Editorial |

Israel's High Court of Justice, the Occupation's Rubber Stamp

A Palestinian child walks in the West Bank Beduin community of Jinba, Masafer Yatta, on Friday.
A Palestinian child walks in the West Bank Beduin community of Jinba, Masafer Yatta, on Friday.Credit: Nasser Nasser/AP

The High Court of Justice has again proved that it is unmatched as a rubber stamp and whitewasher of the injustices of the occupation. In a ruling issued in the dead of night – ironically, between Memorial Day and Independence Day – the court permitted the expulsion from their homes of about 1,000 Palestinian residents of Masafer Yatta, in the southeast West Bank, for the benefit of Israel Defense Forces training. As a result, eight Palestinian villages whose residents have lived in them for generations will be destroyed.

The justices, David Mintz, Ofer Grosskopf and Isaac Amit, rejected the petitioners’ argument that they had lived there before it was declared a firing zone in 1981. Miraculously, none of the hundreds of Jewish settlers living in the area (most of whom came later) has been asked to leave his home or his settlement for the army’s firing zone. And so, with the imprimatur of the High Court, Israeli apartheid has been legitimized in this area of the South Hebron Hills.

In view of the selective expulsion based on nationality, it will no longer be possible to refute the argument that an apartheid regime has replaced the military occupation in the territories. Occupation is temporary by definition; apartheid is liable to persist forever. The High Court approved it.

The justices’ ruling is particularly egregious this time. First due to the scope of the expected expulsion: eight villages, 1,000 people. Second due to the ideological nature of the ruling. It’s clear that it gives preference a priori to the position of the army and the settlers over that of the residents. And third, for its undermining of international law.

These 1,000 residents, over whose heads the sword of expulsion now hangs, were born and raised in this land of caves, in which shepherd communities live in very harsh conditions, without electricity or running water, all while remarkably preserving their traditional way of life. This doesn’t only involve expelling people from their homes but also destroying a living culture. The High Court lent a hand to this.

The court also rejected the argument that the prohibition in international law against forced population transfer is binding on the court or that it applies to Israel. Such a trampling of international law by a court that until recently enjoyed global prestige is a slap in the face to the international community’s institutions and judicial system. Justice David Mintz, who is himself a settler, in effect ruled that international law on this matter, and perhaps also regarding other matters, is not binding on one country in the world – Israel – and depends upon its consent. That’s a dangerous way to interpret international law, helping trample it.

The High Court decision is a nadir for the highest instance of Israel’s judicial system, and that is how it will be remembered. The fact that it was published in the dead of night may indicate that even within its walls there are those who recognized the disgrace this verdict brings upon the court and the country.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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