+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Judge: Equality in the West Bank, just not for Palestinians

A Jerusalem judge acquits an Israeli man who broke through an West Bank checkpoint into Palestinian-controlled territory, ruling that it’s unacceptable for an Israeli citizen to be discriminated against by virtue of his religion. (Arab — but not Jewish — citizens of Israel are allowed to enter ‘Area A’.) But the ruling means nothing for the vast majority of West Bank residents who face discrimination on a day-to-day basis.

By Hagai El-Ad

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s documents at a checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Hebron on June 17, 2014, as the hunt for three Israeli teenagers believed kidnapped by militants entered its fifth day. (Photo: Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s documents at a checkpoint leading to Palestinian-controlled Area A, June 17, 2014. (Photo: Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

In a refreshingly bold statement, an Israeli court recently seems to have firmly upheld the core values of justice and equality: the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled a few weeks ago that the law “must be uniformly enforced upon all members of the population, regardless of nationality, religion, race, or any other distinction.” (Hebrew)

Moreover, he wrote, any action taken by the Israeli army that discriminates between Jewish Israeli citizens and non-Jewish Israeli citizens “contravenes the principles of justice and equality enshrined in Israeli law, and the Court will not allow such discrimination to be practiced, nor will it convict or punish the victims of this discrimination.”

“When a major-general’s order [the commander of the West Bank military regime] applies to all Israeli citizens, no Israeli citizen should experience the degradation of discriminatory [restrictions on using] a road based on his nationality, religion, race, or ethnic appearance,” the ruling continued.

Thus wrote Judge Dov Pollock in his acquittal of an Israeli settler who broke through an army checkpoint that prevented him from entering Area A in the West Bank. The ruling did not mention the word “Palestinian” even once.

The principle is indeed admirable: all should indeed be equal before the law. But what if “all,” in this case, excludes an entire population, apparently so invisible that a ruling upholding equality does not so much as acknowledge their existence?

It takes a truly surreal distortion of facts to refer to Israelis alone as “the population” in the West Bank and utterly ignore the Palestinians who live there. If the Palestinians in the West Bank are not the “population,” what exactly are they in the eyes of the court?

Apparently, an Israeli citizen can break through a military checkpoint and be acquitted of all charges under the principle of equality. A Palestinian who does the same thing will likely be shot and killed. That is one possible answer to the question of what the lives of Palestinians under occupation mean to the army, to the State Attorney’s Office, and to the courts in Israel.

In reality, equality cannot be further from the reality of Palestinian and Israeli daily lives in the West Bank: the two groups live in the same territory under separate legal systems, are subject to separate law enforcement practices and enjoy separate planning systems and resource allocation. Military, judicial and economic power is employed together in the West Bank to promote the interests of one population over the rights of another.

There can be no equality in occupation. The hypocritical judicial debate over relative equality between occupier and occupied demonstrates how the pretense of legitimate judicial considerations deprives the word “equality” of its very meaning.

The oppressive regime that Israel has instated and maintained in the West Bank will topple one day. In the annals of the occupation, the role of the Israeli judicial system in preserving this injustice will play a central part, and Judge Pollock’s ruling will be one footnote among many.

Until then, it is the Palestinians who currently live as a footnote to “the principles of justice and equality enshrined in Israeli law.” Not even a footnote, or words on a page – just air.

Hagai El-Ad is executive director of B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. This article first appeared in +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it here.

