If the PA Is Responsible for Palestinian Violence, Who 'Ratifies' Jewish Terrorism?

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A Palestinian family is seen through their house's shattered window following a settler attack, last year.
A Palestinian family is seen through their house's shattered window following a settler attack, last year.Credit: Nasser Nasser / AP

The High Court of Justice produced a dramatic legal innovation this week when it ruled that Jewish victims of terror can sue for compensation from the Palestine Authority. The justification for that is based on the responsibility of the PA – which “ratifies” those acts of terror by paying compensation to the families of Palestinian prisoners and of the assailants who were killed.

In this ruling there was a difference of opinion between Justices Yitzhak Amit and David Mintz on the one hand, and Justice Ofer Grosskopf on the other. The first two assumed that it is widely accepted and self-evident that the very payment of compensation to the families of the prisoners is a type of “ratification” of their activity, which proves that the PA is a partner to an extent that gives it responsibility. Grosskopf, on the other hand, thought that describing the PA as a “ratifying” body requires an examination of whether there is a “significant and close” link in real time between the PA and the terror attacks and their perpetrators.

Presumably this ruling was not meant only to help the families of Jewish victims to receive compensation, but also to deter the PA and pressure it to stop paying compensation – a kind of development of the law that allows Israel to deduct from the tax money transferred to the PA the sums it pays to the prisoners’ families.

But the High Court decision is not choosy. If the PA is responsible, because it “ratifies” the attacks, then the Israeli government bears similar responsibility for any damage caused by the settlers, whether by uprooting a tree and torching a car, or by wounding and killing Palestinians. The criterion determined by the High Court, to the effect that the compensation paid by the PA to the families of the assailants is considered complicity in the act, is also valid when it comes to Israel.

Its failure to protect Palestinian citizens from settler harassment; its negligence when it comes to locating the Jewish assailants; the foot-dragging during investigations when they finally begin; the fact that its soldiers ignore an attack against Palestinians when it takes place before their eyes; and a failure to cancel National Insurance payments and other benefits in the rare instances in which settlers are convicted – all show that Israel goes beyond merely “ratifying” the attacks by Jews.

Article 12 of the Penal Code mentions seven types of partners in an act of wrongdoing who bear responsibility: the offender, the abettor, the adviser, the instigator, the person who gives the order, the person who permits the act and the ratifier. Israel meets four of the seven criteria: It abets, instigates, permits and ratifies Jewish crime and hooliganism. Can we now expect government compensation for Palestinians for this abuse?

After all, even for damages caused by the army, the state barely pulls out a few bills from its pocket, and that only after prolonged litigation that only those who have money and time for negotiations can manage. The murder of innocent people, the accidental home demolitions, the abuse of the thousands of workers who try to cross at the checkpoints, the damage to agricultural areas caused by military vehicles – in all those instances the state wraps itself in a stained robe, and claims that during an armed struggle “each side is responsible for its own damage.”

Alternatively, the state often claims that it cannot find the assailants and determine the extent of the damage. Regarding High Court rulings that have reduced its ability to evade the payment of compensation, it usually replies with the familiar excuse that every such incident is a result of an armed conflict, a response to stone throwing or fear of a life-threatening situation.

It would seem that the High Court ruling opens a broad channel for Palestinians to flood the courts with demands for compensation for damages in the hundreds of millions of shekels, which were not caused in the context of an armed conflict. But don’t hold your breath. After all, the innocent state is responsible only to populate the territories with criminals and provide them with safe, comfortable living conditions and protection from the law. If they decide to harm Palestinians, well, that’s their responsibility.

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