State of Emergency and National Security

Lieberman et al. v. Cassif et al.

Case/docket number: 
EDA 1806/19
Date Decided: 
Thursday, July 18, 2019
Decision Type: 
Appellate
Abstract: 

1.         On March 6, 2019, the Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset approved a request for the disqualification of Dr. Ofer Cassif from running as a candidate for the Knesset on the Hadash-Ta’al list but rejected a request to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list. The Committee further accepted two requests to disqualify the Ra’am-Balad list and rejected three requests to disqualify Dr. Michael Ben Ari and Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir from standing for election. The decision to disqualify Cassif was submitted to the Supreme Court for approval, as required under sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset and sec. 63A(b) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969. The decisions on the disqualification of party lists and the decisions to reject the requests for the disqualification of candidates were appealed to the Court in accordance with the Knesset Elections Law.

 

2.         On March 17, 2019, the Supreme Court (President E. Hayut, Justices N. Hendel, U. Vogelman, I. Amit, N. Sohlberg, M. Mazuz, A. Baron, G. Karra, D. Mintz) delivered its decisions on the Elections Decision Approval and the Elections Appeals. Due to the strict statutory timeframe imposed upon such decisions under secs. 63A(e) and 64(b) of the Knesset Elections Law, which require that the Court issue a judgment in appeal and approval proceedings “no later than the 23rd day prior to Election Day”, the Court issued its decisions without stating reasons. On Thursday, March 21, 2019, the Court released a summary of its reasons.

 

3.         In its summary, the Court ruled as follows:

 

EDA 1806/19:  

 

The Court majority (Justice D. Mintz dissenting) reversed the decision of the Elections Committee to bar the candidacy of Dr. Ofer Cassif.

 

The Committee’s decision to bar Cassif was based upon the grounds of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, or support of armed struggle against the State of Israel. While the Court was severely critical of Dr. Cassif’s statements, particularly those implying a comparison to Nazi Germany, those statements did not, in the opinion of the majority, fall within the compass of support for armed struggle. The majority was also not convinced that Dr. Cassif’s statements in regard to the desirable character of the State of Israel met the necessary evidentiary standard for demonstrating the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

 

EA 1866/19:

 

The Court (Justice N. Sohlberg dissenting) granted the appeal against the Committee’s decision to approve the candidacy of Dr. Michael Ben Ari’s candidacy, and unanimously dismissed the appeal against the approval of the candidacy of Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir.

 

The Court found Dr. Ben Ari’s conduct and statements expressed incitement to racism as a dominant, central objective. The Court was of the opinion that the evidence convincingly demonstrated a “critical evidentiary mass” that comprised repeated, unambiguously inflammatory statements against the Israeli Arab populace over the course of years. The Court found that the evidence against Mr. Ben Gvir did not meet the stringent requirements for grounding a ban of his candidacy by reason of incitement to racism.

 

EA 1867/19:

 

The Court dismissed the appeal against the approval of the Hadash-Ta’al list in a unanimous decision, holding that the evidence presented did not meet the demanding standard for proving that the lists supported armed struggle against the state. It was further held that, in accordance with the Court’s case law, the desire that Israel be “a state of all its citizens” does not, of itself, demonstrate a negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state to the extent that the list should be banned from standing for election.

 

EA 1876/19:

 

The Court (Justice D. Mintz dissenting) reversed the Committee’s decision to bar the Ra’am-Balad list from participating in the Knesset elections. In this regard, the Court gave some weight to the fact, pointed out by the Attorney General, that because a joint list was concerned, banning Balad could lead to the banning of the Ra’am list, although no objections were raised to its participation in the elections. Weight was also given to the fact that most of the statements and actions grounding the request to bar the list were made by members of the party who were no longer candidates, while the evidence against the current candidates did not rise to the level necessary for barring a list from participating in the elections.

 

4.         On July 18, 2019, the Court published its full judgment.

 

President E. Hayut, writing for the Court, held:

 

A.        The right to vote and be elected is the life breath of every democratic regime, and the conceptual foundation of this right is grounded in the fundamental principles of equality and freedom of political expression. Nevertheless, equality and freedom of political expression are not unrestricted rights. Therefore, along with the formal capacity conditions that must be met in order to realize the right to vote and be elected, there is a need for material restrictions intended to prevent participation in the elections by lists and candidates that seek to use the tools of democracy in order to deny the very existence of the state or infringe its fundamental principles.

 

Since 1985, the material constitutional restrictions upon the right to vote have been grounded in sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. This section, in its current form, establishes:

7A(a).  A candidates list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the goals or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;

(2) incitement to racism;

(3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

 

            B.        Sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset concerns preventing participation of lists or candidates in the elections if the purposes or actions of the list or the actions or expressions of the candidate constitute a negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In accordance with the case law, the “nuclear” characteristics that define the State of Israel as a Jewish state include the right of every Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel, in which there will be a Jewish majority; Hebrew as the primary official language of the state; the symbols and holidays of the state primarily reflect Jewish tradition, and the Jewish heritage is a central element of the religious and cultural heritage of the state

 

As for the “nuclear” characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state, it was held that “these characteristics are based upon recognition of the sovereignty of the people, as expressed in free, equal elections; recognition of the core human rights, among them human dignity, respect and equality, maintaining the separation of powers, the rule of law and an independent judiciary”. It was further noted that a list that negates the right to vote for the Knesset on ethnic-national grounds, or a list seeks to change the regime by violent means will not be permitted to stand for election, as it essentially negates the democratic foundations of the Israeli regime

 

            C.        The criteria outlined in the Court’s case law in regard to the evidentiary threshold required for the disqualification are as follows:

(-)        First, in order to decide whether one of the elements set forth in sec. 7A is present in the objectives or actions of a list or a candidate, it must be shown that the objective is one of the dominant characteristics of the list’s or the candidate’s aspirations or activities, and that they seek to participate in the elections in order to advance them.

(-)        Second, it must be shown that these central, dominant purposes can be learned from express declarations and direct statements or reasonable conclusions of clear, unequivocal significance.

(-)        Third, it must be shown that the list or the candidate actively works for the realization of the said objectives, and that there was non-sporadic activity for their realization. Objectives of a theoretical nature are insufficient, and there must be a showing of systematic, repeated activity whose “intensity must be given severe, extreme expression”.

(-)        Fourth, the evidence grounding the actions or objectives sufficient to prevent standing for election to the Knesset must be “clear, unambiguous and persuasive”, and a “critical mass” of highly credible evidence is required to justify disqualification. The burden of proof rests upon the party arguing for disqualification of the list or candidate, and doubt arising as to the sufficiency of the evidence must weigh against the disqualification.

 

Justice I. Amit (concurring):

 

1.         Knesset elections are a purely political matter, and the Elections Committee reflects the relative political power in the Knesset. As opposed to this, sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset was enacted to reflect timeless constitutional criteria of causes for qualification that are not judged on the basis of prevailing sentiment.

 

In putting those principles into practice, each disqualification is examined independently on its own merits, in accordance with the relevant cause for disqualification and the evidence referring to it, while not seeking any kind of political “symmetry” or “balance”.

 

2.         Incitement to racism is politically out of bounds. Incitement to racism is contrary to universalist democratic values. Incitement to racism is incompatible with the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Racially inciting discourse is harmful by its very nature, and as such, it should not be subject to the probability test.

 

Justice U. Vogelman (concurring):

 

1.         Given the nature of the rights and balances involved, “political” considerations cannot be given weight in terms of the constitutionality of the decisions, and the political nature of the proceeding in the Central Elections Committee is not meant to influence the form of judicial examination and its scope.

 

2.         There is no place for a “probability test” inasmuch as racist expression is not worthy of protection. In the words of Justice D. Beinisch: “Racism is the kind of affliction whose isolation and removal from the political and social arena is an essential condition for preventing its spread”.

 

Justice M. Mazuz (concurring):

 

1.         The cause of “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset formerly comprised two separate causes: “Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”, and “negation of the democratic character of the state”. The two causes were unified in the framework of a 2002 amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset that added the authority to disqualify a candidate (not just a list) and the cause of support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. As explained in the Explanatory Notes, this unification derived from the desire for uniformity between the wording of sec. 7A and sec. 5 of the Parties Law, 5752-1992, and was not intended to introduce a change in the content of these causes by virtue of their unification.

 

            In practice, the unification of the causes was the basis for an interpretation of this cause that was both different in content and broader in scope. While under the prior wording, the cause of “negating the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people” addressed the negation of the view that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people in the sense of the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, under the unified wording, the term “Jewish state” was interpreted as referring to the internal content of the state’s identity and the elements of the Jewish identity of the state from within (“the primary symbols” of the state and the “nuclear characteristics” of its Jewish identity).

 

2.         The proper interpretation of the cause for disqualification of “negating the existence of the State of Israel”, like the separate cause under the prior wording, refers to the identity of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people in the national sense, as the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, and not as referring to internal features of the state that characterize it as a Jewish state.

 

3.         There is no place for a probability test in applying the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. The probability test has no grounding in the language of the law, and it raises many – theoretical and practical – difficulties in its application.

 

The theoretical basis for disqualifying lists or candidates does not suffice by preventing a real, concrete threat, but primarily concerns not granting legitimacy to lists of candidates whose objectives and actions are beyond the legitimate democratic boundaries for participating in the democratic elections. The offences of incitement to racism are conduct crimes, not result crimes, and do not comprise an element of probability. Incitement to racism is, therefore, prohibited and unacceptable without regard for the probability of the realization of its objectives. It is an illegitimate form of discourse in a democratic society. Incitement to racism does not represent any protected value that requires a balancing of interests.

 

Justice N. Sohlberg (concurring and dissenting):

 

            From the very outset, the Court adopted a strict approach to the interpretation of sec. 7 and to its application in practice. This approach reflects a value-based decision that democracy grants special – almost supreme – importance to the constitutional right to vote and be elected. Disqualifying a list or a candidate from standing for election to the Knesset must be the very last resort; one that is reserved for manifestly extreme case in which there is no room for doubt.

 

            There is no justification for ordering Ben Ari’s disqualification. Given the strict criteria applied in the case law of this Court over the years, and in view of Ben Ari’s explanations and clarifications, there is doubt as to whether the statements amount to incitement to racism or a negation of the democratic character of the State of Israel to the point that would justify barring Ben Ari from running in the Knesset elections. Indeed, the fundamental right to vote and to be elected is not absolute. In appropriate circumstances, it is proper to limit it, but that is not the situation in his regard. While the evidentiary foundation in the matter of Ben Ari is broad in scope, it is not more exceptional, extreme, and severe in “quality” and intensity than matters brought before this Court in similar cases.

 

            As opposed to the criminal process, which is conducted in accordance with a clearly defined framework of procedure, which includes, inter alia, an evidentiary proceeding in which it is possible to question and interrogate carefully, in the constitutional proceeding before this Court, the factual examination is far more limited. This requires the Court to be especially careful in drawing conclusions and establishing facts on the basis of the evidentiary foundation presented before it.

 

Justice A. Baron (concurring):

 

            Incitement to racism does not merit any protection, and therefore there is no place for applying a “probability test” as a condition for the application of the cause under sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

 

Justice D. Mintz (concurring and dissenting):

 

The Explanatory Notes to the 2002 Basic Law: The Knesset Bill state that the amendment was not intended to change the case law of the Court “according to which sec. 7A of the Basic Law should be used sparingly and strictly in order to protect the most vital interests of the state”. However, I cannot concur with the position that the language of the amended provision is meaningless and that what has been is what will be. As has been said: “The legislative purpose, and certainly the legislative history, cannot give the law legal meaning that it cannot bear”. Indeed, there is nothing in Amendment no. 46 that would violate the principle that the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law be interpreted narrowly. I also accept that the words of a candidate or the Knesset, as well as his deeds, be examined meticulously, inasmuch as disqualification remains an extreme act that should be employed only in exceptional circumstances, as has been held in the past.

 

Nevertheless, that does not mean that the amendment does not affect the causes for disqualification established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law as we knew them in the past. If, at the time, there was any doubt whether “expressions”, as distinct from “actions”, could be included under the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, then since the enactment of Amendment no. 46 of the Law, it has been expressly clarified. The legislature made itself unambiguously clear that the power of a word is as good as the power of an action. Second, although the line separating “expression” and “action” is not always clear, we cannot ignore that the interpretive principles outlined in the past in regard to the causes for the disqualification of a candidate placed emphasis on the candidate’s actions as against his expressions.  

 

            Just as incitement to racism generally disqualifies by means of verbal statements, so too, the other causes disqualify through expression. If not identical, the evidentiary level of all the causes for disqualification should be similar.

 

            Just as Ben Ari’s statements disqualify him from running for the Knesset – despite his claim that he “is not a racist”, so Cassif’s words should disqualify him – despite his general claim that he “opposes violence” of any kind. The result should be identical for both.

 

Justice G. Karra (concurring):

 

            I concur in the opinion of President E. Hayut and with the opinions of my colleagues U. Vogelman, I. Amit and E. Baron on the matter of the inapplicability of the probability test to the cause of disqualification for incitement to racism under sec, 7A(a)(2).

 

Justice N. Hendel (concurring):

 

1.         The probability test should not be applied to the causes under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. The language does not support the application of such a test, and such is also the purposive interpretation. The basis of the causes for disqualification is not necessarily the prevention of a real, concrete threat to one of the protected values, but rather clearly expresses not granting legitimacy to lists or candidates who adopt the approaches set out in the causes.

 

2.         It would be incorrect to construe the term “Jewish state” as a test of the right of the Jewish people solely to national existence for three reasons. First, the term “Jewish” is not merely a geographical matter, but an historical one as well. The state’s symbols carry weight in the basic definition of the state. Second, the case law has also adopted this view in the past. Third, it would appear that practical experience shows that the objections in debates upon negation of the Jewish state focused upon the return to Zion, and not upon questions of general, historical, and religious symbols. Thus, the practical consequences of this distinction are unclear. In any case, it would seem that a construction that includes “internal” characteristics of the term “Jewish” would be more precise.

Full text of the opinion: 

                                                                                                                                    EDA 1806/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1866/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1867/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1876/19

 

In re:                                      Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

 

Plaintiffs in EDA 1806/19:               1.         MK Avigdor Lieberman

                                                            2.         MK Oded Forer

                                                            3.         Yisrael Beiteinu Faction

Appellants in EA 1866/19:               1.         Issawi Frej

                                                            2.         Ofer Kornfeld

                                                            3.         Atara Litvak

                                                            4.         Debbie Ben Ami

                                                            5.         Sonia Cohen

                                                            6.         Richard Peres

                                                            7.         Eran Yarak

                                                            8.         Gil Segal

                                                            9.         Shifrit Cohen Hayou Shavit

                                                            10.       Osama Saadi

                                                            11.       Wiam Shabita

                                                            12.       Yousouf Fadila

                                                            13.       Meretz Faction

                                                            14.       MK Stav Shaffir

15.       Reform Movement for Religion and State – Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism  

16.       Tag Meir Forum

Appellants in EA 1867/19:               1.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari

                                                            2.         Itamar Ben Gvir, Adv.

                                                            3.         Hoshaya Harari

                                                            4.         Yochai Revivo

                                                            5.         MK David Bitan

                                                            6.         Elidor Cohen

                                                            7.         Yaakov (Kobi) Matza

                                                            8.         Yigal Harari

                                                            9.         Yaakov Dekel

                                                            10.       Shimon Boker

                                                            11.       Yossi Shalom Haim Rozenboim

Appellant in EA 1876/19:                             Ra’am List

 

                                                                        v.

 

Respondents in EDA 1806/19:         1.         Dr. Ofer Cassif

                                                            2.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1866/19:            1.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari

                                                            2.         Itamar Ben Gvir, Adv.

                                                            3.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            4.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1867/19:            1.         Hadash-Ta’al List

                                                            2.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            3.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1876/19:            1.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            2.         Likud Faction et al.

                                                            3.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari et al.

                                                            4.         Attorney General

                                                            5.         The Knesset

 

EDA 1806/19: Approval procedure under sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset and sec. 63A(b) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1866/19: Appeal under sec. 63A(d) and sec. 65(A1) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1867/19: Appeal under sec. 64(a1) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1876/19: Appeal under sec. 64(a) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

 

The Supreme Court

Before: President E. Hayut, Justice N. Hendel, Justice U. Vogelman, Justice I. Amit, Justice N. Sohlberg, Justice M. Mazuz, Justice A. Baron, Justice G. Karra, Justice D. Mintz

 

Supreme Court cases cited:

1.         EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. MK Ahmad Tibi, IsrSC 57 (4) 1 (2003)

 

2.         EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset (Jan. 21, 2009)

3.         EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee for the 19th Knesset v. MK Hanin Zoabi (Feb. 18, 2015)

4.         EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset, IsrSC 39(2) 225 (1985) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/neiman-v-chairman-elections-committee]

5.         EA 1/88 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset, IsrSC 42(4), 177 (1988) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/kach-v-central-election-committee-twelfth-knesset]

6.         EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi, (Dec. 10, 2015)

7.         LCA 7504/95 Yassin v. Registrar of Parties, IsrSC 50(2) 45 (1996)

8.         EA 1/65 Yaakov Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 6th Knesset, IsrSC 19(3) 365 (1964) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/yeredor-v-chairman-central-elections-committee-sixth-knesset]

9.         EA 2/88 Ben Shalom v. Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset, IsrSC 43(4) 221 (1989)

10.       EA 2805/92 Kach List v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 13th Knesset (unpublished)

11.       EA 2858/92 Movshovich v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 13th Knesset, IsrSC 46(3) 541 (1992)

12.       HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset, (May 27, 2018)

13.       HCJ 11225/03 Azmi Bishara v. Attorney General, IsrSC 60(4) 287 (2006)

14.       HCJ 2684/12 Movement to Strengthen Tolerance in Religious Education et. al. v. Attorney General, (Dec. 9, 2015)

15.       HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council, Haifa District, IsrSC 27(2) 764 (1973)

16.       HCJ 547/98 Federman v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 53(5) 520 (1999)

17.       AAA 8342/02 Ben Gvir v. Commissioner of Police, IsrSC 57(1) 61 (2002)

18.       LCA 6709/98 Attorney General v. Moledet Gesher-Tzomet List for the Nazereth Illit Local Council Elections, IsrSC 53(1) 351

19.       HCJ 4552/18 Zahalka v. Speaker of the Knesset, (Dec. 30, 2018)

20.       EA 2600/99 Erlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee, IsrSC 53(3) 38 (1999)

21.       HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party, IsrSC 49(1) 758 (1995)

22.       HCJ 14/86 Laor v. Theater and Film Review Board, IsrSC 41(1) 421 (1987)

23.       HCJ 399/85 MK Rabbi Meir Kahane v. Broadcasting Authority Directorate, IsrSC 41(3) 255 (1987)

24.       HCJ 7754/14 Tzalul Environmental Association v. Petroleum Commissioner, (Dec/ 28, 2016)

25.       HCJ 2257/04 Hadash-Ta’al Faction v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 17th Knesset, IsrSC 58 (6) 685 (2004)

26.       CA 4096/18 Chacham and Or-Zach Advocates v. Assessment Officer – Akko, (May 25, 2019)

27.       CrimA 7007/15 Shmil v. State of Israel, (Sept. 5, 2018)

28.       CA 8742/15 Astrolog Publishers Ltd., v. Ron, (Dec. 3, 2017)

29.       CrimA 961/16 Alharoush v. State of Israel, (Nov. 25, 2018)

30.       AAA 3326/18 A. v. Director of Firearm Licensing, Southern District – Ministry of Public Security, (Feb. 26, 2019)

31.       HCJ 7052/03 Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel v. Minister of Interior, IsrSC 61(2) 202 (2006) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/adalah-legal-center-arab-minority-rights-israel-v-minister-interior]

32.       HCJ 7625/06 Martina Rogachova v. Ministry of Interior, (March 31, 2016) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/rogachova-v-ministry-interior]

33.       EA 2600/99 Ehrlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee, IsrSC 53(3) 38 (1999)

34.       CrimA 6833/14 Naffaa v. State of Israel, (Aug. 31, 2015)

35.       EDA 50/03 Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset v. Tibi, IsrSC 57(4) 1 (2003)

 

 

Judgment (Reasoning)

(July 18, 2019)

 

President E. Hayut:

Introduction

1.         On March 6, 2019, the Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset (hereinafter: the Elections Committee or the Committee) approved a request for the disqualification of Dr. Ofer Cassif (hereinafter: Cassif) from running as a candidate for the Knesset on the list of “Hadash – headed by Ayman Odeh, Ta’al – headed by Ahmed Tibi” (hereinafter: Hadash-Ta’al) but rejected a request to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list in its entirety. The Committee further accepted two requests to disqualify the Ra’am-Balad list (hereinafter: Ra’am-Balad) and to bar Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir from standing for election.

            These decisions were the focus of the appeal and approval proceedings before us.

            The three appeals – EA 1866/19, EA 1867/19 and EA 1876/19 – which will be presented below, were filed on March 12, 2019, in accordance with sec. 63A(d) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969 (hereinafter: the Elections Law) (in regard to the disqualification of a candidate) and secs. 64(a) and 64(a1) of that Law (in regard to the disqualification of lists). The approval proceeding – EDA 1806/19 – was filed on March 10, 2019 by the Elections Committee, in accordance with the provisions of sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law and sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset (hereinafter: Basic Law: The Knesset or the Basic Law).

2.         Sections 63A(e) and 64(b) of the Elections Law require that the Court issue a judgment in appeal and approval proceedings “no later than the 23rd day prior to Election Day”. In regard to the elections for the 21st Knesset, which took place on April 9, 2019, we were therefore required to render judgment in the appeal and approval proceedings no later than March 17, 2019. Under the time constraint from the time of the filing of the proceedings – March 10, 2019, and March 12, 2019 – to the date upon which we were required to render judgment – March 17, 2019 – we allowed the Respondents in each of the proceedings to file written pleadings, and we heard supplementary oral arguments before a nine-judge panel, as required by the Law.  The hearings took place on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, and Thursday, March 14, 2019, and the judgment was duly handed down on Sunday, March 17, 2019, without stating reasons in view of the statutory time constraints detailed above, and as has been usual in such proceedings over the years (see, for example: EDA 11280/02 Central Elections v. Tibi, [1]; EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset [2]; EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3]). In the judgment, a majority of eight justices, against the dissenting opinion of Justice D. Mintz, decided not to approve the decision of the Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of Cassif. The Court unanimously decided to reject the appeal in regard to the Elections Committee’s decision not to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list. The Court also decided, by a majority of eight justices, against the dissenting opinion of Justice D. Mintz, to grant the appeal in regard to the Ra’am-Balad list, and to order that the list is not barred from participating in the Knesset elections. The Court further unanimously rejected the appeal in regard to the decision not to disqualify Ben Gvir, and decided by a majority, against the dissenting opinion of Justice N. Sohlberg, to grant the appeal in the matter of Ben Ari and order his disqualification as a candidate for the 21st Knesset. Four days later, on March 21, 2019, we published a summary of the reasoning grounding the judgment, and we now present the full reasoning.

 

General Background and Normative Framework

3.         The right to vote and be elected is the life breath of every democratic regime, and the conceptual foundation of this right is grounded in the fundamental principles of equality and freedom of political expression (EA 2/84 Neiman v Central Elections Committee [4], 262-264 (hereinafter: the first Neiman case); EA 1/88 Neiman v Central Elections Committee [5], 185 (hereinafter: the second Neiman case); EA 561/09 Balad v. Central Elections Committee [2], para. 2 (hereinafter: the Balad case); EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3], para. 7 (hereinafter: the first Zoabi case); EDA 1095/15 Central Elections Committee v. Zoabi [6], para. 5 (hereinafter: the second Zoabi case); cf. LCA 7504/95 Yassin v. Registrar of Parties [7], 58-60 & 71 (hereinafter: the Yassin case); Ruth Gavison, Twenty Years since the Yeredor Ruling – The Right to be Elected and the Lessons of History, in A. Barak (ed.), Essays in Honor of Shimon Agranat, (1986), 145, 151-152 (in Hebrew) (hereinafter: Gavison)).

            Nevertheless, equality and freedom of political expression are not unrestricted rights, and it has already been held that “it is the right of a democracy to deny the participation in the democratic process of lists that reject democracy itself […] one who does not accept the fundamental principles of democracy and seeks to change them cannot ask to participate in democracy in the name of those principles” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], 14 (hereinafter: the Tibi case); and further see the Yassin case, p. 62, the first Zoabi case, para. 8; the second Zoabi case, para. 6). Therefore, along with the formal capacity conditions that must be met in order to realize the right to vote and be elected, which concern, inter alia, age and citizenship (see: sec. 5 of Basic Law: The Knesset in regard to the right to vote, and secs. 6, 6A and 7 of that Law in regard to the right be elected), there is a need for material restrictions intended to prevent participation in the elections by lists and candidates that seek to use the tools of democracy in order to deny the very existence of the state or infringe its fundamental principles.

4.         As will be explained in the brief survey below, such material restrictions have been developed over the years in Israeli law, as well. At its inception, the State of Israel adopted a democratic regime characterized, inter alia, by the values of equality and freedom of political expression mentioned above. Alongside those values, and without any necessary contradiction, the sovereign State of Israel was established as a Jewish state, in recognition of the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its land. This important fundamental principle, which Justice M. Cheshin defined as an “axiom” when he served as chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset, must also be protected. President A. Barak addressed this in the Tibi case, stating:

There are many democratic states. Only one of them is a Jewish state. Indeed, the reason for the existence of the State of Israel is its being a Jewish state. This character is central to its existence, and it is – as Justice M. Cheshin stated before the Central Elections Committee – an “axiom” of the state. It should be seen as a “fundamental principle of our law and system” (emphasis original; ibid., p. 21).

President D. Beinisch addressed the uniqueness of Israeli democracy in this regard in the Balad case, noting:             

The State of Israel’s being the only state that serves as a home for the Jewish people, and therefore preserves unique characteristics worthy of protection, is the starting point for every discussion of the character of the state (ibid., para. 3).

In this regard, it would not be superfluous to note that there are those who hold the opinion that there is a “significant moral tension that requires a process of reconciliation between opposing values (Justice I. Englard in the Tibi case, p. 64. For a detailed discussion of this subject, see:  Adi Gal & Mordechai Kremnitzer, Disqualification of Party Lists and Candidates – Does it Strengthen Democracy or Weaken It? (Israel Democracy Institute, 2019) 22-26 (Hebrew)). As opposed to this, there are those who are of the opinion that there is no contradiction between democratic values and Jewish values, but rather they derive from one another (the second Neiman case, pp. 189-190; Justice Y. Amit in the second Zoabi case, para. 3; Elyakim Rubinstein, On the Equality of Arabs in Israel, 1 Kiryat Mishpat 17, 26 (20021) (Hebrew)). Below, we will address the material restrictions established in regard to the right to vote and be elected in Israeli law. As  will be seen, these restrictions define Israel as a Jewish and democratic state without distinction between these two frameworks, in the spirit of the principles we addressed above.

5.         Since 1985, the material constitutional restrictions upon the right to vote have been grounded in sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. This section, in its current form, establishes:

7A(a).  A candidates list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the goals or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;

(2) incitement to racism;

(3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

6.         As already noted, these restrictions developed in Israeli law over the course of years. Basic Law: The Knesset, which was enacted in 1958, did not originally comprise a material provision – as opposed to a formal provision in regard to competence – that restricted the right to be elected. The absence of such a provision notwithstanding, in EA 1/65 Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [8] (hereinafter: the Yeredor case), the Court recognized the authority of the Elections Committee not to approve the participation of the Socialists list in the elections for the 6th Knesset because the list, and the El Ard organization with which it identified, “deny the integrity of the State of Israel and its very existence”. Some twenty years later, the Court again addressed the disqualification of a list from standing for election. The Central Elections Committee for the elections for 11th Knesset in 1984 disqualified the Kach list and the Progressive List for Peace from standing for election. The Kach list was disqualified by the Committee for the racist and anti-democratic principles that it espoused, its open support for terrorism, and incitement of hatred and hostility between different sectors of the Israeli populace. The Progressive List for Peace was disqualified due to the Committee’s determination that the list comprised subversive foundations and tendencies and that central members of the list acted in a manner that identified with the state’s enemies. The disqualification of the two lists was brought before the Court in the first Neiman case, which held, by majority, that in the absence of an express provision of law, the doctrine established in the Yeredor case should be limited to the causes for disqualification set out there, i.e., denial of the very existence of the state – which must be proven by clear, unequivocal, and persuasive evidence (for a critique, see Gavison, at pp. 184-195).

7.         Following the judgment in the first Neiman case, the legislature amended Basic Law: The Knesset and added sec. 7A. This section, in its original form, comprised three causes for disqualifying a list of candidates whose purposes or actions expressly or impliedly amounted to (1) negation of the existence of the state as the state of the Jewish people; (2) negation of the democratic character of the state; (3) incitement to racism.

            When the Kach list again sought to stand for election for the 12th Knesset in 1988, the list was disqualified by the Elections Committee for the reasons set out in subsecs. (2) and (3) of sec. 7A. The appeal of the decision was denied by the Court (see: the second Neiman case), which held that the list indeed negated the democratic character of the state and that its activities constituted incitement to racism. In its decision, the Court emphasized that given the importance of the freedoms that the rights to vote and to be elected are intended to realize, affirming those rights is preferable to denying them, and the disqualification of a list must be reserved for the most extreme cases. That year, the Court also adjudicated another proceeding related to the elections for the 12th Knesset. The Court majority denied an appeal of a decision by the Central Elections Committee not to disqualify The Progressive List for Peace from standing for election (EA 2/88 Ben Shalom v. Central Elections Committee [9]). In 1992, after the murder of the founder of the Kach movement, Rabbi Meir Kahane (hereinafter: Rabbi Kahane), in 1990, the Central Elections Committee disqualified two lists that viewed themselves as the heirs to Rabbi Kahane from participating in the elections for the 13th Knesset. A unanimous Court denied the appeals of the disqualifications, adopting the criteria established in the second Neiman case (EA 2805/92 Kach List v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [10] (hereinafter: the Kach case)); EA 2858/92 Movshovich v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [11] (hereinafter: the Movshovich case)).       

8.         In 2002, sec. 7A of the Basic Law was amended. The amendment comprised three primary changes: (1) the separate causes for disqualification in regard to negating the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and as a democratic state were unified as one cause; (2) an additional cause was added under which a list could be disqualified from participation in elections if it supported armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel; (3) it was established that not only could an entire list be disqualified, but also a candidate could be disqualified from standing for election, but that as opposed to the disqualification of a list, the disqualification of a candidate required the approval of the Supreme Court.

9.         In the Tibi case, the Court addressed a number of decisions given by the Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset in regard to the elections in January 2003, among them the first decisions of their kind pursuant to the aforementioned amendment to sec. 7A of the Basic Law. The Elections Committee decided to disqualify Knesset members Ahmed Tibi of the Hadash-Ta’al list (hereinafter: Tibi) and Azmi Bishara of the Balad list (hereinafter: Bishara). The Committee further decided that Baruch Marzel of the Herut list (hereinafter: Marzel) should not be disqualified. In addition, the Committee decided to disqualify the Balad list from standing for election. In the Tibi case, the Court focused upon and outlined the criteria for each of the causes in sec. 7A of the Basic Law. On that basis, the Court decided not to approve the Election Committee’s decision to disqualify Knesset members Tibi and Bishara from standing for election. The decision in regard to Tibi was unanimous, whereas the decision in regard to Bishara was by a majority. A majority further dismissed the appeal of the Committee’s decision to permit Marzel’s candidacy, and the appeal against the disqualification of the Balad list was granted by a majority, and it was held that the list could stand for election.

10.       Another amendment to sec. 7A of the Basic Law was adopted in 2008, adding sec. (a1) that established: “In connection with this article, a candidate who was illegally present in an enemy state in the seven years that preceded the deadline for submitted lists of candidates shall be considered someone whose actions constitute support for an armed conflict against the State of Israel, unless he has proven otherwise”. About a year after that amendment, prior to the elections for the 18th Knesset, the Court addressed an appeal of the Elections Committee’s decision to disqualify the Balad and Ra’am-Ta’al list for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a) and (3) of the Basic Law. A majority of the Court granted the appeal, and            the participation of those lists was permitted. In 2012 and 2015, the Court was again called upon to address the disqualification of candidates. In the first Zoabi case, the Court unanimously overturned the Central Election Committee’s decision to disqualify Knesset member Hanin Zoabi (hereinafter: Zoabi) from running in the elections for the 19th Knesset for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law. In the second Zoabi case, two approval proceedings were addressed jointly after the Central Elections Committee disqualified Zoabi’s participation in the elections for the 20th Knesset for the causes enumerated in sec. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law, and also disqualified Marzel from participating in those same elections for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a)(1) and (2). A majority of the Court decided not to approve the Elections Committee’s decisions in regard to both Zaobi and Marzel, and both stood as candidates in those elections.

11.       The judgment in the second Zoabi case was rendered in 2015. In 2017, section 7A of the Basic Law was amended again to add the words “including his expressions” after the words “the actions of the person”. It is important to emphasize that, as opposed to various arguments raised before us in these proceedings, this amendment – as stated in its Explanatory Notes – “was not intended to change the case law of the Court according to which sec. 7A of the Basic Law should be used sparingly and strictly in order to protect the most vital interests of the state”. In other words, the strict evidentiary threshold outlined in the case law over the years for proving the existence of the causes for disqualification remains as it was, given the purpose of the section and the balance between the values it is intended to protect.

            To complete the picture, we would note that in 2016, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Basic Law in regard to the termination of the tenure of a member of the Knesset for incitement to racism or support of armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, as stated in secs. 7A(a)(2) or 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. We would further note for the sake of completing the picture that two petitions filed against the constitutionality of the said amendment were denied (HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset [12]) (hereinafter: the Ben Meir case).

 

The Causes for Disqualification established in Section 7A

12.       Having surveyed the proceedings and legislative amendments relevant to the disqualification of lists and candidates seeking to stand for election to the Knesset and the development of the case law and the Basic Law in this regard, it would now be appropriate to address the interpretive principles and the criteria outlined and applied in all that regards the various causes for disqualification. I would preface by stating that the prevailing trend in this Court’s case law is that a cautious, restrained approach should be adopted in all that relates to the disqualification of lists and candidates participating in Knesset elections. Indeed, in view of the magnitude of the rights to vote and be elected, this Court has repeatedly held that the starting point is that the causes for disqualification should be interpreted narrowly and should be applied in the most extreme cases (see, for example, the second Neiman case, at p. 187; the Tibi case, at pp. 17-18). From this starting point, the case law derived the answer to the question of what must be proved in order to ground the presence of any of the causes for disqualification, as well as the criteria in regard to the required evidentiary threshold. We will first examine the case-law interpretation of what is required to prove each of the causes for disqualification, and then examine the criteria established in regard to the required evidentiary threshold.

(1) Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state

13.       The first cause established under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset concerns preventing participation of candidate lists or candidates in the elections if the purposes or actions of the list or the actions of the candidate, including his statements, constitute a negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The “nuclear-minimal” characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and its “nuclear-minimal” characteristics as a democratic state were established in the Tibi case, which held that it is the infringement of these characteristics that may give rise to a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law. In the matter of the “nuclear” characteristics that define the State of Israel as a Jewish state, it was held that these include the right of every Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel, in which there will be a Jewish majority; that Hebrew is the primary official language of the state; that the symbols and holidays of the state primarily reflect Jewish tradition, and that the Jewish heritage is a central element of the religious and cultural heritage of the state (the Tibi case, p. 22; and compare the view of Justice Y. Turkel in that case at p. 101; and see the second Zoabi case, para. 66, and the first Zoabi case, para. 20; the Balad case, para. 6; and compare the Yassin case, p. 66; the opinion of Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; and see: Amnon Rubinstein & Raanan Har-Zahav, Basic Law: The Knesset, 64 (1993) (Hebrew)).

            As for the “nuclear” characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state, it was held that “these characteristics are based […] upon recognition of the sovereignty of the people, as expressed in free, equal elections; recognition of the core human rights, among them human dignity, respect and equality, maintaining the separation of powers, the rule of law and an independent judiciary” (the Tibi case, p. 23; and see the second Zoabi case, para 29; and compare the Yassin case, p. 66). It was further noted in the Tibi case that a list that negates the right to vote for the Knesset on ethnic-national grounds, or a list seeks to change the regime by violent means will not be permitted to stand for election, as it essentially negates the democratic foundations of the Israeli regime (ibid., p. 24; and see the second Neiman case, p. 190, and the second Zoabi case, para. 30).

(2) Incitement to racism

14.       The second cause for disqualification, established in sec. 7A(a)(2), is incitement to racism. We will address the grounds of this cause and its underlying rationales, particularly in a Jewish state, at greater length below. At this stage, we would note that already in the second Neiman case, in which, for the first time following the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Kach list was disqualified on the grounds of incitement to racism, the Court held, per President M. Shamgar,  that the “objectives and conduct [of the list] are also clearly racist: systematically fanning the flames of ethnic and national hate, which causes divisiveness and animosity; calling for the forceful deprivation of rights; systematic and intentional degradation directed towards a specific part of the population selected because of their national origin and ethnicity; [calling] for their humiliation in ways very similar to the terrible experiences of the Jewish nation” (ibid., p. 197).

(3) Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

15.       The third cause for disqualification, established in sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law, concerns support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. This cause is premised upon the primary conceptual justification for the disqualification of candidates and lists – viz., defense against those who would seek to negate the very existence of the state or undermine the foundations of its existence and its democratic nature by means of armed struggle (the first Zoabi case, para. 29). In the Tibi case, President A. Barak noted in regard to this cause that: “Democracy is allowed to prevent the participation of candidate lists that employ violence or support violence as a tool for changing the nature of the regime” (ibid., p. 26; and also see the second Zoabi case, para. 69). Preventing participation by virtue of this cause will, of course, be possible where a candidate or a list personally takes active part in an armed struggle of a terrorist organization or an enemy state, as well as where they encourage such a struggle or provide material, political or other support (ibid., para. 69; and see the Tibi case, p. 27; the Balad case, para. 7; the first Zoabi case, para. 29). Disqualification of a list or candidate by virtue of this cause would be possible only if the support is of an armed struggle by an enemy state or a terrorist organization (the Tibi case, p. 27; and see the second Zoabi case, para. 69; for a detailed discussion of this cause, see: Gal & Kremnitzer, 16-19).

 

The Criteria in regard to the Required Evidentiary Threshold

16.       Alongside the narrow interpretation of the causes for disqualification established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, over the years, the case law further added a series of strict criteria in regard to the required evidentiary threshold for the crystallizing of any of the causes. These criteria limit the possibility of disqualifying a list or candidate from standing for election to the Knesset only to clear, extreme cases due to the intense caution that the Court adopts as the starting point in this regard (the Balad case, para. 3; and see the opinion of Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; the Kach case, p. 2). Below, we will summarize the criteria outlined in the case law in regard to the evidentiary threshold required for the existence of the disqualifying causes. These criteria were, for the most part, first applied in regard to the disqualification of lists, and after the amendment of the Basic Law in 2002, they were respectively adopted in regard to the disqualification of an individual candidate, as well (see the Tibi case, the first Zoabi case and the second Zoabi case). These are the criteria:

            (-)        First, in order to decide whether one of the elements set forth in sec. 7A is present in the objectives or actions of a list or a candidate, it must be shown that the objective is one of the dominant characteristics of the list’s or the candidate’s aspirations or activities, and that they seek to participate in the elections in order to advance them (see the second Neiman case, p. 187; the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para. 14).

            (-)        Second, it must be shown that these central, dominant purposes can be learned from express declarations and direct statements or reasonable conclusions of clear, unequivocal significance (the second Neiman case, p. 188; the Tibi case, p. 18, the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para 14).

            (-)        Third, it must be shown that the list or the candidate actively works for the realization of the said objectives, and that there was non-sporadic activity for their realization. It was held that objectives of a theoretical nature are insufficient, and that there must be a showing of systematic, repeated activity whose “intensity must be given severe, extreme expression” (the second Neiman case, p. 196; the Tibi case, p. 18; the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para. 14).

            (-)        Fourth, the evidence grounding the actions or objectives sufficient to prevent standing for election to the Knesset must be “clear, unambiguous and persuasive” (the second Neiman case, p. 188; the Tibi case, p. 18; the second Zoabi case, para. 34; compare: the first Neiman case, p. 250), and a “critical mass” of highly credible evidence is required to justify the disqualification (the Tibi case, p. 43; the first Zoabi case, para. 14). The burden of proof in this regard rests upon the party arguing for disqualification of the list or candidate, and a doubt arising as to the sufficiency of the evidence must weigh against the disqualification (the second Neiman case, pp. 248-249; the Kach case, p. 3).

17.       A complex question concerning the evidentiary threshold for proving the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law is that of whether to apply probability tests for the realization of the dangers that the causes for disqualification are intended to prevent. There is a difference of opinion in the case law, and the matter has been left for further consideration and has yet to be decided. The spectrum of opinions expressed on this matter range from an approach that rejects the application of the probability test (see the position of Justice M. Elon in the first Neiman case, p. 297; President M. Shamgar following the enactment of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset in the second Neiman case, p. 187; Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; and Justices S. Levin. E. Mazza, and D. Dorner in the Tibi case, pp. 81, 96-97, and 99), to the opposite approach that is of the view that this test should be applied to each and every one of the disqualification causes in sec. 1A of the Basic Law (Justice E. Rivlin in the Tibi case, p. 106, and see Barak Medina, Forty Years to the Yeredor  Decision: The Right to Political Participation, 22 Mekhkarei Mishpat 327, 376-381 (2006) (Hebrew)). As noted, the matter has been left for further consideration and has not yet been decided in the case law (see President A. Barak and Justices A. Procaccia and D. Beinisch in the Tibi case, pp. 21, 88, 90; President D. Beinisch in the Balad case; President A. Grunis in the first Zoabi case, para. 34; President M. Naor in the second Zoabi case, para. 36).

            A middle position between these two opposing views on the application of the probability test has also been expressed, according to which a distinction can be drawn between the causes under sec. 7A(a)(1) and (3) and the cause concerning incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a) (2). Thus, for example, in the Tibi case, Justice Procaccia noted that “condemnation of incitement to racism and its removal from the political election process are values unto themselves, independent and unqualified even when unaccompanied by any probability of the realization of the potential danger. There is no need to seek manifest or hidden elements of danger in order to deny the entry of inciters to racism into the political arena […] incitement to racism is condemned as a value of the universal and national heritage, and it stands beyond the test for the probability of its foreseeable danger under any particular criterion. The contradiction between racism and the fundamental values of the state is so extreme that anyone who holds it as part of one’s political doctrine should be disqualified out of hand” (ibid., p. 90; Gal & Kremnitzer, 62-63). Another opinion that distinguishes the cause related to incitement to racism and the other causes in regard to the probability test, and which proposes applying a very low-level probability test to it, was expressed by Justice D. Beinisch in that matter, in stating: “If I were of the opinion that we should adopt the approach that applies ‘probability tests’ for the disqualification of lists or candidates, then in all that regards racism, I would hold that ‘racism’ in its ‘nuclear’ sense comprises, by its very nature, a potential for danger whose probability is a real possibility. Racism, by its very nature, may spread like a disease even when it appears that the scope of the political activity surrounding it is small, and the political prospects of the list or candidate are not serious. Racism is a type of disease for which isolation and removal from the political and social arena are conditions for preventing its spread” (p. 88). We will address this subject below, and examine whether there is, indeed, a place for a different approach to the cause of incitement to racism as opposed to the other causes in relation to probability tests.

            Another question that derives to some extent from the probability test and that concerns the necessary evidentiary threshold for proving the existence of the causes for disqualification is whether and to what extent there is a connection between the causes for disqualification and the criminal offenses intended to protect those values. In this regard, it would appear that the approach adopted in the case law holds that the Penal Law can assist in identifying the presence of the elements of causes for disqualification, while emphasizing that we are concerned with different methods for the prevention of the phenomena and that the tests applicable in each of the areas are not the same (see President M. Shamgar in the second Neiman case, p. 191; President A. Grunis in the first Zoabi case, para. 32; and see Gavison, p. 166; and cf. the Ben Meir case, para. 28; and HCJ 11225/03 Bishara v. Attorney General [13]).

 

An Elections Appeal and Approval of an Elections Committee Decision – What is the Difference?

18.       Basic Law: The Knesset distinguishes two types of decisions by the Central Elections Committee. The first is Elections Committee decisions to prevent or not prevent a candidate list from standing for election. Such decisions can be challenged in an appeal to the Supreme Court, under secs. 64(a) and 64(a1) of the Elections Law. The second is Election Committee decisions declaring that a particular candidate is barred from participating in the elections. Such a decision requires the approval of the Supreme Court, under sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset and sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law, whereas an Elections Committee decision to deny a request to bar a candidate from standing for election is of the first type of decisions in the sense that it does not require approval but can be appealed to the Supreme Court, under sec. 63A(d) of the Elections Law.

            The procedure for approving an Elections Committee decision is not one of “regular” judicial review in the sense that decision is not consummated until approval is granted. In this, it differs from appeal proceedings in regard to Election Committee decisions, which come into force when given. The scope of the Court’s authority in an approval proceeding is not identical to that granted it in an appeal proceeding. It has been held in this regard that the Court must refrain from nullifying a decision under appeal even if it would have decided differently, as long as it is lawful and does not deviate from the margin of reasonableness. As opposed to this, in an approval proceeding, the Court is granted authority to examine whether it, itself, approves the disqualification of the candidate from standing for election (the Tibi case, pp. 28-31; the first Zoabi case, para 15; the second Zoabi case, paras. 12-13).  It is interesting to note that there are different approaches in the case law in regard to the scope of the Court’s intervention in the decisions of the Elections Committee due to the fact that it is primarily a political body that weighs political considerations. Thus, there are those who take the view that this fact justifies narrowing the scope of intervention in the Committee’s decisions (Justice E. Rivlin in the Tibi case, p. 109, and Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 251). As opposed to this, there are those of the opinion that “this fact of the political composition of the Committee, with the exception of its chair, requires an examination of the merits of the Committee’s decision by the this Court in order to prevent political considerations from outweighing an objective legal examination” (Deputy President M. Elon in the Ben Shalom case, p. 279; for a similar view, see Justice D. Beinisch in the Tibi case, p. 86 and the Balad case, para. 16).

            This feature of the Central Elections Committee as a primarily political body that makes decisions influenced by political considerations, with no obligation to explain those decisions, indeed justifies examination and consideration by the legislature (see the comment of President Naor in the second Zoabi case, para. 78, and Gal & Kremnitzer, 61-62). At present, the Court is responsible for both types of proceedings brought before it in accordance with the provisions of Basic Law; The Knesset and the Elections Law, and the distinctions between them as presented above. In this regard, it would not be superfluous to further note what we held in this regard in another context – that of the Ben Meir case – in which it was argued that there is constitutional significance to the distinction between the two proceedings. In rejecting that argument, we held: “There is, indeed, a difference in the scope of authority granted to the Court in the framework of an elections appeal as opposed to an approval of a decision […] however, at the end of the day, this Court has the authority [even in an appeals proceeding – E.H.] to review the decision on the merits, and to oversee its lawfulness and reasonableness, including all that relates to the factual foundation” (ibid., para. 34).

19.       Having presented the general normative framework for the proceedings before us, I will now turn to an examination of each of the four proceedings and decide upon them.