Related:
Palestinians ruled by secret regulations even the army can’t explain
Judges aren’t cogs in the occupation, they’re the oil keeping it going

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Bruce Gould

      Is apartheid an apt description for Israel? Some prominent Israelis have commented:

      http://mondoweiss.net/2013/05/francisco-apartheid-backlash

      Former Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general ambassador to South Africa Alon Liel: “If you, President Obama, intend to come here for a courtesy visit – don’t come. Don’t come! We don’t need you here for a courtesy visit. You cannot come to an area that exhibits signs of apartheid and ignore them. That would simply be an unethical visit. You yourself know full well that Israel is standing at the apartheid cliff. If you don’t deal with this topic during your visit, the responsibility will at the end of the process also lie with you.” (2013)

      Israeli Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak: “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.” (2010)

      Former Israeli Minister of Education Yossi Sarid: “What acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck – it is apartheid… What should frighten us, however, is not the description of reality, but reality itself… The Palestinians are unfortunate because they have not produced a Nelson Mandela; the Israelis are unfortunate because they have not produced an F.W. de Klerk. “(2008)

      Reply to Comment
    2. RK

      Has any Palestinian leadership demanded such equality of treatment or would demanding such equality be considered a form of “normalization”?

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        In my opinion if you are a U.S. taxpayer this is an irrelevant question: if you want your taxes to go for supporting a system which treats people equally then you need to call your representative and complain.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          Mr. Bruce Gould, a section of the Israeli public believe that no part of the Land Of Israel may be signed away by anyone (primary motivation behind the assassination of PM Rabin!) and as such demands applying Israeli law in the whole of Judea & Samaria! DO YOU SUPPORT THAT? If the answer is NO, WTF are you ALWAYS ranting about like a juvenile who – lacking the intellectual power to make coherent arguments – can only but repeat same old tired slogans and clichés over and over again – ad nauseam?

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            You are right on this point Ginger – now that settlement activities have probably made impossible any proper two-state solution, an increasing number of people have come to see, one-state, one-person, one-vote as the only practical solution. Your government and society need to get their acts together – you can possibly have a Jewish and democratic state with the former, or a human and democratic state with the latter, or you can have an undemocratic Apartheid BDS pariah status quo. Make your minds up time has arrived.

            Reply to Comment
        • Sluggo

          It *is* a pertinent question because US tax payer funds go to Egypt and the PA as well.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Ginger Eis

      Are +972mag columnists really blind, deaf and dumb?!

      1. “(…) any action taken by the Israeli army that discriminates between Jewish Israeli citizens and non-Jewish Israeli citizens “contravenes the principles of justice and equality enshrined in Israeli law, and the Court will not allow such discrimination to be practiced, nor will it convict or punish the victims of this discrimination.” (…)”.

      2. You see, Mr. Hagai El-Ad, the equation within the Courts Ruling and the logic thereof is very clear and unmistakable. But instead of remaining WITHIN said equation and making your case following its logic, you went OUTSIDE of it and engaged in a series of scurrilous rants with no legal merit, Mr. Hagai El-Ad – something “that takes a truly surreal distortion of facts” to do! Indeed, under the laws of the State Of Israel Christian, Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Asian, African, etc. Citizens ARE EQUAL under the law and are treated equally – EVERYWHERE, incl. in Judea & Samaria! You have not shown otherwise.

      3. In accordance with the International Agreement signed between the PLO and the State Of Israel called the Oslo Accords, 98% of the Palestinian population live (in Gaza, Area A and B of Judea & Samaria) under the Rule Of The Palestinian Authority (and Hamas). They are NOT Israeli citizens and Israeli law does not apply to them. They fall under the Civilian Jurisdiction Of the Palestinian Laws, Police and Courts! They vote for THEIR OWN government; the vote for THEIR OWN Parliament; they make THEIR OWN Laws; they have THEIR OWN Police; they have THEIR OWN Prisons, etc. Israel may arrest TERRORISM-suspects in Area A and B if the PA fails to arrest and/or try them. Israel can do that by virtue of the Oslo Accords.

      4. Area C (where 2% of Palestinians live) falls under Israeli Jurisdiction. The Government and People of Israel support applying Israeli Law to ALL in Area C! DO YOU SUPPORT THAT? If the answer is NO, what exactly are you ranting about in this article?

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Don’t you know that it is Jews’ fault that Palestinian Arabs are not capable to elect any sensible representatives?

