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Washington Post Column Gives Skewed Portrait of Israeli Administrative Detention

On the heels of the deal which saw Hamas release over 50 Israeli hostages being held in Gaza in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, Washington Post columnist Ishaan Tharoor has written a piece about Israel’s…

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On the heels of the deal which saw Hamas release over 50 Israeli hostages being held in Gaza in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, Washington Post columnist Ishaan Tharoor has written a piece about Israel’s policy of administrative detention, which some of the released prisoners were held under.

Rather than contributing to a legitimate discussion about the use of administrative detention in Israel and other democracies with similar policies (such as the US and UK), Tharoor presents a skewed image of the Israeli policy while also relying on unobjective sources to back up his assertions.

‘The Norm in the West Bank’: Ishaan Tharoor’s View of Administrative Detention

Tharoor’s piece portrays administrative detention as a popular tool used by Israel to detain Palestinians without charge or trial.

He even goes so far as to claim that “it has become more the norm in the West Bank.”

However, a closer look at his analysis belies some of Tharoor’s conclusions.

For example, he cites HaMoked, an Israeli organization with a record of demonizing the country. It stated that on October 1 (over a week before the Hamas attack), 1,319 Palestinians were being held in administrative detention. According to an Al Jazeera report that Tharoor also cites, before October 7, there were 5,200 Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

It is clear that these numbers do not substantiate Tharoor’s claim that administrative detention has “become more the norm in the West Bank.”

Similarly, Tharoor claims that after October 7, 3,000 Palestinians were detained by the Israeli security establishment and that “the majority appear to be held in administrative detention.”

However, in the next paragraph, the numbers provided by HaMoked claim that 1,051 of those arrested post-October 7 are being held in administrative detention, which is certainly not a “majority.”

As well, there is no mention of the fact that many of those arrested after October 7 are members of Hamas or other proscribed terror organizations.

Related Reading: As Hunger Striking Palestinians Spark Media Fury, Israeli Detention Policy Gets Twisted Along the Way

Tharoor also leaves out some salient facts that would provide his readers with more of a nuanced picture about administrative detention.

For example, he makes no mention of the fact that administrative detention is also used against Jewish Israelis (albeit in lower numbers than Palestinians).

There is no mention of the fact that there is a six-month limit to administrative detention (which can be extended by a military court if it is led to believe that the detainee still poses a threat), that the detainee is allowed to appeal the military court’s decision all the way up to the Israeli Supreme Court, and that the intelligence justifying the use of administrative detention is not made public due to its sensitive nature.



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Ishaan Tharoor’s Biased Sources

Furthermore, Tharoor relies solely on unobjective sources that are known for their exceptional criticism of Israel and the IDF.

These include:

  • B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization that has falsely accused Israel of being guilty of apartheid, has called for International Criminal Court and United Nations investigations into Israeli activities, and has partnered with organizations that promote the boycott of Israel.
  • Amnesty International, which has falsely accused Israel of being guilty of apartheid and war crimes, has called for an arms embargo of Israel, and has been accused of disproportionately singling out Israel for condemnation.
  • Michael Lynk, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur, who has claimed that Israel’s security blockade of Gaza is “medieval,” who has falsely accused Israel of apartheid, and who has defended Palestinian organizations with ties to proscribed terror groups.


In addition, Tharoor quotes a 2012 European parliamentary report that claims administrative detention is used “principally to constrain Palestinian political activism.” However, it is unclear what the report deems to be “political activism” as it later describes Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad member, as a “Palestinian activist.”

Related Reading: Washington Post Column Pushes ‘Genocide’ Libel

Ultimately, Ishaan Tharoor has provided his readers with a simplistic overview of Israeli administrative detention, based on biased sources, broad statements not backed by his own statistics, and a disregard for any context that would complicate his facile analysis.

It should be noted that The Washington Post is just one of many media organizations who have inaccurately depicted the Israeli system of administrative detention in recent days. These include CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.

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Photo Credit: Amir Levy via Getty Images

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