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From the field

Defense (Emergency) Regulations

In 1945, the Mandate government enacted the Defense (Emergency) Regulations. They included, in part, provisions against illegal immigration, establishing military tribunals to try civilians without granting the right of appeal, allowing sweeping searches and seizures, prohibiting publication of books and newspapers, demolishing houses, detaining individuals administratively for an indefinite period, sealing off particular territories, and imposing curfew.

In 1948, Israel incorporated the Defense Regulations into its law, pursuant to section 11 of the Government and Law Arrangements Ordinance, except for "changes resulting from establishment of the State or its authorities."

In 1951, following debate on administrative detention, the Knesset plenum decided that the Defense Regulations oppose the basic principles of democracy and directed the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee to draft a bill for their repeal. Nevertheless, the Regulations were not abolished, apparently because they served as the legal basis for the military rule then imposed on Israel's Arab citizens.

After cancellation of the military rule, the Ministry of Justice established a committee of experts to examine the regulations and draw up proposals for their partial repeal, but the outbreak of the 1967 War, in June 1967, brought the committee's work to a halt.

Upon occupation of the territories in 1967, the military governor in the Occupied Territories issued a military order "freezing" the legal situation then existing there. Israel argues that the Defense Regulations were part of the domestic law in the Occupied Territories prior to occupation. To strengthen this position, Regional Commanders in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip issued orders holding that the Defense Regulations were valid in the Occupied Territories.

Over the years, Israel used these regulations extensively in the Occupied Territories to punish and deter. The Regulations served as the authority for Israel to demolish and seal hundreds of houses, deport residents, administratively detain thousands of persons, and impose closures and curfews on towns and villages.