        Reply to Comment
        • Mary Hughes Thompson

          The Palestinians elect them, and then #JSIL imprisons them as soon as they are elected. Israel is an apartheid, racist state.

          Reply to Comment
          • GilGamesh

            When was that election again Mary ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            GilGamesh, thou asketh too much from the irrationally hateful Mary Hughes Thompson. Knoweth thou not that thou art in a den of ugly creatures called +972mag where the ugly creature Mary Hughes Thompson has come home to roost? Here is a bit of Mary Hughes Thompson:

            http://blog.adl.org/tags/mary-hughes-thompson

            Reply to Comment
          • Merav

            hey Gingi, that’s the pic of a cow there….’sure that’s mary hughes thombo…eh…thompson? LOL…. thxs anyawsys….

            Reply to Comment
          • Seriously? Get the fuck out of where exactly “Sluggo/Eis/Merav”? Internet land? Kfar +972? Do you think you control this space too?

            Reply to Comment
    4. Bar

      This article is surreal. 98% of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria live under Palestinian rule. They have Palestinian police, Palestinian courts, Palestinian prosecutors and Palestinians judges.

      Heck, 125 countries or so recognize these Palestinians as living in a state called Palestine. So why don’t we cut the BS and deal with the real issue here: the reason Israelis have anything to do with the Palestinian population is that 4 times now, twice officially and twice unofficially, peace and statehood have been offered to the Palestinians and have been refused by the Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben Zakkai

        What shameful bullshit you spout. “Palestinian rule” over Palestinians never extends beyond the tip of the barrel of the nearest Israeli soldier’s or settler’s gun.

        Reply to Comment
        • Brian

          You are right Ben, shameful is the word. “Orwellian” is also a word I would apply to Bar’s “Palestinian rule.” One can’t even get these folks to admit the simple truth about the timeline of the prisoner release refusal (Larry Derner’s most recent article). Instead, clouds of deception and obfuscation emanate. All pushing the meme of “Palestinian rejectionism.”

          Noam Sheizaf has effectively exposed this game and shown who are the real rejectionists:

          http://972mag.com/netanyahus-incredible-spin-how-they-once-more-speak-of-palestinian-rejectionism/88613/

          Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            Palestinian governments in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza. They have police, military (Gaza), courts, judges, ministries, diplomats, embassies, UN representation, acceptance of a “state” by over 100 nations (and far more international support it seems than Israel).

            It’s not a complete state. They don’t control borders, airspace, taxation. But to suggest that they don’t control and don’t run their own societies is an absolute lie. They do.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Bruce Gould

      https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15971-israeli-troops-raze-palestinian-factory-near-ramallah

      No, the Israelis do whatever they want just by uttering the magic word ‘security’ – we Americans know how THAT works. Speaking of offering, the Arab countries offered Israel full diplomatic recognition and normalized ties in return for a return to the 67 borders in the early 2000’s, an offer which was discussed exactly zero minutes in the Knesset.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bar

        Excuses, excuses. Four offers. All rejected. And you can go back and see the same Arab rejectionism in 1937 and 1947. And you can look around the Middle East and see clearly why Jews would need a state and the ability to provide security to their citizens.

        It seems you’re a little blind.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Bruce Gould

      I guess no one saw this, so I’ll repeat….

      Former Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general ambassador to South Africa Alon Liel: “If you, President Obama, intend to come here for a courtesy visit – don’t come. Don’t come! We don’t need you here for a courtesy visit. You cannot come to an area that exhibits signs of apartheid and ignore them. That would simply be an unethical visit. You yourself know full well that Israel is standing at the apartheid cliff. If you don’t deal with this topic during your visit, the responsibility will at the end of the process also lie with you.” (2013)

      Israeli Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak: “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.” (2010)

      Former Israeli Minister of Education Yossi Sarid: “What acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck – it is apartheid… What should frighten us, however, is not the description of reality, but reality itself… The Palestinians are unfortunate because they have not produced a Nelson Mandela; the Israelis are unfortunate because they have not produced an F.W. de Klerk. “(2008)

      Reply to Comment
      • Bar

        I guess you have not seen that the Palestinians have a government, a police force, courts, justices, ministries, acceptance by over 100 states as a state and that’s just in Judea and Samaria. In Gaza, they control the territory and all of its people. And, again, function in every respect like a government.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lo

          What states are you aware of that tolerate a foreign presence expropriating their territory and killing/jailing their citizens by the thousands?

