Israel's High Court of Justice Is a Collaborator of the Occupation

These are days of darkness, exactly the kind of days in which Israel needs a High Court of Justice, but the High Court is nowhere to be found.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Residents of the village of Idna inspecting Ziad Awad’s home after it was demolished by the IDF. July 2, 2014.
Residents of the village of Idna inspecting Ziad Awad’s home after it was demolished by the IDF. July 2, 2014.Credit: AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The High Court of Justice deserves a pat on the shoulder for a job well done. Once again it has proved it is unequaled in preserving glorious judicial traditions. Court presidents have come and gone, justices have changed, the glittering, lofty team of Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak, Mishael Cheshin and Dorit Beinisch has been replaced by Asher Grunis’ group of gray clerks. But the court hasn’t stopped the music. The golden tribunal has proved yet again that it is no more than a wimpy rubber stamp. The beacon of justice has long flickered out. In fact it has never been one when it comes to the occupation. There, of all places, where it is so needed, the beacon became a blackened, humbled matchstick.

The judicial activism stopped at the Green Line, leaving anarchy beyond it. Remember that paragon among Israeli documentaries, “The Law in These Parts”? Well, we may as well produce “The Law in These Parts, Part II.” In time, when history judges events, it will remember where the High Court was when all this took place. It will record: The High Court was a collaborator.

For the umpteenth time, the High Court on Tuesday denied another petition against demolishing a terrorist’s house. This time the court overlooked such trivia as the fact that Ziad Awad has not been convicted of murdering police officer Baruch Mizrahi. But his family’s house has already been torn down. The Supreme Court does not believe the authorities should wait for a conviction, even if only for appearances’ sake. The IDF and Shin Bet have already judged the man, and to hell with the law and the separation of powers.

To hell with international law, too, which forbids destroying houses as a punitive measure (article 53 in the Fourth Geneva Convention) as well as penalizing individuals for an offense they had not personally committed (article 33 in the convention and article 50 of the Hague Regulations). Forget about the Hague and Geneva, don’t bother the High Court of Justice with those irrelevant institutions. In the Israeli-occupied territories there’s only one sovereign and it is allowed to commit any evil. The proof is the High Court’s stamp of approval.

The High Court approves almost every whim of the defense establishment. For years its judges have evaded a decision on the issue of torture, they have never dared form an opinion on the settlements’ legality, they’ve almost always approved deportations, administrative detentions and destroying houses.

They will always pull the appropriate excuse out of their sleeve. They’ll say destroying houses is not a punitive step but a “deterring” one (even if a military panel, appointed by Moshe Ya’alon when he was chief of staff, ruled in 2005 that demolition hardly deters at all and does more harm than good). Nor do the champions of Israeli justice see demolition as collective punishment — it’s no more collective punishment than is arrest, for which the family suffers, too, they ruled in the past. International law in the territories is subject to something more sublime in their eyes – amendment 119 to the Defense (Emergency) Regulations promulgated by the British authorities in mandatory Palestine.

The justices sitting in the High Court are supposed to assist petitioners and administer justice even when it’s not in keeping with the dry letter of the law. But in matters concerning the occupation, the court sees no need to provide either assistance or justice. It makes do with the services provided by the benevolent occupation’s authorities. As far as the High Court is concerned, Awad’s brother’s house is the same as Awad’s own house, his wife and children are guilty and their houses will be destroyed as well. Whether in Cheshin’s poetic tongue or in the bureaucratic words of Miriam Naor, Yoram Danziger and Uri Shoham, it’s the same depressing, frightening message: Keep occupying, punishing, evicting, dispossessing and abusing – the High Court is behind you.

These are days of darkness. Days of pain, hatred, incitement and revenge. Exactly the kind of days in which Israel needs a High Court of Justice, but the High Court isn’t there. This court has won praises in Israel and the world, and the Israeli right even brazenly described it as leftist, as it cynically branded the Israeli media, which is now recording another shameful chapter in its own chronicles.

The High Court is Israel’s lovely, enlightened face, but with such a face Israel has no need of the ugly one, now seen in Jerusalem’s streets. The thugs are rampaging in the streets and the “Al Yahud Gang” already has thousands of Facebook friends. Who’s to say which is worse — the rabble thirsty for revenge, or the instruments of revenge in the hall of justice?

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