Israel and the Law

The following article originally was published on March 17 by Grand Junction’s Free Press. Read also Part I from March 3.

Israel trip sheds light on law under terror

by Linn and Ari Armstrong
March 17, 2008

This article, written from Linn’s perspective, is the second in a series based on Linn’s February trip to Israel as part of the Ultimate Counter Terrorism Mission.

During my trip to Israel I observed the nation’s concern with law, the legality of its military operations, and the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians.

One of the organizations that has had success countering terrorism is the Shurat HaDin Israel Law center (, a non-profit, independent body unaffiliated with the Israeli government or any political party. One main function of Shurat HaDin is to take the perpetrators and supporters of Islamic terror to court to strip them of their resources in order to compensate victims.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, sometimes known as the “warrior for justice” (and who was very pregnant when I met her) directs the organization. Darshan-Leitner has assisted hundreds of Israeli terror victims in filing civil suits against Palestinian terrorist groups and their financial patrons. She said, “My clients are innocent people who were made to suffer, and this is the only way they have to fight back.”

Darshan-Leitner also represents Palestinian clients, usually when they are accused of collaborating with Israel. She applied to the Palestinian Minister of Justice for permission to represent some of these clients in West Bank courts. She said in Striking Back magazine that she heard back only after the suspects had been convicted and executed.

One of the cases that Darshan-Leitner passionately related involved three Israeli army reservists who took a wrong turn and an ended up in the city of Ramallah. The three reservists went to a police station for help. The station was surrounded, and the police did nothing to protect the men. The reservists were dragged out and hanged by the mob. Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuit against the Palestinian Authority for about $15 million.

Another interesting individual was Brigadier General Shaul Gordon, who is currently providing legal advice on matters of administration and operation for the Israeli Police. Gordon also spent over fifteen years in the army, had a private law practice for five years, and is the former Chief Justice of the military Court of Appeals for Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip. As a judge in 2002, Gordon heard over 3,500 administrative detention cases involving suspected terrorists.

Israel has a legal system for those who commit or are suspected of committing terrorist acts. Israel faces difficult questions regarding the legal treatment of suspected terrorists: how does a country advance a rights-respecting democracy and at the same time protect itself from terrorists seeking to destroy it and its institutions?

The conflicts in the Middle East can seem intractable, as Gordon indicated in a story. Leonid Brezhnev, Jimmy Carter, and Menachem Begin are all standing before God, and God tells them that they can each ask one question. Brezhnev asks if he will see the end of Communism. God answers, “Yes my son, you will, but not in your administration.” Carter asks if he will see the end of the cold war. God answers, “Yes, my son, you will, but not in your administration.” Begin asks if he will see the end of the Arab-Israel conflict. God answers, “Yes, my son, you will.” But then God hesitates and adds, “But not in my administration.”

The military base Machane Ofer sits ten minutes from Jerusalem. This is the base where terrorist detainees are taken and security trials of Hamas terrorists are held. Judge Menachm Liberman took time out of busy schedule to show us around the military courts and brief us about a pending a trial of a suspected terrorist.

Haim Ben-Ami briefed us about the interrogation tactics of the Shabak, or General Security Service. Ben-Ami, an intense figure, discussed the techniques, methods, strategies, and legal challenges to law enforcement and intelligence forces’ struggle to lawfully extract information about terrorist activities.

Ben-Ami began by noting that he himself had been the victim of a terrorist attack; a hand grenade was thrown into a vehicle in which he was riding. He then tapped a table with his artificial leg. He said, “You need to balance the human rights of a terrorist versus the human rights of the twenty or thirty victims.” He also noted that, in fighting terrorism, one must separate how one deals with criminals and terrorists.

Some American critics of Israel deride the tiny nation for taking the steps it does to preserve itself and its people in a region where many of Israel’s neighbors would as soon see the nation utterly destroyed. Most Americans do not know friends and family members who have been blown up by terrorist bombs. Yet Americans should remember the destructive force of terrorism the next time the U.S. government is tempted to coddle state sponsors of terror in the Middle East.

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits from the Denver area.