High Court Justice Removed From Panel Hearing Petition Against His West Bank Settlement

Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg will no longer sit on bench hearing petition filed against Alon Shvut residents by Palestinians from neighboring village.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg, whose appointment to the court stirred up a public storm because of his residence in a West Bank settlement, almost adjudicated on Wednesday on a petition filed against his settlement, Alon Shvut, but was replaced on the bench before the deliberations began by Supreme Court President Asher Grunis.

The petition dealt with harassment of Palestinians from a nearby village and incursions onto their agricultural lands. Justices Grunis, Zvi Zylbertal and Miriam Naor ordered the state to take “additional and effective measures considering the complaints” and required it to update the court on June 29 as to what steps it has taken.

The petitioners, members of the Shahin family from Khirbet Zakariya southwest of Bethlehem, have been complaining for many years of repeated incursions onto their land and violent attacks on them. Since 2004, there has been documentation of about 660 trees belonging to village inhabitants that have been damaged or chopped down, and over the years they have filed 14 complaints with the police concerning incursions onto their lands and damages. Ten of these cases were closed.

When the petitioners’ lawyers, attorneys Quamar Mishirqi As'ad and Maya Keren-Avraham from Rabbis for Human Rights, detailed the series of harassments, Justice Zylbertal told the State Prosecutor’s representative, attorney Netta Oron: “This is untenable. If this were to happen here (within the boundaries of Israel), you would be acting differently."

The lawyers asked the court to order the authorities to mend a breachin the settlement fence through which settlers apparently trespass on the Palestinians’ land. Last year the settlers also installed electricity poles on the Palestinians’ lands and only when the petition was filed did the Civil Administration issue demolition orders for them.

Along with the Alon Shvut Community Settlement Cooperative Society, the petition was filed against the minister of defense, the Judea and Samaria District commander, the head of the Civil Administration, the Bethlehem District Coordinationand LiaisonAdministration, the Shai Police District and the head of the Gush Etzion regional council. By order of the court, one settler to whom incursions are attributed – Yair Ben David – was added to the list of respondents.

Representatives of the settlement and of the Gush Etzion regional council failed to report to the court for the deliberations, even though they had received summonses and did not submit a reply to the petition. Ben David has been allowed to submit a response by the end of June.

High Court Justice Noam Sohlberg. Credit: Shiran Granot
A neighborhood of the West Bank settlement of Alon ShvutCredit: Eyal Warshavsky

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