EA 1866/19 Freij v. Ben Ari

20.       Three requests for the disqualification of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir were submitted to the Central Elections Committee. Two of the requests – that submitted by the Israel Religious Action Center - Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and the Tag Meir Forum, and that submitted by MK Stav Shaffir – relied upon two causes for disqualification: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, and incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of the Basic Law. The third request – submitted by members of the Meretz faction – relied upon the single cause of incitement to racism. After considering those requests, the Elections Committee decided, as noted, to reject all three requests, and thus the appeal before us, which was filed jointly by all the parties requesting disqualification.

 

Arguments of the parties

21.       The Appellants argue that Ben Ari and Ben Gvir have consistently acted for years to realize the racist doctrine of Rabbi Meir Kahane and the Kach list, which was disqualified from running for election, and act in an extreme manner to humiliate Israeli Arabs, including by calling for their expulsion from the country. According to the Appellants, Ben Ari and Ben Gvir support a racist ideology that seeks to undermine the principles of equality and human dignity in regard to anyone who is not Jewish. It was argued that the judgments that addressed the Kach list clearly established that its ideology is racist and infringes the fundamental principles of the democratic regime. The Appellants are of the opinion that the primary characteristic of the conduct of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir is ongoing incitement to racism, and that this is also expressed in the platform of the Otzma Yehudit party, which opposes democratic values. It was argued that the declarations of the two were consistently and continuously translated into severe actions that were, in part, also carried out by other elements of the Otzma Yehudit party.

22.       Ben Ari and Ben Gvir relied upon the Election Committee’s decision and argued that the appeal should be denied. According to them, the evidence presented by the Appellants does not justify their disqualification. Their primary argument was that the platform and their public activity over the years apply to those who are “an enemy of Israel”, who are not loyal to the state, and does not apply generally to all “the Arabs” as such, and supports and encourages the emigration of anyone who is not loyal “and who is an enemy of the state”. According to them, the fact that this Court did not disqualify Marzel from participating in the elections shows that they, too, should not be disqualified.

23.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that Ben Ari should be barred from participating in the elections on the grounds of incitement to racism. He argues that the Appellants presented persuasive, clear, unequivocal, recent evidence, particularly since May 2018, in which Ben Ari is heard speaking in various films, some of which were uploaded to his Facebook page. According to the Attorney General, we are concerned with ongoing, consistent expressions over a significant period of time that are at the hard core of incitement to racism. It was argued that these statements show that Ben Ari refers to the Arab population in its entirety while calling for a violent denial of the rights of the Arab population of the State of Israel and for their systematic, targeted humiliation on the basis of their ethno-national identity.

            As for Ben Gvir, the Attorney General was of the opinion that despite the fact that the collection of evidence in his regard is very troubling, and that some of his statements come “dangerously close to the line that would bar a person from standing for election to the Knesset”, he should not be disqualified. According to the Attorney General, as opposed to the evidence presented against Ben Ari, the evidence in regard to Ben Gvir is insufficient to constitute the persuasive, clear, unequivocal evidentiary foundation required for disqualification. This, because most of the evidence is not from the recent past, and in view of Ben Gvir’s declarations and explanations in the current disqualification hearings.

24.       As stated in the judgment we issued without the reasoning on March 17, 2019, we decided by majority, against the dissenting view of Justice N. Sohlberg, to adopt the position of the Attorney General and grant the appeal in EA 1866/19 in all that regards Ben Ari, and to order his disqualification form standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset, while we unanimously decided to deny the appeal in the matter of Ben Gvir.

 

Disqualification of a Candidate on the grounds of Incitement to Racism

25.       Racism is a well-known societal disease from which the human race has suffered since time immemorial. Racism shows its ugly face in hatred and incitement to hatred of the other, simply by reason of inborn traits or communal, religious, ethnic, or national affiliation. It strips people of their humanity on the basis of those affiliations and violates the basic right to human dignity and equality granted to all who are created in God’s image (HCJ 2684/12 Movement to Strengthen Tolerance in Religious Education et. al. v. Attorney General [14], para. 26 of the opinion of Justice S. Joubran) (hereinafter: the Torat Hamelech case)). The democratic State of Israel was established as the state of the Jewish people, which has experienced unparalleled racial persecution and suffering throughout the ages. Racism stands in absolute contradiction to the fundamental values upon which the state was established, and we, as Jews, have a special obligation to fight it uncompromisingly. Justice Z. Berenson addressed this in 1973 in HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council [15], 771, stating:

When we were exiled from our land and removed far from our country, we became victims of the nations amongst whom we lived, and in every generation, we tasted the bitterness of persecution, malice and discrimination only for being Jews “whose laws are different from those of any other people” [Esther 3:8]. With this bitter, miserable experience that seeped deep into our national and human consciousness, it might be expected that we would not walk in the corrupt path of the nations, and that with the renaissance of our independence in the State of Israel, we would be cautious and be wary of any hint of discrimination and unequal treatment against any law-abiding non-Jewish person [..] Hatred of foreigners is a double curse: it corrupts the image of God of the hater and inflicts evil upon the blameless hated. We must show humanity and tolerance to everyone created in God’s image (HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council, IsrSC 27(2) 764, 771 (1973); and see and compare: the Tibi case, p. 89; the opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein in the Torat Hamelech case, para. 38 and in the second Zoabi case (dissenting in regard to the result), para. 116).

26.       The Israeli legislature took up this mission following the elections for the 11th Knesset, which took place in 1984, and in the course of which, as noted, the disqualification of the Kach party was requested due to incitement to racism (the first Neiman case). Thus, Amendment no. 9 to Basic Law: The Knesset added sec. 7A, which sets out the causes permitting the disqualification of a list from standing for election, among them that of incitement to racism. The Explanatory Notes the bill explain in this regard that this cause is premised upon the recognition of the severity and danger of the phenomenon of racism” (Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no, 9) Bill), and in the plenary session for the second and third readings of the bill, the chair of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Eliezer Kulas stated:

Democracy is the “credo” of the people and their way of life. One must be educated to democracy and democracy must be defended. In a democracy, there is no place for incitement to racism, no place for racism, no place for harming any person on the basis of race, religion, nationality, or sex. Racism and discrimination are contrary to the character of a democratic regime and the character of the Jewish people, which experienced what racism is on its own flesh (Transcript of the 118th session of the 11th Knesset, p. 3898 (July 31, 1985) (hereinafter: Transcript of Session 118 of the Knesset)).

            In regard to our special, historical duty as Jews to fight against racism, Prof. Gavison noted in her 1986 article (cited above):

The Israeli legislature added this cause for disqualification for various historical reasons. I view incitement to racism as a particular (severe) instance of value inconsistency. Incitement to racism is an extreme rejection of the obligation to the equal value of the person. On the basis of the lessons of history of the last century, in which Jews were innocent victims of such incitement, there is complete justification for designating incitement to racism as an express form of incompatibility with the fundamental values of the state (ibid., p. 161).

27.       In parallel to Amendment no. 9 of Basic Law: The Knesset, the Penal Law, 5737-1977 (hereinafter: the Penal Law) was also amended to add the offense of incitement to racism. “Racism” was defined in sec. 144A of the Law as “persecution, humiliation, degradation, a display of enmity, hostility or violence, or causing violence against a public or parts of the population, all because of their color, racial affiliation or national ethnic origin”. Then Minister of Justice Moshe Nissim addressed the relationship between these two amendments in stating: “We must view both of these bills as of a piece, […] for the fundamental, proper, considered, and balanced treatment […] of phenomena with which the State of Israel cannot be reconciled” (Transcript of Session 118 of the Knesset, p. 3361), while it was noted in the Explanatory Notes of the amendment to the Penal Law that “the Hebrew heritage deems the dignity and value of the person, created in God’s image, and making peace among people as exalted values. […] Jewish heritage views the demeaning of human dignity as a serious offense” (Explanatory Notes to the Penal Law (Amendment no. 24) Bill, 5745-1985, p. 195).

            In the second Neiman case, President M. Shamgar addressed, inter alia, the definition of the term “racism” in the Penal Law and held that for the purpose of interpreting sec. 7A of the Law, there is no need to achieve a definitive definition of the term “incitement to racism”. President Shamgar also rejected the argument of counsel for the Kach list according to which “racism” refers only to biological distinctions, holding: “Different forms of persecution based on nationality are widely accepted today as a form of racism” (the second Neiman case, p. 192; for a discussion of the relationship between the offense of incitement to racism under sec. 144B of the Penal Law and sec. 7A, see: the first Zoabi case, para. 32; and compare Gavison, pp. 170-171).  Denunciation of incitement to racism, and the struggle against it in the legal field also found expression in other legislative acts (see, for example, sec. 1(a1) of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951; sec. 5 of the Political Parties Law, 5752-1992; sec. 42A of Basic Law: The Knesset; and sec. 39A(3) of the Municipal Authorities (Elections) Law, 5725-1965).

28.       Combatting incitement to racism and provisions banning political activity of various groups on that basis can also be found abroad. Thus, for example, the President of France is authorized to order the disbanding of political parties for various reasons, among them incitement to racism or other group discrimination. The President’s decision can be appealed to the French Supreme Administrative Court (Conseil d’Etat) (Gal & Kreminitzer, 43-45; Gregory H. Fox & George Nolte, Intolerant Democracies, 36 Harv. Int. L. J. 1, 27-29 (1995); European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), Guidelines on Prohibition and Dissolution of Political Parties and Analogous Measures, 16 (1999) (hereinafter: the Venice Commission Report)). Spanish law allows for declaring a political party unlawful if it systematically infringes fundamental freedoms and rights by encouraging or justifying the assault, exclusion or persecution of people on the basis of ideology, belief, faith, nationality, race, sex or sexual orientation (Knesset Research and Information Center, International Parallels to sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset and their Possible Consequences for the Termination of the Tenure of Members of Parliament, pp. 8-9 (2006) (hereinafter: the RIC Report); Erik Bleich, The Freedom to be Racist?: How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve and Combat Racism, p. 103 (2011); Gur Bligh, Defending Democracy: A New Understanding of the Party-Banning Phenomenon, 46 VNTJL 1321, 1338 (2013); Venice Commission Report, p. 16). The Czech Republic’s Political Party Law of 1991 prohibits the registration of parties whose activities endanger the rights and freedoms of citizens, and in 2010, the Czech Workers’ Party was banned, inter alia, because of incitement to racism (Miroslav Mareš, Czech Militant Democracy in Action: Dissolution of the Workers’ Party and the Wider Context of this Act, 26(1) East European Politics & Societies 33, 43-44 (2010); Mapping “Militant Democracy”: Variation in Party Ban Practices in European Democracies (1945–2015), 13(2) Euconst. 221, 238-239 (2017) (hereinafter: Mapping Militant Democracy); RIC Report, p. 17; Venice Commission Report, p. 16). There are similar restrictions in Poland, Portugal, Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania (Venice Commission Report, pp. 16-17; RIC Report, pp. 10-12). The Penal Code of the Netherlands allows for the disbanding of organizations that endanger public safety, and by virtue of this law, it was held that the Centre Party ’86 encouraged discriminatory propaganda against foreigners and was a danger to the public. It was, therefore, disbanded in 1998 (Defending Democracy, p. 1339; Paul Lucardie, Right-Wing Extremism in the Netherlands: Why it is Still a Marginal Phenomenon, presented at Symposium, Right-Wing Extremism in Europe, 4-5 (2000); Mapping Militant Democracy, p. 238; for a comprehensive survey of the existing arrangements in various countries in regard to the disqualification of political parties and candidates in general, see, e.g., the Tibi case, pp. 14-15; the first Zoabi case, paras. 10-11; Talia Einhorn, Proscription of Parties that have a Racist Platform under Art. 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset (1993)).

29.       The ban upon organizations that incite to racism is also grounded in international human rights law, which includes provisions treating of the prohibition of organized racist propaganda activities. For example, sec. 4(b) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ratified by Israel in 1979) establishes, inter alia, that the signatory states “Shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination […]”. Based, in part, on that convention, in 2018, the European Parliament passed a resolution in regard to the growing violence by European political groups and parties with a neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, racist or xenophobic agenda, and called upon the EU member states to adopt a number of concrete measures for effectively combatting the activities of those groups (see: European Parliament Resolution of 25 October 2018 on the rise of neo-fascist violence in Europe (2018/2869(RSP)).

30.       In Israel, in 2016, the State Comptroller, Judge (emer.) Yosef Haim Shapira, published a report that examined the activities of the Ministry of Education to promote education for living in common and for preventing racism, and found that not enough had been done in this area over the last years, given the differences among sections of the Israeli population that lead to discord and strife. The report further noted that “in this complex reality, we have experienced serious phenomena of hatred, racism, violence, divisiveness, sectarianism, and intolerance over the last few years” and “racist and violent statements, discrimination, persecution and even shocking hate crimes have become not so infrequent occurrences […] while the social networks serve as a fertile ground for disseminating hatred of the other” (State Comptroller, Education to Common Life and for the Prevention of Racism – Special Comptroller’s Report, p. 8 (2016)).

31.       Indeed, the fundamental values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state instruct us to act decisively and uncompromisingly to eradicate racism in our midst. This message also sheds light on the danger that must be determined in this regard for the purpose of the probability test, if it be found that it should be applied to the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. In my view, the inherent danger of racist discourse derives from the fact that such discourse feeds and sets the stage for actions intended to realize the racist ideology, which in turn motivate and reinforce continued racist discourse. As Justice D. Beinisch stated in the Tibi case: “‘Racism’ in its ‘nuclear’ sense, comprises, by its very nature, a potential for danger whose probability is a real possibility” (ibid., p. 88). Indeed, racist discourse, particularly if it is systematic, significant, and prolonged, causes this societal disease to infiltrate, take root and spread. Therefore, it is necessary to send a clear, unambiguous message that inciteful racist discourse is illegitimate, particularly when expressed by a candidate for public office who shouts it from the rooftops. Such discourse must be left “outside the camp” in every civilized state, and all the more so in the Jewish state.

32.       The French-Jewish author and intellectual Albert Memmi, who was born in the Tunis ghetto in 1920, writes in the introduction to the Hebrew edition of his book Racism:

The Jewish people is always a minority, and therefore, like most of the world’s minorities, historically and socially exposed, and is therefore a very convenient target. (This is, incidentally, one of the justifications for Zionism: The need for Jews to cease to be a minority, at least in one place).

Perhaps today, things have already begun to change somewhat. The declarations of some statesmen and religious leaders […] have aroused the political conscience of the nations. All of these may cause us to believe that the hell that was the lot of the Jews in almost every place in the world will come to an end […] thanks to the existence of the State of Israel. However, we should not yet rejoice. Already at the end of the last World War, it was claimed that the horrors of the war made people allergic to racism; racist philosophies would completely perish. But our hope was too rash. Nowadays, there are people who once again dare to be racist, and yet again we see the writings on the wall that call for the expulsion of the Jews, whose citizenship again is put in question, and the stage is once more set for their humiliation. We must tirelessly return to the struggle and not stop, perhaps forever (Albert Memmi, Racism, 8 (1988) (hereinafter: Memmi).

            If, as Memmi states, we Jews are obligated to spearhead the ongoing, uncompromising struggle against racism – of which antisemitism is one of the oldest and most severe examples – we must be worthy of leading that fight, and we must expunge the dangerous disease of racism from our midst in the sovereign State of Israel.  This is a long fight that requires perseverance, and as Memmi warns: “We are all fertile ground for absorbing and germinating the seeds of racism if we let down our guard even for a moment” (ibid., p. 41).

            And now from the general to the specific.

 

The background for addressing the matters of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir

33.       The main claim against Ben Ari and Ben Gvir is, as noted, that they view themselves as the successors of Rabbi Meir Khane and of the ideology of the Kach list that he headed. As may be recalled, that list was disqualified from standing for election to the Knesset (see the second Neiman case), and other lists that presented themselves as its successors have also been barred from running for the Knesset in the past (see: the Kach case; the Movshovich case). It should also be noted that already in 1984, prior to the constitutional grounding of the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Court noted in the first Neiman case that the Kach list “propounds racist and anti-democratic principles that contradict the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel”. It should also be noted that in 1994, the Israeli Government decided to declare the Kach movement, the Kahana Chai movement, and associates and derivatives of those movements, as terrorist organizations under the Prevention of Terror Ordinance, and proceedings instituted in that regard were dismissed (see: HCJ 547/98 Federman v. Government of Israel [16]; and see: AAA 8342/02 Ben Gvir v. Commissioner of Police [17]).

34.       The Tibi case examined, inter alia, the question of barring Marzel from standing for election on the Herut list after the Committee decided to reject a request for his disqualification. It was argued that he supported the ideology of the Kach movement, and the Court was willing to assume that the evidentiary foundation presented did, indeed, ground Marzel’s involvement in the activities of that movement prior to the elections. However, in dismissing the appeal, the Court majority saw fit to grant significant weight to the fact that Marzel had declared that he had changed his views, and in the words of the judgment: “Mr. Marzel himself declares that he has recanted his prior views, and that he now seeks to act only in accordance with the law. He accepts the principals of democracy. He disavows the path expressed in the broad statements of Kach. He does not support violent actions” (the Tibi case, p. 60). Against that background, the Court dismissed the appeal in the Tibi case in regard to the disqualification of Marzel, although it had reservations as to the sincerity of his declarations.

35.       Ben Ari served in the 18th Knesset as a member of the Ihud Leumi faction, and Ben Ari and Ben Gvir ran on the Otzma LeYisrael list in the elections for the 19th Knesset in 2013. A request to bar the list from the elections was denied by the Central Elections Committee, but the list did not meet the electoral threshold. In the list’s election campaign for the 19th Knesset, posters were used that displayed the word “loyalty” in Arabic, and beneath it the phrase: “There are no rights without obligations”. The campaign was barred by the chair of the Elections Committee Justice E. Rubinstein, who ruled that it bore a racist message that was intended to portray the Arab community as disloyal to Israel. Prior to the elections for the 20th Knesset in 2015, the list changed its name from to Otzma Yehudit, and ran as part of the Yahad list, led by MK Eli Yishai. Leading up to the elections, the question of Marzel’s participation in that list arose again, after the Elections Committee decided to disqualify him. In a majority decision, the Court ruled that the disqualification decision should not be approved. It was noted that while Marzel came very close to the point of disqualification from participation in the elections, nevertheless, the claims by those who requested his disqualification were largely based upon newspaper reports and information obtained from the internet of low probative value, which were met by Marzel’s denial. The Court noted that Marzel “explained a significant part of the evidence submitted in his regard, and special weight should be given to his declarations in this matter […] These explanations cast doubt upon incitement to racism being a primary objective of Marzel’s activity” (emphasis original; ibid., para. 34). Marzel, Ben Ari and Ben Gvir did not serve in the 20th Knesset, as the Yahad list did not pass the electoral threshold.

36.       Did the Appellants succeed in presenting evidence in the matter of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir that establishes a cause for disqualification against either of them from running as candidates for the 20th Knesset by reason of incitement to racism? Given our approach that particular care should be taken, and that ordering that a list or candidate be barred from participating in the elections should be reserved only for extreme cases, we found that the evidence presented in the matter of Ben Gvir is insufficient for establishing a cause for disqualification, as noted, even under sec. 7A(a)(1) as argued by the Appellants. As opposed to this, the majority of the Court was of the opinion that the evidence presented justifies the disqualification of Ben Ari on the grounds of incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

 

Ben Ari

37.       In his arguments, the Attorney General referred to a very long list of evidence, focusing upon evidence from the period since the beginning of 2017, and emphasizing statements and actions by Ben Ari over the course of the year preceding the elections. This evidence includes statements by Ben Ari, in his own voice, in various film clips, that, as the Attorney General argues, present an unambiguous, clear and persuasive picture of incitement to racism against the Arab population in its entirety. We are concerned with a very detailed evidentiary foundation that comprises some 40 items in regard to statements and actions by Ben Ari. After reviewing that evidence and examining Ben Ari’s affidavit and statements before the Elections Committee, as well as his response to the appeal, his oral arguments before us, and the supplementary pleadings that he submitted, we are of the opinion that the arguments presented on Ben Ari’s behalf do not provide an explanation that would remove his actions and statements from the scope of incitement to racism that raises a cause of disqualification under sec. 7A(A)(2) of the Basic Law.

38.       Below, we will address the main elements of the evidentiary foundation presented:

            In November 2017, Ben Ari spoke at the annual memorial ceremony for Rabbi Kahane, while wearing a sticker on his jacket lapel that read: “Rabbi Kahane was right”. In the course of his speech, Ben Ari was heard saying the following:

There are enemies, there is a Jew, there is a knife, so they slaughter. Because they are given an opportunity, they slaughter […] We’ll give them another hundred thousand dunams, and affirmative action, perhaps they will love us. In the end, yes, they love us, slaughtered […] Rabbi Kahane taught us – there is no coexistence with them. There is no coexistence with them! (emphasis added).

            Further on, Ben Ari was heard referring to Bedouin citizens, stating:

We of Otzma Yehudit came out with a plan called Immigration and Building, Emigration and Peace […] After immigration and building, we will fulfil what God said […] Cast out that slave-woman, because whoever wants money will get money, whoever wants a bus will get a bus […] We will say and initiate here what has to be done so that we will wake up in the morning to a Jewish state […] The Bedouins have to be dealt with, but in the countries of origin. Return the land of the Negev to the Jewish people (emphasis added).

            Another piece of evidence presented by the Appellants is a video that Ben Ari posted on the Facebook page “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari” (hereinafter: the Facebook page) on May 20, 2018. In the film, Ben Ari is seen giving a speech and saying the following:

The Arabs in Haifa are in no way different from the Arabs in Gaza […] In what are they different? In that here they are enemies from within […] here they carry out a war against us within the state […] it’s called a “fifth column” […] this dog should be called by its name, they are our enemies, they want to destroy us, there are, of course, loyal Arabs, but they can be counted as something like a percent or less than a percent, to our great despair, the overwhelming majority are full partners with their brothers in Gaza […] The Arab enemy has to be told that it’s one or the other, either you are loyal to the state or you should go to Syria […] There is no coexistence with them, they want to destroy us, that is their objective, that is their goal […] This is the fifth column here (emphasis added).

            According to Ben Ari, this was said following demonstrations in Haifa in support of the residents of Gaza “against the background of the balloon terror in the south of the country”. An examination of the Facebook page on April 17, 2019, shows that the video garnered 21,000 views, hundreds of “likes”, and additional hundreds of comments and shares.

39.       In July 2018, Ben Ari posted another video on his Facebook page, in which he is heard saying the following:

Do you know that the Bedouin marry Arab women from Gaza, from Hebron, who all come here. They get national insurance, they give birth in hospitals at our expense, their children later get every benefit at our expense […] they even serve in the army! These enemies the Bedouin serve in the army, let me repeat what I am saying – the enemy Bedouin serve in the army! They are seduced by money. I know from firsthand sources, from those who serve with them – they don’t trust them for a minute. There is an agenda that if they serve in the army, they will be loyal to us. No, they are not loyal to us! (emphasis added).

            This video received some 4,800 views and many comments.

            About a month later, Ben Ari posted another video on the Facebook page “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari”, in which he appears saying, among other things:

First, we have to change the equation that anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live! We don’t expel him, don’t take away his citizenship. He doesn’t live! A firing squad kills him, he is done away with, the way Arabs understand. That’s their language [] Tell me racism, racist? Whoever says that they are loyal underestimates them. “What? An Arab just wants to eat, just wants to make a living” – that’s not true, […] An Arab has nationalistic ambitions, he screams them, he shouts about them, he is ready to die for them (emphasis added).

            Ben Ari explained that this was said “against the background of the conduct in regard to Gaza and the solution that should be implemented against it”. This clip also received 9,300 views and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

            In another video from the same month, Ben Ari is heard saying, among other things:

Over the last hours, in Tel Aviv, in the center of Tel Aviv […] our staunchest enemy has been arriving, and that is the internal enemy, the internal enemy, the enemy that we want to ignore, the enemy we want to hide our heads in the sand and not see, the enemy of Israeli Arabs (emphasis added).

            Ben Ari explained that this was said against the background of a demonstration by Arabs and Jews against what is called the “Nation-State Law” (Basic Law: Israel – the Nation State of the Jewish People) (hereinafter: The Nation-State Law)) in which PLO flags were waved and in which there were calls for the liberation of Palestine. He further explained that he was referring to Arabs who are not loyal to the State of Israel and who want to eradicate its Jewish character.

40.       After about a month, on Sept. 16, 2018, immediately following the stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion junction in which the late Ari Fuld was murdered, Ben Ari uploaded another video clip to his Facebook page, in which he states, among other things, the following:

[…] They murder because they have work. They murder because they want to inherit this land […] If there are infiltrators, it is the Arab enemy […] You need Shlomo Neeman [head of the Gush Etzion regional council] to ask all the business owners to fire today the terrorist of tomorrow. It is your responsibility, stop employing the murderers! Don’t employ these murderers! They get money from us and also come to murder us […] They murder us whenever they have the chance. The conclusion is that there is no coexistence. Look at the Arabs! Do they coexist amongst themselves? Every day in the news, murder in Rahat, murder in Reineh, murder in Umm al Fahm, attempted murder in Lod, murder in Jaffa. First of all, when speaking of coexistence, Rabbi Kahane would always say, let’s see the Arabs coexist amongst themselves (emphasis added).

            The clip received some 7,300 views, and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

            At the end of November 2018, Ben Ari referred to the Arabs of the city of Lod in another video, this time on his Twitter account, accompanied by the caption: “The Arab conqueror of Lod continues to rage even today: The State of Israel is being conquered from within, Israel needs Otzma Yehudit!” In another video clip published on his Facebook page shortly after, Ben Ari referred to the members of the Lod municipal council as the “Arab enemy”. At the end of December 2018, Ben Ari published a clip on his Facebook page titled “Now in Afula Illit, a meeting with Otzma Yehudit loyalists”. In the clip, Ben Ari is seen conversing with a group of residents and stating as follows:

They wanted to bring you a clan of enemies into your neighborhood […] The State of Israel is being conquered from within, they are determined to conquer us from within […] By means of the word equality, the enemy will destroy us […] What is happening here is happening in Dimona, is happening in Lod. Lod is already a completely conquered city. But Afula? This criminal who opened the center for the enemy in the name of equal rights […] If, with the help of God, we enter the coalition, the first thing that we will do is the complete revocation of this thing called affirmative action. Do you understand that you are second class citizens because you are not Arabs? […] Most of them are willing to give up everything as long as they slaughter us. And what I am saying is not racism because, to my regret, it is the reality (emphasis added).

            Further on in the clip, Ben Ari is heard referring to the murder of the late Sheli Dadon, which occurred in 2014, saying as follows:

Did anyone ever hold a discussion of their character? On their treasonous character? […] The moment you give here, you give him affirmative action, you give him more work, he will raise a family here. His children will also be here, his children, fewer of my children will be here, and so […] I need a work plan. I need a work plan now a work a plan. […] This is not racism, it is fact, Arabs are the most migrant people in the world, they aren’t tied to any land […] That’s why they came here. Because there is work. […] One of the first things, our first condition for any discussions about a coalition, with the help of God, that they will discuss with us, is – revoking affirmative action (emphasis added).

41.       Some two months prior to the elections for the 21st Knesset, on Feb. 8, 2019, shortly after the murder of the late Ori Ansbacher by a Palestinian terrorist, Ben Ari uploaded another video clip to his Facebook page in which he stated, among other things, the following:

There is a murderous people here, a murderous nation. We owe the revenge, and the revenge is Otzma Yehudit […] Only the revenge of Otzma Yehudit in the Knesset […] They want to destroy us, they are looking for our neck. […] They want to slaughter us […] The revenge will come when Otzma Yehudit will be in the Knesset with twenty mandates. When we will be there, they will see that we are not playing with them like Lieberman. They will find themselves in their countries of origin, and the village they came from will become an airport. To fly them to their countries of origin (emphasis added).

            An examination of the Facebook page shows that the clip received some 20,000 views. In another video clip that Ben Ari posted the same day, he is heard saying, among other things,: “They are looking for our neck, looking for our daughters […] anyone who talks to you about coexistence is inviting the next murder […] we have to send our enemies back to where they came from […] our enemies, these murderers, we will send them to murder in Syria, in Lebanon, in Iran in Turkey” (emphasis added). This clip, which was, as noted, published close to the elections, received some 32,000 views, and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

42.       The evidence presented, the main part of which we described above, indeed paints a clear, unambiguous, persuasive picture in which Ben Ari systematically inflames feelings of hatred toward the Arab public in its entirety, while continually demeaning that public. We are concerned with significant evidence that comprises disparaging expressions of extreme severity that continued over a period of some two years until very close to the elections for the 21st Knesset, and Ben Ari is heard saying these things in his own voice. This fact is of high probative value (the second Zoabi case). Ben Ari attributes negative characteristics to practically all of the Israeli Arab public, and calls them “murderers”, a “fifth column”, “enemies”, and of “treasonous character”. We are not concerned with a “slip of the tongue” in a moment of anger, but rather with a continuous, consistent series of statements that express hatred and scorn for the Arab population in its entirety as one that appears to understand only violence, with which one cannot coexist, and which must, therefore, be expelled, and as one that receives various social benefits “at our expense”. As noted in the Appellants’ response to Ben Ari’s supplementary pleadings, these publications were not removed. Ben Ari surpassed himself in comparing the Israeli Arab citizens of Haifa to dogs, stating that “the dog should be called by its name”. The use of dehumanization and attributing animalistic traits to people is known to be one of the most degrading propaganda mechanisms employed by racist regimes in order to mark a population as “inferior” and “sub-human”, and it endangers and seriously harms the dignity of the individuals who are members of that group as human beings.

            Ben Ari’s statements, and the not insignificant exposure they receive on social media, reflect the racist political program he espouses and which he intends to realize as a member of the Knesset. Certain statements that expressly call for violence are of particular severity (see, in this regard, his statements in the video clip published in August 2018, according to which “anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live […] A firing squad kills him, he is done away with, the way Arabs understand. That’s their language”). It is important to note that publications on the social media platforms that Ben Ari chose to use by uploading recordings in which he is heard speaking in his own voice have great influential potential, as the social networks provide candidates for the Knesset quick channels of communication  to many communities without any journalistic mediation. In this manner, the social networks have, to a significant extent, replaced the historic “town square”, and serve as a platform for exchanging views, disseminating ideas, and garnering support among broad, diverse communities. The great accessibility of social networks, as well as the quick and effective dissemination of opinions and ideas by means of the digital platforms, can serve as a very effective means for spreading racist ideas and expedite the dissemination of those ideas (see, in this regard, in general: Yotam Rosner, The Role of Social Media in the Radicalization of Young People in the West, National Security in a “Liquid” World, 131, 135-137 (Institute for National Security Studies, 2019) (Hebrew)).

43.       In addition to the specific explanations that Ben Ari gave for the above publications, he further explained that he is not a racist, and that what he said was directed only at that defined segment of the population that is “enemy”, which includes anyone who is not loyal to the state, and in his own words: “The definition of the enemy is not made on a purely ethno-national basis, but on a political one. Anyone who identifies with the political objectives of the Arab national movement identifies himself as an enemy”. According to him, he does not refer to the Arab public as a whole, and any Arab who is “loyal to Israel” has a right to be a citizen. As opposed to that, whoever “is not loyal to the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people […] should find his place outside of the state”. Ben Ari further clarified that the distinguishing characteristic, according to his approach, is “the relationship to the Zionist enterprise and to the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”. He further argued that the quotes attributed to him were fragmented and tendentious and explained that in saying that the Arab population of Israel is not loyal, he meant that he has not met “many loyal Arabs” (emphasis added). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari’s attorney noted: “In my estimation, there is an absolute majority that is not loyal” (Transcript of the hearing, p. 22, line 14), and in this regard, Ben Ari clarified in his supplementary pleadings that his statement that there is an absolute identity between ethno-national origin and loyalty was made in opposition to a statement that he attributed to former minister Naftali Bennet according to which 99% of Israeli Arabs are loyal to the state.

            Ben Ari apologized for his statements in regard to Bedouin soldiers. He pointed out that he “apologizes for them before those loyal soldiers who may have been hurt” and explained that his intention was “unequivocally only to those sons of women who came from the areas of the Palestinian Authority and Gaza”, and that he does not think that “all of the Bedouin population is disloyal” (paras. 32-33 of his affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari even emphasized that “if it sounds as if I am against the Bedouin, God forbid. If there is loyalty, there is loyalty, and I respect and honor that (hearing transcript, p. 29, lines 16-17). Ben Ari asked to clarify that his statement of Sept. 16, 2018, following the murder of Ori Fuld, in which he called to “stop employing the murderers” as referring only to terrorists, the words do not, of course, refer to all Arabs […] [only] to the security measures that should be adopted in regard to employing Arabs from the Palestinian Authority”. In his response to the appeal, Ben Ari explained that his statements in the Afula meeting were made “against the background of the murder of a resident of my community Dadon”, and in his supplemental pleadings, Ben Ari added that even if what was said in that meeting “grate upon the ear, they do not rise to the level of a ‘critical mass’”. In his affidavit, Ben Ari emphasized that “I am not saying that all Arabs are like that [of a murderous, treasonous character], or that this character derives from ethno-national origins. But this murderous violence is characteristic of the national struggle of the Arab national movement since the beginning of the 20th century” (para. 47 of his affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari added another reason for his statements, noting that his words in regard to the sale of apartments to Arabs in Afula should not be understood as racial discrimination, and he referred in this regard to Amendment no. 8 of 2011 to the Cooperative Societies Ordinance in the matter of the considerations that may be taken into account by an admissions committee of a residential community (hereinafter: the Admissions Committee Law). Ben Ari explained what he said after the murder of Ori Ansbacher in a supplementary notice in which he explained that he “referred to the murder, and that was its only context”. In his affidavit, he added that his words might sound inclusive in regard to people on the basis of ethno-national origin, but that his intention was “to those who, from an Arab national position, seek to murder Jews against a nationalistic background, and as part of what they see as a national struggle, and who support and identify with those acts (para. 50 of the affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari’s attorney added that “there is never any justification for harming individuals on the basis of the nationality” (Transcript, p. 15, line 6), and that Ben Ari’s statements about the Arab public were always made in the context of a specific event” (ibid., line 12).

            Lastly, Ben Ari sought to emphasize that presenting broad positions is not exclusive to him but is rather a common practice of candidates for the Knesset, and even of serving members of the Knesset.

44.       I examined Ben Ari’s arguments and explanations and I do not see them as sufficient to change my conclusion. While Ben Ari repeatedly states that he is not a racist, unfortunately, his actions and statements, which I have summarized above, are diametrically opposed to that declaration. The question I pondered was what positive weight should be afforded to the fact that Ben Ari already served as a member of the Knesset (in 2009 - 2013). This fact does, indeed, constitute a consideration in his favor, but it is of limited weight inasmuch as Ben Ari worked toward the advancement of his racist ideology even in that period, and tearing the New Testament to shreds and throwing it in the waste basket in the Knesset was just one example of that (for other actions and expressions, see paras. 79-91 of the notice of appeal). In any case, as the Attorney General emphasized in presenting his position, the evidentiary foundation from the recent past, and primarily from the year preceding the elections, shows that a “critical mass” of evidence has amassed that unambiguously, clearly, and persuasively testifies to systematic incitement to racism by Ben Ari. The summary of the case law presented above shows that the Court has attributed significance and weight to explanations and clarifications presented by the candidate, to which the decisions in the matter of Marzel testify (the opinion of President A. Barak in the Tibi case, p. 60, and that of Justice I. Englard at p. 66; the second Zoabi case, para. 34, and as opposed to that, see the dissenting opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein at para. 103). However, in the instant case, the explanations provided by Ben Ari are not persuasive and pale before the enormity of the racist statements that he repeated again and again in his own voice, and which he preached in public at rallies in which he participated and on social networks. Other than an apology, that was only partial, in the matter of Bedouin soldiers, Ben Ari did not apologize for his statements and did not retract them. He tried to give his words a post facto interpretation, but that, as stated, was not persuasive because it is not consistent with the meaning and natural context of what was said. Thus, for example, Ben Ari tried to explain that he does not speak about the Israeli Arab public in general but only of those who are “enemies”, but the recordings repeatedly show that the reference is to the entire Arab public, or at the very least, to its overwhelming majority – 99% of that public – as disloyal to the state. Ben Ari himself notes in one of those recordings that he has not met Arabs who are loyal to the state (see, for example, the video clip of Ben Ari from Nov. 7, 2017, from 6:30). Another explanation proposed by Ben Ari in regard to some of his statements was that they were made immediately after terrorist incidents and attacks against Israelis. The pain, the anger, and even the will for revenge aroused at such times is understandable. However, it is important to bear in mind that fear and a sense of threat have always been the fuel that fires racist ideologies, and one must, therefore, take care not to harness understandably harsh feelings that arise at times of distress and pain and exploit them to advance such ideologies. The explanations that Ben Ari presented in an attempt to equate the Admissions Committee Law – with all the clear limitations it establishes – and the things he said in regard to the sale of apartments to Arabs in Afula have no place here inasmuch as the two cannot be compared (and compare: LCA 6709/98 Attorney General v. Moledet [18]) (hereinafter: the Moledet case)).

45.       In summation, this chapter states that the Court’s approach that the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset are to be narrowly construed and exercised in the most extreme cases, was and remains the starting point for every discussion of these causes. However, we are persuaded that the broad, up-to-date evidentiary foundation presented in the instant case gives rise to a cause that disqualifies Ben Ari from standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset due to incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of the Basic Law. Given this conclusion, there is no need to examine the additional cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law.

            Indeed, it is not always easy to draw the line separating racial incitement from the expression of an opinion – as severe and harsh as it may be – that is entitled to protection under the fundamental right to freedom of expression in general, and to freedom of political speech in particular. This is particularly the case when the former also concerns the right to vote and to be elected. Nevertheless, in the instant case, and given the evidentiary foundation we presented, it is absolutely clear that Ben Ari’s statements crossed the line, and thus the conclusion reached. It would be appropriate to conclude this chapter with another quote from Memmi’s book Racism:

One cannot be indulgent toward racism; one must not even let the monster in the house, especially not in a mask […] To accept the racist universe to the slightest degree is to endorse fear, injustice, and violence. It is to accept the persistence of the dark history in which we still largely live. It is to agree that the outsider will always be a possible victim (and which man is not himself an outsider relative to someone else?) […] The anti-racist struggle, difficult though it is, and always in question, is nevertheless one of the prologues to the ultimate passage from animality to humanity (ibid., p. 116).

 

Ben Gvir

46.       In the matter of Ben Gvir, the Appellants presented a line of evidence, including evidence concerning criminal proceedings against him that, in part, concerned racist publications and support for the Kach movement that was declared a terrorist organization. However, the overwhelming majority of the evidence presented concerned acts and statements form many years ago, part from as long ago as the 1990s, and only a small part concerned the last few years. After examining the arguments raised by the Appellants and those of Ben Gvir, we concluded, as noted, that the evidence presented is not sufficient to ground a cause for disqualification from standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset, given the rule that we addressed above in regard to the strict evidentiary threshold required to substantiate disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law.

47.       The up-to-date evidence to which the Appellants and the Attorney General referred in regard to Ben Gvir should not be taken lightly. It includes statements he made in November 2017 at a memorial service for Rabbi Kahane, whose praises he also enumerated in an interview on Feb. 21, 2019. Ben Gvir made similar statements in a television interview in Nov. 2018 that he published on his Facebook page at that time. Those statements there were certainly very harsh and troubling, and there is substance to the Attorney General’s opinion that they come dangerously close to the line that would bar him from running in the Knesset elections. In this regard, it would not be superfluous to return to the words of Justice M. Elon in the second Neiman case, in 1989, in regard to the Kach list and Rabbi Kahane’s ideology:

The content of the Kach platform and the purpose of its promoters and leaders, as reflected in the material presented to us, stand in blatant contrast to the world of Judaism – its ways and perspectives, to the past of the Jewish nation and its future aspirations. They contradict absolutely the fundamental principles of human and national morality, the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, and the very foundations of present-day enlightened democracies. They come to transplant in the Jewish State notions and deeds of the most decadent of nations. This phenomenon should cause grave concern among the people who dwell in Zion. This court is charged with the preservation of the law and its interpretation, and the duty of inculcating the values of Judaism and civilization, of the dignity of man and the equality of all who are created in the divine image, rests primarily upon those whom the legislature and the executive branch have chosen for the task. When, however, such a seriously dangerous phenomenon is brought to our attention, we may not refrain from sounding the alarm against the ruinous effects of its possible spread upon the character, image, and future of the Jewish State. The remedy lies, in the first place, in a reassessment of the ways of educators and pupils alike, in all walks of our society (ibid., p. 302).

            These trenchant remarks are applicable here, as well. However, Ben Gvir, who was admitted to the bar in 2012, took pains to emphasize and explain that while he is in favor of “fighting against the enemies and against any who seek to erase the state, harm its Jewish character, and destroy it (whether such actor is Jewish or whether Arab)”, he “opposes acting in any violent or unlawful manner” (para. 43 of Ben Gvir’s affidavit). He further noted that over the last years, he has changed his ways and he acts by legal means and initiates legal proceedings where he deems appropriate. These explanations bear weight and should be granted significance, and this, together with the current evidentiary foundation presented in his matter, which, as noted, does not rise to the level of a “critical mass” under the strict criteria established in this regard in the case law, led us to the conclusion that the appeal in the matter of Ben Gvir, on both heads, should be dismissed.

 

EA 1876/19 Ra’am-Balad List v. Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

48.       The Ra’am-Balad list is composed of two parties – Ra’am and Balad – and two requests for its disqualification were filed by the Likud and MK David Biton, and by Ben Ari and Ben Gvir. The disqualification requests were based upon the cause in sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law – negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law – support for an armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. The requesting parties focused primarily on the activities of members of Balad, and it was argued that they oppose the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in the State of Israel and act to negate the core characteristics of Israel as a Jewish state. It was further argued that members of the list support the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations and violent acts against the police and IDF soldiers. The Elections Committee decided by a majority of 17 for and 10 against to disqualify the Ra’am-Balad list from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset, and thus the current appeal.

 

Arguments of the Parties

49.       Ra’am-Balad argued that the Elections Committee’s decision should be annulled, and emphasized that most of the evidence presented in its regard was already adjudged and examined in prior proceedings against the Balad list or its members, including the evidence concerning their support for the idea of “a state of all its citizens”, and the Court held that the evidence did not substantiate a cause for disqualification. It was further argued that the Committee’s decision leads to a problematic result that also disqualifies the members of the Ra’am party on the list from standing for election even though no significant evidence was produced against them that would justify their disqualification. According to Ra’am-Balad, the Committee reached its decision without any material debate, and it ignored the decisions of this Court and the opinion of the Attorney General; the evidence against it does not relate to actions or activity that substantiate a cause for disqualification; and the evidentiary foundation rests upon articles form the internet of low probative weight and whose content was denied by the members of the list. Ra’am-Balad further argued that due to its political composition, the Elections Committee is not authorized to rule upon the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, and that the legal arrangement that grants it that authority is disproportionate and infringes the principle of equality of the elections as established in sec. 4 of the Basic Law, and the right to vote and to be elected.

50.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that the appeal of Ra’am-Balad should be granted and noted that the disqualification requests were indeed largely founded upon evidence from prior to the elections for the 20th Knesset, and part of it had already been examined in prior proceedings before this Court. Whereas, it is argued, the new evidence submitted relies largely upon articles form the internet that were denied by the members of the list and that are of low probative value. It was further emphasized that most of the evidence pertains to persons who are no longer on the list, among them: Basel Ghattas (hereinafter: Ghattas) and Said Naffaa, or who are in a unrealistic slot on the list, like Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka (hereinafter: Zahalka), and are not relevant to the members of the list and its new candidates who are in realistic slots. In all that relates to the cause of support for armed struggle of a terrorist organization, the Attorney General was of the opinion that significant weight should be accorded to the affidavits submitted by the representatives of the list which note that they reject violence and that they never called for its use. As for the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, the Attorney General noted that the consistent position of the case law of this Court in regard to Balad and its members is that there is no cause for disqualifying them from participating in the election for the claims have been raised once again in this proceeding. However, the Attorney General, without deciding the issue, explained that were the Balad party running independently for the 21st Knesset, there would be reason to carefully consider its disqualification in view of the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill submitted to the 20th Knesset by members of Knesset from the Balad party, and due to the content of that bill. But the Attorney General added that since the requests refer to the disqualification of the Ra’am-Balad list, and because the law does not allow for disqualifying half of a list, there is some difficulty in disqualifying the entire list due to the actions of members of the Balad list, who for the most part are not, as noted, candidates in realistic slots on the list, while no significant arguments were raised in regard to the Ra’am party and its members. On the constitutional level, in regard to the matter of the Elections Committee’s authority to address the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Attorney General argued, inter alia, that given the time constraints established in the Elections Law for deciding upon an appeal, the issues should not be taken up in the framework of the current proceedings.

51.       Respondents 2-3, who submitted the requests for disqualification, relied upon the decision of the Elections Committee and argued for dismissal of the appeal. In their view, the fact that the Ra’am-Balad list includes new candidates does not alter the fact that the ideology of the members of the Balad list negates the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and the fact that members of the party support terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. The Knesset, which was joined as a Respondent to the appeal due to the constitutional arguments, was of the opinion that these arguments should be dismissed. It emphasized that the claim of lack of authority was not raised before the Elections Committee, that it is being raised long after the said authority was bestowed upon the Committee by law, and like the Attorney General, the Knesset added that the elections proceedings are not appropriate for examining this issue.

 

Negation of the Existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State

52.       The starting point for examining the evidentiary foundations presented by the Plaintiffs in regard to the disqualification of Ra’am-Balad on the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state is grounded in the criteria established in the case law, which we surveyed at length above. These criteria were addressed and even applied in the past in regard to the Balad list and its platform (see the Tibi case and the Balad case), and those cases addressed, inter alia, the question whether a party that calls for the realization of the principle of “a state of all its citizens” is disqualified from standing for election to the Knesset. In the Tibi case, the Court answered in the negative, and held that calling for the realization of that principle does not necessarily imply the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The Court held that as long as that call is intended to guarantee equality among citizens, it should not be interpreted to be a call that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. As opposed to that, “if the purpose of Israel being a ‘state of all its citizens’ is intended to mean more than that, and it seeks to undermine the rationale for the creation of the state and its character as the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, then that undercuts the nuclear, minimal characteristics that characterize the State of Israel as a Jewish State” (the Tibi case, pp. 22-23, 41).

53.       In the Tibi case, the Court concluded that, despite the fact that Balad’s platform expressly called for realizing the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, and despite the additional evidence presented in open court and in camera, taken in its entirety, what was presented did not ground a “critical mass” of persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence that would justify the disqualification of Balad for the cause argued, nor the disqualification of Bishara – then head of the list – whose disqualification was requested in that same proceeding. It would not be superfluous to note that most of the evidence presented in that matter in regard to Balad concerned actions and statements by Bishara. It was argued in regard to Bishara that, inter alia, in various events and party conferences he expressed himself in a manner that reflected a view according to which Jews do not have a right to self-determination. It was further argued that Bishara supported the approach that recognized the right of return of Arabs to Israel and a struggle against Zionism, and that he even tabled a bill for the abolition of the status of various Zionist institutions.

