Analysis News

Punitive home demolitions are racist — and just plain wrong

Law abiding societies do not exact punishment on uninvolved parties. And it certainly doesn’t look good when the families of Palestinian terrorists are harmed while the homes of Jewish terrorists are left standing. One such punitive demolition leaves nine innocent people homeless Wednesday morning.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement to the press, November 11, 2014. (Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement to the press, November 11, 2014. (Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

“Do not discriminate between blood and blood,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday night, calling for international condemnation of a murderous attack inside a synagogue that morning. Moments later, he announced the steps he plans to take in response to the senseless bloodletting.

“This evening I ordered the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the massacre and the hastening of the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the earlier attacks,” Netanyahu told the nation, asking it to allow the state to settle scores on its behalf.

Five months earlier, Netanyahu made a similar statement after the horrific murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. “We don’t distinguish between [Palestinian] terror and [Jewish] terror, and will deal severely with both,” the prime minister said, vowing to bring the full force of the law down upon the murderers, who he said, “have no place in Israeli society.”

Of course, Netanyahu — like his predecessors — does discriminate between blood and blood, and he does distinguish between Jewish terror and Palestinian terror.

The prime minister did not order the police or army to demolish family homes of the suspects in the Abu Khdeir murder. Then again, they, and their families who live in said homes, are Jewish.

In 2005, when Eden Natan-Zada — an army deserter and follower of Kahane Chai, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the EU — killed four Arab citizens of Israel and wounded a dozen others, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon called him “a bloodthirsty Jewish terrorist.” His family’s home was not demolished.

In 2002, when “Bat Ayin” underground members were arrested and convicted of attempting to bomb a Palestinian girls’ school in East Jerusalem, nobody ordered their family homes demolished.

In 1994, after settler Baruch Goldstein murdered...

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In wake of stabbing attacks, Bibi says protesters 'can go to Palestine'

In second stabbing attack in one day, a young woman is killed, others injured in a West Bank settlement bloc. Attacks come amid police shooting of Palestinian citizen of Israel, deadly vehicular attacks and protests in Jerusalem.

Individual Palestinians carried out two separate stabbing attacks against Israelis on Monday. In the first attack, an 18-year-old from Nablus allegedly stabbed an Israeli soldier outside a south Tel Aviv train station. In the second attack, a Palestinian man reportedly stabbed three Israelis, killing a 25-year-old woman, in the Gush Etzion settlement block outside of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

Following the first attack, which is the fourth such lone-wolf-type attack in recent weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the wave of violence and related protests among Palestinian citizens of Israel with an unusually blunt message denying the right to demonstrate.

ZAKA volunteers collect blood from the spot where an Israeli soldier was stabbed Monday outside a Tel Aviv train station. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

ZAKA volunteers collect blood from the spot where an Israeli soldier was stabbed Monday outside a Tel Aviv train station. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

“We will fight against the incitement being lead by the Palestinian Authority, we will act decisively against the rioters who are calling for the destruction of the State of Israel. To all those who demonstrate against Israel and in favor of a Palestinian state, I say something simple: I invite you to move there; we won’t give you any problem,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.

In a statement over the weekend Netanyahu stated his intention to try and revoke the citizenship of demonstrators who call for the destruction of Israel.

In recent weeks, two separate vehicular attacks left four Israelis dead in Jerusalem. Following the second attack, in which the attacker was shot dead at the scene, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich effectively gave a green light for security forces to kill suspected perpetrators of such attacks. Two days later, Israeli police killed a young Palestinian citizen of Israel who had attacked their vehicle; in CCTV footage he can be seen fleeing when he is shot. That incident led to widespread protests and a general strike.

Updates will be added here as they come in.

10:00 p.m.:
The soldier who was stabbed in Tel...

