A new anti-Palestinian bill


The new bill introduced by an Israeli minister that would allow land disputes in the occupied West Bank to be settled by a district court rather than being reviewed by the state’s High Court is yet another attempt to extend Israel’s illegal jurisdiction over more occupied Palestinian land.

What the bill means is that the High Court will no longer be the court of first instance for Palestinian responses to Israeli decisions on planning and construction, entry and exit from the territories, and freedom of information requests. In effect, the bill denies the Palestinians access to the Israeli High Court, especially in cases of their rights in their land.

The move is being justified as an attempt to reduce the High Court’s caseload; however, High Court justices are known to be critical of Israel’s settlement policies, and have often disapproved of government delays to evacuate illegal outposts in the occupied territories in an attempt to legalize them.

The whole purpose of the bill is to erect a barrier between the Palestinians and the High Court of Justice in the form of the Jerusalem District Court. This new legislation is aimed at making it even more difficult for Palestinians who are harmed by government actions. The proposed change is part of a larger process of gradual annexation that imposes illegal Israeli jurisdiction over occupied land.

Not surprisingly, the bill was introduced by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the pro-settlement Jewish Home Party who has openly advocated for the genocide of the Palestinian people.

Shaked’s claim that the new bill will reduce pressure on the court does not hold up since these cases could still eventually be appealed up to the Supreme Court. Shaked is simply not able or willing to sit on the sidelines watching the High Court’s intervention against land theft and illegal construction on Palestinian lands, intervention that has already led to the demolition of settlers’ homes and the return of the private land on which those homes were built to the landowners, as happened in Amona.

Poised to be Israel’s most successful female Israeli politician since Golda Meir, Shaked is widely viewed as a potential future prime minister. It is a truly sobering thought should Shaked reach the top because her conclusion that the High Court repeatedly strikes down the resolutions of the government and the Knesset means she wants to replace a system in which there are laws with a system of live and let live. A judicial system which gives maximum credence to an individual’s freedom to shape his life as he wishes cannot be entertained if that individual seeks to colonize the territory of someone else.

By wanting to limit the power of the Israeli judiciary, Shaked has abandoned her first duty: to be faithful to the judicial and court systems that she is supposed to represent.

The Palestinians are subject to military rule in an area under occupation and, consequently, fear on a daily basis the undermining of their basic human rights. Thus, allowing the High Court to continue handling their petitions is important because the High Court’s absence would lay bare the inequalities practiced by the government; its presence holds Israel responsible for upholding the Palestinians’ rights. These principles are not usually dealt with in the district court.

In a place where there is no equality between a Palestinian resident and that of an Israeli, and a huge gap separates the rights of the two groups of residents, Israel is obligated to actually protect the rights of those subject to its occupation. This new legislation does not fulfill this duty.