The room is breathtaking, framed by stern pillars and walls of Jerusalem stone, its ceilings arcing skywards, topped by white a circular window flooding the room with white sunlight: the architecture of justice. Behind the bench sit three judges, perched on large red chairs, dressed austerely in black and white, their hands resting over their mouths, on their cheeks, on the sides of heads. Two Israeli flags hang limply behind the judges. The lawyers stand with their black-robed backs to the audience, and stand one by one to argue, their voices wavering with passion. They are arguing about soup nuts. And the ingredients of breakfast cereals. This is not why we, a group of Israeli activists, have come to the Israeli High Court of Justice on this rainy Thursday morning. But it is, perhaps, a fitting introduction. We are here to bear witness to the Court’s discussion of Susiya, a Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills whose residents are faced with the threat of forced expulsion and demolition by the IDF’s Occupation Authorities, the Civil Administration. We are here to learn of the potential fate of hundreds of people whose only crime was being born Palestinian under Israeli occupation.
And we fear, as has happened before, a mockery of justice, a legalistic ruling which examines all sides of an issue and then rules that the indeed demolition of an entire village is acceptable, lawful, legal, just. After all, the houses in this village were built without permits from the ruling Israeli authorities. They will not ask whether Palestinians living under Occupation can get permits from the Civil Administration (they virtually cannot). They will not ask why Israeli authorities are ruling the lives of Palestinians without giving these Palestinians the right to vote or influence the authorities’ decisions (because the Occupation could not last were Palestinians given the right to vote). They will not ask whether or not it is absurd to speak of justice and democracy in a context in which justice and democracy are conditioned upon one’s ethnic/national background (it is). They will give a ruling in formal Hebrew which will be hard for most Israelis to fully understand, let alone the Palestinians whose fates are being decided. Soup nuts. Susiya. Moving on.
The case ended up mostly result-less, which is mostly good, demolitions will not be happening right away at least, and there will be a few more months in which lawyers from Rabbis for Human Rights and activists from Susiya and Ta’ayush will continue to try to prevent this insanity.