54.       After examining all of that evidence, the Court concluded in the Tibi case that even though Bishara’s objectives are a dominant objective of his activity and not merely a theoretical concept but rather an objective with political potential that he had put into practice, his actions did not negate the minimal, nuclear definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It was held that the Court was not presented with persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence against Bishara in regard to the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, and consequently, not against the Balad list. That was so inasmuch as Bishara recognized the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel and did not argue that the Law of Return, 5710-1950 (hereinafter: The Law of Return) should be revoked, did not deny the centrality of Hebrew as the language of the state, along with Arabic as an official language, and did not oppose Israel’s holidays and symbols, as long as the cultural and religious rights of the Arab minority are recognized.

55.       As noted, the Tibi case concerned the elections for the 16th Knesset, and some eight years later, in the Balad case, the Court addressed disqualification proceedings filed against the Balad party in anticipation of the elections for the 18th Knesset. That matter concerned the decisions of the Elections Committee to disqualify the Balad list, as well as the Ra’am-Ta’al list that also sought to contend in those elections. The causes for which the Elections Committee decided to disqualify the Balad list were, as in the present case, the causes under secs. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law. At that point, Bishara no longer headed the list. He had fled the country, and it was claimed that the reason was that a criminal investigation was being conducted against him for suspected involvement in security offenses (the Balad case, para. 9). Inter alia, the evidence presented in that matter to ground the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state included Balad’s platform, which was published on its internet site, and an article by Zahalka, who was then the party leader, which described the party’s vision as striving for a State of Israel as “a state of all its citizens”. In addition, public statements of party members made in various situations, as well as articles from which, it was argued, one could discern an expression of support of the Balad members for its founder Bishara even after his flight from Israel, were presented. The Court granted Balad’s appeal and held that there was no cause for disqualification from contending in the elections for the 18th Knesset. The Court’s decision rested, inter alia, upon the opinion of the Attorney General at the time, who noted that the evidence presented against Balad, taken in its entirety, was inferior to the entirety of the evidence presented against that party in the Tibi case. The Court held:

After examining all of the evidence presented to us, and bearing in mind the criteria and principles outlined in the matter of Balad [the Tibi case], the entirety of the evidence presented to this Court in that matter and its concrete findings there in regard to them, we did not find that the disqualification requests that are the subject of this appeal in regard to Balad rest upon a sufficient evidentiary foundation to give rise to a cause for disqualifying the list from contending in the elections for the Israeli Knesset (ibid., para. 22).

            This conclusion reached by the Court in the Balad case concerns the two causes for disqualification advanced there. We will further address the additional cause under sec. 7A(a)(3) below.

56.       Another disqualification proceeding concerning the members of the Balad party was addressed in 2012 in the first Zoabi case, which examined the issue of the disqualification of Zoabi from standing for election for the 19th Knesset on the Balad list. In that proceeding, the Court examined the evidence regarding Zoabi’s support for the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, and was of the opinion that the evidence presented no materially new or different grounds from what had been presented in the Tibi case and the Balad case that would justify a different conclusion. The Court arrived at a similar result some three years later in the second Zoabi case. In that matter, the Court examined, inter alia, whether statements in which Zoabi was heard saying “there was no justification for the establishing of the State of Israel from the start. Now that there are generations of Jews who were born in it, I want to live with them but not in a Jewish and racist state”. The Court also examined an article that reported on a demonstration in which Zoabi participate, entitled “Demonstration against the Crimes of the Occupation”, and a recording in which Zoabi is heard shouting insults at the police. The Court held that there were no grounds for disqualifying Zoabi’s candidacy in the elections. That was so because the desire for the establishment of a state of all its citizens and “striving for an end to the occupation does not necessarily mean a negation of the Jewish foundations of the State of Israel.”

57.       The current proceeding, in which the Ra’am-Balad list is appealing its disqualification by the Elections Committee from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset, is another link in the chain of similar proceedings on the same matter. In all that concerns the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, the evidence presented by the petitioners for disqualification includes various statement by members of Balad form the past and present, among them a quote from an interview conducted by Dr. Mtanes Shehadeh, chair of the Balad list, and number two on the Ra’am-Balad list (hereinafter: Shehadeh), in which he says, among other things, that Bishara was “an important activist in Balad’s leadership at the time, and contributed greatly to political discourse […] in Israel”, and is later quoted in that interview as saying that “the flag and national anthem do not represent us”. A report from the YNET website was also presented according to which MK Talab Abu Arar, who is a member of the list, and others met with the president of Turkey. Additional evidence presented concerns an interview with the former general secretary of Balad in which he called upon Israeli Arabs not to vote in the Knesset elections and to act for the realization of the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, as well as evidence concerning past activities of members of Balad, including statements by Zoabi from 2009 and past activities of Bishara.

            This evidence is not materially different from the evidence presented in the previous proceedings that we surveyed, which concerned proceedings for the disqualification of Balad and members of its list, as far as the cause of negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state is concerned. Moreover, not only has most of the evidence presented in this proceeding been examined in previous proceedings and found insufficient in accordance with the criteria outlined for the said cause, but as noted, a not insignificant part of that evidence concerns persons who are no longer candidates on the Ra’am-Balad list for the elections for the 21st Knesset, or are not candidates in realistic slots on that list. That being the case, we cannot accept the argument that the Ra’am-Balad list should be disqualified from running in the elections for the 21st Knesset due to actions and statements attributed to Zoabi when she herself was not disqualified at the time in the first Zoabi case and the second Zoabi case for the same actions and statements, especially when she is located in the 118th slot on the current list. The argument in regard to ongoing connections of some kind or another between members of the list and Bishara was argued in a general manner and does not suffice for changing the conclusion as to the insufficiency of the evidence presented. As for the majority of the candidates on the Ra’am-Balad list for the 21st Knesset who hold realistic slots, with the exception of Shehadeh, no evidence at all was presented to ground the cause for disqualification, and as explained above, the evidence presented in regard to Shehadeh is based upon quotes from media interviews and reports on various internet websites whose probatory weight has already been held to be low (the second Zoabi case, para. 34), and Shehadeh has declared that his words were presented in a “distorted, misleading manner, and was accompanied by incorrect analysis” (para. 9 of the affidavit submitted by Shehadeh to the Elections Committee).

58.       The primary up-to-date evidence presented to us in this proceeding in regard to the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill, which members of Knesset from the Balad party sought to lay on the table in the 20th Knesset. At the end of the day, that bill was not presented due to a decision by the Knesset presidium of June 4, 2018 not to approve its introduction, based upon the opinion of the Knesset’s legal advisor. A petition filed in this regard was rendered moot and dismissed in limine when it was decided to dissolve the 20th Knesset (HCJ 4552/18 Zahalka v. Speaker of the Knesset [19]). The purpose clause of the bill established that it was intended to ground “the principle of the equal citizenship of every citizen, while recognizing the existence and the rights of the two national groups, Jewish and Arab, living within the borders of the state that are recognized by international law” in a Basic Law. The bill also redrafted the conditions for obtaining Israeli citizenship, such that obtaining citizenship by virtue of the principle of return would be annulled (see sec. 5 of the opinion of the Legal Advisor of the Knesset of June 3, 2018). In addition, new state symbols and a new anthem should be established in accordance with the principles set forth in the bill (on the significance of this provision as negating the principle according to which the “primary symbols” of the state should reflect the national rebirth of the Jewish people, see sec. 5 of the opinion of the Legal Advisor of the Knesset, and see what was stated in this regard in sec. 6 of the bill in regard to the status of the Hebrew language as the primary language of the state). If that were not enough, the petition filed by the members of Bald in the 20th Knesset against the decision of the presidium to prevent laying the bill on the Knesset table explicitly stated that the said bill accorded with Balad’s party platform.

            It would seem undeniable that the said bill, in all its parts, expresses a negation of the most minimal, nuclear characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state as the Court explained in the Tibi case. The fact that the step taken by the members of Balad in this regard was democratic – tabling a bill – does not lead to a different conclusion. This was indeed a significant action by the members of Knesset representing Balad in the 20th Knesset attempting to realize – by means of a legislative bill – a political program and worldview that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It would appear that Ra’am-Balad was aware of the significance of this evidence, but argued that it should not be given decisive weight in the current proceeding, inter alia, given the fact that it is only one piece of evidence (or at most two, if the petition constitutes a separate piece of evidence in this regard), and given the background for submitting the bill and that it was submitted in response to the legislative proceedings on the Nation State Law. These arguments attempt to minimize the significant weight of this evidence, and I agree with the position  of the Attorney General that had Balad run as an independent list comprising members of Knesset who had served in the 20th Knesset and who presented the bill, and who now sought to stand for re-election to the 21st Knesset, there would be grounds for seriously considering whether these two pieces of evidence show that Balad had crossed the divide delineated in the Tibi case that separates between espousing the principle of “a state of all its citizens” in order to achieve equality and seeking to negate the minimal, nuclear characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. If we were standing at that junction, we would also likely be required to consider the issue of the applicability of the probability test in applying the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, which was left for further consideration in the Tibi case and in the ensuing decisions. However, the list whose disqualification was requested is a joint list of Ra’am-Balad and we agree with the opinion of the Attorney General that his fact is significant for examining the causes for disqualification. In addition, it must be borne in mind in regard to the representatives of Balad on the list that none of those placed in realistic slots were among those who submitted the bill on Balad’s behalf. Moreover, in the affidavit he submitted to the Elections Committee, Shehadeh declared that he himself and all of Balad’s candidates for Knesset are committed to the principle of “a state of all its citizens” that is presented in the party’s platform as examined and approved in the Tibi case, the Balad case, and in the first and second Zoabi case (para. 2 of the affidavit). Given all of the above, and given the strict criteria outlined in the case law for the disqualification of a list from standing for election to the Knesset, we have concluded that there are no grounds for disqualifying the Ra’am-Balad list on the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.

 

Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

59.       The Election Committee’s decision that “the Ra’am-Balad list is barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset” does not state whether the list’s disqualification is based upon both of the two causes in secs. 1A(a)1 and (3) of the Basic Law or only upon one of them. In the future, even if the Committee does not state the reasons for its decision, it may be appropriate that it at least note what cause grounded its decision on disqualification. In any event, for the purposes of this appeal, I will assume, as did the parties, that the disqualification rested upon both causes.

            The prevailing rule established that in order to prove that a list or a candidate seeking to stand for election supports armed struggle by an enemy state or a terrorist group, it must be shown that it is the primary objective of the list and that it actually works toward realizing it. In all of the past proceedings in the matter of both Balad and Ra’am, it was held that the evidence presented in this regard does not amount to a “critical mass” that would justify disqualifying either of the lists or any of candidates on those lists on the basis of the cause grounded in sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic law (EA 2600/99 Erlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee [20] (hereinafter: the Erlich case); the Tibi case; the first Zoabi case; the second Zoabi case). Those holdings bear consequences for the matter before us inasmuch as the evidence presented to ground the cause of support for armed struggle is immeasurably less than that presented in the above cases. The Petitioners for disqualification primarily based their arguments upon pictures of Shehadeh visiting a former security prisoner and upon quotes from an interview in which it is alleged that he refused to refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization and added that “any struggle against the occupation is a legitimate struggle”, and that he “is for a struggle against the occupation. People have a right to fight against the occupation. If there are people who are oppressed, they have a right to fight”. In addition, an interview with MK Abd Al Hakeem Haj Yahya, who holds the second slot in the Ra’am party, was presented in which he referred to an attack on the Temple Mount in July 2017 in which Israeli police were murdered. According to the petitioners for disqualification, other statements by members of the list in 2009 and 2011 demonstrate a support for terrorism. The petitioners for disqualification further added the fact that former Knesset members of Balad met with the families of terrorists who were killed while carrying out terrorist attacks; Zoabi’s participation in the “Mavi Marmara” flotilla; the meeting held by former Balad Knesset members with Bishara in 2014; and the conviction of former Balad Knesset member Ghattas for security offenses.

60.       We reviewed the above evidence, and we are not of the opinion that it constitutes a body of persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence that shows that support for an armed struggle by a terrorist organization is a central, dominant purpose of the Ra’am-Balad list or of any of the parties that compose it. In addition, we do not think that evidence was presented that meets the evidentiary threshold for proving that this list acts for the realization of such an armed struggle in a real and consistent manner. This is an a fortiori conclusion given that the evidence presented in the prior proceedings addressed by this Court was far more significant than that presented before us, and it was nevertheless held that it was insufficient to ground a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. Moreover, a significant part of the evidence presented to us refers to persons who do not appear on the Ra’am-Balad list for the 21st Knesset, and some of it was already examined in the previously noted cases. The petitioners for disqualification presented various statements by Shehadeh from which one might infer support for violent activity, but that is not the only possible interpretation and the doubt acts to the benefit of the conclusion that would permit the list to participate in the elections (the second Zoabi case, para. 73). In addition, weight should be given in this regard to the fact that Shehadeh made it explicitly clear in his affidavit that he does not support violent activity and that Balad’s approach is “democratic and employs legal means. We have never called for the use of violence, and none of the candidates on our current list have ever been convicted of any criminal offence”. It was further noted that statements expressing opposition to the Israeli policy in Judea and Samaria were examined by this Court in the past, and it was held that they do not, in and of themselves, give rise to a cause for disqualification (the second Zoabi case, para. 67).

61.       In conclusion, for the reasons stated above, I was of the opinion that we should grant the appeal in EA 1876/19, that the disqualification decision by the Elections Committee should be overturned, and we should order that the Ra’am-Balad list is not barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset. I did not find reason to address the arguments raised by the Ra’am-Balad list in regard to the authority of the Elections Committee to rule upon the causes for disqualification. The conclusion that we reached in this appeal renders those arguments moot, but in my view, the fact that those arguments were never raised before the Elections Committee suffices to dismiss them in limine.

 

EDA 1806/19 Lieberman v. Cassif

62.       At the request of the Yisrael Beiteinu faction and Knesset members Avigdor Lieberman and Oded Forer, the Elections Committee decided to disqualify Cassif from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset as a candidate on the Ra’am-Balad list. The Committee presented that decision for the Court’s approval in accordance with sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law and sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

 

Arguments of the Parties

63.       The request for Cassif’s disqualification rests upon two causes: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, and support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. The evidence adduced in support of the request consisted primarily of four publications and newspaper articles – mostly from the internet – that show, according to those requesting disqualification, that in his statements, Cassif rejects the Jewish character of the State of Israel and calls for the changing of the state’s symbols and anthem, and for revoking the Law of Return. It is also argued that the evidence presented shows that Cassif supports the armed struggle of the Hamas terrorist organization against the state. This, inter alia, because he compared senior government leaders to Nazi war criminals, and because other statements testify, in their opinion, that Cassif believes that attacking soldiers does not constitute terrorism and that Israel should be fought because of its serious crimes against the Palestinian population.

64.       Cassif argued on his behalf that the evidence presented by those requesting the disqualification does not justify his disqualification from running in the Knesset elections. That is particularly so given that the request for disqualification is based, so he argues, upon distorted and tendentious quotes and relies primarily upon one interview with him in which he primarily presented academic ideas and not his political philosophy. As for the arguments that portray him as rejecting the Jewish character of the State of Israel, Cassif emphasized that he recognizes the right of the Jewish people to self-determination alongside an independent Palestinian state, while ensuring full equal rights to all residents of Israel. As for the arguments portraying him as supporting the armed struggle of Hamas against Israel, Cassif claimed that the various comparisons that he made between the State of Israel and Nazi Germany are not relevant to grounding a cause for disqualification, and that he opposes all forms of violence against any person. Similar to the arguments raised by the Ra’am-Balad list, Cassif also raised constitutional arguments in regard to the authority of the Elections Committee to examine and rule upon the disqualification of lists and candidates under the causes grounded in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, and I will already state that for the reasons mentioned in the previous chapter concerning the appeal of Ra’am-Balad, I have not found it necessary to address these arguments in the approval proceedings in regard to Cassif.

65.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that there is no cause for barring Cassif from running in the elections for the 21st Knesset because no “critical evidentiary mass” was presented that would justify it, noting that the evidentiary grounds adduced in support of disqualification was meager in both amount and quality.

 

Negation of the Existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State

66.       The evidence in the matter of Cassif on this cause relies upon two newspaper publications. The first is an article on the internet site of Makor Rishon from Feb. 7, 2019, according to which Cassif stated in an interview some two years earlier on the subject of the evacuation of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria that he viewed this as a first step towards a Palestinian state, and that the State of Israel cannot be and must not be a Jewish state. Cassif expressly refutes these words attributed to him (para. 10 of the affidavit submitted by Cassif to the Elections Committee). As already noted, the probative weight that can be ascribed to such articles, and all the more so to “second hand” articles is low.

67.       The second and more significant piece of evidence presented by those requesting Cassif’s disqualification is an interview with Cassif in the Ha’aretz newspaper in February 2019. According to the petitioners for disqualification, certain statements by Cassif in that interview can be understood as a call for the negation of some of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Thus, for example, in response to the interviewer’s question about the character of the Israeli public space, Cassif said: “The public space has to change, to belong to all the residents of the state. I disagree with the concept of a Jewish public space”, adding that this would be expressed “for example, by changing the symbols, changing the anthem […]”. Cassif was also asked in that interview whether he supported the revocation of the Law of Return and answered “Yes. Absolutely”. As for the question of the Palestinian right of return to Israel, he replied: “There is no comparison. There is no symmetry here at all […]”. These worrying statements, which Cassif did not deny, certainly bear significant weight in examining the cause for disqualification in his regard under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law. However, we are concerned with a newspaper interview and a single statement made in it, and I therefore agree with the Attorney General’s view that this piece of evidence alone is not sufficient to meet the strict criteria established by the case law for disqualifying a candidate from standing for election to the Knesset. Indeed, as presented in detail above, in order to ground a cause for disqualification, it is necessary to present statements that unambiguously, clearly and persuasively testify to the negation of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. One must also show that this is the dominant purpose motivating the candidate’s activity and that he vigorously and consistently acts for its realization as part of a concrete political program. To this we should add that in his statements before the Elections Committee and before this Court, Cassif noted that he sees himself as obligated to the platform of the Hadash party, whose representatives have served in the Knesset for many years, and stated in the hearing before the Elections Committee: “The party of which I am a member and which I represent, […] made it its motto and has always said that we view the State of Israel as a state in which the Jewish people in the land is entitled to define itself. I do not deny that, I have never denied that, and I have no intention of denying that” (Transcript 10/21, p. 37).

 

Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

68.       Has it been shown, as the petitioners for disqualification claim, that Cassif supports armed struggle by the Hamas terror organization against the State of Israel? A large part of the disqualification request in this regard rests upon statements attributed to Cassif that imply a comparison between the State of Israel and senior members of the government of Nazi Germany and Nazi war criminals. Thus, for example, in the article on the Makor Rishon website mentioned above, it was claimed that “Cassif called Lieberman ‘a descendant of Adolph’, and explained: ‘A conceptual descendent, not an actual one”, and called former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “neo-Nazi scum”. In another article on the website of Channel 20 from March 2016, a Facebook post by Cassif was quoted in which he wrote about the Israeli government, among other things, that “this is a fascist government par excellence, with real Nazi motives […] and at its head, above all others: an incompetent scoundrel who has destroyed every good thing there ever was here […] an outstanding student of Göring’s doctrine”. In another article published on the Channel 20 website in April 2018, there was a recording of Cassif from a class that he gave in which he is heard saying that “in the Israeli discourse created by the current government, it is legitimate to kill Arabs. This is how one slides into the abyss of what happened in Germany 80 years ago”.

69.       Those statements, which Cassif did not deny, are very harsh, and the evident comparison between the State of Israel and government ministers to Nazi Germany is outrageous and were better never said, and having been said, I reject them in the most severe terms. The weak explanations provided by Cassif, according to which the statements were only made as metaphors in order to arouse critical public debate and to warn against dangerous deterioration, do not blunt their severity. Cassif also took the trouble to explain that in his publicist writings he emphasized that “any comparison between the Nazi annihilation and Israeli policy in the territories would make a mockery of the Holocaust”, of which it may be said that he did not practice as he preached. However, we must admit that as outrageous and enraging as these statements may be, they do not ground a cause of support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, and they cannot, in and of themselves, lead to the disqualification of his candidacy in the elections (and compare: the Kach case, p. 3). In any case, Cassif made it clear that he does not intend to repeat such things as an elected representative (para. 13 of the affidavit submitted by Cassif to the Elections Committee), and it is to be hoped that he will act accordingly.

70.       The additional evidence presented in support of Cassif’s disqualification on the cause of support for the armed struggle of Hamas against Israel also does ground a cause for his disqualification. In this regard, the plaintiffs directed our attention, inter alia, to a post by Cassif that was mentioned earlier, which, they argue, shows that he supports a violent struggle against the fascism and racism that have, in his opinion, spread in Israeli society. They also referred to an article on the website of Channel 20, also mentioned above, that includes a recording of Cassif from 2018 in which he is heard saying that “Hamas is a political party”. Lastly, the plaintiffs refer to Cassif’s statements in the interview in Ha’aretz in which he stated:

Cassif: “Harming soldiers is not terrorism. Even in Netanyahu’s book on terrorism, he expressly defines harming soldiers or members of the security forces as guerilla warfare. This is absolutely legitimate according to every moral criterion, and incidentally, in international law as well. Nevertheless, I do not say that this is something wonderful, delighting, or desirable […] Wherever there was a struggle for liberation from oppression there are national heroes who, in 90% of the cases, did things that were, in part, terrible. Nelson Mandela, who is now regarded as a hero, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was a terrorist according to the accepted definition […]”.

Interviewer: “In other words, the Hamas commanders today, who initiate actions against soldiers will be heroes of the Palestinian state that will be established?”

Cassif: “Certainly”.

Cassif asked to explain what he said, and told the Elections Committee and the Court that he opposes the use of violence against any person. He did not deny his opposition to the Israeli policy in Judea and Samaria and said that in his vision for the future he sees an end of the military regime there and that his activity is intended, among other things, to change the situation of the Palestinian people in Gaza and in general. However, as already noted, expressing this opinion alone does not give rise to a cause for disqualification (see para. 56), and Cassif declared unambiguously that he does not support opposition by means of armed struggle, but rather political, non-violent opposition (compare: the Tibi case, p. 50; the second Zoabi case, para. 71), and in his words: “I never supported violence, I always expressed opposition to violence, I belong to a party that has always rejected violence, this was also expressly stated in the interviews with me and in every other framework […] I rejected, and I reject, and I will reject, and I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all” (Transcript 10/21, p. 34). Cassif also expressed a similar position in that interview in Ha’aretz that was presented by the plaintiffs, a part of which was quoted above, in stating: “We have always opposed harming innocent civilians. Always. In all of our demonstrations, one of our leading slogans was: In Gaza and Sderot, children want to live. With all of my criticism of the settlers, going into a house to slaughter children, as in the case of the Fogel family, is something that is intolerable. You have to be a human being and reject this”.

As for Cassif’s statement in regard to harming soldiers, we are concerned with a severe, enraging statement that could be interpreted as legitimizing the harming of IDF soldiers by the Hamas terror organization. While Cassif tried to create a distinction in this regard between his theoretical, academic views and his political views, in my view, it is an artificial and unpersuasive distinction that is hard to accept. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the evidentiary foundation presented by the plaintiffs relies upon those aforementioned publications, and I agree with the position of the Attorney General that this evidentiary foundation is meager and insufficient to ground the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law in accordance with the criteria set out in the case law, which I discussed above.

 

EA 1867/19 Ben Ari v. Hadash-Ta’al List

71.       The request to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list from standing for election to the 21st Knesset was filed by Ben Ari and Ben Gvir upon two causes: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, and support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. The Elections Committee decided by a majority of 15 for and 12 against to dismiss the request, and thus the present appeal.

 

Arguments of the Parties

72.       The appellants who seek the disqualification, and a few members of the Elections Committee who joined them as appellants, argued that the statements and actions of members of the list are intended to negate the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and that its members support the Hezbollah and Hamas terror organizations while legitimizing harming Israeli citizens residing in the Judea and Samaria area and IDF soldiers.

73.       For its part, the Hadash-Ta’al list relied upon the decision of the Elections Committee and argued that the requesters of disqualification did not present an appropriate evidentiary foundation that could ground the claimed causes for disqualification. It was explained that the request was partly based upon old evidence that had been examined by the Elections Committee in previous elections, and that many of the statements attributed to members of the list were distorted and presented in a tendentious manner. It was further noted that most of the evidence was based upon reports taken from internet sites and newspaper clippings of low probative value, and that part are not even relevant to grounding the causes for disqualification.

74.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that the entirety of the evidence presented in regard to that request does not justify its acceptance inasmuch as it did not amount to the “critical evidentiary mass” required for disqualifying a list from participating in the elections for the Knesset. This is particularly so given that the evidentiary material presented in the matter of Hadash-Ta’al is significantly more limited than that presented in previous proceedings in which the said causes for disqualification were addressed. The Attorney General also added that the request was based largely on newspaper reports and parts of speeches that are of low probative value, and in particular, given the fact that we are not concerned with up-to-date evidence, and that part relates to the period preceding the elections for the 20th Knesset.

75.       The appellants based their argument in regard to the cause of disqualification concerning the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state on a few statements by members of the list that are insufficient– both quantitatively and qualitatively – for meeting the necessary evidentiary threshold to ground the argument that Hadash-Ta’al negates the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The primary piece of evidence presented by the appellants in this regard was an interview with Knesset member Tibi in the Ha’aretz newspaper in March 2017, in which he was asked to provide a hypothetical description of the situation in which the vision of two states was abandoned and instead, a single state was established in which the Arab minority became the majority. In that interview, Tibi is quoted as saying that such a state would be substantially different from the State of Israel today, and that the Declaration of Independence would be replaced by a civil declaration in which equality would be a supreme value, the Law of Return would be revoked, and the state’s symbols would be changed. However, Tibi expressly stated in that interview that his vision is a vision of two states – a fact that the appellants refrained from mentioning in their arguments. The appellants further referred to a short segment of a television interview with Tibi in 2011 in which he said that he cannot recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state. These two pieces of evidence, which are not from the recent past, are not sufficient to show clearly, persuasively and unambiguously that Tibi acts for the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It should be borne in mind that we are concerned with a member of Knesset who has served for some two decades, and that no argument was presented in regard to his parliamentary activity that would support the claimed cause for disqualification (compare the Ben Shalom case, p. 251). The additional evidence presented consists of quotes regarding which there is doubt as to whether they could ground the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and in any case, they are attributed to Raja Zaatra, who is not a member of the Hadash-Ta’al list for the 21st Knesset and who claimed that the quotes were untrue. The appellants further referred to statements by Cassif, who is a member of the Hadash-Ta’al list, but as noted above, we did not find them sufficient to lead to disqualifying Cassif himself, and thus they cannot lead to the disqualification of the entire list (see and compare: the Tibi case, p. 44; the Balad case, para. 20).

76.       The evidence adduced by the appellants in all that regards the cause for disqualification concerning support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel comprises, inter alia: a public address by Tibi in 2011 in Arabic in which, it is argued, he expressed praise for martyrs, and a report from 2007 on his participation in a march marking five years since Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin, among a crowd in which people dressed up as suicide bombers were present. In addition, the appellants referred to statements by a member of the Hadash party, Aida Touma Suleiman (hereinafter: Suleiman) in which she called the conduct of IDF forces in violent events on the Gaza border “premeditated murder”, refused to call the Hamas a terrorist organization, and argued that “an intifada by the people against the occupation is legitimate”. The appellants further referred to Suleiman’s participation in a demonstration in support of those who refuse to serve in the IDF, and to her refusal to hold a debate on women soldiers in the IDF when she served as chair of the Knesset committee for the advancement of the status of women. In addition, statements by a member of the Ta’al party, Osama Saadi, were presented expressing support for a popular struggle and who, it is claimed, refused to denounce harming Israeli citizens who reside in Judea and Samaria. The appellants also referred to statements by the chair of the Hadash faction, Ayman Odeh (hereinafter: Odeh), who refused to denounce harming IDF soldiers and thanked a Palestinian television station that praised the parliamentary activity of the Joint List in the 20th Knesset. The appellants further referred to a report that Odeh had clashed with police in a conference of the Popular Front and Democratic Front organizations, reports on meetings of members of the list with security prisoners in prison, reports of discussions held with Palestinian leaders, and to the Hadash party’s condemnation of the decision of the Persian Gulf states and the Arab League to declare the Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

77.       I examined the said assembled evidence and arrived at the conclusion that it is insufficient under the strict criteria outlined in the case law for establishing a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. As the Attorney General noted, part of the evidence presented in this matter does not show – even prima facie – direct or indirect support for terrorist activity. To that one should add that some of the evidence adduced is old and even precedes the elections for the 20th Knesset, and the Elections Committee to which that evidence was presented in the past did not find that it grounds the cause for disqualification. Indeed, some of the material attributed to the representatives of Hadash-Ta’al as detailed above can be interpreted as supporting an armed struggle against the State of Israel by a terrorist organization, but given the fact that in those very same publications to which the appellants refer there are also statements by members of the list according to which they do not support violence as a political approach, the resulting doubt weighs against that interpretation. Moreover, those requesting disqualification did not present the official platform of the list, which is a primary source depicting its purposes (the second Neiman case, p. 186; the Moledet case, p. 362), and for this reason, as well, it is difficult to conclude that the list supports armed struggle against the State of Israel by a terrorist organization and that this is the central, dominant purpose of Hadash-Ta’al for the realization of which it acts in a real and consistent manner.

 

Conclusion

78.       For the reasons detailed above, I have, as stated, arrived at the conclusion that the appeal in EA 1866/19 should be granted in part, and to hold that Ben Ari is banned from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset, which does not apply to Ben Gvir; to overturn the Elections Committee’s decision in EA 1876/19 and hold that the Ra’am-Balad list is not barred from participating in those elections; to overturn the Elections Committee’s decision in EA 1806/19 and hold that Cassif may participate in the elections for the 21st Knesset; and to deny the appeal in EA 1867/19 and hold that the Hadash-Ta’al list is not barred from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset.

 

Justice I. Amit:

            I concur in the decision of President E. Hayut, and I will add a few words of my own.

1.         Every election season, as a kind of ritual, the Supreme Court is called upon to address the disqualification of lists or candidates on the basis of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969. Knesset elections are a purely political matter, and the Elections Committee reflects the relative political power in the Knesset like a mini-Knesset. As opposed to this, sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset was originally enacted to reflect timeless constitutional criteria of causes for qualification that are not judged on the basis of prevailing sentiment. In view of the fundamental right to vote and to be elected, the Supreme Court established strict criteria for the disqualification of a list or a candidate, which were reviewed in para. 16 of the President’s opinion: dominant purpose; express declarations or unambiguous conclusions; non-sporadic conduct; and persuasive evidence.

            In putting those principles into practice, we examine each disqualification independently on its own merits, in accordance with the relevant cause for disqualification and the evidence referring to it, while not seeking any kind of political “symmetry” or “balance”. As I had the opportunity to say: “the voting in the Elections Committee is political, and thus the great caution that this Court must exercise as a party to the decision so as not to be infected by the political game” (EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi [6], para. 1 of my opinion) (hereinafter: the second Zoabi case)).

            And now to the matter on the merits.

2.         Sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset – “Incitement to Racism”:

            The legislature stated its opinion loudly and clearly. Incitement to racism is politically out of bounds. Incitement to racism is contrary to universalist democratic values. Incitement to racism is incompatible with the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Incitement to racism – not in this house and not in the Knesset. For this reason, the Kach movement was denounced and expelled from the community and placed beyond the bounds of law. Racially inciting discourse is harmful by its very nature, and as such, I am of the opinion that it should not be subject to the probability test.

3.         In the “last round”, Baruch Marzel’s candidacy was confirmed, but in his dissent, Justice Rubinstein expressed his opinion that we were concerned with “the sheerest of sheer costumes” (the second Zoabi case, para. 118 of his opinion). As the President so aptly demonstrated, the candidate Ben Ari did not even bother to put on a disguise. According to him, the logic is as follows: Whoever is not a Zionist is an enemy, the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs are not Zionists, therefore the conclusion is that the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs are to be viewed as enemies. The Attorney General was rightly of the opinion that Ben Ari should be disqualified, and we agree.

4.         Sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset – “Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State”.

            In the second Zoabi case, I noted that “the Jewish public must be sensitive to the dilemma of the Arab minority, but similarly, elected Arab representatives must conduct themselves with wisdom and sensitivity in regard to the state of which they are citizens and understand the sensitivities of the majority”. In the fascinating hearing before us, it could be inferred from the statements of those requesting the disqualification of Ra’am-Balad that a party that is not Zionist should be deemed as one that entirely rejects the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and must, therefore, be disqualified. In my opinion, this argument insensitively pigeonholes a considerable part of the Arab population that, while not Zionist, identifies with the State of Israel and sees itself as an integral part of it. It is hard to accept that the State of Israel would make an outcast of anyone who is not a Zionist, or anyone who ideologically rejects the Zionist idea. Disqualifying a list or a candidate for “incitement to racism” reinforces both characteristics of the State of Israel as “Jewish and democratic”. Disqualifying a list or a candidate for discourse and speech that is not Zionist in accordance with the approach of those seeking disqualification in the present case constitutes somewhat of a lessening of the democratic element. Therefore, and for the purposes of the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, the two components of “Jewish and democratic” must be balanced wisely and sensitively so that accusers will not say that our state is “democratic” for the Jewish majority and “Jewish” for the Arab minority.

            And note: we sing [in the National Anthem – trans.] “the soul of a Jew still yearns” with misty eyes, and the Law of Return, 5710-1950 is, indeed, the “Foundation Stone” of the State of Israel and a Jewish state. The Law of Return is the alpha and omega for the very existence of the State of Israel, and it is what ensures the existence of a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. But not every passing thought, notion, or expression that casts doubt about the Law of Return will inherently lead to disqualification given the strict tests for disqualification noted above (such as dominance), and perhaps the probability test as well. However, a bill to rescind the Law of Return, or a party platform that openly calls for the rescission of the Law of Return might move a list across the boundary of disqualification, and it would seem that Balad, almost as a habit, not infrequently walks on the boundary. It would not be superfluous to note that in the Tibi case (Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. Tibi [1], p. 40), President Barak was ready to accept the statement of MK Bishara that he did not demand the revocation of the Law of Return. From this we can infer the result had it been otherwise claimed. This brings us to the central piece of evidence presented to us in regard to Balad, which is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill that it presented to the Knesset, and which in effect, expresses a desire to undermine the Jewish character of the state.

5.         A number of reasons led me to the conclusion that the Balad list should not be disqualified for that bill, even without addressing the question of the probability test.

            First, most of the Balad Knesset members in the prior Knesset are not on the current list, which changes its character. Second, that bill should be seen as a sporadic act of protest following the enactment of Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People. The bill is not included in Balad’s platform, it is not claimed that it was part of its platform in the past, and no systematic, consistent activity in that direction was proven. The bill should, therefore, be viewed as a one-time act that does not, in and of itself, give rise to a cause for disqualification.

6.         These are the main reasons why I am of the opinion that that the Balad party walked on the margin but did not cross it, even though the bill brought it but a step away. For my part, I will leave the grounds for the Attorney General’s opinion – that Balad did not stand alone but rather as part of a joint list of Ra’am-Balad – for further consideration. One could, on the other hand, argue that the very fact of that partnership with another party placed Balad under a higher duty of care lest crossing the boundaries might harm the other party. The other side of the coin is that the unification of parties does not grant immunity from disqualification, such that parties that may join with Balad in the future will have to take that into account. I will, therefore, leave the matter for further consideration.

 

Justice U. Vogelman:

1.         I concur in the conclusions and the comprehensive opinion of my colleague the President, and with the main points of her reasoning.

2.         The principles applicable to appeal and approval proceedings with which we are concerned are grounded in a broad range of case law, which is appropriately detailed in the opinion of my colleague the President.

3.         My colleague the President addresses the difference between an elections appeal and an elections approval, and on the various approaches in our case law in regard to the scope of the Court’s review in the different proceedings. My colleague Justice I. Amit, for his part, addresses the caution that the Court must adopt, in his view, in proceedings such as these due to the fact that the vote in the Elections Committee if political.

4.         I see no need to set in stone the proper approach among those enumerated by my colleagues (inasmuch as each of them leads to the same result in the instant case). However, I would like to emphasize that, in my view, given the nature of the rights and balances involved, the “political” considerations cannot be given weight in terms of the constitutionality of the decisions, and that the political nature of the proceeding in the Central Elections Committee is not meant to influence the form of judicial examination and its scope.

5.         On the matter of disqualification for incitement to racism.

            The first matter I wish to address in this regard concerns the application of probability tests for the realization of the dangers that the causes for disqualification are intended to prevent (a question that has not yet been resolved in our case law). In the context of the said cause, I would like to point out that, in my view, there is no place for a “probability test” inasmuch as racist expression is not worthy of protection. In the words of Justice D. Beinisch: “Racism is the kind of affliction whose isolation and removal from the political and social arena is an essential condition for preventing its spread” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. Tibi [1], p. 88) (hereinafter: the Tibi case)).

            The words of Justice Procaccia in the same matter are apt:

The phenomenon of racism in the chronicles of history and the annals of the Jewish people is special and unique. Nothing compares to its rejection and the defense against it even among the many protections of the fundamental human rights that the constitutions of western states diligently labor to ground. The moral, ethical taint of incitement to racism, against the background of its deep opposition to the universal concept of human rights, and in view of the atrocities of the Holocaust of European Jewry that was annihilated due to racial theory, does not tolerate its inclusion on the podium of ideas and opinions of political discourse. That is so, even if there is no foreseeable danger whatsoever of the realization of the inciter’s dogma, and even if his words are like “a voice crying out in the wilderness” without echo and without being heard.

Racism is condemned, and it must be eliminated by virtue of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1966, of which Israel is a signatory. The parties to it pledged not to sponsor racial discrimination and to adopt immediate measures in order to uproot every phenomenon of racism (arts. 2, 4, and 5 of the Convention).

The condemnation of racism takes on a special dimension in Jewish tradition in view of the blood-soaked history of a nation that was a victim of the manifestations of this phenomenon over generations. Racism stands in contradiction to the fundamental values of the State of Israel as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, according to which full social and political equality must be ensured for all citizens regardless of religion, race, and sex. The depth and force of the condemnation of racism as a social phenomenon do not accord with granting of an opportunity to a candidate to run for office on the basis of racist ideas among the range of opinions and perspectives expressed in political discourse. Standing for election on the basis of racist ideas flies in the face of the educational, moral purpose of inculcating the principles of equality and tolerance in Israeli society. These ideas cross the bounds of the red line that guarantees tolerance even for expressing deviant ideas and views. Casting them out beyond the pale is necessary so that expressing them will not be interpreted, even by inference, as granting approval and legitimacy to those who hold them to participate in the life of the state (and compare: R. Gavison, Twenty Years since the Yeredor Ruling – The Right to be Elected and the Lessons of History, p. 173).

                        […]

In this spirit, the condemnation of incitement to racism and its removal from the framework of political contest is a value unto itself, unconditional and unrestricted even where there is no attendant probability whatsoever of the realization of its potential danger. There is no need to seek manifest or hidden elements of danger in order to deny the entrance of inciters to racism into the political arena (compare the words of Justice E. Goldberg in the meeting of the Knesset Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of the Kach party, Oct. 5, 1988, p. 47ff.). Incitement to racism is condemned as a value of universal and national heritage, and it stands above and beyond the probability test of its foreseeable danger on the basis of some criterion or another. The contradiction between racism and the fundamental values of the stare is so deep that anyone who embraces it in his political thought should be disqualified from the outset (the Tibi case, pp. 89-90).

            I agree with every jot and tittle of these true words.

6.         Moving from the general to the specific – my colleague well described the factual grounds upon which we decided that the cause of incitement to racism is met in the case of Ben Ari, and it would be superfluous to reiterate the well-grounded presentation of the evidentiary foundations. Ben Ari’s incitement extends to a broad range of subjects, among them a call for excluding Arab citizens from residing within the limits of an Israeli city, recall dark periods in the history of nations. The addition of the cause for disqualification with which we are concerned to the Basic Law by the constituent authority of the State of Israel was intended for a war against such phenomena, and it is our role to interpret the Constitution and maintain its boundaries.

7.         The matter of Ben Gvir is different. I concur with my colleague’s conclusion – which ascribed weight to his declarations concerning changing his manner – that the foundation amassed in his regard does not amount to a “critical mass” that grounds a cause for disqualification.

8.         As for the Ra’am-Balad list – as my colleague notes, the entirety of the evidence adduced is not qualitatively different from what was presented to this Court in previous proceedings that concerned the question of the disqualification of Balad and members of the list in which it was held that it did not constitute a sufficient foundation for disqualification. I see no need to address the Basic Law bill that Balad presented, to which my colleagues referred, given that the Balad Knesset members who served in the last Knesset are not included in the current list, and given the clarification by the list’s attorney that the bill is not part of Balad’s platform.

9.         In the matters of Ofer Cassif and the Hadash-Ta’al list, as well, I concur with the conclusion that the evidentiary foundation is insufficient to ground the claimed causes for disqualification.

 

Justice M. Mazuz:

            I concur in the main points of the reasons and conclusions of President E. Hayut, and I wish to add two comments. Because they are not necessary for the decision, I will state then in brief:

1.         The cause of “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state”:

            As we know, the cause of “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset formerly comprised two separate causes: “Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”, and “negation of the democratic character of the state” (secs. 7A(1)-(2)). The two causes were unified in the framework of a 2002 amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset that added the authority to disqualify a candidate (not just a list) and the cause of support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. As explained in the Explanatory Notes, this unification derived from the desire for uniformity between the wording of sec. 7A and sec. 5 of the Parties Law, 5752-1992 (“and this because the two sections are interrelated”), and was not intended to introduce a change in the content of these causes by virtue of their unification.

            In practice, the unification of the causes, which involved a certain change in the wording of the cause, was the basis for an interpretation of this cause that was both different in content and broader in scope. While under the prior wording, the cause of “negating the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people” addressed the negation of the view that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people in the sense of the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, under the unified wording, the term “Jewish state” was interpreted as referring to the internal content of the state’s identity and the elements of the Jewish identity of the state from within (“the primary symbols” of the state and the “nuclear characteristics” of its Jewish identity).

            In my opinion, the proper interpretation of the cause for disqualification of “negating the existence of the State of Israel”, like the separate cause under the prior wording, refers to the identity of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people in the national sense, as the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, and not as referring to internal features of the state that characterize it as a Jewish state. This position has consequences, inter alia, in regard to how to view the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill introduced at the time by Knesset members of Balad, however, in view of the President’s conclusions in this regard (para. 58), I see no need to expand upon my approach to the bill and I will only note that I agree in principle with the comments of Justice I. Amit in paras. 4-5 of his opinion.

 

2.         A Probability Test and Incitement to Racism:

            This issue has been addressed on several occasions in previous case law, beginning with the first Neiman case, and various opinions – mostly rejecting it in general, or at least in regard to the cause of incitement to racism – but it has been left for further consideration and remains undecided.

            I am of the opinion that there is no place for a probability test in applying the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. The probability test has no grounding in the language of the law, and it raises many – theoretical and practical – difficulties in its application. I will not presume to exhaust all the reasons for this position, but will suffice with a few words: first, in terms of the interpretation of the law. As we know, the interpretation of a statute begins with its language and is limited by it. There are no grounds for requiring a probability test in the language of sec. 7A. Section 7A refers to objectives and actions, including statements, by a list or candidate. We are concerned with causes of “conduct” not “results”. Second, the Court, called upon to approve or review a decision by the Central Elections Committee to disqualify a candidate or list, lacks the tools for applying a probability test for the purpose of approving or rejecting the probability evaluation of the Elections Committee. A probability estimate in the public-political context is inherently speculative, and the Court would do well to refrain from it. Third, and this is the main point, sec. 7A treats of the lack of legitimacy of a list or candidate who meets the disqualification criteria to participate in the “democratic game”. The theoretical basis for disqualifying lists or candidates, as stated, does not suffice by preventing a real, concrete threat, but primarily concerns not granting legitimacy to lists of candidates whose objectives and actions are beyond the legitimate democratic boundaries for participating in the democratic elections.

            It would appear that the cause of “incitement to racism” under sec. 7A(a)(2) well demonstrates this. Incitement to racism and racist acts are unacceptable per se, as they are contrary to the most basic values of a democratic society, which is founded upon the idea of the equality of human beings. We are concerned with universal values accepted in the law of nations. Under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, known as the CERD Convention – signed by the State of Israel on March 7, 1966, ratified on Jan. 3, 1979, and entering into effect on Feb. 2, 1979 – the State of Israel assumed, like the other signatory nations, inter alia, the obligation to prohibit racial and other discrimination and to adopt all means, including legislation, to bring about its end (art. 2(1)(d) of the Convention). In 1985, together with the amendment of Basic Law: The Knesset and the addition of sec. 7A, the Penal Code was also amended with the addition of Article 1A: Incitement to Racism, which established various offences of incitement to racism (both amendments were included in the same pamphlet of bills – H.H. 5745 193). The offences of incitement to racism are conduct crimes, not result crimes, and do not comprise an element of probability (“it does not matter whether the publication did cause racism” – sec. 144B(b)).

            Incitement to racism is, therefore, prohibited and unacceptable without regard for the probability of the realization of its objectives. It is an illegitimate form of discourse in a democratic society. Incitement to racism does not represent any protected value that requires a balancing of interests. The value of freedom of expression, which is the life breath of democracy, was intended to protect non-violent public debate and to permit a conceptual contest among legitimate values in a democratic society. Racist discourse “pollutes” the democratic discourse and undermines the purpose of conceptual inquiry among the members of society and the free establishment of views on the basis of democratic values. Therefore, the reason for preventing the participation of a list or candidate that incites racism in the elections is not restricted to a fear of the realization of the objectives of the incitement, but is primarily concerned with the public value of not granting legitimacy to racist speech as part of the democratic discourse. In this sense, the cause for disqualification for incitement to racism is a special case of the cause relating to the negation of the democratic character of the state.

            Lastly, I would emphasize that I do not believe that the probability test is necessary for mitigating the causes for disqualification or for granting flexible tools for their application. To that end, the case law established a strict, narrow interpretive approach to the causes of disqualification. Strict criteria were also established that are implemented in judicial review of this matter, among them the demand that the objectives attributed to a list or candidate constitute a central, dominant objective and not a secondary, marginal issue, and the requirement of active, consistent, and systematic action for the realization of those objectives. It was further held that the evidence for disqualification must be persuasive, clear and unambiguous. All of these provide the Court with effective tools to ensure that the disqualification authority, which is an exceptional and intrusive authority, be exercised only in extreme, clear cases, without the need for the problematic means of a probability test.

 

Justice N. Sohlberg:

1.         If we were to interpret and implement the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset as written, as they would be understood by the average person, then not only would Dr. Michael Cassif be barred from candidacy for the Knesset elections. A plain reading of the section would, in all probability, lead us to conclude that additional lists and candidates whose matters have been examined by this Court over the years would also be granted this dubious honor.