          Reply to Comment
        • Eliza

          Bar: Really. You think that the Palestinians in the W/B operate like a Government. Until it comes to its tax revenues which Israel controls and withholds every so often until the W/B Palestinian authorities do Israel’s bidding.

          Funny sort of Government if you ask me. Even funnier if you consider that Israel still controls the population registry and it is Israel who decides who can come and go into various areas of the W/B.

          Reply to Comment
          • bar

            Don’t tell me they’re not a state, tell the 130 nations at the UN that said they are. Palestinian supporters and anti-Israel advocates can’t have it both ways. They boast about diplomatic achievements but then claim Palestinians are entirely under Israel’s thumb. Choose one and stop playing games.

            I agree they’re not a state. They are autonomous, however. And they’ve been autonomous since 1994. This isn’t complicated, folks.

            Reply to Comment
    7. Ben Zakkai

      Ho-hum. More lies. The Palestinians have never been made an offer that was remotely fair and decent, one that we Israelis would accept if we were standing in their shoes. Keep lying, Hasbara Jerk.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn4

        We accepted the partition plan an Arab state next to a Jewish State with indefensible borders and without Jerusalem. The Palestinians are still incapable of accepting the permanent existence of a Jewish State regardless of what they have been offered. Yes, Jews would have accepted Barak’s or Olmert’s offers and you know it. Your attempt at equivalence is bs.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben Zakkai

          Yeah, we “accepted” 55% of the land even though we were less than a third of the population, then immediately carried out ethnic cleansing to increase our share to 78% while booting out 3/4 of the Arabs and stealing their everything — then later we started another war to steal even more. Putz. It’s we who have never accepted their presence or rights here, Hasbara Boy.

          Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Correction: In just three short posts!

            Reply to Comment
          • Yvette

            Slug wakes up each night n says “another night. another great opportunity to be a moron”
            LOL!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben Zakkai

            Thanx for the back-up & the link, and yes, Orwellian is another good word for the “arguments” endlessly recycled by the Hasbara-bots. Bummer about the UNSC vote last night (for shame, USA!), but there will be another vote, and another, until they get it right. Happy New Year!

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian – here’s hoping 2015 will be a better year for Palestinians. The US did the expected – cowards. BDS is making a difference, regardless of the many naysayers (who wouldn’t bother saying its BS if it weren’t).

            Brian, Ben Z, Lo, Bruce Gould, Bryan, Eliza, Ruth and Margot – blessings to you all

            Reply to Comment
          • Forgot best wishes in 2015 to +972 – thanks for your diligence in providing the other side.

            Reply to Comment
    8. Ruth

      A friend of mine serves in the army. He told me once that his big nightmare was to shoot down a settler driving through a military checkpoint without stopping. He says it happens all the time – settlers barely slow down and the soldiers don’t know if it’s an attack or just an irascible settler. He says that some settlers are very arrogant and nearly insult him when he checks who the driver is, telling him that “no one should ask them to stop at a checkpoint in their land.”

      Reply to Comment
    9. Ruth

      Let’s not forget than when a gang of settlers forcibly drove through a checkpoint set up by the Palestinian police near Nablus, despite being warned by the IDF that it was illegal to enter the area, some Israeli ministers called the policemen who shot at the car (killing one settler) “terrorists.” Double standards again?

      Reply to Comment
    10. Click here to load previous comments