Last week B'Tselem published a new report, "Fake Justice," on the responsibility Israel’s High Court justices bear for the administrative demolition of Palestinian homes and the dispossession of Palestinian communities of their land. B’Tselem has addressed individual High Court rulings in the past, but this is the first time B'Tselem has devoted an entire report to the Court’s role in validating the occupation.
In thousands of decisions and rulings, the justices of the High Court have referred to a planning apparatus that does not exist. Under this imaginary system, anyone – including Palestinians – can file for a building permit, have their application carefully considered and then granted or dismissed on its merits. Electing to rely on this fiction, the justices have denied hundreds of petitions to the High Court, treated Palestinian petitioners as “lawbreakers,” and were appalled at Palestinians “taking the law into their own hands” and building homes without permits.
Yet the reality on the ground is completely different. The actual planning apparatus that Israel has put in place for Palestinians does the very opposite, barring almost any possibility of lawful construction. A mere 4% of Palestinian applications for building permits are granted. As a result, it stands to reason that most Palestinians don’t bother applying and, having no other choice, build without permits. Israel aims to limit and deny Palestinian construction and development as much as possible. At the same time, it generously authorizes the establishment and expansion of settlements on the very same land it places off-limits to Palestinian construction. Israel has demolished the homes of thousands of Palestinians; tens of thousands live in fear of demolition and in utter uncertainty about their future. Hundreds of thousands live in unbearably crowded conditions because Israel refuses to approve the expansion of existing Palestinian communities, and establishing a new community is but a pipe dream.
By deliberately ignoring this reality and refusing to draw the obvious legal conclusions, the High Court justices not only fail to discharge their duties, they also play an active role in the settlement enterprise, in further dispossessing Palestinians of their land and in cementing the occupation.
This report is part of a series issued by B’Tselem in recent years which examine how Israel has managed to create a guise of legality for its extensive abuse of human rights so as to make the violations more palatable, both at home and abroad. It is this façade that has enabled Israel to continue ruling over millions of people while denying their most basic rights for more than fifty years. That is why exposing these mechanisms is vital to ending the occupation, and that is what this report is all about.