Fighting for Civil Rights in the High Court of Justice

06 December 2012 By Ruby Ong

6 December 2012

This week, democracy and human rights were on Israel’s High Court docket.  Veteran NIF grantees Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Adalah: Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel argued two landmark cases before the Jerusalem Court.  In both cases the groups challenged recent laws passed by the last Knesset.

On Tuesday, an expanded nine-judge panel heard arguments against the Acceptance to Communities Law, which allows village “acceptance” committees to legally discriminate against potential residents by employing vague guidelines such as “suitability for social life in the community” or “suitability to the community’s socio-cultural fabric.”  In his closing arguments, ACRI attorney and NIF Law Fellow alum Gil Gan-Mor said that the committees provide a legally sanctioned way to keep Israeli Arabs, gays, the disabled and members of other minority groups out of the communities. 

Adalah attorney Suhad Bishara followed, “The law means that in 42% of the communities in Israel it is permissible to exclude.  In the case of public land, we as private citizens cannot be given responsibility to decide who fits.”

The justices are expected to return a verdict in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, ACRI and Adalah returned to the High Court to petition against the Law for the Damage against the State of Israel Through Boycott (more widely known as the “Anti-Boycott Law”), which makes it illegal to call for a boycott of anything or anyone in Israel, including Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The belief that West Bank settlements are an obstacle to peace is legitimate, the groups’ attorneys argued, and criminalizing the right to call for a boycott impedes the basic right to freedom of expression.

The High Court justices decided to defer their decision and the case continues.  Given the make-up of the Likud’s list of candidates in the upcoming election, which strongly favors legislators who supported these and other anti-democratic bills, the New Israel Fund and its partners are increasingly concerned about the next wave of proposed legislation in the post-election Knesset.