2.         However, that is not the case. From the very outset, this Court adopted a strict approach to the legal interpretation of sec. 7 and to its application in practice. This approach reflects a value-based decision that democracy grants special – almost supreme – importance to the constitutional right to vote and be elected. Disqualifying a list or a candidate from standing for election to the Knesset must be the very last resort; one that is reserved for manifestly extreme case in which there is no room for doubt: “The essence of such a matter, the limitation of a basic constitutional right, inherently carries a standard of interpretation that must be strict and narrow, and section 7A should be reserved for only the most extreme cases. This interpretive approach does not conflict with the statute but is rather a result of a proper understanding of the purpose of the statute, which does not seek to limit freedoms, but to protect them against actual danger” (the second Neiman case, p. 187; emphasis here and below added – N.S.). This approach has become firmly rooted in the case law of this Court: “Preventing the participation of a party in the elections is a most extreme step. The right to vote and to be elected is a right of the highest constitutional level” (HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party [21], p. 802, per Deputy President A. Barak); “Preventing a party from participating in the elections is an extreme and exceptional step that in many ways directly contradicts the fundamental principles upon which democracy rests” (the Balad case, para. 3 of the opinion of President Beinisch); “Preventing participation in Knesset elections is an extreme step that is reserved for the most exceptional cases for which the normal democratic tools are insufficient” (the second Zoabi case, para. 75 of the opinion of President M. Naor).

            I will briefly summarize the guiding criteria as expressed in the case law: Barring participation in Knesset elections will only be done as when all else has failed.

3.         Recently, in the Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 47) (Prevention of Participation in Elections due to a Candidate’s Statements) Bill, the constituent authority expressed the view that it accepts the narrow path taken by the Court in applying sec. 7A. The bill expressly established that a person’s actions also include his statements. The Explanatory Notes clarify as follows: “The proposed amendment expressly anchors the approach accepted in the case law in this matter, according to which “actions” under sec. 7A of the Basic Law also include statements. Thus, the amendment is not intended to alter the Court’s case law according to which the application of sec. 7A of the Basic law will performed narrowly and strictly in order to protect the state’s most vital interests” (H.H. 675, p. 52). However, there was also some criticism of the direction of the case law, on the need to take care not to adopt an overly restrictive interpretation of the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A, while unduly expanding the boundaries (see, e.g., the second Zoabi case, para. 8 of the opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein).

4.         The criteria developed in the case law for the application of sec. 7A, which reflect the narrow interpretive approach, were set out in para. 16 of the opinion of my colleague the President. Primarily, in brief, one must show that the cause for disqualification can be found in the objectives or the actions of the list or candidate; those objectives or actions must form part of the dominant characteristics of the actions of the party or candidate; they can be learned from express declarations or from unambiguously probable conclusions; theoretical objectives are insufficient, but rather one must show systematic “activity in the field” that must constitute severe, extreme expression in terms of its intensity; and lastly, the evidence based upon the above must be “persuasive, clear, and unambiguous”.

5.         On the basis of those criteria, my colleague the President found, and my colleagues concur, that the evidentiary foundation in the matter before us paints an unambiguous and persuasive picture according to which Ben Ari “systematically inflames feelings of hatred toward the Arab public in its entirety, while continually demeaning that public” (para. 42 of the President’s opinion). Therefore, she held that he must be disqualified.

6.         I considered and reconsidered the matter. I carefully read the various statements, watched and listened. I considered the various clarifications and explanations over and over again, and the dilemma was difficult and weighed heavily. I did not easily decide to disagree with my colleague’s conclusion. The source of my dilemma was the substantial gap between the image of Ben Ari as reflected in the virtual arena – in the social networks – and that shown us in the Elections Committee’s hearings and in the Court. Thus, in his affidavit in the instant proceeding, Ben Ari rejected the claims about his racist views, and declared, inter alia, as follows:

I do not think that people are of different value due to their ethnic, national or religious origin. All human beings were created in the Divine image, and all human beings were granted free choice. Your own deeds will cause you to be near, and your own deeds will cause you to be far[1] […] In my view, the Arab National Movement, whose purpose is to destroy Jewish sovereignty through the use of violence and terror is the enemy of the State of Israel, of the Jewish people and of Zionism. I would like to emphasize that what makes it an enemy of the state, the people and of Zionism is not the ethno-national origin of its members and supporters, and not their religious belief.  What turns the members and supporters of the Arab National Movement into enemies are the political objectives that this movement established and the ways in which it acts for the realization of those objectives since the beginning of the 20th century and to this day […] Anyone who accepts that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people and agrees that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state is a desirable citizen who is worthy of all the civil, social and political rights without regard for religions, race, sex, ethnic origin or skin color. In addition, I am of the opinion that basic human rights are granted to every person as such, and that the state must act justly and fairly toward every person without regard for religion, race, sex, ethnic origin, or skin color (paras. 9, 16-17 of the affidavit).

7.         Further on in the affidavit, Ben Ari addresses all the statements quoted in his regard (as opposed to in the hearing before the Elections Committee, in which he addressed only a part of them) and explained that “all of my arrows are directed against those who are not loyal to the State of Israel and hostile to the Zionist enterprise. Even if, at times, my words may sound or be apprehended as general, that absolutely does not reflect an intention to generalize, and in no way reflects my true, consistent opinion” (para. 22 of the affidavit). Like the cases adjudicated by this Court in the past, real doubt arises in regard to the sincerity of Ben Ari’s declarations.

8.         Three examples from the past: (a) Baruch Marzel declared, at the time, that he had recanted his prior views, that he sought to act only in accordance with the law, accepts the principles of democracy, and had withdrawn from the path of generalized statements of the Kach movement. A long line of evidence led the Court to a conclusion in regard to “a real doubt as to the sincerity of Mr. Marzel’s declarations, according to which he had disavowed his approach and his former racist, undemocratic ideology” (the Tibi case, para. 81 of the opinion of President A. Barak). Later, prior to another election, President M. Naor stated: “I, too, do not believe that Marzel has changed his views and thoughts” (the second Zoabi case, para. 33). (b) Hanin Zoabi declared, at the time, her opposition to violence, and nevertheless “it was difficult for me to be persuaded that MK Zoabi does not support armed struggle” (ibid., para. 7 of the opinion of my colleague Justice I. Amit). (c) MK Azmi Bishara argued, at the time, that he opposed violence and armed struggle, and he, too, did not earn much trust: “There is doubt in our hearts. But the doubt must act – in a democratic state that believes in freedom and liberty – in favor of the freedom to vote and to be elected” (the Tibi case, para. 46 of the opinion of President A. Barak).

            As may be recalled, Hanin Zoabi and Azmi Bishara served honorably as members of the Israeli Knesset. Marzel’s candidacy was also approved, twice, although he was not elected. And what of the case of Ben Ari? In the end, his statements “in real time” speak for themselves, and clearly to his detriment. I will not belabor the point and repeat what has already been presented at length in the opinion of my colleague the President. I will suffice by referring there, and the reader will not be pleased. The statements are not at all consistent with the tolerant, placating tone that arises from the above affidavit presented in these proceedings. Which Ben Ari should we therefore believe?

9.         Ultimately, I inclined to the view that there is no justification for ordering Ben Ari’s disqualification. I have not arrived at this conclusion because I take incitement to racism lightly, but because I am strict in regard to the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected. Given the strict criteria applied in the case law of this Court over the years, and in view of Ben Ari’s explanations and clarifications, there is doubt as to whether the statements amount to incitement to racism or a negation of the democratic character of the State of Israel to the point that would justify barring Ben Ari from running in the Knesset elections. Indeed, the fundamental right to vote and to be elected is not absolute. In appropriate circumstances, it is proper to limit it, but that is not the situation in his regard. While the evidentiary foundation in the matter of Ben Ari is broad in scope, it is not more exceptional, extreme and severe in “quality” and intensity than matters brought before this Court in similar cases (both in the Tibi case and the second Zoabi case). While Israeli democracy requires protection, it is still strong enough to comprise even Ben Ari as a member of Knesset (as we may recall, Ben Ari already served in the position in the recent past, in the years 2009-2013).

10.       This result is required for two additional considerations that are of a practical nature: First, the procedural framework in which we act. As we know, sec. 7A was presented to the Knesset together with the Penal Law (Amendment no. 24) Bill, 5745-1985, which established an express criminal prohibition upon incitement to racism. “We are determined to combat the phenomenon of incitement to racism with full force. To that end, we decided to act on two planes – on the constitutional plane, by including incitement to racism as a cause for the disqualification of a list of candidates from participating in Knesset elections, and on the penal plane – establishing an offense of incitement to racism in the Penal Law” (from the statement of the Minister of Justice, MK Moshe Nissim, in presenting the bills for a first reading; Knesset Record (5745), p. 2381). As opposed to the criminal process, which is conducted in accordance with a clearly defined framework of procedure, which includes, inter alia, an evidentiary proceeding in which it is possible to question and interrogate carefully, in the constitutional proceeding before this Court, the factual examination is far more limited. This requires us to be especially careful in drawing conclusions and establishing facts on the basis of the evidentiary foundation presented before us. Second, lest we forget: Even after a candidate has cleared the hurdle of sec. 7A, Israel is not bereft:[2] “The very fact that a candidate is permitted to contend in the Knesset elections does not mean that from the moment he is elected he may do whatever he pleases. There is still the possibility of rescinding the immunity of a member of Knesset in certain situations, placing him on trial if it be found that he committed a criminal offense, and terminating his tenure in the Knesset if he is found guilty of an offense of moral turpitude” (the first Zoabi case, para. 35 of the opinion of President A. Grunis).

11.       It cannot be denied that Ben Ari’s statements – at least in large part – are hard to digest. I was, indeed, very annoyed by his callous style, the racist tone, and the coarse generalities. It does not do honor to him or to those who listen to his teachings. We can and should protest against evil, and against those who seek our harm and our lives – foreign and domestic. But we are obliged – particularly as public servants – to do so responsibly and carefully. Nevertheless, even when common sense protests and the soul recoils from Ben Ari’s statements, there is still no justification for placing him beyond the pale. The strength of freedom of expression, the strength of democracy “is not the recognition of the right to speak pleasantries that are soothing to my ears. Its strength is in the recognition of the right of the other to say things that are grating upon my ear and that pierce my heart” (HCJ 14/86 Laor v. Theater and Film Review Board [22], p. 441). That is true of freedom of expression in general, and of political speech in particular, when what is at stake – we will not refrain from repeating – is a mortal blow to the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected.

12.       I wholeheartedly concur with my colleague the President on our obligation to combat racism uncompromisingly. As a son of my people and a descendant of my family, I am well aware of where the terrifying harm of hate of the stranger and the different leads. But make no mistake, the two are not comparable, and not even close. And note: the struggle against racism is not only on the legal plane, but also – and primarily – on the educational plane, “in a reassessment of the ways of educators and pupils alike, in all walks of our society” (the first Neiman case, p. 302). In this regard, it would be proper to quote what Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook wrote in the month of Nissan 1947 in a letter to the principals and teachers of a Jerusalem school. The Minister of Justice, MK Moshe Nissim, quoted part of the letter, titled “Embarrassing and Sad Conduct of Children”, in presenting the bill in regard to sec. 7A to the Knesset plenum for a first reading, as follows:

To the Principal and Teachers of a school here in our Holy City, may it be rebuilt and reestablished!

I must bring the following matter to your honorable attention, as follows: This morning, while passing by the school on the way to Yaffo-Ben Yehuda Street, I saw some from among a group of children from the school repeatedly hitting and coarsely taunting Arab peddlers who passed there. Twice together – at the two Arabs, one young and one old, who were apparently partners, beginning with the younger one and continuing with the older one with particular coarseness. This occurred a short distance from the gate to the schoolyard. Then again at a youngster on the sidewalk of Jaffa Road, at the corner of Ben Yehuda Street.

I was saddened and very ashamed by what I saw. Due to their running and mischief, I was unable to catch them and rebuke them for this. I do not know who these children are, or who are their parents and teachers. I know only that they were from the school. Not all of them, not all of the group of children from the school, took part in that despicable harm and taunting, but some of them. And I believe that some of them protested.

Nevertheless, the very existence of this fact, which pained and insulted me, as noted, requires that I bring to your awareness the need for greater and special educational attention to bringing an end to such possibilities, both in and of itself as a matter of Jewish law and morality, and in terms of the practical community and political value of preserving peace and good neighborliness.

With all due respect and in the hope of the glorification of God and the salvation of his people and heritage.

            Here we see plain, clear, resolute, human Jewish morality. We must walk in its light.

13.       For the same reasons for which I was of the opinion that we should not order the disqualification of Ben Ari, I arrived at the conclusion that the Election Committee’s decisions in the matters of the Ra’am-Balad list and of Dr. Ofer Cassif should be overturned and that the appeal in regard to the Hadash-Ta’al list should be denied, and that we should hold that they are not barred from participating in the Knesset elections. As in regard to the decision is the matter of Ben Ari, this decision, as well, was not at all easy. Some of the statements presented to us – both those attributed to Cassif and those attributed to other members of the Hadash-Ta’al list – are not pleasant to the ear, to put it very mildly. But just as we are enjoined and stand ready to defend against those who would incite to racism and thereby undermine the democratic character of the State of Israel, so we must defend against those who would undermine its Jewish character and who express support – express or implied, publicly or privately – terrorist attacks and murder. In the course of the debate on sec. 7A, prior to its first reading, MK Michael Eitan rightly stated in this regard:

The State of Israel has a political need to provide an answer to a long list of families of Jewish victims who were harmed solely because they are Jews here in the State of Israel on the question of whether the purpose of defensive democracy, that has been and is employed, is to protect them, as well. Can Jews in the State of Israel who are harmed by the agents of the PLO also find an answer in such legislation that is intended to defend democracy to the fact that there are people in the State of Israel who identify with the PLO and see themselves as its agents? And there is also a Knesset faction that once sent a telegram expressing solidarity to the Palestine National Council in Amman, which identifies with the PLO. Where is defensive democracy in their regard? Where is the symmetry? Should democracy defend itself only against insane Jewish fanaticism?

                        […]

When we discuss the issue of defensive democracy, we have to provide an answer to the Bromberg family, the Tamam family, the Ohana family, and a long list of families that daily ask the simple question: Is the purpose of defensive democracy to defend us as well, or is the only answer that marginal group to which we all take exception? And when I ask that question, I understand that we are treading a delicate, sensitive line because we are concerned with a democratic regime, we are not interested in silencing debate, we are not interested in outlawing lists. But in any event, we must ask ourselves the question what is the boundary line?

14.       Indeed, the question of where the boundary lies is difficult. It would seem that thirty years after the constituting of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset, there is no clear, unambiguous answer to this. In any case, as presented above, the special importance of the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected obligates us to strict criteria whose bottom line is that when there is doubt, there is no doubt. Therefore, and for the reasons stated in the opinion of my colleague the President, I am of the opinion that what has been adduced before us is insufficient for ordering the disqualification of the candidacy of Cassif, the Hadash-Ta’al list, and the Ra’am-Balad list.

15.       One parenthetical objection: In the matter of the Balad party, the Attorney General noted that “were the Balad party running independently … there would be reason to carefully consider its disqualification”. However, “in view of the fact that under the prevailing legal situation, there is no possibility of disqualifying only half of a list (as opposed to disqualifying an entire list or disqualifying specific candidates on the basis of evidence relating to them personally), and in view of the fact that there are almost no arguments against the Ra’am list, it is necessary to examine whether the existing evidence suffices to justify disqualifying the joint list, in view of the case law of the honorable Court in regard to the need to severely limit such a disqualification”. My colleague the President did not expand upon that matter, having found other reasons for not ordering the disqualification of Balad (although she attributed weight to the fact that we are concerned with a joint list). For my part, I find the present legal situation very problematic, when a party that prima facie meets the requirements of one of the causes for disqualification can join with another party such that the joint list provides it with a “city of refuge”. This should be given consideration when and if the need to address this question arises in the future.

16.       In conclusion, where my opinion accepted, we would overturn the Election Committee’s decision in EDA 1806/19; deny the appeals in EA 1866/19 and EA 1867/19, and grant the appeal in EA 1876/19, and hold that Dr. Ofer Cassif, Dr. Michael Ben Ari, Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir, the Hadash-Ta’al list and the Ra’am-Balad list are not barred from standing for election to the Knesset.

 

Justice A. Baron:

            I concur in the comprehensive opinion of President E. Hayut, both in the conclusion she reached in each of the proceedings before us and in her reasoning. I will briefly add my view of the disqualification of the candidacy of Dr. Michael Ben Ari (hereinafter: Ben Ari) for election to the 21st Knesset, in which we are concerned with an exceptionally extreme step, akin to a “doomsday weapon”.

            The racist statements in the warp and weave of all of the recorded statements of Ben Ari cry out from the page and scorch the ears. Words are not “just” words. There are times when words are also acts, and in the case of Ben Ari’s statements they constitute a clear act of incitement to racism. Ben Ari makes improper use of words to arouse hatred against the Arab public, while portraying all Arabs as murderers and bitter enemies. His statements delegitimize an entire community, instigate conflict and strife, and even call for actual violence against Israeli Arabs. Moreover, we were presented with a solid evidentiary foundation that clearly shows that we are concerned with a severe, extreme case of incitement to racism. The racist statements are explicit, systematic (some 40 instances since 2017 alone), constitute a dominant characteristic of Ben Ari’s statements, and gain wide exposure in the media and on the social networks.

            The principle of freedom of expression, and particularly freedom of political expression, is a cornerstone of a democratic regime. According to this principle, “freedom of expression is not just the right to say or hear what is generally acceptable. Freedom of expression is also the freedom to express dangerous, irritating, deviant ideas that the public reviles and despises” (HCJ 399/85 Kahane v. Broadcasting Authority [23], p. 280). Words and statements can thus find refuge under the aegis of freedom of expression even when they express marginal ideas, and even when they arouse disgust, but given their “critical mass”, as noted above, Ben Ari’s words constitute incitement to racism and therefore undermine fundamental principles of democracy. As the case law of this Court has already made clear, “one who does not accept the fundamental principles of democracy and seeks to change them cannot ask to participate in democracy in the name of those principles” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], 14). In this regard, I would note that in my opinion, as well, incitement to racism does not merit any protection, and therefore there is no place for applying a “probability test” as a condition for the application of the cause under sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

            Ben Ari did not apologize for his statements and did not retract them. And if that were not enough, even his explanations continue to reflect a racist attitude toward the Arab public. According to Ben Ari, his recorded statements are not directed against the entire Arab public, but only toward those among it who are not “loyal” to the State of Israel. However, the recordings deliver a clear message that any Arab is disloyal, a traitor, and enemy, and dangerous by definition. We are, therefore, concerned with an extreme case that requires Ben Ari’s disqualification from participating in the elections for the Knesset.

 

Justice D. Mintz:

            I concur in the opinion of my colleague the President in regard to the partial granting of the appeal in EA 1866/99 and with the holding that Ben Ari is barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset, which is not the case in regard to Ben Gvir. I also agree that the appeal in EA 1867/19 should be denied, and that it should be held that the Hadash-Ta’al list is not barred from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset. However, I cannot agree with the position in the matter of overturning the Election Committee’s decision in EA 1876/19 in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list and in EDA 1806/19 in the matter of MK Ofer Cassif. In my view, those decisions should be left standing, and we should hold that the Ra’am-Ta’al list and MK Cassif are barred from participating in the elections for the Knesset, as I shall explain.

Foreword

1.         The starting point for this discussion is that the restrictions upon the constitutional right to vote and to be elected to the Knesset must be minimal, and they must protect the most vital interests of the state (HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party [21], pp. 802-803). This Court has recognized the justification for limiting those rights even before an express provision was enacted to permit the disqualification of a candidate or list from participating in the elections for the Knesset when it was long ago held that the right to vote and to be elected can be limited in order to protect the very existence of the state (EA 1/65 Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 6th Knesset [8], p. 387) (hereinafter: the Yeredor case); EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset [4]) (hereinafter: the first Neiman case)). And as Justice J. Sussman stated: “Just as one need not consent to be killed, so a state need not agree to be annihilated and wiped off the map.” (the Yeredor case, p. 390). The restriction of rights is justified in the name of the right of a democracy to defend itself against those who would seek to employ democratic tools for the purpose of negating the very existence of the state, harm its fundamental principles or advance anti-democratic objectives (EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3], para. 8 of the opinion of President A. Grunis); EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi [6], para. 7 of the opinion of President M. Naor) (hereinafter: the Zoabi case).

2.         The desire to prevent the use of democratic tools to advance anti-democratic objectives that undermine the existence of the state stood at the basis of the enactment of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset (hereinafter also: the Basic Law), to which various amendments were made over the years. The last, in 2017 (Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 46), 5777-2017 (hereinafter: Amendment no. 46)) clarified that a candidate could be disqualified if his objectives or actions, “including his expressions”, included the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incitement to racism or support for an armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. The legislature had its say and defined the boundaries of the right to vote and to be elected in light of the basic and most vital principles for the existence of the state.

3.         It should be noted that sec. 7A of the Basic Law is not the only legal provision that restricts the use of a right granted by democracy in order to prevent harm to the basic, most vital principles for the existence of the state in general, and its existence as a Jewish and democratic state in particular. This purpose is also expressed in the framework of sec. 5 of the Parties Law, 5752-1992, which denies the possibility of registering a party, inter alia, for the causes enumerated in sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Section 1(a1) of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951 defines the limits of the material immunity granted to an elected official by virtue of his office in a manner similar to that in sec. 7A (HCJ 11225/03 Bishara v. Attorney General [13], pp. 306-307). As the President also noted, the Basic Law was amended in 2016 to include a provision authorizing the Knesset to end the tenure of a member of the Knesset for incitement to racism or for supporting armed struggle against the State of Israel (the cause of negating the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic was not included in the framework of that provision in view of its being general and more ambiguous, and upon the presumption that the Knesset plenum would have difficulty applying it (see: HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset [12], para. 29 of the opinion of President E. Hayut).

4.         These supplementary provisions define a clear boundary beyond which actions, objectives and expressions are not legitimate for elected representatives and for a party or list of elected representatives. The gates of the house of representatives are not open to those who seek to harm the character of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic (including the cause of “incitement to racism”, which constitutes a special case of harm to the democratic foundations of the state) or to support an armed struggle against it and thus to support a threat to its very existence. What is concerned are actions that do not afford material immunity for those who succeeded in being elected to the house of representatives. Some of those causes also permit the termination of the tenure of those who seek the state’s harm. The underlying premise is that a person who seeks to take an active part in Israeli democracy and its institutions must accept the principles of its existence and the democratic “rules of the game” (see, for example: EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], p. 23 (hereinafter: the Tibi case)). This, even though such actions or expressions may sometimes fall within the bounds of freedom of expression granted to every person in the state. In other words, what is permitted to every person is not necessarily granted to a person who seeks to be elected to the legislature. The reason for this is clear: the principle of freedom of expression grants every person the freedom to express himself even in a manner that contradicts the principles of the Jewish and democratic regime of the State of Israel (within the bounds of the law). However, permitting a person who voices such ideas to be elected to the legislature may lead to a situation where he will “import” his ideas into the legislature and thus undermine the foundations of the regime upon which the state rests by implementing or realizing his ideas. In this regard, Justice T. Strasburg-Cohen nicely distinguished the two (in the Tibi case, p. 70):

It would be appropriate to note that Israeli democracy does not prevent Knesset Member Bishara from expressing his views, which he terms “theoretical”, “philosophical”, or “historical”, from any platform, in accordance with the law. However, as far as membership in the Knesset is concerned, those views that are part of his political views, and he seeks to implement and realize them, inter alia, by means of his membership in the Knesset. Therefore, those views greatly deviate from theory, philosophy, and history and cross into the area of political activity.

 

The Causes for Disqualification and Amendment no. 40 of the Basic Law

5.         The criteria established in the case law in regard to the implementation of the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law were clarified at length by the President, and I do not intend to dwell upon the matter. I will only say a few words about the distinction in the framework of this provision between disqualifying a candidate and disqualifying a list from participating in the Knesset elections. Thus, while the section establishes that “a list of candidates shall not participate in elections to the Knesset … should there be explicitly or implicitly in the goals or actions of the list …” (emphasis added – D.M.) one of the causes enumerated therein. The wording in regard to the disqualification of a candidate is somewhat different. As it reads at present, after Amendment no. 46, the disqualification of a candidate shall be possible “should there be in the actions of the person, including his expressions” one of the causes enumerated in the section. This difference is no trifling matter.

6.         As we know, a law is interpreted in accordance with its language and purpose. First, the starting point of interpretation is the language of the law, where the written text should be given the meaning that its language can carry (Aharon Barak, Interpretation in Law – Interpretation of Statutes 81 (1993) (Hebrew) (hereinafter: Interpretation in Law); HCJ 7754/14 Tzalul Environmental Association v. Petroleum Commissioner [24], para 9). The language is the framework for the work of the interpreter, and he may not breach it (HCJ 2257/04 Hadash-Ta’al Faction v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 17th Knesset [5], p. 702). When the text tolerates different meanings, the interpretation that realizes its purpose should be chosen (Interpretation in Law, 85). In the present matter, as noted, Amendment no. 46 added the words “including his expressions” to sec. 7A of the Basic Law in regard to a candidate. According to the plain meaning, statements that can undermine the existence and fundamental principles of the state are sufficient to lead to the disqualification of a candidate from being elected to the Knesset, and there is no need for acts. That is also the interpretation that is consistent with the purpose of the section, which is intended to contend with those who seek to employ democratic tools in order to further anti-democratic objectives.

7.         Indeed, as the President noted, the Explanatory Notes to the bill state that the amendment was not intended to change the case law of the Court “according to which sec. 7A of the Basic Law should be used sparingly and strictly in order to protect the most vital interests of the state” (H.H. Knesset, 675). It is also important to explore the legislative history of legislation, through which it is possible to ascertain the legislative intent and purpose (Interpretation in Law, 161; CA 4096/18 Chacham and Or-Zach v. Assessment Officer [26], para. 20). However, I cannot concur with the position that the language of the amended provision is meaningless and that what has been is what will be. As has been said: “The legislative purpose, and certainly the legislative history, cannot give the law legal meaning that it cannot bear” (Interpretation in Law, 353). Indeed, there is nothing in Amendment no. 46 that would violate the principle that the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law be interpreted narrowly. I also accept that the words of a candidate or the Knesset, as well as his deeds, be examined meticulously, inasmuch as disqualification remains an extreme act that should be employed only in exceptional circumstances, as has been held in the past (see, e.g., EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset [2], para. 3 (hereinafter: the Balad case)). Nevertheless, that does not mean that the amendment does not affect the causes for disqualification established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law as we knew them in the past.

8.         First, one cannot ignore that in the past, the view was expressed in the case law of this Court that “expressions”, as opposed to “actions” do not fully fall within the compass of sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Thus, for example, in the Zoabi case, Justice H. Melcer noted: “An action in Israel’s sub-constitutional law does not generally include expression, and therefore, when the legislature sought to treat of expressing an opinion orally or in writing, it did so separately, alongside the action, or defined: “an action including an expression” (para. 2b of his opinion; and compare para. 121 of the opinion of Deputy President Rubinstein in the same matter). If, at the time, there was any doubt whether “expressions”, as distinct from “actions”, could be included under the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, then since the enactment of Amendment no. 46 of the Law, it has been expressly clarified. The legislature made itself unambiguously clear that the power of a word is as good as the power of an action. As was said: “Death and life are in the hand of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), “Does the tongue have a hand? This comes to teach us that just as the hand can kill, so the tongue can kill…” (Babylonian Talmud, Arakhin 15b).

9.         Second, although the line separating “expression” and “action” is not always clear, we cannot ignore that the interpretive principles outlined in the past in regard to the causes for the disqualification of a candidate placed emphasis on the candidate’s actions as against his expressions. Thus, for example, “actions” that must be given severe, extreme expression was spoken of (the Tibi case, p. 17). As for the third cause, which concerns support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, it was held that such “support” can be “material” or “political” (the Tibi case, p. 26; the Balad case, para. 7). Thus, Amendment no. 46 has the potential to change the criteria that were developed for the disqualification of a candidate, which have, until now, been based upon those established for the disqualification of lists.

 

The Probability Test

10.       Another matter that requires examination, and which should be addressed prior to diving into the appeals before us, is the question of the applicability of “the probability test” noted by the President, that is, whether the participation of a party or a candidate can be prevented from participating in the elections where it has not been proven that there is a probability that they may actually realize one of the causes established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. This question already arose in the first Neiman case, which was adjudicated prior to the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, in regard to the disqualification of a list. In that matter, Justice A. Barak expressed his view that although the matter was not expressed in either the majority or minority opinions in the Yeredor case, the disqualification of a list is possible only when there is a “reasonable possibility” that the party’s platform will be realized in practice. However, after the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, it was clearly established in EA 1/88 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset [5], 188 (hereinafter: the second Neiman case) that:

In setting forth the principles of sec. 7A, the legislature did not require the existence of a clear and present danger, the probability of danger arising from the objectives and conduct of the party in question, or any similar test that looks to the connection between the condemned action and the possible results. Through this, the legislature changed the legal status until the enactment of Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 9).

            Thus, in enacting sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset, the legislature abandoned the possibility of “the probability test”. In this regard, I join in the comments of my colleague Justice M. Mazuz. The provisions of the Basic Law contain no requirement for a reasonable possibility of the actual realization of the threat arising from the actions or platform of the list or its objectives (or from the actions of a candidate or his objectives, under the current wording of the section). There is firm support for the view that the matter was decided long ago in the second Neiman case, despite the questions that later arose in the Tibi case. In brief, I would note that I also find great substance in the view of Justice E. Mazza in the Tibi case (pp. 98-99) that making disqualification contingent upon the probability test could render sec. 7A devoid of all content, inasmuch as the more extreme, severe and outrageous the message, the less the probability of its actually being realized.

 

Critical Mass

11.       The case law of this Court has established that in order to approve a disqualification decision, the Court must have before it evidence that is “persuasive, clear and unambiguous” (the first Neiman case, pp. 250-251; the second Neiman case, p. 197). When the Court is convinced that such evidence has been laid before it, then the material thus constitutes the critical evidentiary “mass” required in this regard (see: the Tibi case, p. 42). This evidence can satisfy the Court as long as it is convinced of its truth, as the Court does in every matter given to its decision.

            This is not a quantitative but a qualitative test. If, for example, the Court is convinced by a single piece of evidence (and unlike this case in which there is a compendium of evidence) that can decide the matter in a certain direction, then it can base its decision thereupon. Only then will that single piece of evidence constitute a “critical mass”. As opposed to this, sometimes there is an accrual of many pieces of evidence whose force does not tip the scales and it will not constitute a “critical mass”. There is nothing actually new in this (see, for example, in the various proceedings: CrimA 7007/15 Shmil v. State of Israel [27], para. 22; CA 8742/15 Astrolog Publishers Ltd., v. Ron [28], para. 44; Yaakov Kedmi, On Evidence, Part IV, 1761ff. (2009) (Hebrew)). Indeed, the force of the evidence required for a decision changes in accordance with the category of the matter given to the Court’s decision. Sometimes, evidence that banishes all reasonable doubt is required. Sometimes, evidence that tips the scale of probability is required. Sometimes, “administrative” evidence of varying degrees is required. This, too, is not new (see, for example: CrimA 961/16 Alharoush v. State of Israel [28], para. 15; AAA 3326/18 A. v. Director of Firearm Licensing [30], para. 20). The present matter requires highly persuasive administrative evidence, and not necessarily a large amount of evidence. It is not the quantity that is decisive, but the quality.

            And now to the matter before us in the proceedings in which I disagree with my colleagues.

 

EA 1806/19 In the Matter of Cassif

12.       As noted, my colleagues decided not to disqualify Cassif’s candidacy for the Knesset elections, and I cannot concur. In my view, an examination of the material presented to us reveals that there is no room for doubting that Cassif’s statements clearly cross the legitimate boundaries defined in the framework of sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Thus, inter alia, Cassif published the following:

Uniting the democratic forces for a struggle against the Judeo-Nazism that is taking over our society is not enough, although it is certainly needed, there is a necessity for changing the methods, you don’t sing songs against fascism, you fight (report on Channel 20, May 22, 2016, quoting Cassif).

            In another report, he is heard saying that “in the Israeli discourse that the current Israeli government has created, killing Arabs is legitimate. This is how one descends into the abyss of what happened in Germany 80 years ago” (report of Channel 20 of April 12, 2018). Similarly, in regard to the Hamas, which is known to be a terrorist organization that is waging a murderous war of terror against Israel (and see: HCJ 7052/03 Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel v. Minister of Interior [31], para. 10 of the opinion of Deputy President M. Cheshin), Cassif is quoted as saying that the organization is a “political party” (report on Channel 20 of April 11, 2018). In addition, in an article on the Makor Rishon website from Feb. 7, 2019, it is reported that in the course of an interview with him, he stated that the State of Israel must not be a Jewish state. In addition to those statements, his clear, unambiguous statements expressed in a personal interview in the Ha’aretz supplement of Feb. 8, 2019, entirely fall within the scope of two of the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. Thus, Cassif presented an unadorned statement of his worldview, which includes the revocation of the Law of Return, 5710-1950 (hereinafter: The Law of Return) (p. 28 of the interview) and changing the symbols and anthem of the state (p. 26 of the interview).

            One cannot ignore that it is his position that The Law of Return should be revoked, as if it were a stumbling block rather than a law that expresses a supra-constitutional principle grounded in the Declaration of Independence, the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, and its connection to its homeland (see, for example: HCJ 7625/06 Rogachova v. Ministry of Interior [31], para. 28 of the opinion of President M. Naor; Ariel Bendor & Elichai Shilo, Israel as a Jewish State: Constitutional Significance, in Strasburg-Cohen Volume 160 (2017) (Hebrew)). Cassif’s clear statements fall completely within the bounds of statements that express the negation of the most nuclear foundations of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, as defined long ago in the Tibi case.

13.       However, these statements are dwarfed in their intensity in view of what Cassif stated about harming IDF soldiers. This is what he said:

Harming soldiers is not terrorism. Even in Netanyahu’s book on terrorism, he expressly defines harming soldiers or members of the security forces as guerilla warfare. This is absolutely legitimate according to every moral criterion, and incidentally, in international law as well. Nevertheless, I do not say that this is something wonderful, delighting, or desirable (p. 26 of his interview with Ha’aretz).

            We are concerned with matters that are most explicitly included in the cause for disqualification for support for armed struggle against the State of Israel. The fact that harming soldiers, in certain circumstances, is viewed differently from harming civilians under international law, or that it can be defined, according to Cassif, as “guerilla warfare”, does not change the fact that his statements explicitly express granting legitimacy and support for armed struggle against the State of Israel in accordance with the cause of disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. We are concerned with clear, unambiguous statements that cannot otherwise be interpreted or explained. There is “cold comfort” in that Cassif does not see such harm as “something wonderful, delighting, or desirable”.

14.       I do not find any real repudiation of these strong statements in Cassif’s statements before the Central Elections Committee or in the affidavit he submitted to the Committee, other than a denial of things attributed to him in the Makor Rishon newspaper (sec. 10 of the affidavit submitted to the Elections Committee), which, in any case, can be given only minimal weight in view of their being “second hand”. Cassif tried to place his extreme statements in a “political” context (pp. 29-30 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019), but this does not constitute a retraction of his harsh statements. In view of the severity and clarity of the statements, a general declaration alone, as Cassif expressed in para. 9 of his affidavit to the Elections Committee, is insufficient: “The request to disqualify my candidacy is a factual distortion and misleading interpretation of my words, and I therefore completely deny what is cited there”. It might have been expected that Cassif would clarify what that “factual distortion” was, and what misleading interpretation was given to the words. But other than this general, vague statement, what Cassif declared is insufficient to refute the existence of the solid evidence grounding the causes for disqualification.

            Cassif indeed notes, in a general way, in his affidavit that he “opposes all forms of violence against any person” (Cassif’s affidavit of March 3, 2019, para. 11). However, he in no way retracted the things he said in that interview – and not what he said in regard to harming IDF soldiers, in particular. On the contrary, in his affidavit, Cassif emphasized that in that interview in the Ha’aretz supplement he noted that he opposes harm to innocent civilians (ibid.). And as for harming IDF soldiers? Cassif’s silence is deafening.

15.       In his affidavit, Cassif reiterates his explanation that the statements attributed to him are, at most, “isolated” statements that “were made in order to sharpen a particular idea”, that the style of expression that included the term “Nazi” is not “characteristic” of him in general, that the statements were made in the heat of political debate, and that we are merely concerned with metaphor (para. 13 of the affidavit to the Elections Committee of March 3, 2019). However, it cannot be said that Cassif denies those expressions, retracts or denounces them, but at most, he explains them with various excuses. In the hearing before the Elections Committee, as well, Cassif did not express a clear, concrete disclaimer as to what he said, and in particular, I did not find any clear disclaimer of the statement that there is legitimate and moral justification for harming IDF soldiers. In the end, Cassif was kind enough to tell the Committee that he opposes violence (p. 34 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019). But that, as noted, is not enough. General statements according to which he rejects and opposes violence are insufficient in view of his sharp, clear statements in regard to harming IDF soldiers. According to Cassif’s approach, harming soldiers is not a form of “violence”. Moreover, when he was expressly asked in the Elections Committee hearing: “When you justify terrorist attacks upon IDF soldiers, is that not violence?” (ibid.), he did not provide a pertinent answer. In response to the question, he diverted to the causes for disqualification: “We are speaking here the language of the law, and we are talking about whether there are causes for my disqualification in light of Basic Law: The Knesset…”, while he repeated his general position that “I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all. That is one cause that I do not meet”.

16.       Even Cassif’s repeated excuse that he made the statements as a “regular citizen” and not as a public representative, and that he would “not necessarily” use those expressions if he were elected to the Knesset (para. 13 of the affidavit submitted to the Elections Committee), do not work to his benefit. Cassif is currently being examined in regard to what he has already said, and upon opinions he has already expressed as a citizen. I would note in this regard that it is clear that the provisions of the law look to the future and do not seek to “punish” a candidate for his conduct in the past, but rather to contend with the fear of an elected official exploiting his status to perform improper acts (see: the Tibi case, p. 64). However, in order to answer the question whether the actions of the list or a candidate meet one of the causes for disqualification listed in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the evidence that has accumulated in regard to that list or candidate must be examined, and this, naturally, often means before they were elected to the legislature. How can one accept the argument that Cassif should not be held accountable merely because we are concerned with statements that he made as a private individual? Every statement and action of a candidate (who has not served as a member of the Knesset in the past) is examined with consideration for the fact that the person concerned is a private individual seeking that the gates of the legislature be opened before him. Every such candidate is examined with consideration for things that he said before being elected as a public representative, while the accumulated material will always be from the period prior to his candidacy.

17.       Moreover, the argument by Cassif’s attorney that only “ideas on an intellectual basis” were concerned, cannot be of help. Statements supporting armed struggle against Israel and the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state cannot be explained away by saying that they concerned an “intellectual” debate (see, for example, the Tibi case, p. 70, which was quoted above in para. 4). This is all the more so in view of Amendment no. 40 to Basic Law: The Knesset of 2017, which made it clear, as noted, in accordance with the interpretive rules set out, that a candidate will be disqualified if his objectives or actions, “including his expressions”, constitute a negation of the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic, incitement to racism or support for armed struggle by a hostile state or terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

18.       As noted (in para. 4, above), the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law create a distinction between the legitimate right of every person to express “ideas on an intellectual basis”, whatever they may be, from every platform (subject to very limited constitutional restrictions) and the statements of a candidate for election to the Knesset, where such a person seeks to move to the area of political activity. In accordance with the dictate of the legislature, theoretical ideas are examined from a different perspective when a person seeks to realize them by means of membership in the Knesset. Were Cassif’s statements examined as of an ordinary citizen, one might say that they are infuriating and enraging or that one should forcefully take exception to them, but they are protected as free speech. However, once Cassif sought to be elected to the Knesset, we must examine whether we are concerned with statements that express support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the state of Israel or whether they negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, in the sense of denying its core foundations as established in the Tibi case. If the answer is positive – and as noted, I find it difficult to think otherwise – the candidate cannot rely upon the argument that the statements were made by him as “a private person” and that he is, therefore, exempt from answering for them. That is so in view of the purpose of sec. 7A, which, as noted, limits the use of the right granted by democracy, and in the present matter, the right to vote and to be elected, in order to prevent harm to the most basic, essential principles of its existence.

            In any case, once Cassif chose to clarify in his affidavit that he would “not necessarily” use the same expressions once elected to the Knesset (para. 13 of his affidavit), the excuse that the statements were made by him as a private individual cannot be maintained. Cassif is even unwilling to declare that those severe statements will no longer leave his lips as a public representative. Cassif himself made it clear that even after being elected, it is not necessarily the case that he will not repeat those things. In so doing, Cassif also declares that he refuses to accept the rules of the game – even if ultimately elected to the legislature (which actually occurred while these lines were being written).

19.       Indeed, not infrequently, a candidate will seek to “fix up” the positions that he publicly flaunted after he is threatened with disqualification, and in the framework of disqualification proceedings he will seek to explain that things are not what they seem. However, as a rule, a candidate’s request to deny his public statements – statements that often are those that paved his way to election to the Knesset and upon which the public trust in him was based – should be taken with a grain of salt. Dissociating from such statements in the disqualification proceedings may show those “corrected” positions to be stated solely to evade the verdict, as lip service, and not reflecting an authentic position (see: the opinion of Justice E. Rubinstein in the Zoabi case, para. 48). Cassif’s statements should be measured by the same criterion by which Ben Ari’s statements were measured. The two should not be distinguished. In a certain sense, Amendment n. 46 closed the gap between the evidentiary requirement for proving the causes for disqualification in regard to negation of the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic and support for armed conflict against the State of Israel and that of the cause of incitement to racism. Just as incitement to racism generally disqualifies by means of verbal statements (as also noted in para. 47 of the position of the Attorney general in EDA 1866/19), so too, the other causes disqualify through expression. If not identical, the evidentiary level of all the causes for disqualification should be similar.

            Just as Ben Ari’s statements disqualify him from running for the Knesset – despite his claim that he “is not a racist”, so Cassif’s words should disqualify him – despite his general claim that he “opposes violence” of any kind. The result should be identical for both.

20.       However, in certain circumstances, the gates can be opened to a candidate who retracts his statements. This, for example, if the candidate convinces that the evidence presented refers to old events, while declaring that he has changed his ways (that is the situation in the matter of Ben Gvir). A candidate who changes his ways is like a “penitent”, of whom the sages said: “In the place where penitents stand, even the wholly righteous cannot stand, as it is stated: Peace, peace upon him who is far and him who is near” (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 34b). Such a person is unlike one who “confesses but does not repent” who is likened to one who “immerses himself with a reptile in his hand”:

R. Adda b. Ahava said: To what can one compare a person who has sinned and confesses his sin but does not repent? To a man holding a reptile in his hand, for even if he immerses himself in all the waters of the world his immersion is useless for him. But if he throws it away, then as soon as he immerses himself in forty se'ahs of water, his immersion is immediately effective, as it is said: “He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy” (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit, 16a).

            A fortiori in the case of Cassif, who does not even confess his expressions. Even before the Elections Committee, and in his affidavit as well, there is no retraction of his words, nor a declaration that he has changed his path. The paltry statements that Cassif uttered do not come close to the vitriolic statements that he uttered from a public platform. On this it has been said: “He who covers up his faults will not succeed,” as opposed to “He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

21.       The State of Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state, is obligated to defend itself and to act against those who oppose it. My colleagues defend Cassif, and it has, indeed, been said, “Judge your neighbor justly” (Leviticus 19:15). Relying upon the Gemara in tractate Sanhedrin, Rashi explains: “Judge your neighbor favorably”. However, the Siftei Chachamim [Shabbethai ben Joseph Bass (1641–1718)] adds: “That is to say, specifically when he is your neighbor judge him favorably”. In other words, when he behaves like your neighbor. In my opinion, there is no doubt that the terrible things said by Cassif do not allow us to judge him favorably, and they clearly and unambiguously meet the causes for disqualification that seek to protect the state against its destroyers and block their path to being counted among its legislators.

22.       To summarize this section, as noted, Cassif presented the core of his social and political approach in the interview with him and before the Committee, and his extreme, severe and unambiguous statements express dominant, central, core characteristics of his approach. We are concerned with persuasive, clear evidence that constitutes a “critical mass” that indicates support for armed conflict and terror against Israel, and negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The force of the evidence is bolstered by the absence of clear, concrete repudiation of his statements by Cassif.

            In my opinion, all of the above unequivocally suffices to ground the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A in accordance with the criteria and proper interpretation as delineated above and that are long established by this Court.

 

EA 1876/19 In the matter of Balad

23.       Here too, as opposed to the view of my colleagues, I am of the opinion that that there is no room for doubt that the Balad list openly undermines the State of Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state and openly supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

24.       The evidence presented includes various statements and actions by members of Balad, some from the immediate past. Additionally, the petitioners requesting Balad’s disqualification referred to Balad’s activity in the past, and to the statements and actions of it former head – MK Azmi Bishara – and to the relationship between its activity and its current Knesset members to Balad’s former leader. In addition to all of that, it was argued that the “State of all its Citizens” bill (hereinafter: the bill) that the Balad Knesset members sought to present before the 20th Knesset last June makes it unequivocally clear that Balad expressly denies the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State.

            In this regard, and even were I of the opinion that no significant weight should be accorded to the other evidence to which I will refer later, I am of the opinion – like position taken by the President in para. 58 of her opinion, with which I fully concur – that no one can deny that the bill expresses a negation of “nuclear characteristics” of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Presenting the bill crossed the line sharpened in the Tibi case, which distinguished between one who supports a “state of all its citizens” in the sense of achieving civil equality and one who seeks to negate the minimal, core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Moreover, after reviewing the opinion of my colleague Justice Mazuz, I would add that, in my opinion, not only does the bill express a negation of “the nuclear characteristics” of the State of Israel, as noted, but even denies the existence of the State of Israel as “the State of the Jewish people in the national sense”. This, in reference to the identity of the state as a place where the Jewish people realizes its right to self-determination, as my colleague so well expressed in his opinion.

            In order to understand the consequences of presenting this bill in regard to examining the disqualification of the list, I will expand somewhat on the prior proceedings in the matter of Balad.

25.       The matter of Balad was addressed in the elections for the 15th Knesset (EA 2600/99 Ehrlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee [33] (hereinafter: the Ehrlich case)), and in the elections for the 16th Knesset (the Tibi case), as well as in the elections for the 18th Knesset (the Balad case). Already in the Ehrlich case in 1999 – which addressed the matter of MK Azmi Bishara, who led Balad, along with the matter of the list (when the provisions of the law permitted only the disqualification of a list and not a candidate) – it was made clear that, on their face, Bishara’s statements at the time, declaring that the Jewish people does not have a “right to self-determination”, constituted a denial of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Indeed, it was ultimately found that Balad’s candidacy should not be disqualified despite coming “dangerously close” to the line that cannot be crossed that is defined in sec. 7A of the Basic Law.

26.       In the Tibi case (in the framework of which the matter of the party was examined in a manner identical to that of Bishara, given the “powerful” connection between them), it was found that the actions attributed to Bishara in regard to the negation of existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and in regard to support for armed struggle were at the heart of its purposes and constitute a dominant objective of its activity that constituted a political potential that was realized in repeated activity and with great force. However, persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence against Bishara was not found, and thus not against the Balad list, when it was held that Bishara’s approach as to the State of Israel as a “state of all its citizens” “comes dangerously close to the possibility of negating the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state”, but it was not found that the “border had been crossed” (the Tibi case, p. 42). In addition. It was not found that there was sufficient evidence in regard to support of armed struggle, although there was some “doubt” in that regard (ibid.).

