Jerusalem, April 28th 2014
The Supreme Court gave an interim decision today in response to an appeal brought by Rabbis For Human Rights, ICAHD, JLAC, St. Yves and the Palestinian village of Ad-Dirat-Al-Rfai’ya requesting that planning authority be returned to Palestinians living in Area C, the 62% of the West Bank under full Israeli control. The decision ordered the State to propose within ninety days institutionalized ways to facilitate participation of local Palestinians in Area C in the planning processes that affect their lives. Justices Rubinstein, Handel, and Solberg also expressed dissatisfaction with the current planning situation and rejected the state’s argument that participation of Palestinians exists in the current system and therefore the status quo ought to remain.
The judges also requested that the state provide explanations for the data provided by the petitioners indicating severe discrimination and a lack of adequate planning for Palestinians in Area C. The petitioners were given 30 days to comment after the state submits their proposal.
Response of ICAHD:
ICAHD normally does not initiate or join appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court regarding the situation in the Occupied Territory for the same reason it does not normally provide legal aid to Palestinians facing the demolition of their homes or help in obtaining building permits: such humanitarian assistance may help specific families in the short term (though rarely), but by legitimizing Israel’s authority to rule over the OPT in violation of international law, such interventions only perpetuate the Occupation.
We joined this appeal for three reasons. First, it raises for the first time before the Supreme Court the issue of forced transfer of Palestinians within the Occupied Territories as a result of deliberate Israeli planning policies; second, if accepted by the Supreme Court (highly unlikely), house demolitions would end; and third, several Palestinian villages suffering from demolitions joined the appeal and encouraged it. Still, it raises the cruel dilemma with which we are all familiar: sumud (steadfastness) or liberation? Helping the oppressed remain on their land by any means possible, or taking the risk that humanitarian gestures will only prolong the injustice?
The three Justices involved in the hearing on the 28th represent the most conservative wing of the Supreme Court on matters related to demolitions, planning and settlements (Justice Sohlberg lives in a West Bank settlement). Hence our surprise when they not only heard our arguments and acknowledged that the planning process is flawed (although they would not get into the politics behind the “flaws”), but went on to urge the State to find a way of addressing our concerns. Still, merely urging the State to find a “compromise” is a way of avoiding the fundamental injustice of the Occupation and the blatant illegality of its planning mechanisms. That approach leaves the entire planning system and Occupation intact at the price of giving Palestinians solely symbolic input.
Indeed, on the very day of the hearing two news items appeared in the Israeli press that destroyed the State’s claims that planning in Area C served Palestinian needs and was done on a purely professional basis. The first: Major General Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Military Activities in the Occupied Territory, testified before the Knesset that planning in Area C was being blocked to “punish” the Palestinians for turning to the UN. The second: the Civil Administration, Israel’s military government that plans in the West Bank, confiscated 6,919 acres of land from its Palestinian owners in order to “thicken” the settlements, in which 14,000 new housing units were approved during the nine months of the abortive Kerry talks alone. To treat the planning process in Area C as merely a technical issue while ignoring the political agenda behind it, as the Justices prefer to do, obviously ignores the genuine source of the problem.
We will have to wait and see what the State comes up with and then decide with our Palestinian partners how to respond. What if the State offers to reinstate local Palestinian planning committees and pledges not to automatically veto their recommendations, much as in the case of Israeli planning? This is highly unlikely, of course, but what if merely the recognition of Palestinian communities via their local planning committees gave them some measure of security from displacement, which they do not enjoy today? Again, that thorny issue of sumud vs. liberation.
As it stands, ICAHD, which supports sumud with liberation, would reject any arrangement that does not give the Palestinian population full control over its planning. This would either force the hand of the Court to bring planning in Area C into line with international law (i.e., restore the Palestinian planning committees as they were prior to their abolition by military order in 1971) – which will not happen – or dismiss the case as being “political” and not “judicable.” At least the issue has been raised in a court of law, Israeli justice and adherence to international law will be exposed for what it is and the colonial planners will be served notice that they are being watched.
For further information, contact: Jeff Halper, ICAHD Director <email@example.com>