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Israeli government votes to support annexing West Bank settlements

Whether or not the proposal becomes law, the vote itself broadcasts to the world that this government opposes a negotiated two-state solution.

cabinet

The Israeli government voted to endorse legislation to extend Israeli law to settlements in the West Bank on Sunday.

What does would that mean, you ask? For 47 years, the primary source of law in the West Bank has been the IDF military law code. Applying civilian law to parts —or all — of the West Bank would be tantamount to annexation, or at least be a creeping but concrete step toward that goal.

Irrespective of whether or not this latest proposal is ever passed, the vote itself broadcasts to the entire world that the majority of ministers in the Israeli government support annexing West Bank settlements — a “unilateral move” if there ever was one.

In fact, even if the current version of the bill goes no further than it already has, it will have accomplished its authors’ goal: to move Israelis ever closer to stomaching the idea of annexation.

Events like the fall of the Berlin Wall are anomalies: most change happens gradually and it is often not even noticed until it’s too late. That is how the Israeli Right feels about the international and domestic support for Palestinian statehood these days, and that is how the Israeli Right plans to subvert that same idea. Baby steps. Facts on the ground.

File photo of MK Orit Struck speaking at a Knesset committee meeting, June 11, 2013. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

File photo of MK Orit Struck speaking at a Knesset committee meeting, June 11, 2013. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The bill’s author, Knesset member Orit Struck, herself a settler in the West Bank city of Hebron, explained to settler news outlet Arutz Sheva a few weeks ago how she and MK Yariv Levin have prepared 10 draft laws that would annex the West Bank in stages: first individual settlements, then Area C, and eventually, everything West of the Jordan River.

But Israel is not ready to stomach full annexation, Struck explained, “[w]e must aim towards something that the Israeli public, with its present situation, would be able to digest.”

“As of now, it is impossible to create such a basis of support for the idea...

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Minister: Demolish homes in response to deadly J'lem attack [updated]

This is the second such attack in as many weeks. Israeli ministers and MKs call for mass arrests, home demolitions in response. In separate incident, Palestinian teen is kidnapped and injured in East Jerusalem. [Updated with details of a second incident in the West Bank Wednesday night.]

An Israeli Border Police officer at the permitter of the scene of an attack on Israeli pedestrians that killed one in Jerusalem, November 5, 2014. Three of the victims were Border Police officers. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An Israeli Border Police officer at the permitter of the scene of an attack on Israeli pedestrians that killed one in Jerusalem, November 5, 2014. Three of the victims were Border Police officers. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

One person was killed and 13 others injured, two critically, when a Palestinian man ran over a group of pedestrians in Jerusalem on Wednesday, then attacking passersby with a metal rod. Police shot and killed the perpetrator. At least three of the victims were Border Police officers.

Two people, including a small baby, were killed in a similar attack late last month and the perpetrator was also killed by police.

Following the attack, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich called for the demolition of the perpetrator’s family home and said it was right to have killed him.

Earlier this year Israel began returning to its long-abandoned policy of punitive home demolitions, which for all intents and purposes is collective punishment of uninvolved parties. (I wrote about the return of that practice here early this summer.)

While it may have been necessary to use lethal force to stop this latest attack, a statement by such a high ranking security official endorsing the extra-judicial killing of murder suspects is an affront to the rule of law and the very concept of a judicial system.

Police investigators stand around the body of a Palestinian man who ran over a group of Israeli pedestrians in Jerusalem, November 5, 2014. Police shot and killed the man shortly after the attack. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Police investigators stand around the body of a Palestinian man who ran over a group of Israeli pedestrians in Jerusalem, November 5, 2014. Police shot and killed the man shortly after the attack. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Kadima...

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There are no good guys in Jerusalem

The attempt to assassinate a prominent right-wing Jewish activist in Jerusalem has brought the city to a boiling point. Now is the time for responsible leadership. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the Israel Police’s decision to temporarily close the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount to all visitors — Jewish and Muslim — “a declaration of war” on the Palestinian people and the Islamic nation, speaking in the aftermath of an attempted political murder in the already tumultuous city.