27.       Some clarification is required in this regard. In the Tibi case there was a difference of opinion as to the meaning of the phrase “a state of all its citizens” that appears in Balad’s platform. It was held that the principle of “a state of all its citizens” can take various forms, and that a purpose that sees Israel as “a state of all its citizens” does not inherently negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Thus, a person who acts to achieve the purpose of “a state of all its citizens” in the sense of guaranteeing equality among citizens is not the same as a person who employs that principle in order to infringe the rationale grounding the establishment of the state and thereby negates the character of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people (the Tibi case, p. 22).

28.       The minority was of the opinion that the evidence, taken in its entirety, showed that the expression “a state of all its citizens” served as a codeword for “abolishing Zionism, abolishing the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, and abolishing the state as a Jewish state and replacing it with another state, if not more than that” (para. 2(b) of the opinion of Deputy President (emer.) S. Levin), and that striving for “a state of all its citizens” was intended to strip the State of Israel of Zionism and of its Jewish national character (para. D of the opinion of Justice E.E. Levi).

29.       As opposed to that, the majority, as noted, did not find that the meaning of “a state of all its citizens” in regard to Bishara “crosses the line” in regard to the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. This, after finding that Bishara recognized the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel, did not argue for the repeal of the Law of Return, did not deny the centrality of the Hebrew language as the language of the state, and did not oppose the holidays and symbols of Israel (also see: para. 54 of the opinion of President E. Hayut).

            In other words, in the Tibi case, as well, where it was found that striving for the objective of “a state of all its citizens” in regard to Bishara and Balad was close to the disqualifying boundary, a remedy was found in the form of non-negation of the core principles of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The Court reiterated this position that the principle of “a state of all its citizens” in Balad’s platform does not ground a cause for disqualification in the Balad case. There, too, Justice E.E. Levy, dissenting, noted that in his opinion, the vision of Balad in regard to “a state of all its citizens” was nothing but a guise for the establishment of an Arab national state in all the territory of the Land of Israel.

30.       Thus, when examining the expression “a state of all its citizens” in the framework of Balad’s platform in the past, this Court was forced to cast about in order to discover what inhered in the concept and what meaning to give it. Where a doubt was found, the doubt worked in favor of approving the list, in view of the criteria established in regard to disqualifying a list. However, now that Balad has clarified – in the framework of dominant, significant, public and clear political activity – the significance of the expression “a state of all its citizens” for it, and the steps that it is willing to take in order to realize that vision, it can no longer be said that we are concerned with an ambiguous term. Now, following the presentation of the bill, it has been made absolutely, unambiguously clear that for this list “a state of all its citizens” means annulling the principle of return, denying the principle by which the state’s primary symbols reflect the national revival of the Jewish people, and denying the Hebrew language as the primary language of the state. It cannot now be said, by any criterion, that we are not concerned with the negation of minimal, nuclear elements of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, as held in the Tibi case.

31.       The fact that the bill was ultimately not brought before the plenum – only because on June 4, 2018 the Knesset presidium decided upon the drastic step of not approving its presentation to the Knesset – cannot be accounted to the list’s benefit, which argues that it is being retaliated against merely because it raised a theoretical “idea”. We are not concerned with just an “idea”, but rather with a concrete act – submitting a bill that sought to ground principles that undermine the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state (and also see in regard to expression by means of submitting a bill: the second Neiman case, p. 196). In view of this bill, I also find problematic the claim by the Balad list in its appeal that the requests for disqualification were not based upon a clear, direct statement, its publications, or official notices. What is a bill if not a “clear, direct statement” that expresses the values of the list and the principles that it pursues in the most simple, “clean” manner? What need do I have in looking for publications, official notices and so forth given the submission of a bill that seeks to undermine the most nuclear foundations of the state as a Jewish state? MK Mtanes Shehadeh’s “excuse” in his affidavit (affidavit of March 3, 2019 that was presented to the Elections Committee) that the bill was submitted only to “challenge the Nation State Basic Law and to hold a public debate on the issue” changes nothing in this regard or “kosher” this clear public step. On the contrary, even if the bill was submitted out of a sense of anger and grievance, I do not see how that could act in the list’s favor. Even if the members of the list presented the bill in a moment of rage, the saying goes: “By three things may a person's character be determined: By his cup, by his purse, and by his anger” (Babylonian Talmud, Eiruvin 68b). Rashi explains there: “In his anger – that he is not too hot tempered”. It is precisely when one is roiled and angry that a person is judged, and not when he is calm and at ease.

32.       Under these circumstances, no weight can even be given to what is stated in the affidavit that Shehadeh submitted to the Elections Committee that he and the members of Balad are committed to the principle of “as state of all its citizens” as reflected in the in Balad’s platform that was examined and approved long ago by this Court.  Balad itself clarified – in its own voice and not in the framework of quotes from newspaper articles that may be given to different interpretations – in the petition that it submitted to the Court (HCJ 4552/18) that the bill was consistent with its platform. In this sense, the claim that Balad now adheres to the platform that was examined and approved long ago – before the true nature of its vision of “a state of all its citizens”, which was recently publicly clarified and expressed as noted by Balad – cannot be accepted.

33.       That being the case, and in view of the background detailed above, I am of the view that there is no alternative but to say that by presenting the bill, and certainly in filing the petition (HCJ 4552/18) by members of Balad in which it was made clear that the bill was consistent with Balad’s platform, the Balad party crossed the line to which it had come “dangerously close” more than once in the past. In this context I would note that presenting the bill was an expression of real, substantial, clear parliamentary activity that, in my view, cannot be dismissed as a one-time or sporadic matter, as is the opinion of my colleague Justice Amit.

            The argument presented by Balad’s attorney that the matter of the bill was not raised before the Elections Committee but first and unexpectedly in the position of the Attorney General submitted to this Court, and that he is therefore unprepared to address it, cannot be accepted. Not only was this matter expressly raised in the framework of the disqualification request presented to the Elections Committee (paras. 17-24 of the Likud faction’s request to disqualify Ra’am-Balad), and not only was it raised in the hearing before the Elections Committee (p. 4 of the transcript of the hearing of the Elections Committee of March 6, 2019), but it was also addressed on the merits by Balad’s attorney, who raised the same claim made in that hearing that he raised before us that this is retribution merely for raising an “idea” (p. 35 of the transcript off the hearing before the Elections Committee of March 6, 2019). Moreover, the Ra’am-Balad list also expressly referred to the matter of the bill in the appeal that it submitted to this Court (paras. 23-25 of the appeal in EA 1876/19).

34.       In any case, beyond the fact that submitting the bill (together with what was stated in the petition) significantly and unambiguously grounds the said cause for disqualification, this bill does not exist in a vacuum. The bill is not the only evidence under consideration, although it would appear to be decisive evidence in and of itself. Additional evidence was presented that when added together points to a collection of evidence and a “critical mass” that demonstrates that we are concerned with a list that has raised the banner of open struggle against the foundations of the State of Israel.

35.       In this framework I would note that I do not believe that the fact that Balad’s activity and members were examined in the past renders addressing them now superfluous. Are we not required to examine the matter of Balad in accordance with the up-to-date material presented to us, which also casts light upon what was presented in the past? When the matter of Balad was examined in the past, the Court had before it the material that had accrued up to that date. Given that additional evidence has accrued in the interim, which might have led the Court to a different conclusion at that time, we cannot continue to rely upon conclusions drawn in the past from the material presented then while ignoring the updated material.

36.       Given the above, an examination of the entirety of the evidence in the matter of Balad and its members shows that this time it has gone too far. Even if in the past, the material presented in regard to it and its members came close to the bounds defined in the Basic Law but did not cross them, today the situation is different. Indeed, this Court found that MK Zoabi’s participation in the Marmara flotilla did not disqualify her from standing for election to the Knesset (the Zoabi case). However, I believe that weight should be accorded to her actions in examining the disqualification of the list of which she is a member (even if not in a “realistic” place), and in view of the additional evidence that has accrued in regard to that list since the Zoabi case. This is also true in regard to the Bishara matter, which was addressed in the past in the Ehrlich case and the Tibi case. Only later, as was also noted in the matter of Balad (in which the matter of Bishara was not addressed as he had left the country), it became clear that Bishara was suspected of serious security offenses pursuant to which he was forced to flee the country. Therefore, in examining the current evidentiary foundation in regard to the list in its entirety, weight should also be given to this matter (even though Bishara no longer stands at the head of the party). In view of the above, can one imagine that if the matter of Bishara were examined after new material came to light that pointed to serious suspicions of committing offenses, this Court would rely upon its findings in the Ehrlich case and the Tibi case without examining whether the new evidence added to the material that was examined and remained in “doubt”?

            The actions of those has since been compounded by the criminal-security related activity of MK Basel Ghattas, a member of the party who was convicted in 2017 of smuggling cellphones and other items into a prison in which security prisoners were held, as well as the conviction of another MK who was a member of the party, Said Naffaa, for the offense of contact with a foreign agent in 2014, after meeting with the deputy secretary general of the Popular Front (see the denial of his appeal in CrimA 6833/14 Naffaa v. State of Israel [34]), which was not considered in the past in the matter of the entire party.

37.       Added to all of that was the connection affirmed by Balad to its erstwhile leader Azmi Bishara in the course of the annual convention of the Ra’am-Balad party in Nazereth, when it deemed it appropriate to send him a “blessing”. And note that it was made clear to the Elections Committee that this matter was not denied (pp. 29-32 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019). By that, the present Balad list also declared that it is the successor of the person who led it in the past. It should be emphasized that we are not concerned only with a relationship with Bishara that justifies disqualifying the list (compare: the Balad case, para. 20), and I am not unaware that of the list’s argument that it cannot be held responsible for the actions of MK Naffaa, who has not been a member of the Balad party since 2010, or the actions of Zoabi, who is in an “unrealistic” place on the list. We are concerned with an aggregation of additional, compounded evidence over the course of years that indicates a significant, persuasive, and unambiguous tapestry in regard to meeting the causes of disqualification. An additional connection to Bishara was also presented in the article in the Ha’aretz newspaper of Aug. 18, 2014, according to which then members of the list – Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi, and Basel Ghattas – met with Bishara in Qatar, which was not denied by Shehadeh (pare. 8 of Shehadeh’s affidavit to the Elections Committee). To all of this is added the current conduct of the members of the list in the form of giving unambiguous, blunt support for terrorist actors who were convicted and incarcerated, whom the current head of the list, MK Shehadeh, refers to as “political prisoners” (article in the Makor Rishon newspaper of Jan. 13, 2019). This is compounded by unambiguous statements in a recorded interview (on Galei Yisrael radio) in the course of which Shehadeh stated in his own words that “every struggle against the occupation is legitimate” and that “we support every popular struggle”.

            Thus, the entirety of the clear, unambiguous evidence – together with the most significant piece of evidence concerning the submission of the bill – shows that the dominant characteristics at the center of the list’s parliamentary and extra-parliamentary action are directed at infringing protected values. The list vigorously acts to realize its objectives through actions and verbal statements.

38.       Under these circumstances, the list’s argument that part of the evidence concerns persons who are no longer candidates of the Ra’am-Balad list for the elections to the 21st Knesset can be of no assistance. The candidates of the 21st Knesset sought, of their own initiative, to join a list that has a “rich” past as detailed above. We are concerned with people who seek to join an existing list based upon the “reputation” that it has acquired, the ideology that is its banner, its purposes and actions that were expressed on various public platforms, and of course, its supporters. The candidates’ distancing themselves from the action of that list – at least in regard to the matter of the bill that was submitted during the term of the 20th Knesset – cannot be accepted. Beyond the fact that evidence was presented that indicates a real connection to its erstwhile leader Bishara, we cannot countenance the argument that the current members of Balad do not stand behind Balad’s platform that Balad itself declared in the 20th Knesset was consistent with what was stated in the bill that was submitted. The claim that we are concerned with “a new generation” cannot be accepted when it concerns the disqualification of a list regarding which clear, unambiguous evidence was presented regarding the meeting of a cause for disqualification.

39.       According to the position of the Attorney General as expressed before us (in sec. 44 of his written position as well as in the oral arguments – despite the fact that he said absolutely nothing on this matter in the written position presented to the Elections Committee), there is nothing in the bill that would lead to the disqualification of the entire list because we are concerned with a joint list of Ra’am-Balad and not of Balad alone. In my opinion, the Ra’am-Balad list cannot be approved for this reason alone. It is difficult to accept the argument that the existence of a cause for disqualification can be “healed” by joining one list to another in a joint list. In view of the purposes of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the combining of lists cannot confer “immunity” or a defense to a party that has deviated from the path. This, while undermining the fundamental principles defined in the framework of the Basic Law, is not repaired by adding a party. The Sages taught us the principle: “Woe to the wicked person and woe to his neighbor,” and “Blessed is the righteous person and blessed are his neighbors,” which is derived from the arrangement of the Israelite encampment in the desert. Thus, the tribe of Reuben, which encamped beside the members of Kehat, was punished with them in the dispute with Korach and his followers, while the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon, which encamped beside Moses, Aaron and his sons, became great Torah scholars (Numbers 3:29 and Rashi ad. loc.). If that is so for the arrangement of an encampment and the placement of neighbors, all the more so when we are concerned with a party joining with another. Joining together is premised upon a shared ideological, political, and conceptual platform. As the prophet Amos said: “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). We cannot accept the argument that if there is a cause for the disqualification of the Balad party, the very joining of Ra’am suffices to remedy it. The joining of the Balad party with the Ra’am party does not purify it, but rather it contaminates the Ra’am party that tied its fate with it in a joint list. The “pure” does not purify the “impure”, but rather the “impure” corrupts the “pure”. It would be better were parties to act cautiously when choosing to join parties whose extremist course is on the boundary (and certainly when it crosses the boundary) defined in the Basic Law.

            To summarize, in my opinion, both in the matter of Cassif and in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list, “all else has failed” even according to the strict criterion of my colleague Justice Sohlberg.

40.       In conclusion, my colleagues’ interpretation in regard to the disqualification of a single candidate and in regard to the disqualification of a list on the cause of support for armed struggle against the State of Israel and the cause of denying the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state render the words of the legislature merely theoretical. The Talmud (BT Sanhedrin 71a) addresses the elements of the offense of an individual – the stubborn and rebellious son, and of a group – the idolatrous city, which have committed certain offenses. However, the Tannaim interpreted the elements of the offenses so rigidly that that the Talmud concludes: “There never was and never will be a stubborn and rebellious son. And why was it written? So that you may expound upon it an receive reward”, and: “There never has been an idolatrous city and there never will be one. And why was it written? So that you may expound and receive reward” (a similar expression also appears in regard to Job, of whom it was said: “Job never existed and was never created, but was a parable” (BT Bava Batra 15a). However, alongside this view we find the view of Rabbi Yochanan, who was of the opinion that these were not merely theoretical matters, and who states in regard to the stubborn and rebellious son, “I saw him”, and in regard to the idolatrous city, “I saw it”. We are concerned with practical matters that were and will be in the future. By analogy, the above is applicable to the matters before us, as well.

            And so I say loudly and clearly: “I saw him,” “I saw it,” and we cannot turn our eyes away from seeing.

 

Justice G. Karra:

            I concur in the opinion of President E. Hayut and with the opinions of my colleagues U. Vogelman, I. Amit and E. Baron on the matter of the inapplicability of the probability test to the cause of disqualification for incitement to racism under sec, 7A(a)(2). I would add that the accumulated critical mass of statements and actions detailed at length in the President’s opinion thoroughly ground the conclusion that incitement to racism is a dominant, firmly rooted, and central purpose of Ben Ari’s doctrine. The escalation of racist statements over the last years leaves no possibility for accepting his artificial explanations, not even to the extent of raising doubt as to the intention and purpose of the statements.

            From among Ben Ari’s racist statements and actions, I would like to spotlight a dark, severe act mentioned in para. 44 of the President’s opinion, that is lost in the large catalogue of his inciteful publications. I refer to the act of tearing up the New Testament and throwing it into the waste basket when Ben Ari was serving as a member of the Knesset in the years 2009 to 2013. It is an act that has nothing to do with incitement against Arabs, but it serves to show us that Ben Ari’s racist worldview, which he has espoused over the course of years, is much broader and deeper than incitement against Arabs, whom he sees as enemies. It would appear that this racism is deeply rooted in hatred of the “other” and the different, per se.

            Approving the candidacy of a person who incites to racism and hatred of the other would taint Israeli democracy, and therefore, a normative statement is required saying that such an inciter must be relegated from the Israeli Knesset.

 

Justice N. Hendel:

  1. I concur in the clear, comprehensive opinion of my colleague President E. Hayut. I would briefly sharpen what I see as the main points in regard to each of the actors – candidates and lists – examined in the present proceedings, regarding which there are disagreements among the members of this panel. I will also present my position on a number of general issues regarding which questions or doubts were raised – the probability test, the consequences of two parties running jointly in regard to the existence of a cause for the disqualification of one of them, and the interpretation of the cause “denial of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state”.

The relationship between law and elections can be likened to two pillars. One pillar says: “This is democracy’s holiday. An equal vote for every citizen. The people must have its say. The Court does not – and must not – take a stand as to the desired results”. The other pillar says: “Elections without law may distort democracy. Not a day of celebration but of mourning. Bribery, bullying, or a regime takeover of the elections. The answer is the open eyes of the law as written, expressed, and intended. There must be rules even for the smallest details: the timeframe must be strictly observed; the ballot box must be accessible; who can vote and who can be elected. Maintaining the laws is also vital to democracy”. While the first pillar maintains a distance between the law and the elections, the second requires involvement and supervision. Is there a contradiction between the two? I believe that the answer is in the negative, and it is unsurprising. The two pillars sing the praises of democracy together. In other words: there is no contradiction between democracy and the Court’s supervision over the rules. On the contrary, the Court acts to advance democratic principles by virtue of the authority conferred upon it by the legislature.

            Democratic elections are not self-evident. History gives context. In the past, and for a very long period, change of regime was achieved by military coup or the death of the autocratic ruler. Democracy changed the rules. Not power but election. Decisions are made not by the powerful but rather every citizen has equal power. That is the aspiration, and it must strictly be put into practice. It is not a simple task. After all, the voice of the single voter is not, of itself, strong in comparison to the regime. Democracy strives to preserve its character and not lose it in the course of elections. This gives rise to the role of the Court and the proximity of the pillars.

  1. Israeli law establishes when a candidate or a list should be prevented from participating in the elections due to their objectives, actions, and expressions. Section 7 of Basic Law: The Knesset presents the substantive test and the procedures for preventing a list or candidate from participating in elections for the Knesset. This section, and section 63A of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969, establish the procedures for this. The substance is defined by three causes for disqualification:

 

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;

(2) incitement to racism;

(3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

The procedures are that when the Central Elections Committee for the Knesset Elections prevents the participation of a candidate, the approval of a nine-judge panel of the Supreme Court is required. It is not an appeal but an approval proceeding. The law chose to introduce the Court into the proceedings. It is not post facto judicial review but an ex ante decision. For the prevention of the participation of a list or the approval of a candidate of a list – there is an appeals process.

We addressed the tension between the two pillars presented. Each holds great power in our legal system, and thus the sensitivity required in the course of moving between them in practice and in real time. The path chosen by this Court is one of caution and self-restraint before it prevents the participation of a candidate or a list. Doubt acts in favor of the candidate. This is the consistent approach of the case law in election matters, as explained by my colleague the President. It is interesting to turn to another area of law in which doubts wields great power. In criminal law, a person can be convicted if the charge is proved beyond reasonable doubt. The reason for this is the recognition of the regime’s power to taint and punish the individual. As opposed to this, in Knesset elections, the power of doubt lay in a different consideration – the role of the voter in choosing the candidate and the list it prefers. This Court does not eagerly intervene in election matters. On the other hand, the law requires it to do so in the appropriate circumstances. Just as the will of the electorate must be honored, so too the will of the legislature in such matters. The compromise – or more precisely, the proper balance – is to employ the law only to prevent candidacy in exceptional cases in which, for example, the doubt is not of substance and is not rooted in reality. This rule is intended to permit the voter to express its position on the matter within the four cubits of the ballot box. As opposed to criminal law, in which the court establishes facts in regard to the defendant’s acts and intentions – in the present matter, we look not only backward but forward as well: is the candidate or the list, at the time of the elections, expected to act contrary to the causes enumerated in the law if elected – but in the present and not necessarily in the past. We are thus concerned with a certain evaluation in regard to the future.

However, in the exceptional case in which the candidacy of a candidate or a list meets the following criteria: the cause is a dominant characteristic of the list or the candidate; there is clear, unambiguous evidence of the cause; there is active conduct, including expression in the case of a candidate, for realizing the wrongful objectives; there is a critical mass of highly credible evidence (see the detailed description in para. 16 of the opinion of my colleague the President). Only if these conditions are met is there the necessary certainty to justify the result of disqualification. In the background stands the right to vote and to be elected. That underlies the democratic foundation of elections. And note that the right to be elected has direct consequences for the right to vote.

Another aspect of the matter is remorse or a candidate’s recanting an objective or activity related to one of the constitutional causes. The reason is self-evident. The decision is not personal or punitive but rather institutional and preventative. In other words, its purpose is to prevent an inappropriate actor from becoming a member of the next Knesset. Of course, we are not concerned merely with a declarative test. There must be an examination of whether there are grounds to conclude that the declaration is sincere. Or more precisely – that the declaration is not sincere. Of course, there is a possibility that a candidate may not live up to his declarations. This is not a danger that would justify expanding the list of disqualified actors. If a candidate or list does not live up to its expectations, there are “sanctions” and other means for contending with the matter, whether in the course of the Knesset’s term or in the elections for the next Knesset.

3.         Two points to conclude the general sections. The first concerns the dissenting opinions of my colleagues. I have read the opinions of my colleagues Justice N. Sohlberg and Justice D. Mintz. My colleague Justice Sohlberg is of the opinion that no one should be prevented from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesst, while my colleague Justice Mintz is of the opinion that along with Michael Ben Ari, Ofer Cassif and the Ra’am-Balad list should be prevented from participating in the elections for the Knesset. In my opinion, and pursuant to the above, Justice Sohlberg’s approach might lead to the non-disqualification even of candidates who clearly meet the causes for disqualification. This, while making even the strict case-law tests weighed prior to preventing the participation of a candidate or list in the elections more strict. As for the approach of my colleague Justice Mintz, in my view, his approach might lead to over-disqualification of candidates and lists from both sides. It would appear to me that the path taken by the case law in the past and in the present embraces both of the pillars presented above. Disqualification is imposed cautiously and only exceptionally.

            The second point is that of the symmetry test. My colleague Justice Sohlberg presented a statement by MK Michael Eitan in which he asks: “Where is the symmetry?” I agree with this question and would only like to sharpen the point. Symmetry does not have to be expressed in the final result, but rather in the application of equal criteria. Aspiring to symmetry in order to balance the results is a quasi-political consideration that the Court cannot adopt. I will allow myself to say that reading the opinions of my colleagues – of the majority and the minority – shows that the conclusions were based upon a legal approach and the examination of the evidence, and not upon any desire to maintain equally balanced results.

            Armed with these tools, I will conduct an individual examination of the relevant actors – Michael Ben Ari, Ofer Cassif, and the Ra’am-Balad list.

4.         Michael Ben Ari: The relevant cause in the matter of Ben Ari is “incitement to racism”. We are concerned with some forty different statements, most of which were uploaded to the Facebook page of “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari”, such that the matters cannot be denied. Indeed, Ben Ari does not deny them. Most of the material dates from the year preceding the elections. My colleague the President presented the relevant statements (paras. 38-41 of fer opinion). It makes for difficult reading. What was presented suffices, and there is no need to present it again, Comparing the statements with the language of the law raises the question of what is the test for “incitement to racism”?

            I will begin with the term “incitement”. Not racism but incitement to racism. The hand or mouth of one and the hearing ear of the other. In other words, we are not concerned with personal views that the candidate keeps to himself. The opinions must be expressed in order to incite to racism. In addition, my colleague Justice M. Mazuz referred to the probability test. In his opinion, that test should not be applied to the causes under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. I agree with his conclusion and reasoning. The language does not support the application of such a test, and such is also the purposive interpretation. Such a test would be too speculative and very difficult to apply at the time of the elections. Additionally, the basis of the causes for disqualification is not necessarily the prevention of a real, concrete threat to one of the protected values, but rather clearly expresses not granting legitimacy to lists or candidates who adopt the approaches set out in the causes. In summary, I accept his conclusion that “we are concerned with causes of ‘conduct’ not ‘results’” (para. 2 of his opinion).

            Now to the question of what constitutes “racism”. My colleague the President addressed, inter alia, the aspects of hatred, hostility, persecution, degradation, and humiliation (paras. 25-32 of her opinion). In regard to Ben Ari’s candidacy, I will say: there is no need to establish the minimal threshold for disqualifying a candidate on the basis on incitement to racism. It suffices to find that in this case, the candidate exceeded the threshold by a wide margin. His statements seek to influence conduct. And note that the lack of a need to prove the elements of the probability test does not contradict the fact that the aspiration to influence conduct in practice reinforces the ground for disqualification. In his statements, Ben Ari espouses the denial of civil rights to the Arab public. So in regard to participating in public tenders and so in regard to their ability to live in cities. He supports their collective deportation in certain circumstances, and employs violent imagery in regard to that community, including shooting. The evidence is very substantial, unambiguous, and dominant in his doctrine.

            In his affidavit to the Elections Committee, Ben Ari argues that he is not a racist, in that he accepts that every person – including the Arabs – are created in God’s image. Only then does Ben Ari proceed to the loyalty test. He is not against Arabs because of how they were born, but because they failed the loyalty test. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of Arabs are not loyal. That “overwhelming majority” was defined in various statements: from 99% to a few who can be counted on the fingers, and Ben Ari never met a loyal Arab. Thus, they have all become enemies. This is the fallacy at the base of incitement to racism. As President Shamgar held, racism is not just a matter that derives from the biology of the other (EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset [5], 191-192). Racist views can also be examined in accordance with theories, conclusions, and factors that arose after a person’s birth and not upon the DNA that characterizes a group of the population. Not just genetics but epigenetics. Ben Ari did not explain the meaning of the “loyalty test” – what are the criteria of this test, when does one fail it, and how is it that with the exceptions of a very small number of individuals, all Arabs belong to the disloyal group. We are concerned with very severe matters that are not based upon facts but upon a circular conclusion. The results are harsh. An Arab is presumed to be an enemy who must be dealt with. This, by means of denial of rights, deportation, or the possibility of violent treatment. For example, it was stated that anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live, but rather “a firing squad kills him, he is done away with”; that the “murderers” should not be employed, also in reference to the Arab residents of Israeli cities; that affirmative action should be rescinded in view of the “treasonous” and “murderous” character of Arabs; that Arabs are a “murderous people, a murderous nation”; and that the village from which a terrorist went to an “airport” should be uprooted and its residents “flown” to other countries.

5.         I will clarify the matter from another perspective. One may ask why these particular causes established in the law were chosen. The cause of support for armed struggle against the state is clear and requires no explanation. The cause of denial of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State was intended to defend the existing foundations of the state. As for incitement to racism, we are concerned with a desire to deny the legitimacy of a group. In a varied, multi-group society like that of the State of Israel, this harms the nature of the society. This is striking when we are concerned with some twenty percent of the population. It saddens me to say that reading Ben Ari’s positions – and the reader can read paras. 38-41 of the opinion of my colleague the President – leads not only to racism in the form of humiliation and hatred, but also to severe acts that might undermine social order or create discriminatory law in regard to the foundations of civil rights, including the right to remain a citizen of the state. This is not due to the actions of the group, not due to criminal offenses perpetrated or plans to do harm, but because they do not meet the conception of a proper minority as Ben Ari understands it. By that, I am not finding that he has committed a crime, but there are special requirements in regard to lists and candidates for the Knesset. Particularly in a system in which a representative often represents a specific group, we must make certain that even if he does not fight for the rights of the group, he cannot fundamentally deny the legitimacy of the other group and its right to elementary rights. And all the more so, harm and violence lacks any legitimacy.

6.         The conclusion from all of the above is that this is an unambiguously extreme case. And note well, Ben Ari did not express remorse, but rather embraced his position while explaining that he is not a racist and does not reject Arabs on the basis of their birth. To clarify the picture, let us compare him to Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir and to former candidate Baruch Marzel. It can be assumed that the three share a similar ideology, in that they ran together on the same list. However, this Court refrained from disqualifying Marzel and Ben Gvir. The decision not to disqualify Ben Gvir in these proceedings was unanimous. What difference is there between him and Ben Ari, who was disqualified by an eight-judge majority? It would appear that the tests of the strength of the evidence, its extent, quality, and unambiguity led to that result. But we would note one additional criterion: expressing remorse. Both Marzel and Ben Gvir informed the Court that they intended to act in accordance with the requirements of the law, including the causes for disqualification that it establishes. Even if they behaved differently in the past, they declared that that is how they would conduct themselves. They understood and internalized the qualifying conditions for Knesset candidacy. Ben Ari was not a partner to that choice. He continues to support the views that he expressed. We are not concerned with some technical defect or lack of comprehension. Just as we must respect the manner in which Ben Gvir and Marzel presented their arguments at the moment of truth, so we must respect Ben Ari’s position that justifies his disqualification. My colleagues spoke of how, due to its history, the Jewish people in particular must be sensitive to statements like those expressed by Ben Ari. In my view, we should add that it is not just the history of the Jewish people, but also its faith.  But truth be told, there is no need for that. In these circumstances, there is not even a need to demonstrate the matter by a thought experiment in which Ben Ari would express his views in another country against Jews.

7.         Ofer Cassif: The disqualification request points to two causes that can bar his participation in the Knesset elections. The first is “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” and the second is “support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel”. The evidence presented against him relies upon four publications, the central of which is an interview he gave to the Ha’aretz newspaper in February 2019. It would appear that my colleague Justice Mintz addressed both causes together, but there is a difference in the scope of the evidence and in Cassif’s explanations in regard to each cause, which requires that they be addressed separately. My colleague presented Cassif’s case as so clear as to leave no doubt, and according to his approach, there is no possibility of arriving at a different result.

            Below, I will sketch the general outline of why I hold a different view. The question in regard to Cassif, as for every candidate, is whether there is justification for preventing him from being elected as a member of Knesset in view of the causes established in the Basic Law. As I explained above, the matters are examined in a particular period of time, with a view to the future, and in regard to the candidates functioning in the legislature if he be elected. Past statements and actions may serve as the evidentiary foundation in regard to a position in the present and in the future. The purpose is not to punish improper actions and statements, but to ascertain whether the candidate constitutes an exception that justifies barring his participation in the elections. Cassif said things in the past, although not with great frequency and consistency, that would require him to explain why he should not be prevented from participating in the elections. Cassif’s answer to this is clear, consistent, and divided into three parts: one, in regard to the possibility that he supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, is that he does not support violence, not in the past and certainly not at present. I believe that an examination of the matter, as I will explain, supports that conclusion. Even if Cassif spoke harshly, there is a lack of a foundation proving that he supports violence – certainly the foundation needed to prove that he supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

            The second part of his answer concerns the possibility of negating the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In this regard, he does not deny that he has made statements in the past against various symbols of the state and against the Law of Return, but he declared that he accepts the platform of his list – Hadash-Ta’al – and does not, in that or any other frameworks, act or call for the annulment of the symbols or the Law of Return. He accepts the parliamentary rules. In other words, not only is this not a case of a dominant purpose, but rather there is no such purpose at all. As I explained above, the Court has consistently granted weight to a change of position and a declaration in regard to an absence of intent to act or express oneself contrary to the causes enumerated in Basic Law: The Knesset. As noted, this consideration, applied mutatis mutandis to other causes, is what allowed the candidacy of Baruch Marzel in the past, as well as that of Itamar Ben Gvir at present. It his unwillingness to follow that path that stands in Ben Ari’s way.

            The third part concerns various statements by Cassif that compare the State of Israel and the members of its government to Nazi Germany. My colleague Justice Mintz gave weight to those statements. We are concerned with shameful statements that do no honor to one who makes them, and certainly not to one who seeks election a member of Knesset. It were better had they never been said, and one hopes that if Cassif is elected to the next Knesset, he will refrain from acting in this manner. However, as my colleague the President noted in her opinion – and this is the third part of Cassif’s response – those statements do not fall within the scope of any of the causes enumerated in sec. 7A, and to my understanding, the Court cannot take them into account in examining the disqualification of a candidate. In this regard, I would note that the opinion of my colleague Justice Mintz also referred to Cassif’s statement in his affidavit (para. 13) that he would “not necessarily use those expressions if elected to the Knesset” (emphasis added). According to his approach, the absence of an undertaking by Cassif in regard to his future conduct does not work in his favor. However, and see paras. 12 and 13 of the affidavit, it appears that this statement referred to the shameful statements mentioned above, and not to statements related to the causes enumerated in the law, such that I do not think that this can be held against him in this proceeding.

            In view of the severity of the cause of supporting armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, it would be proper to present Cassif’s own words as stated in his affidavit to the Elections Committee. He affied that “I have never called for violence, and I am opposed to violence as such against any person”. As my colleague the President noted, Cassif explained to the Elections Committee that “I never supported violence, I always expressed opposition to violence, I belong to a party that has always rejected violence […]” and stated further on that “I rejected, and I reject, and I will reject, and I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all”. In regard to the definition of the term “terror” as opposed to “guerilla warfare” in all that concerns harm to soldiers, Cassif’s attorney emphasized in the hearing before us that the statements were made in the course of an academic debate on the subject and that one should not infer that he expressed support for harming soldiers from the presentation of his position in the matter:

He said that he has a dispute with the term “terror” even in the UN there is a dispute about this word. He wrote this and teaches his students. The dispute about the Prevention of Terror Ordinance then was a debate. Therefore, what he says about this matter of who is or isn’t a terrorist from an intellectual and academic perspective is debated […] these terms that he employs are not foreign to the Supreme Court and not to the international humanitarian court. Not one word here is a call [to terror] (p. 9 of the transcript).

            Even if one does not agree with the definitions adopted by Cassif, and even if they cause indignation, in the context presented to us they cannot be taken to imply, of themselves and certainly not given the entire collection of statements and explanations, support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. It is sad that his words show, in my opinion, a certain sense of contempt for the lives of IDF soldiers and complacency in regard to many citizens who have lost what was most dear to them in the name of defending the homeland. In such matters, a member of Knesset and a candidate for election as a member of Knesset is expected to act with sensitivity. But there is a gap between such a failing and the existence of a cause to prevent participation in the elections.

            In summation, I would say as follows. In my opinion, there is no basis for attributing to Cassif statements that support armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel or the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. As noted above, there are four conditions that must be met in order to bar a candidate from participating in the Knesset elections: the cause for disqualification constitutes a dominant feature; the existence of clear, unambiguous evidence of the existence of the cause; activity, including expression, for the realization of the wrongful purposes; a critical mass of highly credible evidence. In my opinion, there is no basis for attributing to Cassif expressions of support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. He made it clear that he always was and always will be against violence. As for his positions on the symbols of the state and the Law of Return, he declared that he abides his party’s platform. In regard to both causes, the evidentiary foundation is sparse, certainly not unambiguous, and lacks the requirement of dominance or activity for the realization of the purpose. In other words, both independently and cumulatively, the evidentiary foundation against him does not meet the four tests.

8.         Ra’am-Balad: The proceeding in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list focused upon the Balad party. It is argued that the central piece of evidence for disqualifying the list in these elections is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill that Balad sought to propose to the 20th Knesset. The bill was submitted to the Knesset presidium, but that body did not approve its presentation before the Knesset.

            The bill was of a general character. For example: “The state is a state of all its citizens, in which the regime is democratic; the state’s regime is based upon the values of the dignity of the person, his liberty and his being an equal among equals”. There is also reference to the language, the symbols and the anthem, which will be in the same spirit. It is argued that the positive implies the negative, that is, that the practical significance of this bill is the revocation of the Law of Return and changing the symbols of the state and its anthem such that they would not express its being Jewish but only democratic. Taking this step carries some weight. It is more forceful than a newspaper interview, for example. It is parliamentary activity that can bear fruit. The list’s attorney argued that the bill was a sort of “gimmick” in response to Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People. This argument, in itself, is insufficient. The bill refers to the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish (and democratic) state, and even if some party or other is frustrated as a result of the activity of the government and the Knesset, it is not exempt from the requirements of the Basic Law. However, the submission of the bill must be examined not just on the legal level but on the factual level. To be more precise, the factual level constitutes a central part of the legal examination. Thus, the party’s conduct in regard to the causes under the law must be examined in accordance with the strict rules. From that perspective, the bill, by itself, does not cross the necessary threshold. First, as already stated, one of the conditions is that of dominance in the purposes and active conduct. It was not argued that the bill also appears in the party’s platform. Second, the bill is signed by the Knesset members who served at the time, some of whom are no longer candidates in the current list, and others are place only symbolically. Thus, for example, MK Hanin Zoabi was placed in the 118th spot on the list. In regard to the candidates who appeared before us and who are placed at the top of the list, it turns out that they do not support that position. Their attorney even referred to the bill as a kind of mistake. And again, the matter must be examined according to the relevant tests. It would not appear that the desire to annul the anthem, the law and the symbols is dominant, or that they are actively working in such a manner, in particular in regard to the figures who currently represent the list. On the contrary, those positions are not part of the party’s planned parliamentary activity. Not just remorse, but a lack of devotion to the purpose, and conduct at a very specific time. Were the list continuing in that conduct – since the Law of Return remains in force – the situation might be different. But that is not the situation before us.

            From reading the opinion of my colleague Justice Mintz, it appears that he does not agree with the reasoning of the majority. He expanded upon the subject of the party’s conduct that was addressed in the case law in the past, in regard to previous Knesset elections. Of course, one can be of this or that opinion in regard to decisions rendered in regard to previous Knesset elections, but it does not appear that at present, significant weight should be attributed to conduct that this Court already decided was insufficient to prevent the party’s participation in the elections. Thus, the focus is upon the new material, and that is what I addressed.

            My colleague Justice Mazuz is of the opinion that the term “Jewish state” in the context of Basic Law: The Knesset should be understood as referring to the identity of the state in the national sense. In other words, it does not necessarily refer to a change of the internal content, like the state’s symbols. In my view, it would be incorrect to construe the term “Jewish state” as a test of the right of the Jewish people solely to national existence for three reasons. First, the term “Jewish” is not merely a geographical matter, but an historical one as well. The state’s symbols carry weight in the basic definition of the state. So it is in regard to other states as well. Second, the case law has also adopted this view in the past (see, e.g., EDA 50/03 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [35], 21-22, according to which “the ‘nuclear’ characteristics that shape the minimal definition of the state being a Jewish state…the right of every Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel in which Jews will be the majority; Hebrew is the primary official language of the state; Jewish heritage is a central component of its religious and cultural heritage”). Third, it would appear that practical experience shows that the objections in debates upon negation of the Jewish state focused upon the return to Zion, and not upon questions of general, historical, and religious symbols. Thus, the practical consequences of this distinction are unclear. The primary practical problem concerns proposals to annul the Law of Return, and not merely the changing of the symbols. In any case, it would seem that a construction that includes “internal” characteristics of the term “Jewish” would be more precise, and thus I would take exception to my colleague Justice Mazuz’s distinction. Of course, when I say “internal”, I refer to the most basic matters, but there is no need for elaboration or for a precise delineation.

            A final point. According to the position of the Attorney General, there is significance to the fact that the Ra’am and Balad parties are running together on one list. As opposed to this, I am of the opinion that as a rule, a party that has been tainted by a cause that disqualifies it from participating in the elections cannot cross the hurdle by joining with another party. Such an approach would afford too easy an exemption for a party that should be disqualified simply because it joins with another. In my view, the Attorney General’s approach, according to which weight should be given to the combining of parties – even if this does not grant an “exemption” – is problematic. The reason for this is that it is not clear how to calculate such a factor. There is also the fear that parties might join together so that one will “clean” the other of the cause that has tainted it. It is one thing to recognize remorse, and another to grant a seal of approval due to joining another party. I am of the opinion that if there is a cause for disqualification, then the law requires that the list be barred from running, subject, of course, to restricting disqualification to exceptional cases. Therefore, I did not grant weight to the arguments concerning the relationship between Balad and Ra’am in examining the matters.

9.         The right to vote and the right to be elected are twins, but not identical. In practice, “to vote and be elected” is presented as a single right, when each actually has an independent dimension. This is so, despite the strong connection between them, regarding which it suffices to mention that the right to be elected influences the right to vote. I will demonstrate what the two rights share and what distinguishes them in regard to the issue addressed in these proceedings – the application of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset.  

            The right to vote focuses upon the identity of the decider and the right to be elected on the question of who is qualified to represent the people, or in our case – who is not qualified to represent them. It would appear that the right to vote places its emphasis upon the individual. The vote of every voter is worth no less that the vote of any other voter, regardless of his status, position, conduct, or statements. Therefore, the criteria for identifying who is entitled to vote are formal. As opposed to this, the question as to who can be elected is not merely formal, but value based. This is how we are to understand the causes that prevent participation in the elections that concern not only support for armed struggle, but also negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and incitement to racism. Its purpose is to define the society and its boundaries. The purpose of the right to vote is to protect the individual, whereas the purpose of the right to be elected is to protect the unity of the nation. Both rights are precious.

***

It was therefore decided, on March 17, 2019, by a majority, in accordance with the opinion of President E. Hayut, not to approve the decision of the Central Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of the candidacy of Cassif; to grant the appeal in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list and rule that it is not barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset; to grant the appeal in the matter of Ben Ari and rule that he is barred from participating in these elections. In addition, the Court unanimously decided to deny the appeal in all that regards the Election Committee’s decision not to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list, and to deny the appeal in the matter of the non-disqualification of Ben Gvir.

Given this day, 15 Tammuz 5779 (July 18, 2019).

 

 

[1] Mishna Eduyot 5:7 – ed.

[2] Jeremiah 51:5 – ed.

                                                                                                                                    EDA 1806/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1866/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1867/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1876/19

 

In re:                                      Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

 

Plaintiffs in EDA 1806/19:               1.         MK Avigdor Lieberman

                                                            2.         MK Oded Forer

                                                            3.         Yisrael Beiteinu Faction

Appellants in EA 1866/19:               1.         Issawi Frej

                                                            2.         Ofer Kornfeld

                                                            3.         Atara Litvak

                                                            4.         Debbie Ben Ami

                                                            5.         Sonia Cohen

                                                            6.         Richard Peres

                                                            7.         Eran Yarak

                                                            8.         Gil Segal

                                                            9.         Shifrit Cohen Hayou Shavit

                                                            10.       Osama Saadi

                                                            11.       Wiam Shabita

                                                            12.       Yousouf Fadila

                                                            13.       Meretz Faction

                                                            14.       MK Stav Shaffir

15.       Reform Movement for Religion and State – Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism  

16.       Tag Meir Forum

Appellants in EA 1867/19:               1.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari

                                                            2.         Itamar Ben Gvir, Adv.

                                                            3.         Hoshaya Harari

                                                            4.         Yochai Revivo

                                                            5.         MK David Bitan

                                                            6.         Elidor Cohen

                                                            7.         Yaakov (Kobi) Matza

                                                            8.         Yigal Harari

                                                            9.         Yaakov Dekel

                                                            10.       Shimon Boker

                                                            11.       Yossi Shalom Haim Rozenboim

Appellant in EA 1876/19:                             Ra’am List

 

                                                                        v.

 

Respondents in EDA 1806/19:         1.         Dr. Ofer Cassif

                                                            2.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1866/19:            1.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari

                                                            2.         Itamar Ben Gvir, Adv.

                                                            3.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            4.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1867/19:            1.         Hadash-Ta’al List

                                                            2.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            3.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1876/19:            1.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            2.         Likud Faction et al.

                                                            3.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari et al.

                                                            4.         Attorney General

                                                            5.         The Knesset

 

EDA 1806/19: Approval procedure under sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset and sec. 63A(b) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1866/19: Appeal under sec. 63A(d) and sec. 65(A1) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1867/19: Appeal under sec. 64(a1) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1876/19: Appeal under sec. 64(a) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

 

The Supreme Court

Before: President E. Hayut, Justice N. Hendel, Justice U. Vogelman, Justice I. Amit, Justice N. Sohlberg, Justice M. Mazuz, Justice A. Baron, Justice G. Karra, Justice D. Mintz

 

Supreme Court cases cited:

1.         EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. MK Ahmad Tibi, IsrSC 57 (4) 1 (2003)

 

2.         EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset (Jan. 21, 2009)

3.         EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee for the 19th Knesset v. MK Hanin Zoabi (Feb. 18, 2015)

4.         EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset, IsrSC 39(2) 225 (1985) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/neiman-v-chairman-elections-committee]

5.         EA 1/88 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset, IsrSC 42(4), 177 (1988) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/kach-v-central-election-committee-twelfth-knesset]

6.         EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi, (Dec. 10, 2015)

7.         LCA 7504/95 Yassin v. Registrar of Parties, IsrSC 50(2) 45 (1996)

8.         EA 1/65 Yaakov Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 6th Knesset, IsrSC 19(3) 365 (1964) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/yeredor-v-chairman-central-elections-committee-sixth-knesset]

9.         EA 2/88 Ben Shalom v. Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset, IsrSC 43(4) 221 (1989)

10.       EA 2805/92 Kach List v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 13th Knesset (unpublished)

11.       EA 2858/92 Movshovich v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 13th Knesset, IsrSC 46(3) 541 (1992)

12.       HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset, (May 27, 2018)

13.       HCJ 11225/03 Azmi Bishara v. Attorney General, IsrSC 60(4) 287 (2006)

14.       HCJ 2684/12 Movement to Strengthen Tolerance in Religious Education et. al. v. Attorney General, (Dec. 9, 2015)

15.       HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council, Haifa District, IsrSC 27(2) 764 (1973)

16.       HCJ 547/98 Federman v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 53(5) 520 (1999)

17.       AAA 8342/02 Ben Gvir v. Commissioner of Police, IsrSC 57(1) 61 (2002)

18.       LCA 6709/98 Attorney General v. Moledet Gesher-Tzomet List for the Nazereth Illit Local Council Elections, IsrSC 53(1) 351

19.       HCJ 4552/18 Zahalka v. Speaker of the Knesset, (Dec. 30, 2018)

20.       EA 2600/99 Erlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee, IsrSC 53(3) 38 (1999)

21.       HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party, IsrSC 49(1) 758 (1995)

22.       HCJ 14/86 Laor v. Theater and Film Review Board, IsrSC 41(1) 421 (1987)

23.       HCJ 399/85 MK Rabbi Meir Kahane v. Broadcasting Authority Directorate, IsrSC 41(3) 255 (1987)

24.       HCJ 7754/14 Tzalul Environmental Association v. Petroleum Commissioner, (Dec/ 28, 2016)

25.       HCJ 2257/04 Hadash-Ta’al Faction v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 17th Knesset, IsrSC 58 (6) 685 (2004)

26.       CA 4096/18 Chacham and Or-Zach Advocates v. Assessment Officer – Akko, (May 25, 2019)

27.       CrimA 7007/15 Shmil v. State of Israel, (Sept. 5, 2018)

28.       CA 8742/15 Astrolog Publishers Ltd., v. Ron, (Dec. 3, 2017)

29.       CrimA 961/16 Alharoush v. State of Israel, (Nov. 25, 2018)

30.       AAA 3326/18 A. v. Director of Firearm Licensing, Southern District – Ministry of Public Security, (Feb. 26, 2019)

31.       HCJ 7052/03 Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel v. Minister of Interior, IsrSC 61(2) 202 (2006) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/adalah-legal-center-arab-minority-rights-israel-v-minister-interior]

32.       HCJ 7625/06 Martina Rogachova v. Ministry of Interior, (March 31, 2016) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/rogachova-v-ministry-interior]

33.       EA 2600/99 Ehrlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee, IsrSC 53(3) 38 (1999)

34.       CrimA 6833/14 Naffaa v. State of Israel, (Aug. 31, 2015)

35.       EDA 50/03 Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset v. Tibi, IsrSC 57(4) 1 (2003)

 

 

Judgment (Reasoning)

(July 18, 2019)

 

President E. Hayut:

Introduction

1.         On March 6, 2019, the Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset (hereinafter: the Elections Committee or the Committee) approved a request for the disqualification of Dr. Ofer Cassif (hereinafter: Cassif) from running as a candidate for the Knesset on the list of “Hadash – headed by Ayman Odeh, Ta’al – headed by Ahmed Tibi” (hereinafter: Hadash-Ta’al) but rejected a request to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list in its entirety. The Committee further accepted two requests to disqualify the Ra’am-Balad list (hereinafter: Ra’am-Balad) and to bar Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir from standing for election.

