Negotiating Detention: Prisons as Sites of Confrontation & Compromise in Israel-Palestine

By Julie Norman
Submitted to Session P4634 (Security & Confrontation, 2016 Annual Meeting
Intl Rltns/Aff
Arab-Israeli Conflict;
The proposed research explores the implications of detention policies on security
and human rights in Israel-Palestine through two primary themes of inquiry.

First, the “security question” examines how the Israeli state negotiates between
security interests and rights obligations when determining arrest, detention, and
interrogation policies and practices. The security thread not only identifies which
measures are used (eg, administrative detention, large-scale arrests, enhanced interrogation) but also how the state defines the objectives of such policies (eg, discipline/punishment, prevention, intimidation, intelligence gathering), as well as the state’s strategic, legal, and ethical considerations in formulating detention policies.

Second, the “resistance question” assesses how Palestinian detainees employ collective action to challenge detention policies and, at times, influence broader conflict dynamics. The aim of the resistance thread is to examine how detainees organize within prisons (eg alternative institutions, education regimes, communication systems), identify which types of tactics are used for resistance (including, but not limited to, hunger strikes), and identify the aims and impacts of prison-based tactics.

Together, the two dimensions illuminate how both the Israeli state and Palestinian detainees ultimately “negotiate” security and rights through respective attempts at regulation/control and resistance. I argue that the prison dynamic can be viewed as a subset of the broader conflict, and with prisons functioning as often-overlooked spaces of political confrontation, mobilization, and at times, compromise and negotiation. Further, I explore how the salience of the issue of political imprisonment might be better leveraged in future negotiations. I consider the issue of prisoner releases as a precondition or incentive for talks, but go further to examine how prisoner (or former prisoner) involvement in negotiations, even indirectly, might lend a necessary legitimacy and credibility to any agreements.

This paper is part of a larger research project and is based on interviews (conducted by the author) with former Palestinian prisoners, and former members of Israel’s Internal Security Agency (Shin Bet), Israel Prison Service (IPS), and police intelligence. Insights are also drawn from comparative analysis of the Northern Ireland case study and other protracted conflicts.