37

Has the Israeli supreme court ever come to a decision that can be seen as pro-Palestine or pro-Arab/anti-Israel/-Jew?

I have heard proponents of the Palestine/Arab side claim the Israeli supreme court is racist and always favour Jews/Israelis, but my impression from, shallowly, following news etc is that "Israeli nationalists" regularly get upset on the supreme court because it gives verdicts that they consider wrong.

I am no expert on this and the result of a verdict might be up to interpretation. Hence my question.


Edit: another perspective might be cases where one party has been pro-Israeli/-Jewish and the other party pro-Palestine, both private citizens as well as "associations" or organizations.

5
  • 5
    This might be relevant: David Kretzmer and Yaël Ronen: The Occupation of Justice. The Supreme Court of Israel and the Occupied Territories, 2nd edition, Oxford, UK (Oxford University Press). I didn't read the book, but judged by a review article on the book's first edition, the High Court has by and large restrained the occupation authorities. So there should be at least one "pro-Palestine" decision.
    – henning
    May 14 at 12:57
  • 26
    From whose point of view? What is pro Palestine to an Israeli hardliner, a moderate, a liberal, and a Palestinian's perspective are probably going to be different.
    – eps
    May 14 at 13:49
  • @eps good question. One could look at how often the court rules in favor of the occupation authorities when there is an allegation that these infringe on the rights of Palestinians. (Interesting enough, btw. that the court has decided to grant "occupied subjects" standing at all.)
    – henning
    May 14 at 14:04
  • 2
    @henning--reinstateMonica The problem with that (and with the OP's question in general) is that the role of a court is to interpret and apply the law as they find it. If the law favours one side then the court will tend to favour that side (out of lack of choice). If a decision could go either way and the court choose a particular direciton, who is to say whether that is because they are "pro" one side (i.e. biased) or simply because they believe that to be the correct interpretation?
    – JBentley
    May 15 at 18:24
  • @JBentley you're right, it's more complicated than counting how often one side or the other "won" a case. As a first oder approximation, as in OP's question "has the court ever...", it would be somewhat useful at least. For more, one would have to either look at the development of the court's decision-making over time (has it become more "pro-palestinian", perhaps concurrently with some changes in the bench or the constitution?) or somehow control for case-characteristics. That's certainly very difficulty to do.
    – henning
    May 15 at 18:33
50

Very much so.

1. Last year, the supreme court struck down a 2017 law having to do with legalization of illegal housing built in previously Palestinian areas (New York Times source).

Here is a quote from that article:

In its 8-to-1 ruling, the high court declared that the 2017 law was lopsidedly unfair, saying it sought to make legal “unlawful acts perpetrated by one specific population” — Jewish settlers — “while harming the rights of another,” the Palestinians.

It called the law an “arrangement which knowingly and unequally hurts only the ownership rights” of the Palestinians...

Now, this law was so incredibly incendiary that it was hit by an injunction shortly after it was passed. As mentioned in the article, it would have been hard to imagine the judiciary not ruling against it, but it remains an example.

2. Another example would be the overturn of a ban which would have made it impossible for Arab parties to partake in Feb. 2009 parliamentary elections (New York Times source). It is noteworthy that this overruled the Central Election Committee's decision and that the vote in the court was unanimous.

3. The restrictions placed on jewish access to the temple mount can also be seen as pro-arab/anti-jew. I believe these restrictions are linked to the 1967 Protection of Holy Places Law. This law actually is an afirmative one, stating that:

The Holy Places shall be protected ... from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them...

However, the Supreme Court ruled in The Temple Mount Faithful v. Tzahi Hanegbi that this right was not absolute and ruled in favor of access restrictions, even those which explicitly differentiate jewish from arab people entering the site (Jewish Center for Public Affairs)

This ruling has survived recent attempts at reversing it, such as one in 2019 to overrule an access restriction on Jews to the temple mount during Jerusalem Day JTA. The court ruled that it was the prerogative of the police to determine access.

3
  • 4
    Wow, 16 seconds ahead of me :)
    – bytebuster
    May 14 at 14:06
  • 2
    Great minds think alike. When I have some time, maybe I can find other examples since we both found the same one haha.
    – code11
    May 14 at 14:08
  • 2
    @bytebuster guess you were the second fastest gun in the west :) May 14 at 14:13
25

As the comments rightfully note, there's always a political force by whose opinion various decisions "can be seen" differently.

For instance, there's a long-lasting political debate over Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
In November 2020, Israel’s Supreme Court struck down a law that had retroactively legalized settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank.

This triggered a negative response from right-wing politicians (highlight mine):

Israel’s ruling Likud party and the country’s right-wing camp have reacted negatively to the court ruling. For the Minister of Settlement Affairs Tzipi Hotoveli, the Supreme Court “declared war on the rights of Jews to settle in the land of Israeli.” In her view, "The best response to the court is annexation and continued construction.”

0
13
  1. Israel's supreme court has ruled several times against Jewish settlements in Judea & Samaria. Such rulings have lead to destruction of these settlements by the IDF. One example is Amona:

"In December 2014, the Israeli High Court ordered the state to completely evacuate and demolish the settlement within two years".

Earlier, during the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, the Israeli supreme court had rejected an appeal by settlers against destroying their homes.

  1. The Israeli supreme court has banned several Jewish extemists from participating in the elections; one of them was Michael Ben Ari. In contrast, no Arab extremist was ever banned from participating. Even when the central election committee decided to ban extremist Arab members, the Israeli supreme court overruled this decision. An example is Azmi Bishara.

  2. "Neighbor procedure" was a procedure used by the IDF to capture terrorists hiding in civilian homes. It involved asking neighbors of the terrorist to knock on the door and ask the terrorist to get out, assuming that the terrorist will not shoot his neigbor. In 2005, the Israeli supreme court disallowed the IDF to use this procedure. This was considered an unprecedented intervention of a court in military procedures. Source: Hebrew Wikipedia (sorry, I did not find an English source).

6
  • Was "Neighbor procedure" explicitely targetting Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims ?
    – Evargalo
    May 18 at 8:54
  • I don't see anything from the Wikipedia page about Azmi Bishare which could explain why you would call him an "Arab extremist". May 18 at 9:10
  • @EricDuminil "Bishara became the subject of a criminal investigation for acts of alleged treason and espionage and was suspected of supplying targeting information to Hezbollah" May 18 at 18:08
  • 1
    During the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, the israeli supreme court made a ruling about the removal of settlements there as well. (blocked the petition by the settlers to block the government) So you could add that to your first point.
    – code11
    May 18 at 18:59
  • @Evargalo as far as I know, the "neighbor procedure" was explicitly used in Arab cities and villages in Judea and Samaria. May 18 at 19:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .