Im Tirtzu sent us a press release on Thursday, examining the heavy involvement of organizations that are funded by foreign entities in submitting petitions to Israel’s Supreme Court in recent years.
Before we deal with the report, we must discuss the unique feature of the Israeli court since the arrival of Court President Aharon Barak in 1995. The feature is locus standi, or the right of standing. In most Western legal systems, with a minute exception in Canada, individuals may petition the supreme court only after having exhausted the lower judicial hierarchies. This was the custom in Israel as well, where hundreds of petitions were rejected out of hand by the Supreme Court for the lack of the right of standing.
Even before Justice Barak took the reigns of the court, there was a minority of justices who wanted to accept complaints from individuals and groups as a way of adjusting the course of the ship of state. But after Barak’s arrival, all the limits were removed. As a result, dozens of well-financed NGOs who could afford the court fees began to bombard the Supreme Court on issues that did not affect them directly. These included most prominently petitions from Arabs in Judea and Samaria against Jewish settlers who had purchased their land but paid the wrong relative or settled on what was considered state land at the time but was later changed by over-enthusiastic public servants.
Soon enough, the High Court of Justice––which was the title used by the Supreme Court when it was dealing with those petitions that were submitted by individuals who could not show personal damage––was encouraging a hoard of NGOs to come forth with their petitions, and those served as a means for the court to interfere with and subvert legislation and government actions. In short order, the high court––unelected and unaccountable to anyone––became the ruler of the land, the final arbiter of policy, from the most minute issue, such as thwarting IDF nominations, to major issues involving many billions of dollars, such as the natural gas digs in the Mediterranean.
I for one hope that Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial reform will clip the right of standing back down to its natural size and permit only those who have a personal stake in a given matter to file petitions with the high court.
Back to the Im Tirtzu report: it shows that in the last six years, 758 petitions were submitted to the Supreme Court by 32 organizations funded by foreign political entities. This is an average of more than 126 petitions each year. The total funding from foreign political entities to these organizations in those years exceeded NIS 300 million ($82 million).
Of these, 468 petitions were submitted by NGOs with more than 50% of their funding coming from foreign entities, many of them governmental. It means that in 468 cases, foreign groups paid for Supreme Court appeals, and the decisions in favor of those appeals did not serve Israeli citizens, but foreign powers.
A frequent traveler in service of foreign powers is an NGO called Hamoked Center for Defense of the Individual, which gets the bulk of its budget from foreign sources and only this week submitted three petitions against orders to demolish the homes of terrorists who carried out attacks in Jerusalem.
Hamoked leads the list of NGOs with 368 petitions in 6 years, an average of 61 petitions per year. The funding it received from foreign sources exceeded NIS 25 million ($6.8 million) in six years.
Next on the list is the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, with 71 petitions in the last 6 years – most recently against revoking the citizenship of terrorists. The Gisha organization filed 64 petitions, among them asking to bar the IDF from firing at violent demonstrators trying to climb over the border fence separating Israel from Gaza (they claim the marauders are peaceful). Doctors for Human Rights submitted 48 petitions, among them to prevent sending illegal aliens to other countries. Finally, Adalah, which also filed 40 petitions against various aspects of the IDF activities to defend Israel against terrorists.
These hundreds of petitions that are systematically filed by groups that lack the right of standing require thousands of work hours of Justice Ministry employees, as well as prosecutors and justices. And while the NGOs that sue in the high court are being paid by foreigners, the civil servants who deal with the suits are paid by Israeli taxpayers.
Alon Schwarzer, Head of Im Tirtu’s Research and Policy Department, noted: “Every citizen who cares about the democratic and Jewish identity of Israel should be worried about the blatant manipulation of the high court by wealthy foreign governments. The fact that every year organizations funded by foreign governments submit dozens of petitions to the High Court and succeed in influencing legislation and executive actions with their money is scandalous. This system is broken and must be fixed.”