Israeli High Court Rules Homes of Three Palestinian Stone-throwers Won't Be Sealed

A group of four is being tried for throwing rocks that led to the death of an Israeli man in September; the home of a fourth defendant, who allegedly threw the rock that directly caused the man to lose control of his car, will be sealed.

Three of the defendants in court in January 2016.
Lior Mizrahi

The High Court of Justice on Sunday accepted three of four petitions against sealing the homes of Palestinians charged – though not convicted – of throwing stones and causing the death of Alexander Levlovitch on Rosh Hashanah eve last September in Jerusalem.

However, the court denied the petition in the case of Abed Dawiyat, who was charged with throwing the specific stone that caused Levlovitch’s death, giving the authorities the green light to seal his home.

According to Israeli law, a Palestinian defendant’s home can be sealed, ostensibly as a deterrent to terrorism, on the basis of lesser evidence than that needed to convict him in court. The four defendants, ages 16 to 19 at the time of the attack, are all from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Bahir.

Levlovitch, 64, was killed and two women in his car were injured when he lost control of the vehicle as a result of its being hit by stones and crashed it into a telephone pole.

Justice Esther Hayut wrote in the ruling that it was clear the other three defendants were far less directly involved in Levlovitch’s death.

“From the administrative evidence and from the indictment it emerges that the three are alleged to have committed manslaughter because of their presence at the event, the stones they threw at other passing cars and the stones that they brought to Dawiyat,” she wrote. “But no one denies that the fatal stone is ascribed solely to Dawiyat, who stood on the traffic island and threw stones from very close range, while the others were standing further away.”

Hayut was joined by Justice Zvi Zylbertal in accepting three of the four petitions. Justice Uzi Vogelman suggested that since there was no evidence that Dawiyat’s family knew of his intentions, that only his room be sealed, and not the rooms serving his mother and sister, but he was overruled.

This ruling follows one the High Court issued last Thursday in which it blocked the demolition of the home of Abed al-Aziz Meri, one of the suspects in the October murders of Rabbi Nehemia Lavi and soldier Aharon Benita in Jerusalem’s Old City. Justices Menachem Mazuz and Anat Baron canceled the demolition order, while Court President Miriam Naor was willing to approve it.

On that same day, Naor denied a request to hold a hearing with an expanded panel on some of the issues arising from the regulation permitting the demolition of terrorists’ homes.

Naor made that decision even though seven of the 15 Supreme Court justices have expressed reservations about the legality of the regulation and about the circumstances under which it could be invoked. Of the seven, Vogelman, Mazuz and Salim Joubran had expressed their objections to home demolitions on various specific petitions, and requested another hearing on the matter. Zylbertal and Daphne Barak-Erez have approved demolitions but said there is room to reevaluate the court’s position on the matter.

The seventh justice, Baron, accepted a petition against a house demolition, writing, “When terror increases, it’s specifically then that our responsibility as a society is to examine the propriety of the means we use to fight terror.”

In Sunday’s ruling, Hayut addressed those voices on the bench, writing, “A number of justices on this court have expressed objections to using this regulation, and during the public petition I even noted that ‘following the path of precedent in this matter is not easy.’ And yet, like me, the overwhelming majority of justices who object feel committed to following precedent, so long as it isn’t changed. As has been rightly stated, such a change must come from an expanded panel.”