Israel’s Low Court of Justice Helps Perpetuate the Occupation

The institution that has always betrayed its role as the guardian of human rights, international law and justice in the West Bank is continuing its inglorious tradition.

Gideon Levy
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Supreme Court justices with then-retiring court president Dorit Beinisch and her successor, Asher Grunis, February 2012.Credit: David Vakhnin
Gideon Levy

The process of tearing off the masks and lifting the veils is in full swing — now at the High Court of Justice as well. Last week saw three disgraceful rulings that expose its real image. We can now no longer talk loftily about “the beacon of justice” or the “guardian of influence.” The great and illustrious names — Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak and Dorit Beinisch — have been replaced by gray jurists.

But actually, nothing has changed. The institution that has always betrayed its role as the guardian of human rights, international law, equality and justice in the occupied territories is continuing its inglorious tradition. Now we’ve lost the pretention and superficiality — and it’s better that way.

Israel has never had someone to guard its ethical image in light of the crimes of the occupation. Israel has to deal with the issue most fateful for its image and future without the High Court. It’s time to acknowledge this and draw the necessary conclusions.

Following last week’s rulings, no doubts remain: We’ve got apartheid and military tyranny in our backyard without any legal safeguards — and now also without any disguises. We’re about to get our most nationalist government — and there is no one to stop its laws.

Behold the most recent rulings by the fortress of Israeli justice. The so-called Anti-Boycott Law was approved in principle, as was the prohibition against Palestinian security prisoners studying behind bars. And for dessert, the state can continue confiscating Palestinian assets in Jerusalem simply because the owners are in the West Bank. We’re talking about heinous injustice, utter inequality before the law and glaring nationalism.

This is the court’s typical rubber stamp for the security apparatus. In such a situation, what do we have a High Court for? In practice, its damage outweighs its use. So maybe we should stop petitioning it on issues of the occupation.

According to the wind blowing through the High Court, it’s now prohibited to fight the occupation using the most legitimate means — a boycott. To provide a foundation for its rulings, the court needs to quote from the Passover Haggadah. The honorable justices found no better justification for a situation where it’s permitted to preach and confiscate everything but the products of injustice.

These justices of law also signed the ruling barring Palestinian convicts from studying in prison. Serial killers can study there, but not security prisoners, some of whom are political prisoners. Why? Ask the High Court. Its justices said “terror organizations” finance these studies. Is there a more pathetic excuse?

The justices were also asked for an explanation on the permission for confiscating the life’s work of a Palestinian hotel owner in East Jerusalem, who lives in Abu Dis, beyond the separation barrier. True, the court determined that this was valid only in “the very rarest” of cases, but the Israeli eye, which is used to “the very rarest,” especially in the territories, is winking in every direction.

Now the dogs will stop barking as the convoy races downhill at an even more terrifying speed. If the High Court’s wrath once fell on the occupation, it doesn’t anymore. The High Court has told us that all the occupation’s injustices are permitted.

Everything will find its justification, whether in the Haggadah or elsewhere — the assassinations, house demolitions, collective punishments, administrative detentions and some of the tortures. And of course the settlements are continuing without disturbance, with or without the High Court.

The justices, it has been reported, fear that Likud MK Yariv Levin, Mr. Anti-Democracy, will be appointed justice minister. Don’t worry, your honors. When it comes to the occupation, there is no difference between them. When it comes to the occupation, there have never been judges in Jerusalem — not high and certainly not of justice.

Gideon Levy tweets at @levy_haaretz

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