An Apartheid Legal System Just Got Worse

Prohibition on Palestinian appeals to military court decisions confiscating their property embodies the essence of occupation.

Haaretz Editorial
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Haaretz Editorial

The order issued by the commander of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, which prohibits Palestinians from appealing military court decisions to confiscate their property, embodies the essence of the story of the occupation and exemplifies the different legal systems that apply to Israeli citizens, on the one hand, and to Palestinian residents of the occupied territories, on the other.

According to the military law that applies in the territories, the supreme military commander or someone who is authorized on his behalf is allowed to confiscate property or money if it was used in committing a crime or was received for the commission of a crime.

Until now, it was possible to appeal these decisions at the military courts in the West Bank. A decision in 2010 by the Ofer Military Appeals Court even affirmed this right in its ruling concerning the differences between the legal systems in force in the territories and in Israel. In its decision the Military Appeals Court ruled that more advanced legal standards must be applied in the territories, including the right of appeal to higher courts. In this ruling, Judge Col. Aharon Mishnayot attempted to reduce the gap between the law applied to the Palestinians and that applied to Israelis, and to introduce a measure of rule of law and separation of powers into the military rule, which in any case has no right to exist.

The new order cancels this ruling and states: The decision may not be appealed before a military court and there is nothing beyond this.

There is no way to view this order as anything but an attempt to overturn a judicial decision that the prosecution did not find to its liking, and which opened an opportunity for a "nuisance in the form of a wave of appeals by Palestinians. The only possibility of appeal for Palestinians is a petition to the High Court of Justice, and this requires a separate proceeding filled with obstacles, something which makes it inaccessible to most of the Palestinian population.

Returning the legal situation to the narrow province of military law harms the rights of the Palestinian residents, and the removal of judicial oversight for the proceedings against them allows these rights to be harmed arbitrarily, in violation of international law and the basic rules of justice.

The military cannot decide such issues - which are in contradiction to justice - because of the existence of two different legal systems in a given geographic area; one for Jews and the other for Arabs. This is a situation of apartheid that is bad in any case, but Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein must prevent its worsening. He must order the Defense Minister to cancel the order.



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