, which has already built one prison.
The case was brought before the court in 2005, by the human rights department of the Academic College of Law in Ramat Gan. The suit challenged the transfer of prison powers to private hands as a violation of the prisoners' human rights to liberty and dignity, since private organizations always aim to maximize profit, and would therefore seek to cut costs.
In her ruling, Judge Beinisch, supported by eight of the nine High Court judges, wrote that the amendment granted a private corporation invasive authority over prisoners. For example, the manager of the private prison would have been authorized to sentence a prisoner to solitary confinement, and to order invasive inspections and the use of force to search the prisoners. This harms basic constitutional rights, since Israel's Basic Law holds that the right to use force, in general, and the right to enforce criminal law by putting people behind bars, in particular, is one of the most fundamental powers in the state's jurisdiction. Thus, when the power to incarcerate is transferred to a private, for-profit corporation, the act of depriving a person of his liberty loses its legitimacy. Furthermore, in a prison run by a private company, the inmates are transformed into a means of extracting profit. Efficiency, she wrote, is not a supreme value, when the most basic human rights for which the state is responsible are at stake.
In what Ha'aretz describes as a "bombshell," Beinisch wrote that experts hold that if this issue were brought before a European court, the privatization of prisons would also be rejected as contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. The paper also says that this court ruling "will generate a conceptual revolution worldwide and that Beinisch was clearly aware of this. The ruling rests on the political and moral thought of the great philosophers who discussed the modern state...." Ha'aretz concludes that privatizing the state's sovereignty and transferring its powers to interested parties "may be profitable, but it is not constitutional."