Alerts and Reports 

High Court reprimands Interior Minister Ishai

Justices Dorit Beinisch, Miriam Naor and Uzi Fogelman this morning (Monday) scolded Adv. Yochi Genessin of the State Prosecution, when it turned out that Interior Minister Eli Yishai did not answer a letter sent to him by Muhammad Abu Tir and three other Palestinian parliamentarians, who had called upon him to revoke the decision to expel them from East Jerusalem. The letter was sent to the minister two and a half months ago.

Yishai was present at the courtroom in earlier stages, but left before the hearing of the appeal by the Palestinian parliamentarians threatened with expulsion.

In their June 27, 2010 letter to the Interior Minister the four – Muhammad Abu Tir, Muhammed Totah, Khaled Abu Arafa, and Ahmed Atoun - noted that they do not regard themselves as representatives of the Hamas movement, but as representatives of the entire Palestinian people, and in particular as representatives of their constituents; the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. They pledged to act only within Israeli law, as well as not to take up any position in the Palestinian Authority if the holding of this position is in contradiction to Israeli law.

Osama Saadi, the four's attorney, told the judges that the text of this letter was agreed upon in meetings between high-ranking officials in the Palestinian Authority and senior Israeli governmental and security officials.

"The Palestinian Authority had taken a high profile involvement in the issue after the four parliamentarians met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and sought his help," said Saadi. "Despite all the conflicts and sharp differences of opinion prevailing in the Palestinian system, all factions and parties regard as totally unacceptable the expulsion of Palestinians from anywhere – and all the more so, from Jerusalem in particular; this transcends any disagreements on other issues. At the time we thought that reaching this the formula with the Israeli officials had solved the problem. However, three days after the letter was sent, Jerusalem police arrested Muhammad Abu Tir and began deportation proceedings against him - and he remains in custody up to the present".

The State Prosecution's representative argued that the three other parliamentarians, who over the past two months are holding out at the Red Cross headquarters in East Jerusalem, are "holding Israeli Law in contempt" and "challenging the authority of the Israeli courts." Justice Uzi Fogelman commented, "We have not issued an interim order, so the authorities can take enforcement measures - but this does not mean you must break into the Red Cross Headquarters. There are thousands of other cases of people who failed to adhere to the Interior Ministry's expulsion orders, and against whom we allowed the authorities to take enforcement measures against them. But this does not mean that you should expect everyone to immediately leave voluntarily."

At the end of the hearing the court instructed the four parliamentarians' attorneys to send again send the letter to Interior Minister Yishai, specifying the circumstances which were referred to during the court proceedings. Minister Yishai was told by the judges to respond within 30 days from receipt of this letter, and to convey his response to the court, and the parliamentarians and lawyers will be able to respond within ten days. No date was set for further proceedings, and in the meantime Mohammad Abu Tir will remain in custody at the Jerusalem police.

Among the audience were former Knesset Member Uri Avnery and other Gush Shalom activists, as well as Jerusalemite peace activists who participate in the weekly demonstrations at Sheikh Jarrah. Also present at the hearing was an observer on behalf of the French Lawyers' Association, who said that he had flown especially from Paris to monitor these proceedings, noting that the case aroused much interest among judicial circles in Europe

According to Uri Avnery, "The Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have an inalienable right to live in their city. Deportation of Palestinians – of political leaders as of ordinary people - is a heinous and stupid act, which causes all of us an immense damage." He said that in order to achieve a stable peace, such a peace must include all parts of the Palestinian people, including the very significant part represented by the Hamas movement. "We peace seekers came to the courtroom today in order to cry out against an outrageous act of injustice committed by our government does, and at the same time also to offer the government a sober political advice. These two things converge into one call: Tear up the deportation orders, let these four men return to their homes and their constituents, and invite them and their political associates to fully share in negotiations for peace".

Contact: Adam Keller 054-2340749