Yes, the increasing and more frequent restrictions on Muslim worshipers’ access to the Aqsa Mosque is a valid and serious grievance. Those restrictions, coupled with more frequent and more bold visits to the site by Jewish extremists have been responsible for fueling much of the anger radiating from East Jerusalem in recent months.

Palestinians perform Friday Prayer at the neighbourhood of Ras Al-Amud in East Jerusalem due to Israeli Government's entrance restriction to the al-Aqsa Mosque for the Palestinians under the age of 40, October 24, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians perform Friday Prayer at the neighbourhood of Ras Al-Amud in East Jerusalem due to Israeli Government’s entrance restriction to the al-Aqsa Mosque for the Palestinians under the age of 40, October 24, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Nevertheless, describing Thursday’s closure — which was made purely to prevent clashes from escalating at a dangerous junction — as a declaration of war on all Palestinians and Muslims, is to provoke, not calm. Abbas should not be blamed for his frustration with Israel in almost every aspect of the relationship, but this is a time that calls for responsible leadership.

Abrogating responsibility, ignoring causation

Likewise, the Israeli leadership’s attempts to abrogate responsibility for the sources of anger and violence in Jerusalem, along with its campaign blaming it all on incitement by the Palestinians, makes one question how much they want to prevent another violent explosion.

To his credit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “we” must “lower the flames. “No side should take the law into its own hands.” In the same breath, however, he blamed the current situation on the incitement of “radical Islamic elements and by Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen who said that Jews must be prevented from going up to the Temple Mount by any means possible.”

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Segregating the evening commute to the West Bank

Jews and Palestinians who commute from the West Bank to work in central Israel each day will soon ride separate buses home. Let’s not give too much credit to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, however. The decision to segregate the evening commute wasn’t all that creative. He only completed his predecessors’ decision to segregate the morning commute.

Palestinian workers wait in line to board an Israeli bus line meant for Palestinians only after crossing the Eyal checkpoint from the West Bank into Israel proper. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers wait in line to board an Israeli bus line meant for Palestinians only after crossing the Eyal checkpoint from the West Bank into Israel proper. (Photo by Activestills.org)

It’s not really segregation. Not on paper at least. Or at least the paper doesn’t use the word “segregation.” In practice, however, people of one national origin will not be allowed to ride on the same bus lines as people of another national origin — for the benefit and at the request of one group, at the expense and against the desires of the other. Call that what you will.

Here’s how it works. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the de facto and de jure sovereign ruler of the West Bank, could have easily ordered his generals to revise Israeli military law to legally ban Palestinians from riding on the same buses as their Jewish Israeli neighbors. (It’s important to remember at this junction, no pun intended, that we are talking about two groups of people who live in the same place — the West Bank — and who each day commute back and forth to their workplaces in the same place — central Israel.)

If that military order had been issued so explicitly, however, it would actually be called segregation and understood to be segregation by the general public, which at least in theory, sometimes opposes segregation. If the defense minister had written such an order it probably would have even used the Hebrew word “hafrada,” which inconveniently means both separation and segregation. That wouldn’t have looked good. So Ya’alon found another way, one that didn’t require him to use...

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews tear down 'bat mitzvah' ads in Jerusalem

Buses carrying ‘Women of the Wall’ advertisements are vandalized and attacked; until earlier this year the Egged bus company refused to run ads featuring photos of women in Jerusalem.

Unlike the majority of Jewish communities in western countries, most girls in Israel do not usually have bat mitzvah ceremonies. A new Jerusalem campaign promoting the right of girls to have the ceremonies at the Western Wall has been met with violence by ultra-Orthodox elements in the city.

Busses carrying the advertisements, paid for by Women of the Wall, have been vandalized and the posters themselves ripped off of public buses. Half of the ads were vandalized, according to the Egged public bus company’s advertising agency.

