Democracy and the rule of law? Not in Israel today

June 7, 2006

Who values the verdict of an Israeli judge?
On Tuesday 23rd May two families of Israeli “settlers” illegally entered apartments in the West Bank
settlement of Upper Modi’in. When we say “illegal” we are not making a political judgment, but
following the assessment of the Israeli Supreme Court which has issued an injunction against
occupation, transfer of ownership or use of structures in the area where the apartments are located.
The apartments are built in on land owned by Palestinians. Specifically, land belonging to the village
of Bil’in. The “purchase” of the land was exposed as fraudulent in December 2005 by the Israeli
newspaper Ha’aretz. In July 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague declared the entire
barrier illegal. To this day, this has made no difference to the construction of the barrier.

The villagers of Bili’n have fought the theft of their land for more than a year. EJJP members have
seen this first hand, on multiple occasions. We are proud to offer Bil’in our solidarity. The villagers
have used creative and peaceful tactics, from building an impromptu kindergarten playground at the
site of the Barrier to chaining themselves to the olive trees Caterpillar bulldozers have been used to
uproot. In this, they have had support from Israeli and international activists, giving the lie to the
image of a sectarian, religious based conflict.

Now the settlers – actually merely colonialists engaged in an immoral and provocative land grab –
have moved in. Despite the court’s decision, Israeli security services only turned up after being
threatened with a contempt of court motion by the Bil’in villagers’ lawyer if they did not do so. Yet
somehow they are unable to remove the colonists. This disregard for the law is not unique.

On Wednesday 24th May, a British solicitor, Kate Maynard, due to speak at a legal conference in Al-
Ram, East Jerusalem, was detained on entry at Ben Gurion airport. Ms Maynard was one of two
British solicitors who in September 2005 secured an arrest warrant for General Doran Almog for
war crimes alleged to have been committed under his command in Gaza. Almog was due to visit the
UK but never disembarked from the plane on the advice of an attaché from the Israeli embassy in
London. The two solicitors were acting on behalf of their Palestinian clients to enforce international
humanitarian and British law.

Under no circumstances can Ms Maynard be described as a security risk. In fact, she was questioned
only about her legal work regarding the arrest warrant for Doron Almog, and collecting legal
evidence in relation to other ‘high ranking Israeli officials’, not something over which the Israeli
security service has any jurisdiction. An Israeli judge ordered – under certain conditions – her
release. The security services contacted the court and then decided that the decision was only a
“recommendation” rather than an order. This was a vindictive act. They regarded themselves above
the law and refused to follow the decision of the court. The interior minister ignored the court’s
“recommendation” and refused to release her.

The legislature; the executive; the judiciary. The separation of powers is one thing. To demean the
rule of law altogether is another. Looking at these cases, democracy in Israel is nominal only.
EJJP executive committee.

European Jews for a Just Peace is a federation of Jewish Peace groups working and campaigning in 10 European countries