Op-Ed: Noam Federman - The Fight for Israel's Soul

By Jonathan Pollard

IMRA - Special Feature - April 22, 2004

[May be reprinted]

The imprisonment of Noam Federman, without recourse to due process, blurs the moral distinction between Israel and her non-democratic neighbors in the region.

If, without having broken any law, Federman can be deprived of his freedom, his family and his livelihood indefinitely, merely because his belief system differs from that of the largely non-religious, non-nationalist political and security establishment, then no citizen of Israel is safe from persecution.

The State of Israel came into being upon the ashes of the Holocaust - which witnessed the humiliation, incarceration and murder of 6 million Jews. The new state was conceived as a haven for Jews, a place where we could finally live without fear of being hunted or persecuted for our beliefs.

The incarceration of Noam Federman calls into question the very raison d'etre of the State of Israel. Federman has committed no crime. He was never indicted, never tried. But he has been jailed for two successive terms in "administrative detention" and subjected to the harshest conditions the Israeli penal system can mete out.

Administrative detention, a hold-over from the period of the British Mandate in Palestine, is an odious device which allows the State to imprison an individual - without charging him - for up to six months. Every six months the order can be renewed so that an individual can be incarcerated indefinitely without due process. Federman's detention order has just been renewed for another six- month term.

If Federman is guilty of anything, it is of being an outspoken religious nationalist, and for many, a symbol of the nationalist camp. Are his religious and political convictions now reason to lock him away without charges? To afflict him? To deprive his family of husband and father? To prevent him from earning a livelihood? To cancel all social security benefits for his wife and children - a punishment that even the families of (Israeli) Arab suicide bombers are not subjected to?

According to the political and security establishment in Israel, the answer is "yes." They regard Federman's beliefs as a threat to Israel's national security. For them, that is sufficient reason to keep him locked up indefinitely, without indictment or trial -effectively denying him the right to ever challenge his incarceration in a court of law.

Federman is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. His visits with his wife and children (only 2 visits have been permitted in the last 7 months) were overpowered by the presence of 5 Shabak agents standing over them and listening to every word they spoke. He is housed with dangerous, anti-Israel Arabs and terrorists, and handled as if he were as much a threat to the State as any one of them.

The imprisonment of a nation begins with the unjust detention of a single individual. Federman's plight and that of his family is not a private ordeal. It is a test for the entire nation. If Israel ceases to serve the reason for which the State was created - to be a place where a Jew can be free to speak his mind and live his life lawfully according to his conscience - what will become of us?

A State, just like a person, has its own body politic. If the State permits its political and security echelons to selectively persecute its own citizens without challenge, it risks degenerating into the political equivalent of an auto-immune disease.

In other words, if the State of Israel is permitted to select - according to narrowly defined personal or political interests - whom it will afflict, whom it will uproot, whom it will betray, whom it will abandon, whom it will detain, and whom it will punish without due process, then it will effectively undermine its very foundations.

The immediate release of Noam Federman is imperative to assure that Israel remains a safe haven for all of her citizens, maintains its moral high ground in the region, and remains viable as a democracy.

The fight to free Federman is the fight for Israel's soul. Noam Federman must be freed, now!

  • See Also: Court Awards Damages to Federman: The Jerusalem Post