The posters, which carry Hebrew text saying, “Mom, I want a bat mitzvah at the motel, too,” also feature photos of a bat mitzvah-aged girl and her mother.

A damaged 'Women of the Wall' ad on an Egged bus in Jerusalem, October 21, 2014. (Courtesy of Women of the Wall)

A damaged ‘Women of the Wall’ ad on an Egged bus in Jerusalem, October 21, 2014. (Courtesy of Women of the Wall)

Police reportedly had to extricate a bus carrying the ad that was attacked by ultra-Orthodox protesters in Jerusalem in recent days.

The marginalization of women in public spaces

At issue is more than just the idea of young women partaking in bat mitzvah ceremonies. Placing images of any women on public advertisements has been a point of serious contention in Jerusalem for years, part of a larger public struggle against pressure from ultra-Orthodox Israelis to marginalize women in public spaces.

For years, Egged, Israel’s most prominent public bus company, had refused to carry advertisements that featured images of women on bus lines in cities with large ultra-orthodox populations like Jerusalem. Ultra-Orthodox communities claim that just displaying photos of women is “indecent.”

Only half a year ago did the company agree — as part of a high-profile court settlement — to begin accepting advertisements featuring women. The settlement was only possible because the state agreed to cover physical damage to Egged’s buses caused by vandalism related to ads featuring women.

Two years earlier, the bus company decided to stop running advertisements featuring any people, men or women, in order to avoid being accused of discrimination while appeasing the ultra-Orthodox community.

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West Bank mosque set ablaze in suspected settler attack

The olive harvest is historically a period when settler violence against Palestinians and their trees increase. The name of a local settlement from which two youths were arrested last week is spray painted onto the mosque’s wall.

Palestinians survey the damage inside Aqraba's mosque, which was set on fire early Tuesday morning, October 14, 2014. (Photo by Rabbis for Human Rights)

Palestinians survey the damage inside Aqraba’s mosque, which was set on fire early Tuesday morning, October 14, 2014. (Photo by Rabbis for Human Rights)

A West Bank mosque was set on fire and vandalized early Tuesday morning in what on the surface appeared to be a hate crime attack by Jewish settlers.

A local Palestinian official, Hamza Dereya, said that Israeli settlers entered the village of Aqraba before dawn, according to official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

The vandals set fire to the village’s mosque and spray painted nationalist and racist graffiti, including the name of a nearby Israeli settlement, Tapuah. The mosque’s floor, walls and holy books were damaged by the fire and smoke.

Two settlers from Tapuah were arrested in recent days on suspicion beating a Palestinian women harvesting olives in the nearby village of Yasuf. Olive trees were also vandalized in Aqraba and Burin, a village that has taken the brunt of harvest-related violence in recent years.

Read also: Settler violence: Think of it like burning down a Jewish business

Graffiti left at the scene of the mosque arson in Aqraba reads: "Price tag; Tapuah is Kahane", October 14, 2014. (Photo by Rabbis for Human Rights)

Graffiti left at the scene of the mosque arson in Aqraba reads: “Price tag; Tapuah is Kahane”, October 14, 2014. (Photo by Rabbis for Human Rights)

The olive harvest, which began earlier this month, is historically a time when settler violence against Palestinians increases.

“From the moment the olive harvest begins, we witness a series of serious incidents involving attacks on harvesters and damage to trees,” explained Noa Cohen, a researcher for Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din. “This recurring phenomenon is a result of failure to enforce the law.”

Since 2005, according to Yesh Din data, police failed to prosecute 99.6 percent of all reported cases of damage to Palestinian olive groves and...

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British Parliament recognizes Palestinian state in non-binding resolution

The British lower house of Parliament passed a non-binding resolution recognizing the State of Palestine late Monday night. The measure passed 274 to 12, with most Tories abstaining.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister David Cameron clarified ahead of the vote on Monday that the resolution would not change the country’s diplomatic stance. Cameron stated his intention to abstain ahead of the vote.

