Human Rights for Security

For years, Israel has been undermining the most basic human rights of the Palestinians. Barak's ostentatious rejection of the Amendment to the Citizenship Law cannot erase his complicity in the nation's policies.

Mishael Cheshin did Supreme Court President Justice Aharon Barak a favor by presenting his colleague as someone for whom the rights of Arabs precede the security of Jews. A short daytrip through Jerusalem, along the concrete walls that are a blight on the stone walls of the Old City, can teach the retired justice a thing or two about security and human rights under occupation.

Let him observe the small girls on their way to school, squeezing through the still unfilled cracks in the wall, and ask himself if this is what a state that promotes human rights looks like. He should also take a good look at the young boys who throw their schoolbags over the wall and then jump over themselves, and ask himself how much the wall, which he and Barak approved, actually contributes to the security of the citizens of Israel.

The answer also holds good when it comes to the matter of denying the right of thousands of Arabs to live with their children because of the risk that a few of them might exploit the permission to threaten the lives of Jews.

Some 39 years ago, a few days after the Six-Day War, Prof Yeshayahu Leibowitz bridged the apparent gap between Barak-style sensitivity to human rights and the concern for security according to Cheshin's school of thought. The true prophet from Jerusalem proposed the distinction between "stupid evil and evil stupidity." He meant that the damage done by the occupation would not pass over the occupier. Violating Palestinian rights and the personal security of Israelis are no less contradictory than the internal contradiction in the ridiculous turn of the phrase "enlightened occupation," which was popular in Israel for years.

The separation fence invades the West Bank and separates Palestinians from Palestinians, and the withdrawal from Gaza is belated proof that the occupation is both evil and stupid. For years, Israel has been trying "to create facts on the ground," while wasting enormous resources and undermining Palestinian rights. Then, when the territories were transformed from a bargaining card for negotiations into a security burden, it gives them up without getting anything in exchange.

For years, Israel has been undermining the most basic human rights of the Palestinians - the right to life, freedom, security, health, education, respect, movement, employment, prosperity. For years, Barak, Cheshin and their colleagues have approved executions and arrests without trials, land expropriations, checkpoints and closures - and all in the name of "security." And when security experts and even settlers declared that the settlement (Elon Moreh) had nothing to do with security, the High Court lent its hand to the perverted use of the term "state lands," as coined by Meir Shamgar, then-president of the Supreme Court.

Like sleepwalkers, they followed in his path, and allowed the continued establishment of Israeli settlements in places where Jewish civilians endanger the lives of soldiers posted to guard them. Those settlements, built in contravention of international law, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens into the occupied territory, taught the Palestinians that they should seek justice outside the halls of justice.

Cheshin did Barak a favor when he presented the court president as a knight of human rights. True, compared to some of his other colleagues, including Cheshin, Barak did demonstrate here and there a skeptical approach to those "security" arguments, and lent an ear to complaints from victims of the occupation and human rights groups.

If, as Cheshin charged (before apologizing), Barak was truly "prepared to see 30-50 people blow up as long as there are human rights, when the small girls who have difficulty going to school and the boys who are kept away from their mothers grow up, they won't be interested in killing Jews.

Responsibility falls first and foremost on the shoulders of the political echelon; but in the overall balance, the Barak school of thought did no more for human rights in the territories or security in Israel than Cheshin's did.