For five decades, the High Court has legitimized nearly every aspect of the occupation. It may take time, but one day the settlers will thank the court for 50 years of Israeli rule over the West Bank.
We should be enraged at the Israeli Right’s attempt to ban left-wing NGOs from filing High Court petitions on behalf of Palestinians. There is no doubt that the motivation behind the initiative is to allow the occupation to continue undisturbed. There is no doubt that there are Palestinians who benefit from these petitions, just as there are women, residents of Israel’s periphery, and other oppressed groups who have benefited from them over the years.
But one must also say a word about the role of these petitions. Israel’s High Court of Justice has never been a problem for the occupation. The opposite is true. The right to petition on behalf of Palestinians is a fundamental tenet of the occupation itself.
For the past five decades, the High Court has not handed down a single ruling that put a stop to the occupation’s fundamental practices (yes, all of them have been discussed by the High Court). It did not stop the settlements (it only established how to settle or expropriate land). It did not stop administrative detentions (it only ruled how to handle them), it did not stop targeted assassinations (it only established procedures for carrying them out). It did not stop home demolitions. It did not stop the establishment of the wall in Palestinian territory (rather than along the Green Line), but rather called for specific changes in its route. It even established how and when to torture.
In other words, the High Court legislated the legal foundations of the occupation.
It did so because the Knesset did not actually deal with the occupation for the past 50 years, but rather left it in the hands of the executive branch. Thus, someone had to legislate — and that’s precisely where the High Court came in, creating a legal infrastructure through which the executive branch could maneuver. More importantly, it also created both internal and international legitimacy for the occupation. Without these two elements — an organized infrastructure and legitimacy — the system would have a difficult time functioning.
More than anything, the Right’s initiative teaches us that the High Court’s present role has come to an end, and that the Knesset is ready to take on the role of legislator in the occupied territories. In fact, it has already begun to do so with the “Formalization Law,” the Right’s attempt to copy Israel’s civil labor laws to the occupied territories, and a new initiative that will apply all Israeli laws to the West Bank. All this amounts to creeping annexation, the defining characteristic of the current era, and a product of the settlers’ domination over the Knesset and the government.
The Right carries out its vision as if it is actually resentful of the High Court. However, I am sure that looking back, the settlers will thank the court for its role in the first five decades of Israel’s rule over the occupied territories. After all, they couldn’t have gotten this far without it.
This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.