Haaretz commentator Nir Hasson on Thursday suggested that “today’s Supreme Court is at best a rubber stamp with a legal and moral flexibility regarding every injustice – and at worst leads the forces of conservatism and reaction in the legal system and in Israeli society.”
Last Thursday, the Supreme Court justices rejected the appeal of Arab residents in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood against their eviction from their homes due to the statute of limitation.
On Monday, the justices sided with the rabbinical court and rejected the appeal of a woman who had been disqualified from receiving half of her community property because she betrayed her husband.
The next day, the justices rejected the appeal of Sheikh Sayah Abu Medi’am, sentenced to 10 months in prison for trespassing, after returning repeatedly to the land from which he had been evicted in the Negev.
And on Wednesday the Supreme Court rejected the petition of 104 residents of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan and allowed the Ateret Cohanim association to continue the eviction of some 700 Arab residents from homes in which they had been squatting since 1948, when the Jewish owners were barred by the invading Jordanian Legion.
Hasson is right in his diagnosis that this sequence of decisions shows that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has indeed progressed impressively with her revolution, designed to erase the outcome of the revolution in the opposite direction begun by former Supreme Court President Justice Aharon Barak in the mid-90s – a revolution that codified judicial activism as a value.
Undoubtedly, today’s Supreme Court is the most conservative in decades, the judges are increasingly avoiding legal activism, and it appears that the moderate judges appointed under Justice Minister Shaked are already beginning to influence their colleagues who were appointed before the 2015 elections.
The ruling written Wednesday by Justice Dafna Barak-Erez on Silwan rejected the petition against the 2002 decision of the Custodian General to release to the hands of three members of the Ateret Cohanim organization the land that was owned by Jews prior to 1948.
The thing is, Daphne Barak-Erez was named to the Supreme Court of Israel in May 2012 (she was the court’s youngest judge at the time). She was not a Shaked appointment. Perhaps having been born in the US, and doing her postdoctoral research at Harvard University, together with the new environment on the Shaked-impacted court, had something to do with her Wednesday’s ruling on Silwan.
Although Barak-Erez lists flaws and difficulties in the way the state acted, like the fact that the Custodian General released the land to Ateret Cohanim without first informing the residents who had lived there for decades; and the fact that the state kept changing its position throughout the discussions (due to the changes in government from left to right), bottom line – Barak-Erez stated that the Supreme Court is not authorized to examine all the relevant factual arguments, and therefore she ordered that the petition be rejected.
As a result of this conservative precedent, it is expected that dozens of evacuation claims submitted by Ateret Cohanim against the Arab squatters will be renewed in the coming weeks.
Minister Shaked has managed to do what several rightwing justice ministers only talked about, using her political power to push back the most dangerous vanguard representing Israel’s radical left. We hope to see her gain more victories, especially when she takes over as Israel’s next prime minister…