            These decisions were the focus of the appeal and approval proceedings before us.

            The three appeals – EA 1866/19, EA 1867/19 and EA 1876/19 – which will be presented below, were filed on March 12, 2019, in accordance with sec. 63A(d) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969 (hereinafter: the Elections Law) (in regard to the disqualification of a candidate) and secs. 64(a) and 64(a1) of that Law (in regard to the disqualification of lists). The approval proceeding – EDA 1806/19 – was filed on March 10, 2019 by the Elections Committee, in accordance with the provisions of sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law and sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset (hereinafter: Basic Law: The Knesset or the Basic Law).

2.         Sections 63A(e) and 64(b) of the Elections Law require that the Court issue a judgment in appeal and approval proceedings “no later than the 23rd day prior to Election Day”. In regard to the elections for the 21st Knesset, which took place on April 9, 2019, we were therefore required to render judgment in the appeal and approval proceedings no later than March 17, 2019. Under the time constraint from the time of the filing of the proceedings – March 10, 2019, and March 12, 2019 – to the date upon which we were required to render judgment – March 17, 2019 – we allowed the Respondents in each of the proceedings to file written pleadings, and we heard supplementary oral arguments before a nine-judge panel, as required by the Law.  The hearings took place on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, and Thursday, March 14, 2019, and the judgment was duly handed down on Sunday, March 17, 2019, without stating reasons in view of the statutory time constraints detailed above, and as has been usual in such proceedings over the years (see, for example: EDA 11280/02 Central Elections v. Tibi, [1]; EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset [2]; EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3]). In the judgment, a majority of eight justices, against the dissenting opinion of Justice D. Mintz, decided not to approve the decision of the Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of Cassif. The Court unanimously decided to reject the appeal in regard to the Elections Committee’s decision not to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list. The Court also decided, by a majority of eight justices, against the dissenting opinion of Justice D. Mintz, to grant the appeal in regard to the Ra’am-Balad list, and to order that the list is not barred from participating in the Knesset elections. The Court further unanimously rejected the appeal in regard to the decision not to disqualify Ben Gvir, and decided by a majority, against the dissenting opinion of Justice N. Sohlberg, to grant the appeal in the matter of Ben Ari and order his disqualification as a candidate for the 21st Knesset. Four days later, on March 21, 2019, we published a summary of the reasoning grounding the judgment, and we now present the full reasoning.

 

General Background and Normative Framework

3.         The right to vote and be elected is the life breath of every democratic regime, and the conceptual foundation of this right is grounded in the fundamental principles of equality and freedom of political expression (EA 2/84 Neiman v Central Elections Committee [4], 262-264 (hereinafter: the first Neiman case); EA 1/88 Neiman v Central Elections Committee [5], 185 (hereinafter: the second Neiman case); EA 561/09 Balad v. Central Elections Committee [2], para. 2 (hereinafter: the Balad case); EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3], para. 7 (hereinafter: the first Zoabi case); EDA 1095/15 Central Elections Committee v. Zoabi [6], para. 5 (hereinafter: the second Zoabi case); cf. LCA 7504/95 Yassin v. Registrar of Parties [7], 58-60 & 71 (hereinafter: the Yassin case); Ruth Gavison, Twenty Years since the Yeredor Ruling – The Right to be Elected and the Lessons of History, in A. Barak (ed.), Essays in Honor of Shimon Agranat, (1986), 145, 151-152 (in Hebrew) (hereinafter: Gavison)).

            Nevertheless, equality and freedom of political expression are not unrestricted rights, and it has already been held that “it is the right of a democracy to deny the participation in the democratic process of lists that reject democracy itself […] one who does not accept the fundamental principles of democracy and seeks to change them cannot ask to participate in democracy in the name of those principles” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], 14 (hereinafter: the Tibi case); and further see the Yassin case, p. 62, the first Zoabi case, para. 8; the second Zoabi case, para. 6). Therefore, along with the formal capacity conditions that must be met in order to realize the right to vote and be elected, which concern, inter alia, age and citizenship (see: sec. 5 of Basic Law: The Knesset in regard to the right to vote, and secs. 6, 6A and 7 of that Law in regard to the right be elected), there is a need for material restrictions intended to prevent participation in the elections by lists and candidates that seek to use the tools of democracy in order to deny the very existence of the state or infringe its fundamental principles.

4.         As will be explained in the brief survey below, such material restrictions have been developed over the years in Israeli law, as well. At its inception, the State of Israel adopted a democratic regime characterized, inter alia, by the values of equality and freedom of political expression mentioned above. Alongside those values, and without any necessary contradiction, the sovereign State of Israel was established as a Jewish state, in recognition of the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its land. This important fundamental principle, which Justice M. Cheshin defined as an “axiom” when he served as chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset, must also be protected. President A. Barak addressed this in the Tibi case, stating:

There are many democratic states. Only one of them is a Jewish state. Indeed, the reason for the existence of the State of Israel is its being a Jewish state. This character is central to its existence, and it is – as Justice M. Cheshin stated before the Central Elections Committee – an “axiom” of the state. It should be seen as a “fundamental principle of our law and system” (emphasis original; ibid., p. 21).

President D. Beinisch addressed the uniqueness of Israeli democracy in this regard in the Balad case, noting:             

The State of Israel’s being the only state that serves as a home for the Jewish people, and therefore preserves unique characteristics worthy of protection, is the starting point for every discussion of the character of the state (ibid., para. 3).

In this regard, it would not be superfluous to note that there are those who hold the opinion that there is a “significant moral tension that requires a process of reconciliation between opposing values (Justice I. Englard in the Tibi case, p. 64. For a detailed discussion of this subject, see:  Adi Gal & Mordechai Kremnitzer, Disqualification of Party Lists and Candidates – Does it Strengthen Democracy or Weaken It? (Israel Democracy Institute, 2019) 22-26 (Hebrew)). As opposed to this, there are those who are of the opinion that there is no contradiction between democratic values and Jewish values, but rather they derive from one another (the second Neiman case, pp. 189-190; Justice Y. Amit in the second Zoabi case, para. 3; Elyakim Rubinstein, On the Equality of Arabs in Israel, 1 Kiryat Mishpat 17, 26 (20021) (Hebrew)). Below, we will address the material restrictions established in regard to the right to vote and be elected in Israeli law. As  will be seen, these restrictions define Israel as a Jewish and democratic state without distinction between these two frameworks, in the spirit of the principles we addressed above.

5.         Since 1985, the material constitutional restrictions upon the right to vote have been grounded in sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. This section, in its current form, establishes:

7A(a).  A candidates list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the goals or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;

(2) incitement to racism;

(3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

6.         As already noted, these restrictions developed in Israeli law over the course of years. Basic Law: The Knesset, which was enacted in 1958, did not originally comprise a material provision – as opposed to a formal provision in regard to competence – that restricted the right to be elected. The absence of such a provision notwithstanding, in EA 1/65 Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [8] (hereinafter: the Yeredor case), the Court recognized the authority of the Elections Committee not to approve the participation of the Socialists list in the elections for the 6th Knesset because the list, and the El Ard organization with which it identified, “deny the integrity of the State of Israel and its very existence”. Some twenty years later, the Court again addressed the disqualification of a list from standing for election. The Central Elections Committee for the elections for 11th Knesset in 1984 disqualified the Kach list and the Progressive List for Peace from standing for election. The Kach list was disqualified by the Committee for the racist and anti-democratic principles that it espoused, its open support for terrorism, and incitement of hatred and hostility between different sectors of the Israeli populace. The Progressive List for Peace was disqualified due to the Committee’s determination that the list comprised subversive foundations and tendencies and that central members of the list acted in a manner that identified with the state’s enemies. The disqualification of the two lists was brought before the Court in the first Neiman case, which held, by majority, that in the absence of an express provision of law, the doctrine established in the Yeredor case should be limited to the causes for disqualification set out there, i.e., denial of the very existence of the state – which must be proven by clear, unequivocal, and persuasive evidence (for a critique, see Gavison, at pp. 184-195).

7.         Following the judgment in the first Neiman case, the legislature amended Basic Law: The Knesset and added sec. 7A. This section, in its original form, comprised three causes for disqualifying a list of candidates whose purposes or actions expressly or impliedly amounted to (1) negation of the existence of the state as the state of the Jewish people; (2) negation of the democratic character of the state; (3) incitement to racism.

            When the Kach list again sought to stand for election for the 12th Knesset in 1988, the list was disqualified by the Elections Committee for the reasons set out in subsecs. (2) and (3) of sec. 7A. The appeal of the decision was denied by the Court (see: the second Neiman case), which held that the list indeed negated the democratic character of the state and that its activities constituted incitement to racism. In its decision, the Court emphasized that given the importance of the freedoms that the rights to vote and to be elected are intended to realize, affirming those rights is preferable to denying them, and the disqualification of a list must be reserved for the most extreme cases. That year, the Court also adjudicated another proceeding related to the elections for the 12th Knesset. The Court majority denied an appeal of a decision by the Central Elections Committee not to disqualify The Progressive List for Peace from standing for election (EA 2/88 Ben Shalom v. Central Elections Committee [9]). In 1992, after the murder of the founder of the Kach movement, Rabbi Meir Kahane (hereinafter: Rabbi Kahane), in 1990, the Central Elections Committee disqualified two lists that viewed themselves as the heirs to Rabbi Kahane from participating in the elections for the 13th Knesset. A unanimous Court denied the appeals of the disqualifications, adopting the criteria established in the second Neiman case (EA 2805/92 Kach List v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [10] (hereinafter: the Kach case)); EA 2858/92 Movshovich v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [11] (hereinafter: the Movshovich case)).       

8.         In 2002, sec. 7A of the Basic Law was amended. The amendment comprised three primary changes: (1) the separate causes for disqualification in regard to negating the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and as a democratic state were unified as one cause; (2) an additional cause was added under which a list could be disqualified from participation in elections if it supported armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel; (3) it was established that not only could an entire list be disqualified, but also a candidate could be disqualified from standing for election, but that as opposed to the disqualification of a list, the disqualification of a candidate required the approval of the Supreme Court.

9.         In the Tibi case, the Court addressed a number of decisions given by the Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset in regard to the elections in January 2003, among them the first decisions of their kind pursuant to the aforementioned amendment to sec. 7A of the Basic Law. The Elections Committee decided to disqualify Knesset members Ahmed Tibi of the Hadash-Ta’al list (hereinafter: Tibi) and Azmi Bishara of the Balad list (hereinafter: Bishara). The Committee further decided that Baruch Marzel of the Herut list (hereinafter: Marzel) should not be disqualified. In addition, the Committee decided to disqualify the Balad list from standing for election. In the Tibi case, the Court focused upon and outlined the criteria for each of the causes in sec. 7A of the Basic Law. On that basis, the Court decided not to approve the Election Committee’s decision to disqualify Knesset members Tibi and Bishara from standing for election. The decision in regard to Tibi was unanimous, whereas the decision in regard to Bishara was by a majority. A majority further dismissed the appeal of the Committee’s decision to permit Marzel’s candidacy, and the appeal against the disqualification of the Balad list was granted by a majority, and it was held that the list could stand for election.

10.       Another amendment to sec. 7A of the Basic Law was adopted in 2008, adding sec. (a1) that established: “In connection with this article, a candidate who was illegally present in an enemy state in the seven years that preceded the deadline for submitted lists of candidates shall be considered someone whose actions constitute support for an armed conflict against the State of Israel, unless he has proven otherwise”. About a year after that amendment, prior to the elections for the 18th Knesset, the Court addressed an appeal of the Elections Committee’s decision to disqualify the Balad and Ra’am-Ta’al list for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a) and (3) of the Basic Law. A majority of the Court granted the appeal, and            the participation of those lists was permitted. In 2012 and 2015, the Court was again called upon to address the disqualification of candidates. In the first Zoabi case, the Court unanimously overturned the Central Election Committee’s decision to disqualify Knesset member Hanin Zoabi (hereinafter: Zoabi) from running in the elections for the 19th Knesset for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law. In the second Zoabi case, two approval proceedings were addressed jointly after the Central Elections Committee disqualified Zoabi’s participation in the elections for the 20th Knesset for the causes enumerated in sec. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law, and also disqualified Marzel from participating in those same elections for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a)(1) and (2). A majority of the Court decided not to approve the Elections Committee’s decisions in regard to both Zaobi and Marzel, and both stood as candidates in those elections.

11.       The judgment in the second Zoabi case was rendered in 2015. In 2017, section 7A of the Basic Law was amended again to add the words “including his expressions” after the words “the actions of the person”. It is important to emphasize that, as opposed to various arguments raised before us in these proceedings, this amendment – as stated in its Explanatory Notes – “was not intended to change the case law of the Court according to which sec. 7A of the Basic Law should be used sparingly and strictly in order to protect the most vital interests of the state”. In other words, the strict evidentiary threshold outlined in the case law over the years for proving the existence of the causes for disqualification remains as it was, given the purpose of the section and the balance between the values it is intended to protect.

            To complete the picture, we would note that in 2016, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Basic Law in regard to the termination of the tenure of a member of the Knesset for incitement to racism or support of armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, as stated in secs. 7A(a)(2) or 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. We would further note for the sake of completing the picture that two petitions filed against the constitutionality of the said amendment were denied (HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset [12]) (hereinafter: the Ben Meir case).

 

The Causes for Disqualification established in Section 7A

12.       Having surveyed the proceedings and legislative amendments relevant to the disqualification of lists and candidates seeking to stand for election to the Knesset and the development of the case law and the Basic Law in this regard, it would now be appropriate to address the interpretive principles and the criteria outlined and applied in all that regards the various causes for disqualification. I would preface by stating that the prevailing trend in this Court’s case law is that a cautious, restrained approach should be adopted in all that relates to the disqualification of lists and candidates participating in Knesset elections. Indeed, in view of the magnitude of the rights to vote and be elected, this Court has repeatedly held that the starting point is that the causes for disqualification should be interpreted narrowly and should be applied in the most extreme cases (see, for example, the second Neiman case, at p. 187; the Tibi case, at pp. 17-18). From this starting point, the case law derived the answer to the question of what must be proved in order to ground the presence of any of the causes for disqualification, as well as the criteria in regard to the required evidentiary threshold. We will first examine the case-law interpretation of what is required to prove each of the causes for disqualification, and then examine the criteria established in regard to the required evidentiary threshold.

(1) Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state

13.       The first cause established under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset concerns preventing participation of candidate lists or candidates in the elections if the purposes or actions of the list or the actions of the candidate, including his statements, constitute a negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The “nuclear-minimal” characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and its “nuclear-minimal” characteristics as a democratic state were established in the Tibi case, which held that it is the infringement of these characteristics that may give rise to a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law. In the matter of the “nuclear” characteristics that define the State of Israel as a Jewish state, it was held that these include the right of every Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel, in which there will be a Jewish majority; that Hebrew is the primary official language of the state; that the symbols and holidays of the state primarily reflect Jewish tradition, and that the Jewish heritage is a central element of the religious and cultural heritage of the state (the Tibi case, p. 22; and compare the view of Justice Y. Turkel in that case at p. 101; and see the second Zoabi case, para. 66, and the first Zoabi case, para. 20; the Balad case, para. 6; and compare the Yassin case, p. 66; the opinion of Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; and see: Amnon Rubinstein & Raanan Har-Zahav, Basic Law: The Knesset, 64 (1993) (Hebrew)).

            As for the “nuclear” characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state, it was held that “these characteristics are based […] upon recognition of the sovereignty of the people, as expressed in free, equal elections; recognition of the core human rights, among them human dignity, respect and equality, maintaining the separation of powers, the rule of law and an independent judiciary” (the Tibi case, p. 23; and see the second Zoabi case, para 29; and compare the Yassin case, p. 66). It was further noted in the Tibi case that a list that negates the right to vote for the Knesset on ethnic-national grounds, or a list seeks to change the regime by violent means will not be permitted to stand for election, as it essentially negates the democratic foundations of the Israeli regime (ibid., p. 24; and see the second Neiman case, p. 190, and the second Zoabi case, para. 30).

(2) Incitement to racism

14.       The second cause for disqualification, established in sec. 7A(a)(2), is incitement to racism. We will address the grounds of this cause and its underlying rationales, particularly in a Jewish state, at greater length below. At this stage, we would note that already in the second Neiman case, in which, for the first time following the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Kach list was disqualified on the grounds of incitement to racism, the Court held, per President M. Shamgar,  that the “objectives and conduct [of the list] are also clearly racist: systematically fanning the flames of ethnic and national hate, which causes divisiveness and animosity; calling for the forceful deprivation of rights; systematic and intentional degradation directed towards a specific part of the population selected because of their national origin and ethnicity; [calling] for their humiliation in ways very similar to the terrible experiences of the Jewish nation” (ibid., p. 197).

(3) Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

15.       The third cause for disqualification, established in sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law, concerns support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. This cause is premised upon the primary conceptual justification for the disqualification of candidates and lists – viz., defense against those who would seek to negate the very existence of the state or undermine the foundations of its existence and its democratic nature by means of armed struggle (the first Zoabi case, para. 29). In the Tibi case, President A. Barak noted in regard to this cause that: “Democracy is allowed to prevent the participation of candidate lists that employ violence or support violence as a tool for changing the nature of the regime” (ibid., p. 26; and also see the second Zoabi case, para. 69). Preventing participation by virtue of this cause will, of course, be possible where a candidate or a list personally takes active part in an armed struggle of a terrorist organization or an enemy state, as well as where they encourage such a struggle or provide material, political or other support (ibid., para. 69; and see the Tibi case, p. 27; the Balad case, para. 7; the first Zoabi case, para. 29). Disqualification of a list or candidate by virtue of this cause would be possible only if the support is of an armed struggle by an enemy state or a terrorist organization (the Tibi case, p. 27; and see the second Zoabi case, para. 69; for a detailed discussion of this cause, see: Gal & Kremnitzer, 16-19).

 

The Criteria in regard to the Required Evidentiary Threshold

16.       Alongside the narrow interpretation of the causes for disqualification established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, over the years, the case law further added a series of strict criteria in regard to the required evidentiary threshold for the crystallizing of any of the causes. These criteria limit the possibility of disqualifying a list or candidate from standing for election to the Knesset only to clear, extreme cases due to the intense caution that the Court adopts as the starting point in this regard (the Balad case, para. 3; and see the opinion of Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; the Kach case, p. 2). Below, we will summarize the criteria outlined in the case law in regard to the evidentiary threshold required for the existence of the disqualifying causes. These criteria were, for the most part, first applied in regard to the disqualification of lists, and after the amendment of the Basic Law in 2002, they were respectively adopted in regard to the disqualification of an individual candidate, as well (see the Tibi case, the first Zoabi case and the second Zoabi case). These are the criteria:

            (-)        First, in order to decide whether one of the elements set forth in sec. 7A is present in the objectives or actions of a list or a candidate, it must be shown that the objective is one of the dominant characteristics of the list’s or the candidate’s aspirations or activities, and that they seek to participate in the elections in order to advance them (see the second Neiman case, p. 187; the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para. 14).

            (-)        Second, it must be shown that these central, dominant purposes can be learned from express declarations and direct statements or reasonable conclusions of clear, unequivocal significance (the second Neiman case, p. 188; the Tibi case, p. 18, the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para 14).

            (-)        Third, it must be shown that the list or the candidate actively works for the realization of the said objectives, and that there was non-sporadic activity for their realization. It was held that objectives of a theoretical nature are insufficient, and that there must be a showing of systematic, repeated activity whose “intensity must be given severe, extreme expression” (the second Neiman case, p. 196; the Tibi case, p. 18; the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para. 14).

            (-)        Fourth, the evidence grounding the actions or objectives sufficient to prevent standing for election to the Knesset must be “clear, unambiguous and persuasive” (the second Neiman case, p. 188; the Tibi case, p. 18; the second Zoabi case, para. 34; compare: the first Neiman case, p. 250), and a “critical mass” of highly credible evidence is required to justify the disqualification (the Tibi case, p. 43; the first Zoabi case, para. 14). The burden of proof in this regard rests upon the party arguing for disqualification of the list or candidate, and a doubt arising as to the sufficiency of the evidence must weigh against the disqualification (the second Neiman case, pp. 248-249; the Kach case, p. 3).

17.       A complex question concerning the evidentiary threshold for proving the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law is that of whether to apply probability tests for the realization of the dangers that the causes for disqualification are intended to prevent. There is a difference of opinion in the case law, and the matter has been left for further consideration and has yet to be decided. The spectrum of opinions expressed on this matter range from an approach that rejects the application of the probability test (see the position of Justice M. Elon in the first Neiman case, p. 297; President M. Shamgar following the enactment of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset in the second Neiman case, p. 187; Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; and Justices S. Levin. E. Mazza, and D. Dorner in the Tibi case, pp. 81, 96-97, and 99), to the opposite approach that is of the view that this test should be applied to each and every one of the disqualification causes in sec. 1A of the Basic Law (Justice E. Rivlin in the Tibi case, p. 106, and see Barak Medina, Forty Years to the Yeredor  Decision: The Right to Political Participation, 22 Mekhkarei Mishpat 327, 376-381 (2006) (Hebrew)). As noted, the matter has been left for further consideration and has not yet been decided in the case law (see President A. Barak and Justices A. Procaccia and D. Beinisch in the Tibi case, pp. 21, 88, 90; President D. Beinisch in the Balad case; President A. Grunis in the first Zoabi case, para. 34; President M. Naor in the second Zoabi case, para. 36).

            A middle position between these two opposing views on the application of the probability test has also been expressed, according to which a distinction can be drawn between the causes under sec. 7A(a)(1) and (3) and the cause concerning incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a) (2). Thus, for example, in the Tibi case, Justice Procaccia noted that “condemnation of incitement to racism and its removal from the political election process are values unto themselves, independent and unqualified even when unaccompanied by any probability of the realization of the potential danger. There is no need to seek manifest or hidden elements of danger in order to deny the entry of inciters to racism into the political arena […] incitement to racism is condemned as a value of the universal and national heritage, and it stands beyond the test for the probability of its foreseeable danger under any particular criterion. The contradiction between racism and the fundamental values of the state is so extreme that anyone who holds it as part of one’s political doctrine should be disqualified out of hand” (ibid., p. 90; Gal & Kremnitzer, 62-63). Another opinion that distinguishes the cause related to incitement to racism and the other causes in regard to the probability test, and which proposes applying a very low-level probability test to it, was expressed by Justice D. Beinisch in that matter, in stating: “If I were of the opinion that we should adopt the approach that applies ‘probability tests’ for the disqualification of lists or candidates, then in all that regards racism, I would hold that ‘racism’ in its ‘nuclear’ sense comprises, by its very nature, a potential for danger whose probability is a real possibility. Racism, by its very nature, may spread like a disease even when it appears that the scope of the political activity surrounding it is small, and the political prospects of the list or candidate are not serious. Racism is a type of disease for which isolation and removal from the political and social arena are conditions for preventing its spread” (p. 88). We will address this subject below, and examine whether there is, indeed, a place for a different approach to the cause of incitement to racism as opposed to the other causes in relation to probability tests.

            Another question that derives to some extent from the probability test and that concerns the necessary evidentiary threshold for proving the existence of the causes for disqualification is whether and to what extent there is a connection between the causes for disqualification and the criminal offenses intended to protect those values. In this regard, it would appear that the approach adopted in the case law holds that the Penal Law can assist in identifying the presence of the elements of causes for disqualification, while emphasizing that we are concerned with different methods for the prevention of the phenomena and that the tests applicable in each of the areas are not the same (see President M. Shamgar in the second Neiman case, p. 191; President A. Grunis in the first Zoabi case, para. 32; and see Gavison, p. 166; and cf. the Ben Meir case, para. 28; and HCJ 11225/03 Bishara v. Attorney General [13]).

 

An Elections Appeal and Approval of an Elections Committee Decision – What is the Difference?

18.       Basic Law: The Knesset distinguishes two types of decisions by the Central Elections Committee. The first is Elections Committee decisions to prevent or not prevent a candidate list from standing for election. Such decisions can be challenged in an appeal to the Supreme Court, under secs. 64(a) and 64(a1) of the Elections Law. The second is Election Committee decisions declaring that a particular candidate is barred from participating in the elections. Such a decision requires the approval of the Supreme Court, under sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset and sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law, whereas an Elections Committee decision to deny a request to bar a candidate from standing for election is of the first type of decisions in the sense that it does not require approval but can be appealed to the Supreme Court, under sec. 63A(d) of the Elections Law.

            The procedure for approving an Elections Committee decision is not one of “regular” judicial review in the sense that decision is not consummated until approval is granted. In this, it differs from appeal proceedings in regard to Election Committee decisions, which come into force when given. The scope of the Court’s authority in an approval proceeding is not identical to that granted it in an appeal proceeding. It has been held in this regard that the Court must refrain from nullifying a decision under appeal even if it would have decided differently, as long as it is lawful and does not deviate from the margin of reasonableness. As opposed to this, in an approval proceeding, the Court is granted authority to examine whether it, itself, approves the disqualification of the candidate from standing for election (the Tibi case, pp. 28-31; the first Zoabi case, para 15; the second Zoabi case, paras. 12-13).  It is interesting to note that there are different approaches in the case law in regard to the scope of the Court’s intervention in the decisions of the Elections Committee due to the fact that it is primarily a political body that weighs political considerations. Thus, there are those who take the view that this fact justifies narrowing the scope of intervention in the Committee’s decisions (Justice E. Rivlin in the Tibi case, p. 109, and Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 251). As opposed to this, there are those of the opinion that “this fact of the political composition of the Committee, with the exception of its chair, requires an examination of the merits of the Committee’s decision by the this Court in order to prevent political considerations from outweighing an objective legal examination” (Deputy President M. Elon in the Ben Shalom case, p. 279; for a similar view, see Justice D. Beinisch in the Tibi case, p. 86 and the Balad case, para. 16).

            This feature of the Central Elections Committee as a primarily political body that makes decisions influenced by political considerations, with no obligation to explain those decisions, indeed justifies examination and consideration by the legislature (see the comment of President Naor in the second Zoabi case, para. 78, and Gal & Kremnitzer, 61-62). At present, the Court is responsible for both types of proceedings brought before it in accordance with the provisions of Basic Law; The Knesset and the Elections Law, and the distinctions between them as presented above. In this regard, it would not be superfluous to further note what we held in this regard in another context – that of the Ben Meir case – in which it was argued that there is constitutional significance to the distinction between the two proceedings. In rejecting that argument, we held: “There is, indeed, a difference in the scope of authority granted to the Court in the framework of an elections appeal as opposed to an approval of a decision […] however, at the end of the day, this Court has the authority [even in an appeals proceeding – E.H.] to review the decision on the merits, and to oversee its lawfulness and reasonableness, including all that relates to the factual foundation” (ibid., para. 34).

19.       Having presented the general normative framework for the proceedings before us, I will now turn to an examination of each of the four proceedings and decide upon them.

EA 1866/19 Freij v. Ben Ari

20.       Three requests for the disqualification of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir were submitted to the Central Elections Committee. Two of the requests – that submitted by the Israel Religious Action Center - Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and the Tag Meir Forum, and that submitted by MK Stav Shaffir – relied upon two causes for disqualification: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, and incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of the Basic Law. The third request – submitted by members of the Meretz faction – relied upon the single cause of incitement to racism. After considering those requests, the Elections Committee decided, as noted, to reject all three requests, and thus the appeal before us, which was filed jointly by all the parties requesting disqualification.

 

Arguments of the parties

21.       The Appellants argue that Ben Ari and Ben Gvir have consistently acted for years to realize the racist doctrine of Rabbi Meir Kahane and the Kach list, which was disqualified from running for election, and act in an extreme manner to humiliate Israeli Arabs, including by calling for their expulsion from the country. According to the Appellants, Ben Ari and Ben Gvir support a racist ideology that seeks to undermine the principles of equality and human dignity in regard to anyone who is not Jewish. It was argued that the judgments that addressed the Kach list clearly established that its ideology is racist and infringes the fundamental principles of the democratic regime. The Appellants are of the opinion that the primary characteristic of the conduct of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir is ongoing incitement to racism, and that this is also expressed in the platform of the Otzma Yehudit party, which opposes democratic values. It was argued that the declarations of the two were consistently and continuously translated into severe actions that were, in part, also carried out by other elements of the Otzma Yehudit party.

22.       Ben Ari and Ben Gvir relied upon the Election Committee’s decision and argued that the appeal should be denied. According to them, the evidence presented by the Appellants does not justify their disqualification. Their primary argument was that the platform and their public activity over the years apply to those who are “an enemy of Israel”, who are not loyal to the state, and does not apply generally to all “the Arabs” as such, and supports and encourages the emigration of anyone who is not loyal “and who is an enemy of the state”. According to them, the fact that this Court did not disqualify Marzel from participating in the elections shows that they, too, should not be disqualified.

23.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that Ben Ari should be barred from participating in the elections on the grounds of incitement to racism. He argues that the Appellants presented persuasive, clear, unequivocal, recent evidence, particularly since May 2018, in which Ben Ari is heard speaking in various films, some of which were uploaded to his Facebook page. According to the Attorney General, we are concerned with ongoing, consistent expressions over a significant period of time that are at the hard core of incitement to racism. It was argued that these statements show that Ben Ari refers to the Arab population in its entirety while calling for a violent denial of the rights of the Arab population of the State of Israel and for their systematic, targeted humiliation on the basis of their ethno-national identity.

            As for Ben Gvir, the Attorney General was of the opinion that despite the fact that the collection of evidence in his regard is very troubling, and that some of his statements come “dangerously close to the line that would bar a person from standing for election to the Knesset”, he should not be disqualified. According to the Attorney General, as opposed to the evidence presented against Ben Ari, the evidence in regard to Ben Gvir is insufficient to constitute the persuasive, clear, unequivocal evidentiary foundation required for disqualification. This, because most of the evidence is not from the recent past, and in view of Ben Gvir’s declarations and explanations in the current disqualification hearings.

24.       As stated in the judgment we issued without the reasoning on March 17, 2019, we decided by majority, against the dissenting view of Justice N. Sohlberg, to adopt the position of the Attorney General and grant the appeal in EA 1866/19 in all that regards Ben Ari, and to order his disqualification form standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset, while we unanimously decided to deny the appeal in the matter of Ben Gvir.

 

Disqualification of a Candidate on the grounds of Incitement to Racism

25.       Racism is a well-known societal disease from which the human race has suffered since time immemorial. Racism shows its ugly face in hatred and incitement to hatred of the other, simply by reason of inborn traits or communal, religious, ethnic, or national affiliation. It strips people of their humanity on the basis of those affiliations and violates the basic right to human dignity and equality granted to all who are created in God’s image (HCJ 2684/12 Movement to Strengthen Tolerance in Religious Education et. al. v. Attorney General [14], para. 26 of the opinion of Justice S. Joubran) (hereinafter: the Torat Hamelech case)). The democratic State of Israel was established as the state of the Jewish people, which has experienced unparalleled racial persecution and suffering throughout the ages. Racism stands in absolute contradiction to the fundamental values upon which the state was established, and we, as Jews, have a special obligation to fight it uncompromisingly. Justice Z. Berenson addressed this in 1973 in HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council [15], 771, stating:

When we were exiled from our land and removed far from our country, we became victims of the nations amongst whom we lived, and in every generation, we tasted the bitterness of persecution, malice and discrimination only for being Jews “whose laws are different from those of any other people” [Esther 3:8]. With this bitter, miserable experience that seeped deep into our national and human consciousness, it might be expected that we would not walk in the corrupt path of the nations, and that with the renaissance of our independence in the State of Israel, we would be cautious and be wary of any hint of discrimination and unequal treatment against any law-abiding non-Jewish person [..] Hatred of foreigners is a double curse: it corrupts the image of God of the hater and inflicts evil upon the blameless hated. We must show humanity and tolerance to everyone created in God’s image (HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council, IsrSC 27(2) 764, 771 (1973); and see and compare: the Tibi case, p. 89; the opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein in the Torat Hamelech case, para. 38 and in the second Zoabi case (dissenting in regard to the result), para. 116).

26.       The Israeli legislature took up this mission following the elections for the 11th Knesset, which took place in 1984, and in the course of which, as noted, the disqualification of the Kach party was requested due to incitement to racism (the first Neiman case). Thus, Amendment no. 9 to Basic Law: The Knesset added sec. 7A, which sets out the causes permitting the disqualification of a list from standing for election, among them that of incitement to racism. The Explanatory Notes the bill explain in this regard that this cause is premised upon the recognition of the severity and danger of the phenomenon of racism” (Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no, 9) Bill), and in the plenary session for the second and third readings of the bill, the chair of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Eliezer Kulas stated:

Democracy is the “credo” of the people and their way of life. One must be educated to democracy and democracy must be defended. In a democracy, there is no place for incitement to racism, no place for racism, no place for harming any person on the basis of race, religion, nationality, or sex. Racism and discrimination are contrary to the character of a democratic regime and the character of the Jewish people, which experienced what racism is on its own flesh (Transcript of the 118th session of the 11th Knesset, p. 3898 (July 31, 1985) (hereinafter: Transcript of Session 118 of the Knesset)).

            In regard to our special, historical duty as Jews to fight against racism, Prof. Gavison noted in her 1986 article (cited above):

The Israeli legislature added this cause for disqualification for various historical reasons. I view incitement to racism as a particular (severe) instance of value inconsistency. Incitement to racism is an extreme rejection of the obligation to the equal value of the person. On the basis of the lessons of history of the last century, in which Jews were innocent victims of such incitement, there is complete justification for designating incitement to racism as an express form of incompatibility with the fundamental values of the state (ibid., p. 161).

27.       In parallel to Amendment no. 9 of Basic Law: The Knesset, the Penal Law, 5737-1977 (hereinafter: the Penal Law) was also amended to add the offense of incitement to racism. “Racism” was defined in sec. 144A of the Law as “persecution, humiliation, degradation, a display of enmity, hostility or violence, or causing violence against a public or parts of the population, all because of their color, racial affiliation or national ethnic origin”. Then Minister of Justice Moshe Nissim addressed the relationship between these two amendments in stating: “We must view both of these bills as of a piece, […] for the fundamental, proper, considered, and balanced treatment […] of phenomena with which the State of Israel cannot be reconciled” (Transcript of Session 118 of the Knesset, p. 3361), while it was noted in the Explanatory Notes of the amendment to the Penal Law that “the Hebrew heritage deems the dignity and value of the person, created in God’s image, and making peace among people as exalted values. […] Jewish heritage views the demeaning of human dignity as a serious offense” (Explanatory Notes to the Penal Law (Amendment no. 24) Bill, 5745-1985, p. 195).

            In the second Neiman case, President M. Shamgar addressed, inter alia, the definition of the term “racism” in the Penal Law and held that for the purpose of interpreting sec. 7A of the Law, there is no need to achieve a definitive definition of the term “incitement to racism”. President Shamgar also rejected the argument of counsel for the Kach list according to which “racism” refers only to biological distinctions, holding: “Different forms of persecution based on nationality are widely accepted today as a form of racism” (the second Neiman case, p. 192; for a discussion of the relationship between the offense of incitement to racism under sec. 144B of the Penal Law and sec. 7A, see: the first Zoabi case, para. 32; and compare Gavison, pp. 170-171).  Denunciation of incitement to racism, and the struggle against it in the legal field also found expression in other legislative acts (see, for example, sec. 1(a1) of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951; sec. 5 of the Political Parties Law, 5752-1992; sec. 42A of Basic Law: The Knesset; and sec. 39A(3) of the Municipal Authorities (Elections) Law, 5725-1965).

28.       Combatting incitement to racism and provisions banning political activity of various groups on that basis can also be found abroad. Thus, for example, the President of France is authorized to order the disbanding of political parties for various reasons, among them incitement to racism or other group discrimination. The President’s decision can be appealed to the French Supreme Administrative Court (Conseil d’Etat) (Gal & Kreminitzer, 43-45; Gregory H. Fox & George Nolte, Intolerant Democracies, 36 Harv. Int. L. J. 1, 27-29 (1995); European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), Guidelines on Prohibition and Dissolution of Political Parties and Analogous Measures, 16 (1999) (hereinafter: the Venice Commission Report)). Spanish law allows for declaring a political party unlawful if it systematically infringes fundamental freedoms and rights by encouraging or justifying the assault, exclusion or persecution of people on the basis of ideology, belief, faith, nationality, race, sex or sexual orientation (Knesset Research and Information Center, International Parallels to sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset and their Possible Consequences for the Termination of the Tenure of Members of Parliament, pp. 8-9 (2006) (hereinafter: the RIC Report); Erik Bleich, The Freedom to be Racist?: How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve and Combat Racism, p. 103 (2011); Gur Bligh, Defending Democracy: A New Understanding of the Party-Banning Phenomenon, 46 VNTJL 1321, 1338 (2013); Venice Commission Report, p. 16). The Czech Republic’s Political Party Law of 1991 prohibits the registration of parties whose activities endanger the rights and freedoms of citizens, and in 2010, the Czech Workers’ Party was banned, inter alia, because of incitement to racism (Miroslav Mareš, Czech Militant Democracy in Action: Dissolution of the Workers’ Party and the Wider Context of this Act, 26(1) East European Politics & Societies 33, 43-44 (2010); Mapping “Militant Democracy”: Variation in Party Ban Practices in European Democracies (1945–2015), 13(2) Euconst. 221, 238-239 (2017) (hereinafter: Mapping Militant Democracy); RIC Report, p. 17; Venice Commission Report, p. 16). There are similar restrictions in Poland, Portugal, Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania (Venice Commission Report, pp. 16-17; RIC Report, pp. 10-12). The Penal Code of the Netherlands allows for the disbanding of organizations that endanger public safety, and by virtue of this law, it was held that the Centre Party ’86 encouraged discriminatory propaganda against foreigners and was a danger to the public. It was, therefore, disbanded in 1998 (Defending Democracy, p. 1339; Paul Lucardie, Right-Wing Extremism in the Netherlands: Why it is Still a Marginal Phenomenon, presented at Symposium, Right-Wing Extremism in Europe, 4-5 (2000); Mapping Militant Democracy, p. 238; for a comprehensive survey of the existing arrangements in various countries in regard to the disqualification of political parties and candidates in general, see, e.g., the Tibi case, pp. 14-15; the first Zoabi case, paras. 10-11; Talia Einhorn, Proscription of Parties that have a Racist Platform under Art. 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset (1993)).

29.       The ban upon organizations that incite to racism is also grounded in international human rights law, which includes provisions treating of the prohibition of organized racist propaganda activities. For example, sec. 4(b) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ratified by Israel in 1979) establishes, inter alia, that the signatory states “Shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination […]”. Based, in part, on that convention, in 2018, the European Parliament passed a resolution in regard to the growing violence by European political groups and parties with a neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, racist or xenophobic agenda, and called upon the EU member states to adopt a number of concrete measures for effectively combatting the activities of those groups (see: European Parliament Resolution of 25 October 2018 on the rise of neo-fascist violence in Europe (2018/2869(RSP)).

30.       In Israel, in 2016, the State Comptroller, Judge (emer.) Yosef Haim Shapira, published a report that examined the activities of the Ministry of Education to promote education for living in common and for preventing racism, and found that not enough had been done in this area over the last years, given the differences among sections of the Israeli population that lead to discord and strife. The report further noted that “in this complex reality, we have experienced serious phenomena of hatred, racism, violence, divisiveness, sectarianism, and intolerance over the last few years” and “racist and violent statements, discrimination, persecution and even shocking hate crimes have become not so infrequent occurrences […] while the social networks serve as a fertile ground for disseminating hatred of the other” (State Comptroller, Education to Common Life and for the Prevention of Racism – Special Comptroller’s Report, p. 8 (2016)).

31.       Indeed, the fundamental values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state instruct us to act decisively and uncompromisingly to eradicate racism in our midst. This message also sheds light on the danger that must be determined in this regard for the purpose of the probability test, if it be found that it should be applied to the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. In my view, the inherent danger of racist discourse derives from the fact that such discourse feeds and sets the stage for actions intended to realize the racist ideology, which in turn motivate and reinforce continued racist discourse. As Justice D. Beinisch stated in the Tibi case: “‘Racism’ in its ‘nuclear’ sense, comprises, by its very nature, a potential for danger whose probability is a real possibility” (ibid., p. 88). Indeed, racist discourse, particularly if it is systematic, significant, and prolonged, causes this societal disease to infiltrate, take root and spread. Therefore, it is necessary to send a clear, unambiguous message that inciteful racist discourse is illegitimate, particularly when expressed by a candidate for public office who shouts it from the rooftops. Such discourse must be left “outside the camp” in every civilized state, and all the more so in the Jewish state.

32.       The French-Jewish author and intellectual Albert Memmi, who was born in the Tunis ghetto in 1920, writes in the introduction to the Hebrew edition of his book Racism:

The Jewish people is always a minority, and therefore, like most of the world’s minorities, historically and socially exposed, and is therefore a very convenient target. (This is, incidentally, one of the justifications for Zionism: The need for Jews to cease to be a minority, at least in one place).

Perhaps today, things have already begun to change somewhat. The declarations of some statesmen and religious leaders […] have aroused the political conscience of the nations. All of these may cause us to believe that the hell that was the lot of the Jews in almost every place in the world will come to an end […] thanks to the existence of the State of Israel. However, we should not yet rejoice. Already at the end of the last World War, it was claimed that the horrors of the war made people allergic to racism; racist philosophies would completely perish. But our hope was too rash. Nowadays, there are people who once again dare to be racist, and yet again we see the writings on the wall that call for the expulsion of the Jews, whose citizenship again is put in question, and the stage is once more set for their humiliation. We must tirelessly return to the struggle and not stop, perhaps forever (Albert Memmi, Racism, 8 (1988) (hereinafter: Memmi).

            If, as Memmi states, we Jews are obligated to spearhead the ongoing, uncompromising struggle against racism – of which antisemitism is one of the oldest and most severe examples – we must be worthy of leading that fight, and we must expunge the dangerous disease of racism from our midst in the sovereign State of Israel.  This is a long fight that requires perseverance, and as Memmi warns: “We are all fertile ground for absorbing and germinating the seeds of racism if we let down our guard even for a moment” (ibid., p. 41).

            And now from the general to the specific.

 

The background for addressing the matters of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir

33.       The main claim against Ben Ari and Ben Gvir is, as noted, that they view themselves as the successors of Rabbi Meir Khane and of the ideology of the Kach list that he headed. As may be recalled, that list was disqualified from standing for election to the Knesset (see the second Neiman case), and other lists that presented themselves as its successors have also been barred from running for the Knesset in the past (see: the Kach case; the Movshovich case). It should also be noted that already in 1984, prior to the constitutional grounding of the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Court noted in the first Neiman case that the Kach list “propounds racist and anti-democratic principles that contradict the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel”. It should also be noted that in 1994, the Israeli Government decided to declare the Kach movement, the Kahana Chai movement, and associates and derivatives of those movements, as terrorist organizations under the Prevention of Terror Ordinance, and proceedings instituted in that regard were dismissed (see: HCJ 547/98 Federman v. Government of Israel [16]; and see: AAA 8342/02 Ben Gvir v. Commissioner of Police [17]).

34.       The Tibi case examined, inter alia, the question of barring Marzel from standing for election on the Herut list after the Committee decided to reject a request for his disqualification. It was argued that he supported the ideology of the Kach movement, and the Court was willing to assume that the evidentiary foundation presented did, indeed, ground Marzel’s involvement in the activities of that movement prior to the elections. However, in dismissing the appeal, the Court majority saw fit to grant significant weight to the fact that Marzel had declared that he had changed his views, and in the words of the judgment: “Mr. Marzel himself declares that he has recanted his prior views, and that he now seeks to act only in accordance with the law. He accepts the principals of democracy. He disavows the path expressed in the broad statements of Kach. He does not support violent actions” (the Tibi case, p. 60). Against that background, the Court dismissed the appeal in the Tibi case in regard to the disqualification of Marzel, although it had reservations as to the sincerity of his declarations.

35.       Ben Ari served in the 18th Knesset as a member of the Ihud Leumi faction, and Ben Ari and Ben Gvir ran on the Otzma LeYisrael list in the elections for the 19th Knesset in 2013. A request to bar the list from the elections was denied by the Central Elections Committee, but the list did not meet the electoral threshold. In the list’s election campaign for the 19th Knesset, posters were used that displayed the word “loyalty” in Arabic, and beneath it the phrase: “There are no rights without obligations”. The campaign was barred by the chair of the Elections Committee Justice E. Rubinstein, who ruled that it bore a racist message that was intended to portray the Arab community as disloyal to Israel. Prior to the elections for the 20th Knesset in 2015, the list changed its name from to Otzma Yehudit, and ran as part of the Yahad list, led by MK Eli Yishai. Leading up to the elections, the question of Marzel’s participation in that list arose again, after the Elections Committee decided to disqualify him. In a majority decision, the Court ruled that the disqualification decision should not be approved. It was noted that while Marzel came very close to the point of disqualification from participation in the elections, nevertheless, the claims by those who requested his disqualification were largely based upon newspaper reports and information obtained from the internet of low probative value, which were met by Marzel’s denial. The Court noted that Marzel “explained a significant part of the evidence submitted in his regard, and special weight should be given to his declarations in this matter […] These explanations cast doubt upon incitement to racism being a primary objective of Marzel’s activity” (emphasis original; ibid., para. 34). Marzel, Ben Ari and Ben Gvir did not serve in the 20th Knesset, as the Yahad list did not pass the electoral threshold.

