Analysis

Once Again, Israel’s Courts Collaborate With Government anti-Arab Housing Policy

Given the Israeli legal system’s failure to do justice, Israel’s friends must demand that it act like a civilized country

Residents of the Wadi Yetzol section of East Jerusalem’s Silwan whose homes were built without a permit, Israel, April 13, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Once again the Supreme Court is allowing the demolition of Arab homes, this time in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, because they were built without building permits, even though the land belonged to the builders.

Once again the courts (both the Jerusalem District Court and Supreme Court) that dealt with the request to delay the demolition orders refused to address the substantive argument regarding the failure of the authorities to approve construction plans in these areas for years, leaving residents no real choice but to build without a permit.

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Even worse, the Jerusalem District Court essentially accepted this endless planning process, citing it when it rejected the appellants’ request to delay the demolition order to give them a chance to get approval for the plan they’d submitted. Thus the policy of dragging out planning and construction procedures endlessly, until people simply can no longer obey the law, gains legitimacy.

This is a policy that rewards its promulgators well: It chokes off the ability of Jerusalem’s Arab residents to develop and build, and at the same time forces them into breaking the law. Then the judicial system, acting like an automaton, punishes the perpetrators. In doing so the courts ignore the planning and construction reality as described by the Or Commission; and from what is known to all, or at least to all who seek to know and don’t bury their heads in the sand: The authorities are particularly stringent when it come to Arab construction in East Jerusalem. Among other things, Arab construction is restricted by declaring certain lands green areas, or limiting Arab construction to four-story buildings while Jews can build high-rises.

So while the courts may have issued rulings, they did not do justice, as they committed to do when they were sworn in. They may have been seemingly impartial (something else their declaration of allegiance includes), but they are supporting a system that is built totally on partiality. Is there not one righteous judge in the entire Israeli court system prepared to deal with this issue on its merits and not act like those animals (which I will not name so as not to offend), who refuse to look either sideways or backward?

As Nir Hasson has written in this newspaper, in the parallel universe of Jewish construction, the illegal building by the Elad NGO has gotten totally different treatment. In Elad’s case, although the municipality had issued demolition orders, it agreed to delay implementing them until a plan could be approved that would legalize the construction. Unlike the Arab residents of East Jerusalem, all the paths are open for Elad, a government favorite, to get advance approvals for its moves. Nevertheless, the NGO built without a permit, presumably on the assumption it would be forgiven – an assumption that turned out to be accurate.

For the Israeli government, there is no resemblance and no connection between Jewish construction and Arab construction. In this context, it’s worth mentioning the steps being taken by the Justice Ministry, following the Levi and Zandberg Committee reports, to legalize much illegal Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. This, even though in most such cases the issue is not merely illegal construction, but construction on Palestinian land, which is forbidden by international law.

We’re speaking, therefore, of serious ethnic-based discrimination, and there is no government official in the Jewish state crying out against it. The infrastructure is being laid, openly, for a form of apartheid rule in those areas of Judea and Samaria that will be annexed to Israel, where there will be masters and there will be those whose presence is a nuisance. All this, as per the nation-state law, will come to encourage, promote, and strengthen Jewish settlement.

Israel is proud of united Jerusalem, and recently gave this expression in the nation-state law. Does the systematic demolition of Arab homes expected in the wake of these rulings symbolize this unity? Or does it reflect a city with a wall in its heart and people with hearts of stone?

Given the Israeli legal system’s failure to do justice, Israel’s friends must demand that it act like a civilized country.