The Israeli Supreme Court Shields Hamas Members from Punishment

September 20, 2017 | Evelyn Gordon
About the author: Evelyn Gordon is a commentator and former legal-affairs reporter who immigrated to Israel in 1987. In addition to Mosaic, she has published in the Jerusalem Post, Azure, Commentary, and elsewhere. She blogs at Evelyn Gordon.

The Israeli supreme court recently ruled on a case involving four Palestinian residents of eastern Jerusalem who in 2006 took positions in the Palestinian government on behalf of the Change and Reform party: an organ of Hamas. As they are not Israeli citizens—east Jerusalemites have a special status—the government responded by revoking their residency rights. The four appealed the decision to the courts and now, after nearly a decade, the highest court has ruled in their favor. Evelyn Gordon finds the conclusion to be “mind-boggling.”

Although the Entry into Israel Law allows the government to revoke anyone’s residency rights “at its discretion,” [the court] stipulated that the law shouldn’t be used to revoke residency for “breach of trust,” [which is what the authorities cited as grounds for the expulsion]. Why? Because most east Jerusalem Palestinians were born in Israel and had lived there all their lives, so they deserve greater protection than migrants, who have previously lived elsewhere and whose roots in Israel are therefore shallower.

That east Jerusalem Palestinians merit greater protection than, say, labor migrants, is obviously true. . . . But in this particular case, the court’s otherwise valid distinction is completely irrelevant. After all, the case wasn’t about ordinary east Jerusalem residents, who, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, could reasonably be assumed by the court to view Israel as their primary home. It was specifically about people who chose to serve in a foreign government on behalf of a terrorist organization, and who thereby declared that their allegiance to this foreign entity superseded their allegiance to Israel. . . .

Even the majority justices appeared to realize how irrelevant their argument actually was. In a truly stunning statement, Justice Uzi Vogelman, who wrote the main opinion, said, “Our interpretative decision didn’t focus on the petitioners’ case specifically, but on an interpretive question of general applicability to residents of east Jerusalem.” Quite how any court can decide a case without focusing on that case “specifically” is beyond me.

Ostensibly, the case at least has limited application. After all, how many east Jerusalem Palestinians are going to become Hamas legislators or cabinet members? But in reality, the implications are broad, because if even swearing allegiance to a foreign government on behalf of a terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction isn’t enough to make a Palestinian lose his Israeli residency and its attendant benefits, what on earth would be?

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