36.       Did the Appellants succeed in presenting evidence in the matter of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir that establishes a cause for disqualification against either of them from running as candidates for the 20th Knesset by reason of incitement to racism? Given our approach that particular care should be taken, and that ordering that a list or candidate be barred from participating in the elections should be reserved only for extreme cases, we found that the evidence presented in the matter of Ben Gvir is insufficient for establishing a cause for disqualification, as noted, even under sec. 7A(a)(1) as argued by the Appellants. As opposed to this, the majority of the Court was of the opinion that the evidence presented justifies the disqualification of Ben Ari on the grounds of incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

 

Ben Ari

37.       In his arguments, the Attorney General referred to a very long list of evidence, focusing upon evidence from the period since the beginning of 2017, and emphasizing statements and actions by Ben Ari over the course of the year preceding the elections. This evidence includes statements by Ben Ari, in his own voice, in various film clips, that, as the Attorney General argues, present an unambiguous, clear and persuasive picture of incitement to racism against the Arab population in its entirety. We are concerned with a very detailed evidentiary foundation that comprises some 40 items in regard to statements and actions by Ben Ari. After reviewing that evidence and examining Ben Ari’s affidavit and statements before the Elections Committee, as well as his response to the appeal, his oral arguments before us, and the supplementary pleadings that he submitted, we are of the opinion that the arguments presented on Ben Ari’s behalf do not provide an explanation that would remove his actions and statements from the scope of incitement to racism that raises a cause of disqualification under sec. 7A(A)(2) of the Basic Law.

38.       Below, we will address the main elements of the evidentiary foundation presented:

            In November 2017, Ben Ari spoke at the annual memorial ceremony for Rabbi Kahane, while wearing a sticker on his jacket lapel that read: “Rabbi Kahane was right”. In the course of his speech, Ben Ari was heard saying the following:

There are enemies, there is a Jew, there is a knife, so they slaughter. Because they are given an opportunity, they slaughter […] We’ll give them another hundred thousand dunams, and affirmative action, perhaps they will love us. In the end, yes, they love us, slaughtered […] Rabbi Kahane taught us – there is no coexistence with them. There is no coexistence with them! (emphasis added).

            Further on, Ben Ari was heard referring to Bedouin citizens, stating:

We of Otzma Yehudit came out with a plan called Immigration and Building, Emigration and Peace […] After immigration and building, we will fulfil what God said […] Cast out that slave-woman, because whoever wants money will get money, whoever wants a bus will get a bus […] We will say and initiate here what has to be done so that we will wake up in the morning to a Jewish state […] The Bedouins have to be dealt with, but in the countries of origin. Return the land of the Negev to the Jewish people (emphasis added).

            Another piece of evidence presented by the Appellants is a video that Ben Ari posted on the Facebook page “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari” (hereinafter: the Facebook page) on May 20, 2018. In the film, Ben Ari is seen giving a speech and saying the following:

The Arabs in Haifa are in no way different from the Arabs in Gaza […] In what are they different? In that here they are enemies from within […] here they carry out a war against us within the state […] it’s called a “fifth column” […] this dog should be called by its name, they are our enemies, they want to destroy us, there are, of course, loyal Arabs, but they can be counted as something like a percent or less than a percent, to our great despair, the overwhelming majority are full partners with their brothers in Gaza […] The Arab enemy has to be told that it’s one or the other, either you are loyal to the state or you should go to Syria […] There is no coexistence with them, they want to destroy us, that is their objective, that is their goal […] This is the fifth column here (emphasis added).

            According to Ben Ari, this was said following demonstrations in Haifa in support of the residents of Gaza “against the background of the balloon terror in the south of the country”. An examination of the Facebook page on April 17, 2019, shows that the video garnered 21,000 views, hundreds of “likes”, and additional hundreds of comments and shares.

39.       In July 2018, Ben Ari posted another video on his Facebook page, in which he is heard saying the following:

Do you know that the Bedouin marry Arab women from Gaza, from Hebron, who all come here. They get national insurance, they give birth in hospitals at our expense, their children later get every benefit at our expense […] they even serve in the army! These enemies the Bedouin serve in the army, let me repeat what I am saying – the enemy Bedouin serve in the army! They are seduced by money. I know from firsthand sources, from those who serve with them – they don’t trust them for a minute. There is an agenda that if they serve in the army, they will be loyal to us. No, they are not loyal to us! (emphasis added).

            This video received some 4,800 views and many comments.

            About a month later, Ben Ari posted another video on the Facebook page “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari”, in which he appears saying, among other things:

First, we have to change the equation that anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live! We don’t expel him, don’t take away his citizenship. He doesn’t live! A firing squad kills him, he is done away with, the way Arabs understand. That’s their language [] Tell me racism, racist? Whoever says that they are loyal underestimates them. “What? An Arab just wants to eat, just wants to make a living” – that’s not true, […] An Arab has nationalistic ambitions, he screams them, he shouts about them, he is ready to die for them (emphasis added).

            Ben Ari explained that this was said “against the background of the conduct in regard to Gaza and the solution that should be implemented against it”. This clip also received 9,300 views and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

            In another video from the same month, Ben Ari is heard saying, among other things:

Over the last hours, in Tel Aviv, in the center of Tel Aviv […] our staunchest enemy has been arriving, and that is the internal enemy, the internal enemy, the enemy that we want to ignore, the enemy we want to hide our heads in the sand and not see, the enemy of Israeli Arabs (emphasis added).

            Ben Ari explained that this was said against the background of a demonstration by Arabs and Jews against what is called the “Nation-State Law” (Basic Law: Israel – the Nation State of the Jewish People) (hereinafter: The Nation-State Law)) in which PLO flags were waved and in which there were calls for the liberation of Palestine. He further explained that he was referring to Arabs who are not loyal to the State of Israel and who want to eradicate its Jewish character.

40.       After about a month, on Sept. 16, 2018, immediately following the stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion junction in which the late Ari Fuld was murdered, Ben Ari uploaded another video clip to his Facebook page, in which he states, among other things, the following:

[…] They murder because they have work. They murder because they want to inherit this land […] If there are infiltrators, it is the Arab enemy […] You need Shlomo Neeman [head of the Gush Etzion regional council] to ask all the business owners to fire today the terrorist of tomorrow. It is your responsibility, stop employing the murderers! Don’t employ these murderers! They get money from us and also come to murder us […] They murder us whenever they have the chance. The conclusion is that there is no coexistence. Look at the Arabs! Do they coexist amongst themselves? Every day in the news, murder in Rahat, murder in Reineh, murder in Umm al Fahm, attempted murder in Lod, murder in Jaffa. First of all, when speaking of coexistence, Rabbi Kahane would always say, let’s see the Arabs coexist amongst themselves (emphasis added).

            The clip received some 7,300 views, and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

            At the end of November 2018, Ben Ari referred to the Arabs of the city of Lod in another video, this time on his Twitter account, accompanied by the caption: “The Arab conqueror of Lod continues to rage even today: The State of Israel is being conquered from within, Israel needs Otzma Yehudit!” In another video clip published on his Facebook page shortly after, Ben Ari referred to the members of the Lod municipal council as the “Arab enemy”. At the end of December 2018, Ben Ari published a clip on his Facebook page titled “Now in Afula Illit, a meeting with Otzma Yehudit loyalists”. In the clip, Ben Ari is seen conversing with a group of residents and stating as follows:

They wanted to bring you a clan of enemies into your neighborhood […] The State of Israel is being conquered from within, they are determined to conquer us from within […] By means of the word equality, the enemy will destroy us […] What is happening here is happening in Dimona, is happening in Lod. Lod is already a completely conquered city. But Afula? This criminal who opened the center for the enemy in the name of equal rights […] If, with the help of God, we enter the coalition, the first thing that we will do is the complete revocation of this thing called affirmative action. Do you understand that you are second class citizens because you are not Arabs? […] Most of them are willing to give up everything as long as they slaughter us. And what I am saying is not racism because, to my regret, it is the reality (emphasis added).

            Further on in the clip, Ben Ari is heard referring to the murder of the late Sheli Dadon, which occurred in 2014, saying as follows:

Did anyone ever hold a discussion of their character? On their treasonous character? […] The moment you give here, you give him affirmative action, you give him more work, he will raise a family here. His children will also be here, his children, fewer of my children will be here, and so […] I need a work plan. I need a work plan now a work a plan. […] This is not racism, it is fact, Arabs are the most migrant people in the world, they aren’t tied to any land […] That’s why they came here. Because there is work. […] One of the first things, our first condition for any discussions about a coalition, with the help of God, that they will discuss with us, is – revoking affirmative action (emphasis added).

41.       Some two months prior to the elections for the 21st Knesset, on Feb. 8, 2019, shortly after the murder of the late Ori Ansbacher by a Palestinian terrorist, Ben Ari uploaded another video clip to his Facebook page in which he stated, among other things, the following:

There is a murderous people here, a murderous nation. We owe the revenge, and the revenge is Otzma Yehudit […] Only the revenge of Otzma Yehudit in the Knesset […] They want to destroy us, they are looking for our neck. […] They want to slaughter us […] The revenge will come when Otzma Yehudit will be in the Knesset with twenty mandates. When we will be there, they will see that we are not playing with them like Lieberman. They will find themselves in their countries of origin, and the village they came from will become an airport. To fly them to their countries of origin (emphasis added).

            An examination of the Facebook page shows that the clip received some 20,000 views. In another video clip that Ben Ari posted the same day, he is heard saying, among other things,: “They are looking for our neck, looking for our daughters […] anyone who talks to you about coexistence is inviting the next murder […] we have to send our enemies back to where they came from […] our enemies, these murderers, we will send them to murder in Syria, in Lebanon, in Iran in Turkey” (emphasis added). This clip, which was, as noted, published close to the elections, received some 32,000 views, and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

42.       The evidence presented, the main part of which we described above, indeed paints a clear, unambiguous, persuasive picture in which Ben Ari systematically inflames feelings of hatred toward the Arab public in its entirety, while continually demeaning that public. We are concerned with significant evidence that comprises disparaging expressions of extreme severity that continued over a period of some two years until very close to the elections for the 21st Knesset, and Ben Ari is heard saying these things in his own voice. This fact is of high probative value (the second Zoabi case). Ben Ari attributes negative characteristics to practically all of the Israeli Arab public, and calls them “murderers”, a “fifth column”, “enemies”, and of “treasonous character”. We are not concerned with a “slip of the tongue” in a moment of anger, but rather with a continuous, consistent series of statements that express hatred and scorn for the Arab population in its entirety as one that appears to understand only violence, with which one cannot coexist, and which must, therefore, be expelled, and as one that receives various social benefits “at our expense”. As noted in the Appellants’ response to Ben Ari’s supplementary pleadings, these publications were not removed. Ben Ari surpassed himself in comparing the Israeli Arab citizens of Haifa to dogs, stating that “the dog should be called by its name”. The use of dehumanization and attributing animalistic traits to people is known to be one of the most degrading propaganda mechanisms employed by racist regimes in order to mark a population as “inferior” and “sub-human”, and it endangers and seriously harms the dignity of the individuals who are members of that group as human beings.

            Ben Ari’s statements, and the not insignificant exposure they receive on social media, reflect the racist political program he espouses and which he intends to realize as a member of the Knesset. Certain statements that expressly call for violence are of particular severity (see, in this regard, his statements in the video clip published in August 2018, according to which “anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live […] A firing squad kills him, he is done away with, the way Arabs understand. That’s their language”). It is important to note that publications on the social media platforms that Ben Ari chose to use by uploading recordings in which he is heard speaking in his own voice have great influential potential, as the social networks provide candidates for the Knesset quick channels of communication  to many communities without any journalistic mediation. In this manner, the social networks have, to a significant extent, replaced the historic “town square”, and serve as a platform for exchanging views, disseminating ideas, and garnering support among broad, diverse communities. The great accessibility of social networks, as well as the quick and effective dissemination of opinions and ideas by means of the digital platforms, can serve as a very effective means for spreading racist ideas and expedite the dissemination of those ideas (see, in this regard, in general: Yotam Rosner, The Role of Social Media in the Radicalization of Young People in the West, National Security in a “Liquid” World, 131, 135-137 (Institute for National Security Studies, 2019) (Hebrew)).

43.       In addition to the specific explanations that Ben Ari gave for the above publications, he further explained that he is not a racist, and that what he said was directed only at that defined segment of the population that is “enemy”, which includes anyone who is not loyal to the state, and in his own words: “The definition of the enemy is not made on a purely ethno-national basis, but on a political one. Anyone who identifies with the political objectives of the Arab national movement identifies himself as an enemy”. According to him, he does not refer to the Arab public as a whole, and any Arab who is “loyal to Israel” has a right to be a citizen. As opposed to that, whoever “is not loyal to the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people […] should find his place outside of the state”. Ben Ari further clarified that the distinguishing characteristic, according to his approach, is “the relationship to the Zionist enterprise and to the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”. He further argued that the quotes attributed to him were fragmented and tendentious and explained that in saying that the Arab population of Israel is not loyal, he meant that he has not met “many loyal Arabs” (emphasis added). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari’s attorney noted: “In my estimation, there is an absolute majority that is not loyal” (Transcript of the hearing, p. 22, line 14), and in this regard, Ben Ari clarified in his supplementary pleadings that his statement that there is an absolute identity between ethno-national origin and loyalty was made in opposition to a statement that he attributed to former minister Naftali Bennet according to which 99% of Israeli Arabs are loyal to the state.

            Ben Ari apologized for his statements in regard to Bedouin soldiers. He pointed out that he “apologizes for them before those loyal soldiers who may have been hurt” and explained that his intention was “unequivocally only to those sons of women who came from the areas of the Palestinian Authority and Gaza”, and that he does not think that “all of the Bedouin population is disloyal” (paras. 32-33 of his affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari even emphasized that “if it sounds as if I am against the Bedouin, God forbid. If there is loyalty, there is loyalty, and I respect and honor that (hearing transcript, p. 29, lines 16-17). Ben Ari asked to clarify that his statement of Sept. 16, 2018, following the murder of Ori Fuld, in which he called to “stop employing the murderers” as referring only to terrorists, the words do not, of course, refer to all Arabs […] [only] to the security measures that should be adopted in regard to employing Arabs from the Palestinian Authority”. In his response to the appeal, Ben Ari explained that his statements in the Afula meeting were made “against the background of the murder of a resident of my community Dadon”, and in his supplemental pleadings, Ben Ari added that even if what was said in that meeting “grate upon the ear, they do not rise to the level of a ‘critical mass’”. In his affidavit, Ben Ari emphasized that “I am not saying that all Arabs are like that [of a murderous, treasonous character], or that this character derives from ethno-national origins. But this murderous violence is characteristic of the national struggle of the Arab national movement since the beginning of the 20th century” (para. 47 of his affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari added another reason for his statements, noting that his words in regard to the sale of apartments to Arabs in Afula should not be understood as racial discrimination, and he referred in this regard to Amendment no. 8 of 2011 to the Cooperative Societies Ordinance in the matter of the considerations that may be taken into account by an admissions committee of a residential community (hereinafter: the Admissions Committee Law). Ben Ari explained what he said after the murder of Ori Ansbacher in a supplementary notice in which he explained that he “referred to the murder, and that was its only context”. In his affidavit, he added that his words might sound inclusive in regard to people on the basis of ethno-national origin, but that his intention was “to those who, from an Arab national position, seek to murder Jews against a nationalistic background, and as part of what they see as a national struggle, and who support and identify with those acts (para. 50 of the affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari’s attorney added that “there is never any justification for harming individuals on the basis of the nationality” (Transcript, p. 15, line 6), and that Ben Ari’s statements about the Arab public were always made in the context of a specific event” (ibid., line 12).

            Lastly, Ben Ari sought to emphasize that presenting broad positions is not exclusive to him but is rather a common practice of candidates for the Knesset, and even of serving members of the Knesset.

44.       I examined Ben Ari’s arguments and explanations and I do not see them as sufficient to change my conclusion. While Ben Ari repeatedly states that he is not a racist, unfortunately, his actions and statements, which I have summarized above, are diametrically opposed to that declaration. The question I pondered was what positive weight should be afforded to the fact that Ben Ari already served as a member of the Knesset (in 2009 - 2013). This fact does, indeed, constitute a consideration in his favor, but it is of limited weight inasmuch as Ben Ari worked toward the advancement of his racist ideology even in that period, and tearing the New Testament to shreds and throwing it in the waste basket in the Knesset was just one example of that (for other actions and expressions, see paras. 79-91 of the notice of appeal). In any case, as the Attorney General emphasized in presenting his position, the evidentiary foundation from the recent past, and primarily from the year preceding the elections, shows that a “critical mass” of evidence has amassed that unambiguously, clearly, and persuasively testifies to systematic incitement to racism by Ben Ari. The summary of the case law presented above shows that the Court has attributed significance and weight to explanations and clarifications presented by the candidate, to which the decisions in the matter of Marzel testify (the opinion of President A. Barak in the Tibi case, p. 60, and that of Justice I. Englard at p. 66; the second Zoabi case, para. 34, and as opposed to that, see the dissenting opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein at para. 103). However, in the instant case, the explanations provided by Ben Ari are not persuasive and pale before the enormity of the racist statements that he repeated again and again in his own voice, and which he preached in public at rallies in which he participated and on social networks. Other than an apology, that was only partial, in the matter of Bedouin soldiers, Ben Ari did not apologize for his statements and did not retract them. He tried to give his words a post facto interpretation, but that, as stated, was not persuasive because it is not consistent with the meaning and natural context of what was said. Thus, for example, Ben Ari tried to explain that he does not speak about the Israeli Arab public in general but only of those who are “enemies”, but the recordings repeatedly show that the reference is to the entire Arab public, or at the very least, to its overwhelming majority – 99% of that public – as disloyal to the state. Ben Ari himself notes in one of those recordings that he has not met Arabs who are loyal to the state (see, for example, the video clip of Ben Ari from Nov. 7, 2017, from 6:30). Another explanation proposed by Ben Ari in regard to some of his statements was that they were made immediately after terrorist incidents and attacks against Israelis. The pain, the anger, and even the will for revenge aroused at such times is understandable. However, it is important to bear in mind that fear and a sense of threat have always been the fuel that fires racist ideologies, and one must, therefore, take care not to harness understandably harsh feelings that arise at times of distress and pain and exploit them to advance such ideologies. The explanations that Ben Ari presented in an attempt to equate the Admissions Committee Law – with all the clear limitations it establishes – and the things he said in regard to the sale of apartments to Arabs in Afula have no place here inasmuch as the two cannot be compared (and compare: LCA 6709/98 Attorney General v. Moledet [18]) (hereinafter: the Moledet case)).

45.       In summation, this chapter states that the Court’s approach that the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset are to be narrowly construed and exercised in the most extreme cases, was and remains the starting point for every discussion of these causes. However, we are persuaded that the broad, up-to-date evidentiary foundation presented in the instant case gives rise to a cause that disqualifies Ben Ari from standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset due to incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of the Basic Law. Given this conclusion, there is no need to examine the additional cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law.

            Indeed, it is not always easy to draw the line separating racial incitement from the expression of an opinion – as severe and harsh as it may be – that is entitled to protection under the fundamental right to freedom of expression in general, and to freedom of political speech in particular. This is particularly the case when the former also concerns the right to vote and to be elected. Nevertheless, in the instant case, and given the evidentiary foundation we presented, it is absolutely clear that Ben Ari’s statements crossed the line, and thus the conclusion reached. It would be appropriate to conclude this chapter with another quote from Memmi’s book Racism:

One cannot be indulgent toward racism; one must not even let the monster in the house, especially not in a mask […] To accept the racist universe to the slightest degree is to endorse fear, injustice, and violence. It is to accept the persistence of the dark history in which we still largely live. It is to agree that the outsider will always be a possible victim (and which man is not himself an outsider relative to someone else?) […] The anti-racist struggle, difficult though it is, and always in question, is nevertheless one of the prologues to the ultimate passage from animality to humanity (ibid., p. 116).

 

Ben Gvir

46.       In the matter of Ben Gvir, the Appellants presented a line of evidence, including evidence concerning criminal proceedings against him that, in part, concerned racist publications and support for the Kach movement that was declared a terrorist organization. However, the overwhelming majority of the evidence presented concerned acts and statements form many years ago, part from as long ago as the 1990s, and only a small part concerned the last few years. After examining the arguments raised by the Appellants and those of Ben Gvir, we concluded, as noted, that the evidence presented is not sufficient to ground a cause for disqualification from standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset, given the rule that we addressed above in regard to the strict evidentiary threshold required to substantiate disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law.

47.       The up-to-date evidence to which the Appellants and the Attorney General referred in regard to Ben Gvir should not be taken lightly. It includes statements he made in November 2017 at a memorial service for Rabbi Kahane, whose praises he also enumerated in an interview on Feb. 21, 2019. Ben Gvir made similar statements in a television interview in Nov. 2018 that he published on his Facebook page at that time. Those statements there were certainly very harsh and troubling, and there is substance to the Attorney General’s opinion that they come dangerously close to the line that would bar him from running in the Knesset elections. In this regard, it would not be superfluous to return to the words of Justice M. Elon in the second Neiman case, in 1989, in regard to the Kach list and Rabbi Kahane’s ideology:

The content of the Kach platform and the purpose of its promoters and leaders, as reflected in the material presented to us, stand in blatant contrast to the world of Judaism – its ways and perspectives, to the past of the Jewish nation and its future aspirations. They contradict absolutely the fundamental principles of human and national morality, the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, and the very foundations of present-day enlightened democracies. They come to transplant in the Jewish State notions and deeds of the most decadent of nations. This phenomenon should cause grave concern among the people who dwell in Zion. This court is charged with the preservation of the law and its interpretation, and the duty of inculcating the values of Judaism and civilization, of the dignity of man and the equality of all who are created in the divine image, rests primarily upon those whom the legislature and the executive branch have chosen for the task. When, however, such a seriously dangerous phenomenon is brought to our attention, we may not refrain from sounding the alarm against the ruinous effects of its possible spread upon the character, image, and future of the Jewish State. The remedy lies, in the first place, in a reassessment of the ways of educators and pupils alike, in all walks of our society (ibid., p. 302).

            These trenchant remarks are applicable here, as well. However, Ben Gvir, who was admitted to the bar in 2012, took pains to emphasize and explain that while he is in favor of “fighting against the enemies and against any who seek to erase the state, harm its Jewish character, and destroy it (whether such actor is Jewish or whether Arab)”, he “opposes acting in any violent or unlawful manner” (para. 43 of Ben Gvir’s affidavit). He further noted that over the last years, he has changed his ways and he acts by legal means and initiates legal proceedings where he deems appropriate. These explanations bear weight and should be granted significance, and this, together with the current evidentiary foundation presented in his matter, which, as noted, does not rise to the level of a “critical mass” under the strict criteria established in this regard in the case law, led us to the conclusion that the appeal in the matter of Ben Gvir, on both heads, should be dismissed.

 

EA 1876/19 Ra’am-Balad List v. Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

48.       The Ra’am-Balad list is composed of two parties – Ra’am and Balad – and two requests for its disqualification were filed by the Likud and MK David Biton, and by Ben Ari and Ben Gvir. The disqualification requests were based upon the cause in sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law – negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law – support for an armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. The requesting parties focused primarily on the activities of members of Balad, and it was argued that they oppose the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in the State of Israel and act to negate the core characteristics of Israel as a Jewish state. It was further argued that members of the list support the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations and violent acts against the police and IDF soldiers. The Elections Committee decided by a majority of 17 for and 10 against to disqualify the Ra’am-Balad list from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset, and thus the current appeal.

 

Arguments of the Parties

49.       Ra’am-Balad argued that the Elections Committee’s decision should be annulled, and emphasized that most of the evidence presented in its regard was already adjudged and examined in prior proceedings against the Balad list or its members, including the evidence concerning their support for the idea of “a state of all its citizens”, and the Court held that the evidence did not substantiate a cause for disqualification. It was further argued that the Committee’s decision leads to a problematic result that also disqualifies the members of the Ra’am party on the list from standing for election even though no significant evidence was produced against them that would justify their disqualification. According to Ra’am-Balad, the Committee reached its decision without any material debate, and it ignored the decisions of this Court and the opinion of the Attorney General; the evidence against it does not relate to actions or activity that substantiate a cause for disqualification; and the evidentiary foundation rests upon articles form the internet of low probative weight and whose content was denied by the members of the list. Ra’am-Balad further argued that due to its political composition, the Elections Committee is not authorized to rule upon the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, and that the legal arrangement that grants it that authority is disproportionate and infringes the principle of equality of the elections as established in sec. 4 of the Basic Law, and the right to vote and to be elected.

50.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that the appeal of Ra’am-Balad should be granted and noted that the disqualification requests were indeed largely founded upon evidence from prior to the elections for the 20th Knesset, and part of it had already been examined in prior proceedings before this Court. Whereas, it is argued, the new evidence submitted relies largely upon articles form the internet that were denied by the members of the list and that are of low probative value. It was further emphasized that most of the evidence pertains to persons who are no longer on the list, among them: Basel Ghattas (hereinafter: Ghattas) and Said Naffaa, or who are in a unrealistic slot on the list, like Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka (hereinafter: Zahalka), and are not relevant to the members of the list and its new candidates who are in realistic slots. In all that relates to the cause of support for armed struggle of a terrorist organization, the Attorney General was of the opinion that significant weight should be accorded to the affidavits submitted by the representatives of the list which note that they reject violence and that they never called for its use. As for the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, the Attorney General noted that the consistent position of the case law of this Court in regard to Balad and its members is that there is no cause for disqualifying them from participating in the election for the claims have been raised once again in this proceeding. However, the Attorney General, without deciding the issue, explained that were the Balad party running independently for the 21st Knesset, there would be reason to carefully consider its disqualification in view of the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill submitted to the 20th Knesset by members of Knesset from the Balad party, and due to the content of that bill. But the Attorney General added that since the requests refer to the disqualification of the Ra’am-Balad list, and because the law does not allow for disqualifying half of a list, there is some difficulty in disqualifying the entire list due to the actions of members of the Balad list, who for the most part are not, as noted, candidates in realistic slots on the list, while no significant arguments were raised in regard to the Ra’am party and its members. On the constitutional level, in regard to the matter of the Elections Committee’s authority to address the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Attorney General argued, inter alia, that given the time constraints established in the Elections Law for deciding upon an appeal, the issues should not be taken up in the framework of the current proceedings.

51.       Respondents 2-3, who submitted the requests for disqualification, relied upon the decision of the Elections Committee and argued for dismissal of the appeal. In their view, the fact that the Ra’am-Balad list includes new candidates does not alter the fact that the ideology of the members of the Balad list negates the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and the fact that members of the party support terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. The Knesset, which was joined as a Respondent to the appeal due to the constitutional arguments, was of the opinion that these arguments should be dismissed. It emphasized that the claim of lack of authority was not raised before the Elections Committee, that it is being raised long after the said authority was bestowed upon the Committee by law, and like the Attorney General, the Knesset added that the elections proceedings are not appropriate for examining this issue.

 

Negation of the Existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State

52.       The starting point for examining the evidentiary foundations presented by the Plaintiffs in regard to the disqualification of Ra’am-Balad on the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state is grounded in the criteria established in the case law, which we surveyed at length above. These criteria were addressed and even applied in the past in regard to the Balad list and its platform (see the Tibi case and the Balad case), and those cases addressed, inter alia, the question whether a party that calls for the realization of the principle of “a state of all its citizens” is disqualified from standing for election to the Knesset. In the Tibi case, the Court answered in the negative, and held that calling for the realization of that principle does not necessarily imply the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The Court held that as long as that call is intended to guarantee equality among citizens, it should not be interpreted to be a call that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. As opposed to that, “if the purpose of Israel being a ‘state of all its citizens’ is intended to mean more than that, and it seeks to undermine the rationale for the creation of the state and its character as the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, then that undercuts the nuclear, minimal characteristics that characterize the State of Israel as a Jewish State” (the Tibi case, pp. 22-23, 41).

53.       In the Tibi case, the Court concluded that, despite the fact that Balad’s platform expressly called for realizing the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, and despite the additional evidence presented in open court and in camera, taken in its entirety, what was presented did not ground a “critical mass” of persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence that would justify the disqualification of Balad for the cause argued, nor the disqualification of Bishara – then head of the list – whose disqualification was requested in that same proceeding. It would not be superfluous to note that most of the evidence presented in that matter in regard to Balad concerned actions and statements by Bishara. It was argued in regard to Bishara that, inter alia, in various events and party conferences he expressed himself in a manner that reflected a view according to which Jews do not have a right to self-determination. It was further argued that Bishara supported the approach that recognized the right of return of Arabs to Israel and a struggle against Zionism, and that he even tabled a bill for the abolition of the status of various Zionist institutions.

54.       After examining all of that evidence, the Court concluded in the Tibi case that even though Bishara’s objectives are a dominant objective of his activity and not merely a theoretical concept but rather an objective with political potential that he had put into practice, his actions did not negate the minimal, nuclear definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It was held that the Court was not presented with persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence against Bishara in regard to the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, and consequently, not against the Balad list. That was so inasmuch as Bishara recognized the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel and did not argue that the Law of Return, 5710-1950 (hereinafter: The Law of Return) should be revoked, did not deny the centrality of Hebrew as the language of the state, along with Arabic as an official language, and did not oppose Israel’s holidays and symbols, as long as the cultural and religious rights of the Arab minority are recognized.

55.       As noted, the Tibi case concerned the elections for the 16th Knesset, and some eight years later, in the Balad case, the Court addressed disqualification proceedings filed against the Balad party in anticipation of the elections for the 18th Knesset. That matter concerned the decisions of the Elections Committee to disqualify the Balad list, as well as the Ra’am-Ta’al list that also sought to contend in those elections. The causes for which the Elections Committee decided to disqualify the Balad list were, as in the present case, the causes under secs. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law. At that point, Bishara no longer headed the list. He had fled the country, and it was claimed that the reason was that a criminal investigation was being conducted against him for suspected involvement in security offenses (the Balad case, para. 9). Inter alia, the evidence presented in that matter to ground the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state included Balad’s platform, which was published on its internet site, and an article by Zahalka, who was then the party leader, which described the party’s vision as striving for a State of Israel as “a state of all its citizens”. In addition, public statements of party members made in various situations, as well as articles from which, it was argued, one could discern an expression of support of the Balad members for its founder Bishara even after his flight from Israel, were presented. The Court granted Balad’s appeal and held that there was no cause for disqualification from contending in the elections for the 18th Knesset. The Court’s decision rested, inter alia, upon the opinion of the Attorney General at the time, who noted that the evidence presented against Balad, taken in its entirety, was inferior to the entirety of the evidence presented against that party in the Tibi case. The Court held:

After examining all of the evidence presented to us, and bearing in mind the criteria and principles outlined in the matter of Balad [the Tibi case], the entirety of the evidence presented to this Court in that matter and its concrete findings there in regard to them, we did not find that the disqualification requests that are the subject of this appeal in regard to Balad rest upon a sufficient evidentiary foundation to give rise to a cause for disqualifying the list from contending in the elections for the Israeli Knesset (ibid., para. 22).

            This conclusion reached by the Court in the Balad case concerns the two causes for disqualification advanced there. We will further address the additional cause under sec. 7A(a)(3) below.

56.       Another disqualification proceeding concerning the members of the Balad party was addressed in 2012 in the first Zoabi case, which examined the issue of the disqualification of Zoabi from standing for election for the 19th Knesset on the Balad list. In that proceeding, the Court examined the evidence regarding Zoabi’s support for the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, and was of the opinion that the evidence presented no materially new or different grounds from what had been presented in the Tibi case and the Balad case that would justify a different conclusion. The Court arrived at a similar result some three years later in the second Zoabi case. In that matter, the Court examined, inter alia, whether statements in which Zoabi was heard saying “there was no justification for the establishing of the State of Israel from the start. Now that there are generations of Jews who were born in it, I want to live with them but not in a Jewish and racist state”. The Court also examined an article that reported on a demonstration in which Zoabi participate, entitled “Demonstration against the Crimes of the Occupation”, and a recording in which Zoabi is heard shouting insults at the police. The Court held that there were no grounds for disqualifying Zoabi’s candidacy in the elections. That was so because the desire for the establishment of a state of all its citizens and “striving for an end to the occupation does not necessarily mean a negation of the Jewish foundations of the State of Israel.”

57.       The current proceeding, in which the Ra’am-Balad list is appealing its disqualification by the Elections Committee from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset, is another link in the chain of similar proceedings on the same matter. In all that concerns the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, the evidence presented by the petitioners for disqualification includes various statement by members of Balad form the past and present, among them a quote from an interview conducted by Dr. Mtanes Shehadeh, chair of the Balad list, and number two on the Ra’am-Balad list (hereinafter: Shehadeh), in which he says, among other things, that Bishara was “an important activist in Balad’s leadership at the time, and contributed greatly to political discourse […] in Israel”, and is later quoted in that interview as saying that “the flag and national anthem do not represent us”. A report from the YNET website was also presented according to which MK Talab Abu Arar, who is a member of the list, and others met with the president of Turkey. Additional evidence presented concerns an interview with the former general secretary of Balad in which he called upon Israeli Arabs not to vote in the Knesset elections and to act for the realization of the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, as well as evidence concerning past activities of members of Balad, including statements by Zoabi from 2009 and past activities of Bishara.

            This evidence is not materially different from the evidence presented in the previous proceedings that we surveyed, which concerned proceedings for the disqualification of Balad and members of its list, as far as the cause of negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state is concerned. Moreover, not only has most of the evidence presented in this proceeding been examined in previous proceedings and found insufficient in accordance with the criteria outlined for the said cause, but as noted, a not insignificant part of that evidence concerns persons who are no longer candidates on the Ra’am-Balad list for the elections for the 21st Knesset, or are not candidates in realistic slots on that list. That being the case, we cannot accept the argument that the Ra’am-Balad list should be disqualified from running in the elections for the 21st Knesset due to actions and statements attributed to Zoabi when she herself was not disqualified at the time in the first Zoabi case and the second Zoabi case for the same actions and statements, especially when she is located in the 118th slot on the current list. The argument in regard to ongoing connections of some kind or another between members of the list and Bishara was argued in a general manner and does not suffice for changing the conclusion as to the insufficiency of the evidence presented. As for the majority of the candidates on the Ra’am-Balad list for the 21st Knesset who hold realistic slots, with the exception of Shehadeh, no evidence at all was presented to ground the cause for disqualification, and as explained above, the evidence presented in regard to Shehadeh is based upon quotes from media interviews and reports on various internet websites whose probatory weight has already been held to be low (the second Zoabi case, para. 34), and Shehadeh has declared that his words were presented in a “distorted, misleading manner, and was accompanied by incorrect analysis” (para. 9 of the affidavit submitted by Shehadeh to the Elections Committee).

58.       The primary up-to-date evidence presented to us in this proceeding in regard to the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill, which members of Knesset from the Balad party sought to lay on the table in the 20th Knesset. At the end of the day, that bill was not presented due to a decision by the Knesset presidium of June 4, 2018 not to approve its introduction, based upon the opinion of the Knesset’s legal advisor. A petition filed in this regard was rendered moot and dismissed in limine when it was decided to dissolve the 20th Knesset (HCJ 4552/18 Zahalka v. Speaker of the Knesset [19]). The purpose clause of the bill established that it was intended to ground “the principle of the equal citizenship of every citizen, while recognizing the existence and the rights of the two national groups, Jewish and Arab, living within the borders of the state that are recognized by international law” in a Basic Law. The bill also redrafted the conditions for obtaining Israeli citizenship, such that obtaining citizenship by virtue of the principle of return would be annulled (see sec. 5 of the opinion of the Legal Advisor of the Knesset of June 3, 2018). In addition, new state symbols and a new anthem should be established in accordance with the principles set forth in the bill (on the significance of this provision as negating the principle according to which the “primary symbols” of the state should reflect the national rebirth of the Jewish people, see sec. 5 of the opinion of the Legal Advisor of the Knesset, and see what was stated in this regard in sec. 6 of the bill in regard to the status of the Hebrew language as the primary language of the state). If that were not enough, the petition filed by the members of Bald in the 20th Knesset against the decision of the presidium to prevent laying the bill on the Knesset table explicitly stated that the said bill accorded with Balad’s party platform.

            It would seem undeniable that the said bill, in all its parts, expresses a negation of the most minimal, nuclear characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state as the Court explained in the Tibi case. The fact that the step taken by the members of Balad in this regard was democratic – tabling a bill – does not lead to a different conclusion. This was indeed a significant action by the members of Knesset representing Balad in the 20th Knesset attempting to realize – by means of a legislative bill – a political program and worldview that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It would appear that Ra’am-Balad was aware of the significance of this evidence, but argued that it should not be given decisive weight in the current proceeding, inter alia, given the fact that it is only one piece of evidence (or at most two, if the petition constitutes a separate piece of evidence in this regard), and given the background for submitting the bill and that it was submitted in response to the legislative proceedings on the Nation State Law. These arguments attempt to minimize the significant weight of this evidence, and I agree with the position  of the Attorney General that had Balad run as an independent list comprising members of Knesset who had served in the 20th Knesset and who presented the bill, and who now sought to stand for re-election to the 21st Knesset, there would be grounds for seriously considering whether these two pieces of evidence show that Balad had crossed the divide delineated in the Tibi case that separates between espousing the principle of “a state of all its citizens” in order to achieve equality and seeking to negate the minimal, nuclear characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. If we were standing at that junction, we would also likely be required to consider the issue of the applicability of the probability test in applying the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, which was left for further consideration in the Tibi case and in the ensuing decisions. However, the list whose disqualification was requested is a joint list of Ra’am-Balad and we agree with the opinion of the Attorney General that his fact is significant for examining the causes for disqualification. In addition, it must be borne in mind in regard to the representatives of Balad on the list that none of those placed in realistic slots were among those who submitted the bill on Balad’s behalf. Moreover, in the affidavit he submitted to the Elections Committee, Shehadeh declared that he himself and all of Balad’s candidates for Knesset are committed to the principle of “a state of all its citizens” that is presented in the party’s platform as examined and approved in the Tibi case, the Balad case, and in the first and second Zoabi case (para. 2 of the affidavit). Given all of the above, and given the strict criteria outlined in the case law for the disqualification of a list from standing for election to the Knesset, we have concluded that there are no grounds for disqualifying the Ra’am-Balad list on the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.

 

Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

59.       The Election Committee’s decision that “the Ra’am-Balad list is barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset” does not state whether the list’s disqualification is based upon both of the two causes in secs. 1A(a)1 and (3) of the Basic Law or only upon one of them. In the future, even if the Committee does not state the reasons for its decision, it may be appropriate that it at least note what cause grounded its decision on disqualification. In any event, for the purposes of this appeal, I will assume, as did the parties, that the disqualification rested upon both causes.

            The prevailing rule established that in order to prove that a list or a candidate seeking to stand for election supports armed struggle by an enemy state or a terrorist group, it must be shown that it is the primary objective of the list and that it actually works toward realizing it. In all of the past proceedings in the matter of both Balad and Ra’am, it was held that the evidence presented in this regard does not amount to a “critical mass” that would justify disqualifying either of the lists or any of candidates on those lists on the basis of the cause grounded in sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic law (EA 2600/99 Erlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee [20] (hereinafter: the Erlich case); the Tibi case; the first Zoabi case; the second Zoabi case). Those holdings bear consequences for the matter before us inasmuch as the evidence presented to ground the cause of support for armed struggle is immeasurably less than that presented in the above cases. The Petitioners for disqualification primarily based their arguments upon pictures of Shehadeh visiting a former security prisoner and upon quotes from an interview in which it is alleged that he refused to refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization and added that “any struggle against the occupation is a legitimate struggle”, and that he “is for a struggle against the occupation. People have a right to fight against the occupation. If there are people who are oppressed, they have a right to fight”. In addition, an interview with MK Abd Al Hakeem Haj Yahya, who holds the second slot in the Ra’am party, was presented in which he referred to an attack on the Temple Mount in July 2017 in which Israeli police were murdered. According to the petitioners for disqualification, other statements by members of the list in 2009 and 2011 demonstrate a support for terrorism. The petitioners for disqualification further added the fact that former Knesset members of Balad met with the families of terrorists who were killed while carrying out terrorist attacks; Zoabi’s participation in the “Mavi Marmara” flotilla; the meeting held by former Balad Knesset members with Bishara in 2014; and the conviction of former Balad Knesset member Ghattas for security offenses.

60.       We reviewed the above evidence, and we are not of the opinion that it constitutes a body of persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence that shows that support for an armed struggle by a terrorist organization is a central, dominant purpose of the Ra’am-Balad list or of any of the parties that compose it. In addition, we do not think that evidence was presented that meets the evidentiary threshold for proving that this list acts for the realization of such an armed struggle in a real and consistent manner. This is an a fortiori conclusion given that the evidence presented in the prior proceedings addressed by this Court was far more significant than that presented before us, and it was nevertheless held that it was insufficient to ground a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. Moreover, a significant part of the evidence presented to us refers to persons who do not appear on the Ra’am-Balad list for the 21st Knesset, and some of it was already examined in the previously noted cases. The petitioners for disqualification presented various statements by Shehadeh from which one might infer support for violent activity, but that is not the only possible interpretation and the doubt acts to the benefit of the conclusion that would permit the list to participate in the elections (the second Zoabi case, para. 73). In addition, weight should be given in this regard to the fact that Shehadeh made it explicitly clear in his affidavit that he does not support violent activity and that Balad’s approach is “democratic and employs legal means. We have never called for the use of violence, and none of the candidates on our current list have ever been convicted of any criminal offence”. It was further noted that statements expressing opposition to the Israeli policy in Judea and Samaria were examined by this Court in the past, and it was held that they do not, in and of themselves, give rise to a cause for disqualification (the second Zoabi case, para. 67).

61.       In conclusion, for the reasons stated above, I was of the opinion that we should grant the appeal in EA 1876/19, that the disqualification decision by the Elections Committee should be overturned, and we should order that the Ra’am-Balad list is not barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset. I did not find reason to address the arguments raised by the Ra’am-Balad list in regard to the authority of the Elections Committee to rule upon the causes for disqualification. The conclusion that we reached in this appeal renders those arguments moot, but in my view, the fact that those arguments were never raised before the Elections Committee suffices to dismiss them in limine.

 

EDA 1806/19 Lieberman v. Cassif

62.       At the request of the Yisrael Beiteinu faction and Knesset members Avigdor Lieberman and Oded Forer, the Elections Committee decided to disqualify Cassif from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset as a candidate on the Ra’am-Balad list. The Committee presented that decision for the Court’s approval in accordance with sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law and sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

 

Arguments of the Parties

63.       The request for Cassif’s disqualification rests upon two causes: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, and support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. The evidence adduced in support of the request consisted primarily of four publications and newspaper articles – mostly from the internet – that show, according to those requesting disqualification, that in his statements, Cassif rejects the Jewish character of the State of Israel and calls for the changing of the state’s symbols and anthem, and for revoking the Law of Return. It is also argued that the evidence presented shows that Cassif supports the armed struggle of the Hamas terrorist organization against the state. This, inter alia, because he compared senior government leaders to Nazi war criminals, and because other statements testify, in their opinion, that Cassif believes that attacking soldiers does not constitute terrorism and that Israel should be fought because of its serious crimes against the Palestinian population.

64.       Cassif argued on his behalf that the evidence presented by those requesting the disqualification does not justify his disqualification from running in the Knesset elections. That is particularly so given that the request for disqualification is based, so he argues, upon distorted and tendentious quotes and relies primarily upon one interview with him in which he primarily presented academic ideas and not his political philosophy. As for the arguments that portray him as rejecting the Jewish character of the State of Israel, Cassif emphasized that he recognizes the right of the Jewish people to self-determination alongside an independent Palestinian state, while ensuring full equal rights to all residents of Israel. As for the arguments portraying him as supporting the armed struggle of Hamas against Israel, Cassif claimed that the various comparisons that he made between the State of Israel and Nazi Germany are not relevant to grounding a cause for disqualification, and that he opposes all forms of violence against any person. Similar to the arguments raised by the Ra’am-Balad list, Cassif also raised constitutional arguments in regard to the authority of the Elections Committee to examine and rule upon the disqualification of lists and candidates under the causes grounded in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, and I will already state that for the reasons mentioned in the previous chapter concerning the appeal of Ra’am-Balad, I have not found it necessary to address these arguments in the approval proceedings in regard to Cassif.

65.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that there is no cause for barring Cassif from running in the elections for the 21st Knesset because no “critical evidentiary mass” was presented that would justify it, noting that the evidentiary grounds adduced in support of disqualification was meager in both amount and quality.

 

Negation of the Existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State

66.       The evidence in the matter of Cassif on this cause relies upon two newspaper publications. The first is an article on the internet site of Makor Rishon from Feb. 7, 2019, according to which Cassif stated in an interview some two years earlier on the subject of the evacuation of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria that he viewed this as a first step towards a Palestinian state, and that the State of Israel cannot be and must not be a Jewish state. Cassif expressly refutes these words attributed to him (para. 10 of the affidavit submitted by Cassif to the Elections Committee). As already noted, the probative weight that can be ascribed to such articles, and all the more so to “second hand” articles is low.

67.       The second and more significant piece of evidence presented by those requesting Cassif’s disqualification is an interview with Cassif in the Ha’aretz newspaper in February 2019. According to the petitioners for disqualification, certain statements by Cassif in that interview can be understood as a call for the negation of some of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Thus, for example, in response to the interviewer’s question about the character of the Israeli public space, Cassif said: “The public space has to change, to belong to all the residents of the state. I disagree with the concept of a Jewish public space”, adding that this would be expressed “for example, by changing the symbols, changing the anthem […]”. Cassif was also asked in that interview whether he supported the revocation of the Law of Return and answered “Yes. Absolutely”. As for the question of the Palestinian right of return to Israel, he replied: “There is no comparison. There is no symmetry here at all […]”. These worrying statements, which Cassif did not deny, certainly bear significant weight in examining the cause for disqualification in his regard under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law. However, we are concerned with a newspaper interview and a single statement made in it, and I therefore agree with the Attorney General’s view that this piece of evidence alone is not sufficient to meet the strict criteria established by the case law for disqualifying a candidate from standing for election to the Knesset. Indeed, as presented in detail above, in order to ground a cause for disqualification, it is necessary to present statements that unambiguously, clearly and persuasively testify to the negation of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. One must also show that this is the dominant purpose motivating the candidate’s activity and that he vigorously and consistently acts for its realization as part of a concrete political program. To this we should add that in his statements before the Elections Committee and before this Court, Cassif noted that he sees himself as obligated to the platform of the Hadash party, whose representatives have served in the Knesset for many years, and stated in the hearing before the Elections Committee: “The party of which I am a member and which I represent, […] made it its motto and has always said that we view the State of Israel as a state in which the Jewish people in the land is entitled to define itself. I do not deny that, I have never denied that, and I have no intention of denying that” (Transcript 10/21, p. 37).

 

Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

68.       Has it been shown, as the petitioners for disqualification claim, that Cassif supports armed struggle by the Hamas terror organization against the State of Israel? A large part of the disqualification request in this regard rests upon statements attributed to Cassif that imply a comparison between the State of Israel and senior members of the government of Nazi Germany and Nazi war criminals. Thus, for example, in the article on the Makor Rishon website mentioned above, it was claimed that “Cassif called Lieberman ‘a descendant of Adolph’, and explained: ‘A conceptual descendent, not an actual one”, and called former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “neo-Nazi scum”. In another article on the website of Channel 20 from March 2016, a Facebook post by Cassif was quoted in which he wrote about the Israeli government, among other things, that “this is a fascist government par excellence, with real Nazi motives […] and at its head, above all others: an incompetent scoundrel who has destroyed every good thing there ever was here […] an outstanding student of Göring’s doctrine”. In another article published on the Channel 20 website in April 2018, there was a recording of Cassif from a class that he gave in which he is heard saying that “in the Israeli discourse created by the current government, it is legitimate to kill Arabs. This is how one slides into the abyss of what happened in Germany 80 years ago”.

