Opinion

This Extreme Bill Might Not Pass, but Its Spirit Has Always Been Alive and Kicking

In Israel the leitmotif is clear: When we can we’ll destroy you and get you the hell out of our sight. Even the High Court of Justice is in on the act

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, May 7, 2018.
Emil salman

The override clause might not pass in the Knesset in the end (though let’s not get our hopes up about Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon), but the override spirit has been here for a long time and has been a permanent guest in the halls of justice. It was that way even before Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked thought up the override-clause phrase and her Habayit Hayehudi Knesset colleague Moti Yogev said the Supreme Court should be bulldozed.

The override spirit is a coded super-law that guided our actions and defined our aspirations even before we became a state. That is, replace the population already living in this region of the world with an imported population and create a society, economy and regime that exclude the remnants of the veteran population. That’s the gist of what’s been happening here for the last hundred years, albeit not entirely successfully. Call it Zionism, settler colonialism, Jewish superiority or You chose us. It doesn’t matter.

The essence is the same – a leitmotif woven into our brief history. Even when golden opportunities fell into our lap, we stayed our course. How else to explain the destruction of Umm al-Hiran and the construction of Har Homa and everything in between if not as the victory of the override spirit: When we can we’ll destroy you and get you the hell out of our sight.

And by the way, both for the neighborhood of the monstrous, Bethlehem-land-guzzling Har Homa and at Umm al-Hiran in the south, the High Court of Justice rejected petitions meant to stop the injustice. A direct line connects the activist former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and the statesmanlike former Supreme Court Vice President Elyakim Rubinstein.

The override spirit is smart. It knows when not everything can be had at one go. And so it coined the term “minority” that conceals the process that allowed the people of this land to be counted by head and not by belonging to the place, a belonging that is natural, architectural, proven and yearning. A belonging that cannot be quantified.

The override spirit knows how to expel first and then proudly tout our merciful and generous attitude toward “the stranger who lives among us” – until the moment and the place comes where the spirit doesn’t pretend anymore that it cares about the stranger. Look at the nation-state bill, or the Nakba law, the petition against which was rejected by the High Court of Justice under Dorit Beinisch.

The override spirit pays attention to geopolitical changes. In 1967, it expelled some of the newly occupied people, but not all of them. And that same activist Justice Barak upheld the deportation order (the Mubarak Awad verdict) that imposed on Palestinian Jerusalemites “entry to Israel” regulations in their simplest form – what enables their expulsion from the country and the revocation of their residency status.

Now we are in the age of crowding people into enclaves defined by military orders, fences, walls and highways paved for Jewish purposes only. Look at Route 443, where the High Court cooperated with the scam that the highway was open to Palestinians on whose land it was built. In fact it’s an inseparable part of an area that has become Palestinian-free, from the ruined villages of the Latrun enclave to the village of Nebi Samuel, whose inhabitants shrank away for the sake of ultra-Orthodox celebrations. And what High Court bench has ever ruled to lift the quarantine that we’ve imposed on the Gaza Strip?

The High Court, in contrast to its image and the methodical incitement against it, hasn’t really tried to stop these practices of excluding the Palestinians from space and history. Sometimes it has allowed the Palestinians and people with consciences from human rights groups – another target for hatred and demonization – to throw a plastic spanner in the works. Nevertheless, the severity of the assault on the court shouldn’t be taken lightly – because now the coalition headed by Habayit Hayedudi intends to sabotage even this little bit.

When people say “democracy is in danger,” it makes us forget that it’s basically democracy for Jews only in the Greater Land of Israel. The first target is all those citizens of this country – Palestinians and a handful of Jews – who will seek to stop expulsion projects whose extent we have trouble imagining, but their planners are operating among us.