Israel’s Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice (HCJ), has dismissed a petition to restore planning rights to Palestinian villages in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank. The decision is the latest example of Israel’s judiciary rubber-stamping elements of Israel’s apartheid system.
The petition had been brought by the village council of Ad-Dirat- Al-Rfai’ya, located near Hebron, along with a coalition of NGOs including Rabbis for Human Rights and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, among others. Responding to the ruling, handed down on Tuesday, appellants said the court had “legitimized a regime of separation and discrimination in planning.”
As described by Rabbis for Human Rights, the appeal requested “the restoration of planning authority to the Palestinian villages in Area C of the West Bank (which is under full Israeli control) as it was up until 1971 – 4 years after the Israeli occupation started.”
In rejecting the appeal, the three justices accepted the Israeli authorities’ proposal “to create institutionalized consultations with the local population on planning matters” – but without any means of obliging officials to take into account what they hear during the consultations.
In ‘Area C’, some two-thirds of the Occupied West Bank, Palestinians face home demolitions and displacement, while illegal Israeli colonies flourish. A mere 1% of Area C is currently designated for the development of Palestinian villages, compared to 27% for settlements.
Official Israeli data confirms the discriminatory reality: out of 1,426 planning applications submitted by Palestinians in Area C from 2007-’10, only 64 permits were granted. A UN study over a seven year period found that Israeli authorities denied 94% of Palestinian building permit requests in Area C.
Backing the appeal, Amnesty International described the “formal denial of participation in planning for an entire population, coupled with the establishment of a parallel planning system for Israeli settlements that explicitly discriminates in favour of another population whose very presence living in the territory in question violates international law” as “unique globally.”
Amnesty highlighted that Israel’s policies of demolishing Palestinian homes on the pretext they lack the requisite permit, settling Israeli civilians in settlements, as well as “the forced transfer” of Palestinians, all constitute war crimes under Article 8 of the Rome Statute.
According to the appellants, however, the HCJ “ruled that discrimination was not proven”, despite “the extensive testimony and data brought before the court.” In so doing, “the court further validates the belief that the aim of the Israeli military occupation is to reduce, if not to completely negate, Palestinian living space as much as possible.”
It is worth noting the state’s argument to the HCJ that planning for Palestinian communities in Area C is a ‘political’ issue to be resolved as part of negotiations. Thus yet again, the ‘peace process’ is used to shield Israel’s ‘facts on the ground’ from accountability, and reduce Palestinian human rights to bargaining chips.
Writing about the case in April, I said “the question is clear: will Israel’s High Court reject an explicitly discriminatory planning system or rubber-stamp apartheid?” Now we know the answer, and, once again, Israel’s Supreme Court has given its “seal of approval to laws and policies that form part of Israel’s regime of settler-colonial dispossession and discrimination.”
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