Ahead of the vote, Israel’s Labor party attempted to sway votes in the UK Labour party against the resolution, bringing allegations that the Israeli opposition was serving as Netanyahu’s unofficial foreign office.

Read more on the vote here.

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What to expect from Netanyahu at the UN

In the past three years we’ve gotten crocodiles, Medieval villains, cartoons and unnaturally pointy pearly whites.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UNGA plenary, September 23, 2011. (Photo by UN/Marco Castro)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UNGA plenary, September 23, 2011. (Photo by UN/Marco Castro)

What should you expect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say in his speech to the UN on Monday?

Seven words: Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas.

Okay, he’ll probably say a few more things than that: Iran. (It will be interesting if Netanyahu accidentally completes his logic game and concludes that if ISIS = Hamas, and Iran = Hamas, then it must hold that ISIS = Iran. Spoiler alert, Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post last week that, “The biggest threat without question is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, which means Iran.”)

Let’s take a look back at the past three speeches Netanyahu has given at the annual UNGA General Debate.

In 2011, the prime minister took a stab at animal allegory in an attempt to show the world just how silly its demands on Israel are, and of course to impress upon us that militant Islam is no joking matter (although he provided plenty of fodder for comedians and single-issue Twitter accounts):

In 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu went medieval on all of us to drive home just how bad these primitive forces of radical Islam really are, and that Israel is the polar opposite. (2012 was also the year of the classic ACME bomb cartoon):

[T]oday, a great battle is being waged between the modern and the medieval. The forces of modernity seek a bright future in which the rights of all are protected, in which an ever-expanding digital library is available in the palm of every child, in which every life is sacred.

The forces of medievalism seek a world in which women and minorities are subjugated, in which knowledge is suppressed, in which not life but death is glorified. These forces clash around the globe, but nowhere more starkly than in the Middle East. Israel stands proudly with the forces of modernity.

In 2013, the Israeli prime minister took it old school and brought back the animal characters we got to love two years earlier. The new radical...

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A slightly ‘less crazy’ Israel

A few thoughts on the decision to shut down Israel’s detention facility for African asylum seekers, what the High Court ruling says about the gratuitous and political arrests of Palestinian protesters in Israel, and the assassination that only took place if you read Hebrew.

Darfuri refugees pose for a poster against their deportation from Israel. (Activestills.org)

Darfuri refugees pose for a poster against their deportation from Israel. (Activestills.org)

 

1. A slightly ‘less crazy’ Israel

Following the Israeli High Court decision on Monday to shut down Holot and cancel the piece of legislation that permitted the indefinite detention of African asylum seekers (the way the law was written, non-African asylum seekers were never in danger of indefinite detention), Darfuri refugee Mutasim Ali wrote in +972: “I am not celebrating this, because this is normal — what should happen.”

I believe what Ali means is that it would have been absolutely crazy if the High Court of Justice, the body to which one turns when seeking justice in this land, had said: “Actually, it’s okay to lock up black people indefinitely and without charge. No problem.” (Let’s forget for a second the fact that the High Court has upheld administrative on numerous occasions.)

Mutasim Ali’s sentiment reminded me of an interview with Chris Rock, in which the comedian says he refuses to describe the current state of race relations in the United States as “progress.”

“When you say it’s progress you’re acting like what happened before wasn’t crazy … We’ve made a lot of progress and we got rid of segregation … but segregation is crazy!” The people who were denying black people their rights, Rock explains, have simply become less crazy.

Of course, it is also crazy that for 47 years millions of people have been living with no civil rights under military occupation with separate and unequal legal systems. We can only look forward to a little less insanity on that front. But hey, a start’s a start.

2. Freedom, dignity and Palestinian protesters in Israel

Out of roughly 1,500 Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel who were arrested by Israeli police this summer during protests and demonstrations, the state has only indicted 350, according to a press release by Adalah – The Legal Center...

