When Israel’s Supreme Court Acts as a Military Court

When Israel’s Supreme Court Acts as a Military Court

Israel’s Supreme Court is just as cruel as its military court when dealing with Palestinians: it is a rubber stamp of injustice and apartheid. (Below that see a recent interview with author Levy.)

by Gideon Levy, reposted from Ha’aretz, August 27, 2023

Petitioner number 6 is a 3-year-old girl. Plaintiff number 5 is an 11-year-old girl. Petitioner number 4 is an outstanding high school student. Petitioner number 3 is on the cleaning staff at Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Karem. Plaintiff number 1 is a remodeling contractor and number 2 is his wife. They all live together in a dilapidated apartment in the Shoafat refugee camp in Jerusalem.

Israel intends to demolish their home, and they appealed to the High Court of Justice in a futile attempt to reverse this contemptible decree. The High Court, in its capacity as the highest military court in Israel, approved the demolition on Thursday. Nothing could have been more predictable.

Every few weeks, High Court justices are called up for reserve duty. This occurs when they hear petitions against the defense establishment. They don’t put on military uniforms, as would be appropriate, or wear officer insignia – but the court is clothed in khaki, functioning exactly like the military court at the Ofer military base. It’s hard to distinguish any differences between the High Court justices and every last military judge, ordered to approve any injustice.

In Israeli courts, justice and mercy are only for Jews

The two courts have an identical ideological purpose: to legitimize, whitewash and approve anything the Shin Bet security service and the military demand; to deny any petition asking for a measure of justice, an observation of human rights, or a little humanity regarding the occupation. The beacon of justice then extinguishes its light, and darkness descends until the court returns to dealing with civilian matters, when its enlightened nature is again revealed.

Even in this depressing reality, there are points that are particularly troubling. Such is ruling 5933/23, given in a petition filed by the family of the child M.Z., accused of stabbing a policeman without causing his death. The policeman died when a security guard opened fire. The child’s family asked the court to block the razing of their home.

With a majority of two wicked justices against one righteous one, Alex Stein and Gila Kanfi against Uzi Vogelman, the court approved the demolition. It’s always nice to have one ethical judge in the minority position, so as not to completely shatter the court’s widely renowned prestige.

The three justices have never visited the Shoafat camp, one can safely assume, and they have no concept of life there. It is among the harshest of refugee camps. The justices were exposed, however, to a report of the interrogation of the boy’s father, carried out by a Shin Bet operative called “Majdi.”

In point number 10 of that report, the agent wrote that the boy was a friend of Mohammed Ali Abu Saleh, who was shot to death the day another house in the camp was demolished after he threatened Israeli forces with a toy gun. According to the indictment, M.Z. found a knife near his aunt’s house and decided on the spur of the moment to stab a policeman in response to the killing of his friend.

His parents and siblings most likely had no idea about his intentions, but his 3-year-old sister will now pay the price for his deed. Now, she, too, will become homeless, courtesy of the High Court of Justice.

The demolition of houses is collective punishment – a war crime. The razing of the home of a 13-year-old boy’s family is graver and even more inconceivable. The demolition of Palestinian attackers’ houses, never those of Jewish ones, is a quintessential marker of an apartheid-style justice system. The fact that the High Court of Justice didn’t even wait for the boy to be convicted – his trial is still underway – only proves that when it comes to Palestinians, there’s no need for a trial.

M.Z. stabbed a policeman on a bus after his friend was killed during an earlier demolition in the camp. Now, warming up on the sidelines is the next attacker, who will grow up on the ruins of M.Z.’s house. How ridiculous is the claim of the majority justices, stating that the demolition will deter parents. It’s sad how disconnected from reality it is.

At the entrance to the Shoafat camp is a checkpoint with stormtroopers ruling over its inhabitants. The police attack the camp every day and night and abuse its residents. 13-year-old M.Z. was old enough to realize that he had to do something. The arbiters of justice thought his family needed to be cruelly punished. The shamefulness is beyond words.

Gideon Levy is a Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. Levy joined Haaretz in 1982, and was previously the newspaper’s deputy editor. Below is a recent interview with him:



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