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Israel's High Court orders closure of 'Holot' refugee detention facility

Asylum seekers imprisoned in Holot celebrate the ruling but warn that it’s not clear what will happen next.

African asylum seekers jailed in Holot detention center protest behind the prison's fence, as other asylum seekers take part in a protest outside the facility, in Israel's southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers jailed in Holot detention center protest behind the prison’s fence, as other asylum seekers take part in a protest outside the facility, in Israel’s southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

Israel’s High Court of Justice on Monday struck down key parts of a law that allows the indefinite detention of African asylum seekers in Israel’s ‘Holot’ detention facility, also striking down a section that permits the automatic year-long detention of newcomers. The court ordered the state to shutter Holot within 90 days.

Almost exactly a year ago, the court struck down a previous version of the law that authorized the detention of asylum seekers, prompting lawmakers to quickly draft a replacement — one that led to the creation of the Holot facility and permitted indefinite detention.

Read a response from a refugee detained in Holot

In the ruling, Justice Fogelman explains that imprisonment inherently infringes on the right to human dignity and that,

One asylum seeker imprisoned in Holot whom +972 spoke to sounded overjoyed but warned about celebrating too early.

Read +972′s full coverage of the refugee issue

“We can celebrate but not too much because we don’t know what will happen next,” he said, adding, “we need to make sure that the Interior Ministry doesn’t create a new mechanism for imprisoning us.”

A consortium of civil and refugee rights organizations who were the petitioners that challenged the law, wrote in response to the ruling:

Both the refugee and the Hotline made conciliatory statements toward the residents of south Tel Aviv, who have been the most vocal opponents to granting any rights to African asylum seekers and who have held sometimes-violent demonstrations against them.

The majority of Israel’s refugee population lives in south Tel Aviv and the neighborhood’s already inadequate infrastructure has been severely stressed by the influx of newcomers.

“We need to wait and see what the reaction is in south Tel Aviv,” one Sudanese asylum seeker in Holot added. “We know that there...

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High Court to rule on indefinite detention of African asylum seekers

The amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law permits the state to indefinitely detain African asylum seekers whom it cannot deport. A previous version of the law was struck down.

African Asylum seekers march out of the Holot ‘open prison,’ where they were being held, and march along the highway from Beer Sheva in southern Israel on their way to Jerusalem, December 16, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

African Asylum seekers march out of the Holot ‘open prison,’ where they were being held, and march along the highway from Beer Sheva in southern Israel on their way to Jerusalem, December 16, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Israel’s High Court of Justice was expected to decide whether to uphold or strike down key parts of a law that allows the indefinite detention of African asylum seekers in its ‘Holot’ detention facility.

The court struck down a previous version of the law, prompting lawmakers to quickly draft a replacement — one that introduced even more severe problems.

A key intention and consequence of the new law that the justices will have to reckon with is the pressure Israeli authorities put on asylum seekers to return to the countries from which they fled. Justices were critical of the state’s arguments when it heard the case in April of this year.

Read +972′s full coverage of the refugee issue

With a sensitivity toward the court’s international standing, justices may have noticed a number of events overseas in recent months.

In one rebuke of Israel’s asylum policy, a Swiss court granted asylum to an Eritrean refugee — on the grounds that he had been ordered to appear at Israel’s desert detention facility.

A far more public criticism of Israel’s asylum policy, at the center of which lies Holot, came in the form of an 83-page Human Rights Watch report that documented some 7,000 African asylum seekers whom the state has coerced into “voluntarily” leaving the country.

International refugee law is clear that a decision to return to the country from which one fled cannot be considered “voluntary” if the only other option is remaining in prison.

Two successive Israeli interior ministers, along with a number of other politicians, have stated quite clearly that they see their goal as encouraging those African asylum seekers — whom it can’t deport — to...

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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