69.       Those statements, which Cassif did not deny, are very harsh, and the evident comparison between the State of Israel and government ministers to Nazi Germany is outrageous and were better never said, and having been said, I reject them in the most severe terms. The weak explanations provided by Cassif, according to which the statements were only made as metaphors in order to arouse critical public debate and to warn against dangerous deterioration, do not blunt their severity. Cassif also took the trouble to explain that in his publicist writings he emphasized that “any comparison between the Nazi annihilation and Israeli policy in the territories would make a mockery of the Holocaust”, of which it may be said that he did not practice as he preached. However, we must admit that as outrageous and enraging as these statements may be, they do not ground a cause of support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, and they cannot, in and of themselves, lead to the disqualification of his candidacy in the elections (and compare: the Kach case, p. 3). In any case, Cassif made it clear that he does not intend to repeat such things as an elected representative (para. 13 of the affidavit submitted by Cassif to the Elections Committee), and it is to be hoped that he will act accordingly.

70.       The additional evidence presented in support of Cassif’s disqualification on the cause of support for the armed struggle of Hamas against Israel also does ground a cause for his disqualification. In this regard, the plaintiffs directed our attention, inter alia, to a post by Cassif that was mentioned earlier, which, they argue, shows that he supports a violent struggle against the fascism and racism that have, in his opinion, spread in Israeli society. They also referred to an article on the website of Channel 20, also mentioned above, that includes a recording of Cassif from 2018 in which he is heard saying that “Hamas is a political party”. Lastly, the plaintiffs refer to Cassif’s statements in the interview in Ha’aretz in which he stated:

Cassif: “Harming soldiers is not terrorism. Even in Netanyahu’s book on terrorism, he expressly defines harming soldiers or members of the security forces as guerilla warfare. This is absolutely legitimate according to every moral criterion, and incidentally, in international law as well. Nevertheless, I do not say that this is something wonderful, delighting, or desirable […] Wherever there was a struggle for liberation from oppression there are national heroes who, in 90% of the cases, did things that were, in part, terrible. Nelson Mandela, who is now regarded as a hero, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was a terrorist according to the accepted definition […]”.

Interviewer: “In other words, the Hamas commanders today, who initiate actions against soldiers will be heroes of the Palestinian state that will be established?”

Cassif: “Certainly”.

Cassif asked to explain what he said, and told the Elections Committee and the Court that he opposes the use of violence against any person. He did not deny his opposition to the Israeli policy in Judea and Samaria and said that in his vision for the future he sees an end of the military regime there and that his activity is intended, among other things, to change the situation of the Palestinian people in Gaza and in general. However, as already noted, expressing this opinion alone does not give rise to a cause for disqualification (see para. 56), and Cassif declared unambiguously that he does not support opposition by means of armed struggle, but rather political, non-violent opposition (compare: the Tibi case, p. 50; the second Zoabi case, para. 71), and in his words: “I never supported violence, I always expressed opposition to violence, I belong to a party that has always rejected violence, this was also expressly stated in the interviews with me and in every other framework […] I rejected, and I reject, and I will reject, and I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all” (Transcript 10/21, p. 34). Cassif also expressed a similar position in that interview in Ha’aretz that was presented by the plaintiffs, a part of which was quoted above, in stating: “We have always opposed harming innocent civilians. Always. In all of our demonstrations, one of our leading slogans was: In Gaza and Sderot, children want to live. With all of my criticism of the settlers, going into a house to slaughter children, as in the case of the Fogel family, is something that is intolerable. You have to be a human being and reject this”.

As for Cassif’s statement in regard to harming soldiers, we are concerned with a severe, enraging statement that could be interpreted as legitimizing the harming of IDF soldiers by the Hamas terror organization. While Cassif tried to create a distinction in this regard between his theoretical, academic views and his political views, in my view, it is an artificial and unpersuasive distinction that is hard to accept. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the evidentiary foundation presented by the plaintiffs relies upon those aforementioned publications, and I agree with the position of the Attorney General that this evidentiary foundation is meager and insufficient to ground the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law in accordance with the criteria set out in the case law, which I discussed above.

 

EA 1867/19 Ben Ari v. Hadash-Ta’al List

71.       The request to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list from standing for election to the 21st Knesset was filed by Ben Ari and Ben Gvir upon two causes: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, and support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. The Elections Committee decided by a majority of 15 for and 12 against to dismiss the request, and thus the present appeal.

 

Arguments of the Parties

72.       The appellants who seek the disqualification, and a few members of the Elections Committee who joined them as appellants, argued that the statements and actions of members of the list are intended to negate the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and that its members support the Hezbollah and Hamas terror organizations while legitimizing harming Israeli citizens residing in the Judea and Samaria area and IDF soldiers.

73.       For its part, the Hadash-Ta’al list relied upon the decision of the Elections Committee and argued that the requesters of disqualification did not present an appropriate evidentiary foundation that could ground the claimed causes for disqualification. It was explained that the request was partly based upon old evidence that had been examined by the Elections Committee in previous elections, and that many of the statements attributed to members of the list were distorted and presented in a tendentious manner. It was further noted that most of the evidence was based upon reports taken from internet sites and newspaper clippings of low probative value, and that part are not even relevant to grounding the causes for disqualification.

74.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that the entirety of the evidence presented in regard to that request does not justify its acceptance inasmuch as it did not amount to the “critical evidentiary mass” required for disqualifying a list from participating in the elections for the Knesset. This is particularly so given that the evidentiary material presented in the matter of Hadash-Ta’al is significantly more limited than that presented in previous proceedings in which the said causes for disqualification were addressed. The Attorney General also added that the request was based largely on newspaper reports and parts of speeches that are of low probative value, and in particular, given the fact that we are not concerned with up-to-date evidence, and that part relates to the period preceding the elections for the 20th Knesset.

75.       The appellants based their argument in regard to the cause of disqualification concerning the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state on a few statements by members of the list that are insufficient– both quantitatively and qualitatively – for meeting the necessary evidentiary threshold to ground the argument that Hadash-Ta’al negates the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The primary piece of evidence presented by the appellants in this regard was an interview with Knesset member Tibi in the Ha’aretz newspaper in March 2017, in which he was asked to provide a hypothetical description of the situation in which the vision of two states was abandoned and instead, a single state was established in which the Arab minority became the majority. In that interview, Tibi is quoted as saying that such a state would be substantially different from the State of Israel today, and that the Declaration of Independence would be replaced by a civil declaration in which equality would be a supreme value, the Law of Return would be revoked, and the state’s symbols would be changed. However, Tibi expressly stated in that interview that his vision is a vision of two states – a fact that the appellants refrained from mentioning in their arguments. The appellants further referred to a short segment of a television interview with Tibi in 2011 in which he said that he cannot recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state. These two pieces of evidence, which are not from the recent past, are not sufficient to show clearly, persuasively and unambiguously that Tibi acts for the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It should be borne in mind that we are concerned with a member of Knesset who has served for some two decades, and that no argument was presented in regard to his parliamentary activity that would support the claimed cause for disqualification (compare the Ben Shalom case, p. 251). The additional evidence presented consists of quotes regarding which there is doubt as to whether they could ground the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and in any case, they are attributed to Raja Zaatra, who is not a member of the Hadash-Ta’al list for the 21st Knesset and who claimed that the quotes were untrue. The appellants further referred to statements by Cassif, who is a member of the Hadash-Ta’al list, but as noted above, we did not find them sufficient to lead to disqualifying Cassif himself, and thus they cannot lead to the disqualification of the entire list (see and compare: the Tibi case, p. 44; the Balad case, para. 20).

76.       The evidence adduced by the appellants in all that regards the cause for disqualification concerning support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel comprises, inter alia: a public address by Tibi in 2011 in Arabic in which, it is argued, he expressed praise for martyrs, and a report from 2007 on his participation in a march marking five years since Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin, among a crowd in which people dressed up as suicide bombers were present. In addition, the appellants referred to statements by a member of the Hadash party, Aida Touma Suleiman (hereinafter: Suleiman) in which she called the conduct of IDF forces in violent events on the Gaza border “premeditated murder”, refused to call the Hamas a terrorist organization, and argued that “an intifada by the people against the occupation is legitimate”. The appellants further referred to Suleiman’s participation in a demonstration in support of those who refuse to serve in the IDF, and to her refusal to hold a debate on women soldiers in the IDF when she served as chair of the Knesset committee for the advancement of the status of women. In addition, statements by a member of the Ta’al party, Osama Saadi, were presented expressing support for a popular struggle and who, it is claimed, refused to denounce harming Israeli citizens who reside in Judea and Samaria. The appellants also referred to statements by the chair of the Hadash faction, Ayman Odeh (hereinafter: Odeh), who refused to denounce harming IDF soldiers and thanked a Palestinian television station that praised the parliamentary activity of the Joint List in the 20th Knesset. The appellants further referred to a report that Odeh had clashed with police in a conference of the Popular Front and Democratic Front organizations, reports on meetings of members of the list with security prisoners in prison, reports of discussions held with Palestinian leaders, and to the Hadash party’s condemnation of the decision of the Persian Gulf states and the Arab League to declare the Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

77.       I examined the said assembled evidence and arrived at the conclusion that it is insufficient under the strict criteria outlined in the case law for establishing a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. As the Attorney General noted, part of the evidence presented in this matter does not show – even prima facie – direct or indirect support for terrorist activity. To that one should add that some of the evidence adduced is old and even precedes the elections for the 20th Knesset, and the Elections Committee to which that evidence was presented in the past did not find that it grounds the cause for disqualification. Indeed, some of the material attributed to the representatives of Hadash-Ta’al as detailed above can be interpreted as supporting an armed struggle against the State of Israel by a terrorist organization, but given the fact that in those very same publications to which the appellants refer there are also statements by members of the list according to which they do not support violence as a political approach, the resulting doubt weighs against that interpretation. Moreover, those requesting disqualification did not present the official platform of the list, which is a primary source depicting its purposes (the second Neiman case, p. 186; the Moledet case, p. 362), and for this reason, as well, it is difficult to conclude that the list supports armed struggle against the State of Israel by a terrorist organization and that this is the central, dominant purpose of Hadash-Ta’al for the realization of which it acts in a real and consistent manner.

 

Conclusion

78.       For the reasons detailed above, I have, as stated, arrived at the conclusion that the appeal in EA 1866/19 should be granted in part, and to hold that Ben Ari is banned from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset, which does not apply to Ben Gvir; to overturn the Elections Committee’s decision in EA 1876/19 and hold that the Ra’am-Balad list is not barred from participating in those elections; to overturn the Elections Committee’s decision in EA 1806/19 and hold that Cassif may participate in the elections for the 21st Knesset; and to deny the appeal in EA 1867/19 and hold that the Hadash-Ta’al list is not barred from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset.

 

Justice I. Amit:

            I concur in the decision of President E. Hayut, and I will add a few words of my own.

1.         Every election season, as a kind of ritual, the Supreme Court is called upon to address the disqualification of lists or candidates on the basis of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969. Knesset elections are a purely political matter, and the Elections Committee reflects the relative political power in the Knesset like a mini-Knesset. As opposed to this, sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset was originally enacted to reflect timeless constitutional criteria of causes for qualification that are not judged on the basis of prevailing sentiment. In view of the fundamental right to vote and to be elected, the Supreme Court established strict criteria for the disqualification of a list or a candidate, which were reviewed in para. 16 of the President’s opinion: dominant purpose; express declarations or unambiguous conclusions; non-sporadic conduct; and persuasive evidence.

            In putting those principles into practice, we examine each disqualification independently on its own merits, in accordance with the relevant cause for disqualification and the evidence referring to it, while not seeking any kind of political “symmetry” or “balance”. As I had the opportunity to say: “the voting in the Elections Committee is political, and thus the great caution that this Court must exercise as a party to the decision so as not to be infected by the political game” (EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi [6], para. 1 of my opinion) (hereinafter: the second Zoabi case)).

            And now to the matter on the merits.

2.         Sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset – “Incitement to Racism”:

            The legislature stated its opinion loudly and clearly. Incitement to racism is politically out of bounds. Incitement to racism is contrary to universalist democratic values. Incitement to racism is incompatible with the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Incitement to racism – not in this house and not in the Knesset. For this reason, the Kach movement was denounced and expelled from the community and placed beyond the bounds of law. Racially inciting discourse is harmful by its very nature, and as such, I am of the opinion that it should not be subject to the probability test.

3.         In the “last round”, Baruch Marzel’s candidacy was confirmed, but in his dissent, Justice Rubinstein expressed his opinion that we were concerned with “the sheerest of sheer costumes” (the second Zoabi case, para. 118 of his opinion). As the President so aptly demonstrated, the candidate Ben Ari did not even bother to put on a disguise. According to him, the logic is as follows: Whoever is not a Zionist is an enemy, the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs are not Zionists, therefore the conclusion is that the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs are to be viewed as enemies. The Attorney General was rightly of the opinion that Ben Ari should be disqualified, and we agree.

4.         Sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset – “Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State”.

            In the second Zoabi case, I noted that “the Jewish public must be sensitive to the dilemma of the Arab minority, but similarly, elected Arab representatives must conduct themselves with wisdom and sensitivity in regard to the state of which they are citizens and understand the sensitivities of the majority”. In the fascinating hearing before us, it could be inferred from the statements of those requesting the disqualification of Ra’am-Balad that a party that is not Zionist should be deemed as one that entirely rejects the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and must, therefore, be disqualified. In my opinion, this argument insensitively pigeonholes a considerable part of the Arab population that, while not Zionist, identifies with the State of Israel and sees itself as an integral part of it. It is hard to accept that the State of Israel would make an outcast of anyone who is not a Zionist, or anyone who ideologically rejects the Zionist idea. Disqualifying a list or a candidate for “incitement to racism” reinforces both characteristics of the State of Israel as “Jewish and democratic”. Disqualifying a list or a candidate for discourse and speech that is not Zionist in accordance with the approach of those seeking disqualification in the present case constitutes somewhat of a lessening of the democratic element. Therefore, and for the purposes of the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, the two components of “Jewish and democratic” must be balanced wisely and sensitively so that accusers will not say that our state is “democratic” for the Jewish majority and “Jewish” for the Arab minority.

            And note: we sing [in the National Anthem – trans.] “the soul of a Jew still yearns” with misty eyes, and the Law of Return, 5710-1950 is, indeed, the “Foundation Stone” of the State of Israel and a Jewish state. The Law of Return is the alpha and omega for the very existence of the State of Israel, and it is what ensures the existence of a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. But not every passing thought, notion, or expression that casts doubt about the Law of Return will inherently lead to disqualification given the strict tests for disqualification noted above (such as dominance), and perhaps the probability test as well. However, a bill to rescind the Law of Return, or a party platform that openly calls for the rescission of the Law of Return might move a list across the boundary of disqualification, and it would seem that Balad, almost as a habit, not infrequently walks on the boundary. It would not be superfluous to note that in the Tibi case (Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. Tibi [1], p. 40), President Barak was ready to accept the statement of MK Bishara that he did not demand the revocation of the Law of Return. From this we can infer the result had it been otherwise claimed. This brings us to the central piece of evidence presented to us in regard to Balad, which is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill that it presented to the Knesset, and which in effect, expresses a desire to undermine the Jewish character of the state.

5.         A number of reasons led me to the conclusion that the Balad list should not be disqualified for that bill, even without addressing the question of the probability test.

            First, most of the Balad Knesset members in the prior Knesset are not on the current list, which changes its character. Second, that bill should be seen as a sporadic act of protest following the enactment of Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People. The bill is not included in Balad’s platform, it is not claimed that it was part of its platform in the past, and no systematic, consistent activity in that direction was proven. The bill should, therefore, be viewed as a one-time act that does not, in and of itself, give rise to a cause for disqualification.

6.         These are the main reasons why I am of the opinion that that the Balad party walked on the margin but did not cross it, even though the bill brought it but a step away. For my part, I will leave the grounds for the Attorney General’s opinion – that Balad did not stand alone but rather as part of a joint list of Ra’am-Balad – for further consideration. One could, on the other hand, argue that the very fact of that partnership with another party placed Balad under a higher duty of care lest crossing the boundaries might harm the other party. The other side of the coin is that the unification of parties does not grant immunity from disqualification, such that parties that may join with Balad in the future will have to take that into account. I will, therefore, leave the matter for further consideration.

 

Justice U. Vogelman:

1.         I concur in the conclusions and the comprehensive opinion of my colleague the President, and with the main points of her reasoning.

2.         The principles applicable to appeal and approval proceedings with which we are concerned are grounded in a broad range of case law, which is appropriately detailed in the opinion of my colleague the President.

3.         My colleague the President addresses the difference between an elections appeal and an elections approval, and on the various approaches in our case law in regard to the scope of the Court’s review in the different proceedings. My colleague Justice I. Amit, for his part, addresses the caution that the Court must adopt, in his view, in proceedings such as these due to the fact that the vote in the Elections Committee if political.

4.         I see no need to set in stone the proper approach among those enumerated by my colleagues (inasmuch as each of them leads to the same result in the instant case). However, I would like to emphasize that, in my view, given the nature of the rights and balances involved, the “political” considerations cannot be given weight in terms of the constitutionality of the decisions, and that the political nature of the proceeding in the Central Elections Committee is not meant to influence the form of judicial examination and its scope.

5.         On the matter of disqualification for incitement to racism.

            The first matter I wish to address in this regard concerns the application of probability tests for the realization of the dangers that the causes for disqualification are intended to prevent (a question that has not yet been resolved in our case law). In the context of the said cause, I would like to point out that, in my view, there is no place for a “probability test” inasmuch as racist expression is not worthy of protection. In the words of Justice D. Beinisch: “Racism is the kind of affliction whose isolation and removal from the political and social arena is an essential condition for preventing its spread” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. Tibi [1], p. 88) (hereinafter: the Tibi case)).

            The words of Justice Procaccia in the same matter are apt:

The phenomenon of racism in the chronicles of history and the annals of the Jewish people is special and unique. Nothing compares to its rejection and the defense against it even among the many protections of the fundamental human rights that the constitutions of western states diligently labor to ground. The moral, ethical taint of incitement to racism, against the background of its deep opposition to the universal concept of human rights, and in view of the atrocities of the Holocaust of European Jewry that was annihilated due to racial theory, does not tolerate its inclusion on the podium of ideas and opinions of political discourse. That is so, even if there is no foreseeable danger whatsoever of the realization of the inciter’s dogma, and even if his words are like “a voice crying out in the wilderness” without echo and without being heard.

Racism is condemned, and it must be eliminated by virtue of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1966, of which Israel is a signatory. The parties to it pledged not to sponsor racial discrimination and to adopt immediate measures in order to uproot every phenomenon of racism (arts. 2, 4, and 5 of the Convention).

The condemnation of racism takes on a special dimension in Jewish tradition in view of the blood-soaked history of a nation that was a victim of the manifestations of this phenomenon over generations. Racism stands in contradiction to the fundamental values of the State of Israel as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, according to which full social and political equality must be ensured for all citizens regardless of religion, race, and sex. The depth and force of the condemnation of racism as a social phenomenon do not accord with granting of an opportunity to a candidate to run for office on the basis of racist ideas among the range of opinions and perspectives expressed in political discourse. Standing for election on the basis of racist ideas flies in the face of the educational, moral purpose of inculcating the principles of equality and tolerance in Israeli society. These ideas cross the bounds of the red line that guarantees tolerance even for expressing deviant ideas and views. Casting them out beyond the pale is necessary so that expressing them will not be interpreted, even by inference, as granting approval and legitimacy to those who hold them to participate in the life of the state (and compare: R. Gavison, Twenty Years since the Yeredor Ruling – The Right to be Elected and the Lessons of History, p. 173).

                        […]

In this spirit, the condemnation of incitement to racism and its removal from the framework of political contest is a value unto itself, unconditional and unrestricted even where there is no attendant probability whatsoever of the realization of its potential danger. There is no need to seek manifest or hidden elements of danger in order to deny the entrance of inciters to racism into the political arena (compare the words of Justice E. Goldberg in the meeting of the Knesset Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of the Kach party, Oct. 5, 1988, p. 47ff.). Incitement to racism is condemned as a value of universal and national heritage, and it stands above and beyond the probability test of its foreseeable danger on the basis of some criterion or another. The contradiction between racism and the fundamental values of the stare is so deep that anyone who embraces it in his political thought should be disqualified from the outset (the Tibi case, pp. 89-90).

            I agree with every jot and tittle of these true words.

6.         Moving from the general to the specific – my colleague well described the factual grounds upon which we decided that the cause of incitement to racism is met in the case of Ben Ari, and it would be superfluous to reiterate the well-grounded presentation of the evidentiary foundations. Ben Ari’s incitement extends to a broad range of subjects, among them a call for excluding Arab citizens from residing within the limits of an Israeli city, recall dark periods in the history of nations. The addition of the cause for disqualification with which we are concerned to the Basic Law by the constituent authority of the State of Israel was intended for a war against such phenomena, and it is our role to interpret the Constitution and maintain its boundaries.

7.         The matter of Ben Gvir is different. I concur with my colleague’s conclusion – which ascribed weight to his declarations concerning changing his manner – that the foundation amassed in his regard does not amount to a “critical mass” that grounds a cause for disqualification.

8.         As for the Ra’am-Balad list – as my colleague notes, the entirety of the evidence adduced is not qualitatively different from what was presented to this Court in previous proceedings that concerned the question of the disqualification of Balad and members of the list in which it was held that it did not constitute a sufficient foundation for disqualification. I see no need to address the Basic Law bill that Balad presented, to which my colleagues referred, given that the Balad Knesset members who served in the last Knesset are not included in the current list, and given the clarification by the list’s attorney that the bill is not part of Balad’s platform.

9.         In the matters of Ofer Cassif and the Hadash-Ta’al list, as well, I concur with the conclusion that the evidentiary foundation is insufficient to ground the claimed causes for disqualification.

 

Justice M. Mazuz:

            I concur in the main points of the reasons and conclusions of President E. Hayut, and I wish to add two comments. Because they are not necessary for the decision, I will state then in brief:

1.         The cause of “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state”:

            As we know, the cause of “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset formerly comprised two separate causes: “Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”, and “negation of the democratic character of the state” (secs. 7A(1)-(2)). The two causes were unified in the framework of a 2002 amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset that added the authority to disqualify a candidate (not just a list) and the cause of support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. As explained in the Explanatory Notes, this unification derived from the desire for uniformity between the wording of sec. 7A and sec. 5 of the Parties Law, 5752-1992 (“and this because the two sections are interrelated”), and was not intended to introduce a change in the content of these causes by virtue of their unification.

            In practice, the unification of the causes, which involved a certain change in the wording of the cause, was the basis for an interpretation of this cause that was both different in content and broader in scope. While under the prior wording, the cause of “negating the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people” addressed the negation of the view that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people in the sense of the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, under the unified wording, the term “Jewish state” was interpreted as referring to the internal content of the state’s identity and the elements of the Jewish identity of the state from within (“the primary symbols” of the state and the “nuclear characteristics” of its Jewish identity).

            In my opinion, the proper interpretation of the cause for disqualification of “negating the existence of the State of Israel”, like the separate cause under the prior wording, refers to the identity of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people in the national sense, as the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, and not as referring to internal features of the state that characterize it as a Jewish state. This position has consequences, inter alia, in regard to how to view the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill introduced at the time by Knesset members of Balad, however, in view of the President’s conclusions in this regard (para. 58), I see no need to expand upon my approach to the bill and I will only note that I agree in principle with the comments of Justice I. Amit in paras. 4-5 of his opinion.

 

2.         A Probability Test and Incitement to Racism:

            This issue has been addressed on several occasions in previous case law, beginning with the first Neiman case, and various opinions – mostly rejecting it in general, or at least in regard to the cause of incitement to racism – but it has been left for further consideration and remains undecided.

            I am of the opinion that there is no place for a probability test in applying the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. The probability test has no grounding in the language of the law, and it raises many – theoretical and practical – difficulties in its application. I will not presume to exhaust all the reasons for this position, but will suffice with a few words: first, in terms of the interpretation of the law. As we know, the interpretation of a statute begins with its language and is limited by it. There are no grounds for requiring a probability test in the language of sec. 7A. Section 7A refers to objectives and actions, including statements, by a list or candidate. We are concerned with causes of “conduct” not “results”. Second, the Court, called upon to approve or review a decision by the Central Elections Committee to disqualify a candidate or list, lacks the tools for applying a probability test for the purpose of approving or rejecting the probability evaluation of the Elections Committee. A probability estimate in the public-political context is inherently speculative, and the Court would do well to refrain from it. Third, and this is the main point, sec. 7A treats of the lack of legitimacy of a list or candidate who meets the disqualification criteria to participate in the “democratic game”. The theoretical basis for disqualifying lists or candidates, as stated, does not suffice by preventing a real, concrete threat, but primarily concerns not granting legitimacy to lists of candidates whose objectives and actions are beyond the legitimate democratic boundaries for participating in the democratic elections.

            It would appear that the cause of “incitement to racism” under sec. 7A(a)(2) well demonstrates this. Incitement to racism and racist acts are unacceptable per se, as they are contrary to the most basic values of a democratic society, which is founded upon the idea of the equality of human beings. We are concerned with universal values accepted in the law of nations. Under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, known as the CERD Convention – signed by the State of Israel on March 7, 1966, ratified on Jan. 3, 1979, and entering into effect on Feb. 2, 1979 – the State of Israel assumed, like the other signatory nations, inter alia, the obligation to prohibit racial and other discrimination and to adopt all means, including legislation, to bring about its end (art. 2(1)(d) of the Convention). In 1985, together with the amendment of Basic Law: The Knesset and the addition of sec. 7A, the Penal Code was also amended with the addition of Article 1A: Incitement to Racism, which established various offences of incitement to racism (both amendments were included in the same pamphlet of bills – H.H. 5745 193). The offences of incitement to racism are conduct crimes, not result crimes, and do not comprise an element of probability (“it does not matter whether the publication did cause racism” – sec. 144B(b)).

            Incitement to racism is, therefore, prohibited and unacceptable without regard for the probability of the realization of its objectives. It is an illegitimate form of discourse in a democratic society. Incitement to racism does not represent any protected value that requires a balancing of interests. The value of freedom of expression, which is the life breath of democracy, was intended to protect non-violent public debate and to permit a conceptual contest among legitimate values in a democratic society. Racist discourse “pollutes” the democratic discourse and undermines the purpose of conceptual inquiry among the members of society and the free establishment of views on the basis of democratic values. Therefore, the reason for preventing the participation of a list or candidate that incites racism in the elections is not restricted to a fear of the realization of the objectives of the incitement, but is primarily concerned with the public value of not granting legitimacy to racist speech as part of the democratic discourse. In this sense, the cause for disqualification for incitement to racism is a special case of the cause relating to the negation of the democratic character of the state.

            Lastly, I would emphasize that I do not believe that the probability test is necessary for mitigating the causes for disqualification or for granting flexible tools for their application. To that end, the case law established a strict, narrow interpretive approach to the causes of disqualification. Strict criteria were also established that are implemented in judicial review of this matter, among them the demand that the objectives attributed to a list or candidate constitute a central, dominant objective and not a secondary, marginal issue, and the requirement of active, consistent, and systematic action for the realization of those objectives. It was further held that the evidence for disqualification must be persuasive, clear and unambiguous. All of these provide the Court with effective tools to ensure that the disqualification authority, which is an exceptional and intrusive authority, be exercised only in extreme, clear cases, without the need for the problematic means of a probability test.

 

Justice N. Sohlberg:

1.         If we were to interpret and implement the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset as written, as they would be understood by the average person, then not only would Dr. Michael Cassif be barred from candidacy for the Knesset elections. A plain reading of the section would, in all probability, lead us to conclude that additional lists and candidates whose matters have been examined by this Court over the years would also be granted this dubious honor.

2.         However, that is not the case. From the very outset, this Court adopted a strict approach to the legal interpretation of sec. 7 and to its application in practice. This approach reflects a value-based decision that democracy grants special – almost supreme – importance to the constitutional right to vote and be elected. Disqualifying a list or a candidate from standing for election to the Knesset must be the very last resort; one that is reserved for manifestly extreme case in which there is no room for doubt: “The essence of such a matter, the limitation of a basic constitutional right, inherently carries a standard of interpretation that must be strict and narrow, and section 7A should be reserved for only the most extreme cases. This interpretive approach does not conflict with the statute but is rather a result of a proper understanding of the purpose of the statute, which does not seek to limit freedoms, but to protect them against actual danger” (the second Neiman case, p. 187; emphasis here and below added – N.S.). This approach has become firmly rooted in the case law of this Court: “Preventing the participation of a party in the elections is a most extreme step. The right to vote and to be elected is a right of the highest constitutional level” (HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party [21], p. 802, per Deputy President A. Barak); “Preventing a party from participating in the elections is an extreme and exceptional step that in many ways directly contradicts the fundamental principles upon which democracy rests” (the Balad case, para. 3 of the opinion of President Beinisch); “Preventing participation in Knesset elections is an extreme step that is reserved for the most exceptional cases for which the normal democratic tools are insufficient” (the second Zoabi case, para. 75 of the opinion of President M. Naor).

            I will briefly summarize the guiding criteria as expressed in the case law: Barring participation in Knesset elections will only be done as when all else has failed.

3.         Recently, in the Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 47) (Prevention of Participation in Elections due to a Candidate’s Statements) Bill, the constituent authority expressed the view that it accepts the narrow path taken by the Court in applying sec. 7A. The bill expressly established that a person’s actions also include his statements. The Explanatory Notes clarify as follows: “The proposed amendment expressly anchors the approach accepted in the case law in this matter, according to which “actions” under sec. 7A of the Basic Law also include statements. Thus, the amendment is not intended to alter the Court’s case law according to which the application of sec. 7A of the Basic law will performed narrowly and strictly in order to protect the state’s most vital interests” (H.H. 675, p. 52). However, there was also some criticism of the direction of the case law, on the need to take care not to adopt an overly restrictive interpretation of the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A, while unduly expanding the boundaries (see, e.g., the second Zoabi case, para. 8 of the opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein).

4.         The criteria developed in the case law for the application of sec. 7A, which reflect the narrow interpretive approach, were set out in para. 16 of the opinion of my colleague the President. Primarily, in brief, one must show that the cause for disqualification can be found in the objectives or the actions of the list or candidate; those objectives or actions must form part of the dominant characteristics of the actions of the party or candidate; they can be learned from express declarations or from unambiguously probable conclusions; theoretical objectives are insufficient, but rather one must show systematic “activity in the field” that must constitute severe, extreme expression in terms of its intensity; and lastly, the evidence based upon the above must be “persuasive, clear, and unambiguous”.

5.         On the basis of those criteria, my colleague the President found, and my colleagues concur, that the evidentiary foundation in the matter before us paints an unambiguous and persuasive picture according to which Ben Ari “systematically inflames feelings of hatred toward the Arab public in its entirety, while continually demeaning that public” (para. 42 of the President’s opinion). Therefore, she held that he must be disqualified.

6.         I considered and reconsidered the matter. I carefully read the various statements, watched and listened. I considered the various clarifications and explanations over and over again, and the dilemma was difficult and weighed heavily. I did not easily decide to disagree with my colleague’s conclusion. The source of my dilemma was the substantial gap between the image of Ben Ari as reflected in the virtual arena – in the social networks – and that shown us in the Elections Committee’s hearings and in the Court. Thus, in his affidavit in the instant proceeding, Ben Ari rejected the claims about his racist views, and declared, inter alia, as follows:

I do not think that people are of different value due to their ethnic, national or religious origin. All human beings were created in the Divine image, and all human beings were granted free choice. Your own deeds will cause you to be near, and your own deeds will cause you to be far[1] […] In my view, the Arab National Movement, whose purpose is to destroy Jewish sovereignty through the use of violence and terror is the enemy of the State of Israel, of the Jewish people and of Zionism. I would like to emphasize that what makes it an enemy of the state, the people and of Zionism is not the ethno-national origin of its members and supporters, and not their religious belief.  What turns the members and supporters of the Arab National Movement into enemies are the political objectives that this movement established and the ways in which it acts for the realization of those objectives since the beginning of the 20th century and to this day […] Anyone who accepts that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people and agrees that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state is a desirable citizen who is worthy of all the civil, social and political rights without regard for religions, race, sex, ethnic origin or skin color. In addition, I am of the opinion that basic human rights are granted to every person as such, and that the state must act justly and fairly toward every person without regard for religion, race, sex, ethnic origin, or skin color (paras. 9, 16-17 of the affidavit).

7.         Further on in the affidavit, Ben Ari addresses all the statements quoted in his regard (as opposed to in the hearing before the Elections Committee, in which he addressed only a part of them) and explained that “all of my arrows are directed against those who are not loyal to the State of Israel and hostile to the Zionist enterprise. Even if, at times, my words may sound or be apprehended as general, that absolutely does not reflect an intention to generalize, and in no way reflects my true, consistent opinion” (para. 22 of the affidavit). Like the cases adjudicated by this Court in the past, real doubt arises in regard to the sincerity of Ben Ari’s declarations.

8.         Three examples from the past: (a) Baruch Marzel declared, at the time, that he had recanted his prior views, that he sought to act only in accordance with the law, accepts the principles of democracy, and had withdrawn from the path of generalized statements of the Kach movement. A long line of evidence led the Court to a conclusion in regard to “a real doubt as to the sincerity of Mr. Marzel’s declarations, according to which he had disavowed his approach and his former racist, undemocratic ideology” (the Tibi case, para. 81 of the opinion of President A. Barak). Later, prior to another election, President M. Naor stated: “I, too, do not believe that Marzel has changed his views and thoughts” (the second Zoabi case, para. 33). (b) Hanin Zoabi declared, at the time, her opposition to violence, and nevertheless “it was difficult for me to be persuaded that MK Zoabi does not support armed struggle” (ibid., para. 7 of the opinion of my colleague Justice I. Amit). (c) MK Azmi Bishara argued, at the time, that he opposed violence and armed struggle, and he, too, did not earn much trust: “There is doubt in our hearts. But the doubt must act – in a democratic state that believes in freedom and liberty – in favor of the freedom to vote and to be elected” (the Tibi case, para. 46 of the opinion of President A. Barak).

            As may be recalled, Hanin Zoabi and Azmi Bishara served honorably as members of the Israeli Knesset. Marzel’s candidacy was also approved, twice, although he was not elected. And what of the case of Ben Ari? In the end, his statements “in real time” speak for themselves, and clearly to his detriment. I will not belabor the point and repeat what has already been presented at length in the opinion of my colleague the President. I will suffice by referring there, and the reader will not be pleased. The statements are not at all consistent with the tolerant, placating tone that arises from the above affidavit presented in these proceedings. Which Ben Ari should we therefore believe?

9.         Ultimately, I inclined to the view that there is no justification for ordering Ben Ari’s disqualification. I have not arrived at this conclusion because I take incitement to racism lightly, but because I am strict in regard to the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected. Given the strict criteria applied in the case law of this Court over the years, and in view of Ben Ari’s explanations and clarifications, there is doubt as to whether the statements amount to incitement to racism or a negation of the democratic character of the State of Israel to the point that would justify barring Ben Ari from running in the Knesset elections. Indeed, the fundamental right to vote and to be elected is not absolute. In appropriate circumstances, it is proper to limit it, but that is not the situation in his regard. While the evidentiary foundation in the matter of Ben Ari is broad in scope, it is not more exceptional, extreme and severe in “quality” and intensity than matters brought before this Court in similar cases (both in the Tibi case and the second Zoabi case). While Israeli democracy requires protection, it is still strong enough to comprise even Ben Ari as a member of Knesset (as we may recall, Ben Ari already served in the position in the recent past, in the years 2009-2013).

10.       This result is required for two additional considerations that are of a practical nature: First, the procedural framework in which we act. As we know, sec. 7A was presented to the Knesset together with the Penal Law (Amendment no. 24) Bill, 5745-1985, which established an express criminal prohibition upon incitement to racism. “We are determined to combat the phenomenon of incitement to racism with full force. To that end, we decided to act on two planes – on the constitutional plane, by including incitement to racism as a cause for the disqualification of a list of candidates from participating in Knesset elections, and on the penal plane – establishing an offense of incitement to racism in the Penal Law” (from the statement of the Minister of Justice, MK Moshe Nissim, in presenting the bills for a first reading; Knesset Record (5745), p. 2381). As opposed to the criminal process, which is conducted in accordance with a clearly defined framework of procedure, which includes, inter alia, an evidentiary proceeding in which it is possible to question and interrogate carefully, in the constitutional proceeding before this Court, the factual examination is far more limited. This requires us to be especially careful in drawing conclusions and establishing facts on the basis of the evidentiary foundation presented before us. Second, lest we forget: Even after a candidate has cleared the hurdle of sec. 7A, Israel is not bereft:[2] “The very fact that a candidate is permitted to contend in the Knesset elections does not mean that from the moment he is elected he may do whatever he pleases. There is still the possibility of rescinding the immunity of a member of Knesset in certain situations, placing him on trial if it be found that he committed a criminal offense, and terminating his tenure in the Knesset if he is found guilty of an offense of moral turpitude” (the first Zoabi case, para. 35 of the opinion of President A. Grunis).

11.       It cannot be denied that Ben Ari’s statements – at least in large part – are hard to digest. I was, indeed, very annoyed by his callous style, the racist tone, and the coarse generalities. It does not do honor to him or to those who listen to his teachings. We can and should protest against evil, and against those who seek our harm and our lives – foreign and domestic. But we are obliged – particularly as public servants – to do so responsibly and carefully. Nevertheless, even when common sense protests and the soul recoils from Ben Ari’s statements, there is still no justification for placing him beyond the pale. The strength of freedom of expression, the strength of democracy “is not the recognition of the right to speak pleasantries that are soothing to my ears. Its strength is in the recognition of the right of the other to say things that are grating upon my ear and that pierce my heart” (HCJ 14/86 Laor v. Theater and Film Review Board [22], p. 441). That is true of freedom of expression in general, and of political speech in particular, when what is at stake – we will not refrain from repeating – is a mortal blow to the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected.

12.       I wholeheartedly concur with my colleague the President on our obligation to combat racism uncompromisingly. As a son of my people and a descendant of my family, I am well aware of where the terrifying harm of hate of the stranger and the different leads. But make no mistake, the two are not comparable, and not even close. And note: the struggle against racism is not only on the legal plane, but also – and primarily – on the educational plane, “in a reassessment of the ways of educators and pupils alike, in all walks of our society” (the first Neiman case, p. 302). In this regard, it would be proper to quote what Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook wrote in the month of Nissan 1947 in a letter to the principals and teachers of a Jerusalem school. The Minister of Justice, MK Moshe Nissim, quoted part of the letter, titled “Embarrassing and Sad Conduct of Children”, in presenting the bill in regard to sec. 7A to the Knesset plenum for a first reading, as follows:

To the Principal and Teachers of a school here in our Holy City, may it be rebuilt and reestablished!

I must bring the following matter to your honorable attention, as follows: This morning, while passing by the school on the way to Yaffo-Ben Yehuda Street, I saw some from among a group of children from the school repeatedly hitting and coarsely taunting Arab peddlers who passed there. Twice together – at the two Arabs, one young and one old, who were apparently partners, beginning with the younger one and continuing with the older one with particular coarseness. This occurred a short distance from the gate to the schoolyard. Then again at a youngster on the sidewalk of Jaffa Road, at the corner of Ben Yehuda Street.

I was saddened and very ashamed by what I saw. Due to their running and mischief, I was unable to catch them and rebuke them for this. I do not know who these children are, or who are their parents and teachers. I know only that they were from the school. Not all of them, not all of the group of children from the school, took part in that despicable harm and taunting, but some of them. And I believe that some of them protested.

Nevertheless, the very existence of this fact, which pained and insulted me, as noted, requires that I bring to your awareness the need for greater and special educational attention to bringing an end to such possibilities, both in and of itself as a matter of Jewish law and morality, and in terms of the practical community and political value of preserving peace and good neighborliness.

With all due respect and in the hope of the glorification of God and the salvation of his people and heritage.

            Here we see plain, clear, resolute, human Jewish morality. We must walk in its light.

13.       For the same reasons for which I was of the opinion that we should not order the disqualification of Ben Ari, I arrived at the conclusion that the Election Committee’s decisions in the matters of the Ra’am-Balad list and of Dr. Ofer Cassif should be overturned and that the appeal in regard to the Hadash-Ta’al list should be denied, and that we should hold that they are not barred from participating in the Knesset elections. As in regard to the decision is the matter of Ben Ari, this decision, as well, was not at all easy. Some of the statements presented to us – both those attributed to Cassif and those attributed to other members of the Hadash-Ta’al list – are not pleasant to the ear, to put it very mildly. But just as we are enjoined and stand ready to defend against those who would incite to racism and thereby undermine the democratic character of the State of Israel, so we must defend against those who would undermine its Jewish character and who express support – express or implied, publicly or privately – terrorist attacks and murder. In the course of the debate on sec. 7A, prior to its first reading, MK Michael Eitan rightly stated in this regard:

The State of Israel has a political need to provide an answer to a long list of families of Jewish victims who were harmed solely because they are Jews here in the State of Israel on the question of whether the purpose of defensive democracy, that has been and is employed, is to protect them, as well. Can Jews in the State of Israel who are harmed by the agents of the PLO also find an answer in such legislation that is intended to defend democracy to the fact that there are people in the State of Israel who identify with the PLO and see themselves as its agents? And there is also a Knesset faction that once sent a telegram expressing solidarity to the Palestine National Council in Amman, which identifies with the PLO. Where is defensive democracy in their regard? Where is the symmetry? Should democracy defend itself only against insane Jewish fanaticism?

                        […]

When we discuss the issue of defensive democracy, we have to provide an answer to the Bromberg family, the Tamam family, the Ohana family, and a long list of families that daily ask the simple question: Is the purpose of defensive democracy to defend us as well, or is the only answer that marginal group to which we all take exception? And when I ask that question, I understand that we are treading a delicate, sensitive line because we are concerned with a democratic regime, we are not interested in silencing debate, we are not interested in outlawing lists. But in any event, we must ask ourselves the question what is the boundary line?

14.       Indeed, the question of where the boundary lies is difficult. It would seem that thirty years after the constituting of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset, there is no clear, unambiguous answer to this. In any case, as presented above, the special importance of the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected obligates us to strict criteria whose bottom line is that when there is doubt, there is no doubt. Therefore, and for the reasons stated in the opinion of my colleague the President, I am of the opinion that what has been adduced before us is insufficient for ordering the disqualification of the candidacy of Cassif, the Hadash-Ta’al list, and the Ra’am-Balad list.

15.       One parenthetical objection: In the matter of the Balad party, the Attorney General noted that “were the Balad party running independently … there would be reason to carefully consider its disqualification”. However, “in view of the fact that under the prevailing legal situation, there is no possibility of disqualifying only half of a list (as opposed to disqualifying an entire list or disqualifying specific candidates on the basis of evidence relating to them personally), and in view of the fact that there are almost no arguments against the Ra’am list, it is necessary to examine whether the existing evidence suffices to justify disqualifying the joint list, in view of the case law of the honorable Court in regard to the need to severely limit such a disqualification”. My colleague the President did not expand upon that matter, having found other reasons for not ordering the disqualification of Balad (although she attributed weight to the fact that we are concerned with a joint list). For my part, I find the present legal situation very problematic, when a party that prima facie meets the requirements of one of the causes for disqualification can join with another party such that the joint list provides it with a “city of refuge”. This should be given consideration when and if the need to address this question arises in the future.

16.       In conclusion, where my opinion accepted, we would overturn the Election Committee’s decision in EDA 1806/19; deny the appeals in EA 1866/19 and EA 1867/19, and grant the appeal in EA 1876/19, and hold that Dr. Ofer Cassif, Dr. Michael Ben Ari, Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir, the Hadash-Ta’al list and the Ra’am-Balad list are not barred from standing for election to the Knesset.

 

Justice A. Baron:

            I concur in the comprehensive opinion of President E. Hayut, both in the conclusion she reached in each of the proceedings before us and in her reasoning. I will briefly add my view of the disqualification of the candidacy of Dr. Michael Ben Ari (hereinafter: Ben Ari) for election to the 21st Knesset, in which we are concerned with an exceptionally extreme step, akin to a “doomsday weapon”.

            The racist statements in the warp and weave of all of the recorded statements of Ben Ari cry out from the page and scorch the ears. Words are not “just” words. There are times when words are also acts, and in the case of Ben Ari’s statements they constitute a clear act of incitement to racism. Ben Ari makes improper use of words to arouse hatred against the Arab public, while portraying all Arabs as murderers and bitter enemies. His statements delegitimize an entire community, instigate conflict and strife, and even call for actual violence against Israeli Arabs. Moreover, we were presented with a solid evidentiary foundation that clearly shows that we are concerned with a severe, extreme case of incitement to racism. The racist statements are explicit, systematic (some 40 instances since 2017 alone), constitute a dominant characteristic of Ben Ari’s statements, and gain wide exposure in the media and on the social networks.

            The principle of freedom of expression, and particularly freedom of political expression, is a cornerstone of a democratic regime. According to this principle, “freedom of expression is not just the right to say or hear what is generally acceptable. Freedom of expression is also the freedom to express dangerous, irritating, deviant ideas that the public reviles and despises” (HCJ 399/85 Kahane v. Broadcasting Authority [23], p. 280). Words and statements can thus find refuge under the aegis of freedom of expression even when they express marginal ideas, and even when they arouse disgust, but given their “critical mass”, as noted above, Ben Ari’s words constitute incitement to racism and therefore undermine fundamental principles of democracy. As the case law of this Court has already made clear, “one who does not accept the fundamental principles of democracy and seeks to change them cannot ask to participate in democracy in the name of those principles” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], 14). In this regard, I would note that in my opinion, as well, incitement to racism does not merit any protection, and therefore there is no place for applying a “probability test” as a condition for the application of the cause under sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

            Ben Ari did not apologize for his statements and did not retract them. And if that were not enough, even his explanations continue to reflect a racist attitude toward the Arab public. According to Ben Ari, his recorded statements are not directed against the entire Arab public, but only toward those among it who are not “loyal” to the State of Israel. However, the recordings deliver a clear message that any Arab is disloyal, a traitor, and enemy, and dangerous by definition. We are, therefore, concerned with an extreme case that requires Ben Ari’s disqualification from participating in the elections for the Knesset.

 

Justice D. Mintz:

            I concur in the opinion of my colleague the President in regard to the partial granting of the appeal in EA 1866/99 and with the holding that Ben Ari is barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset, which is not the case in regard to Ben Gvir. I also agree that the appeal in EA 1867/19 should be denied, and that it should be held that the Hadash-Ta’al list is not barred from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset. However, I cannot agree with the position in the matter of overturning the Election Committee’s decision in EA 1876/19 in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list and in EDA 1806/19 in the matter of MK Ofer Cassif. In my view, those decisions should be left standing, and we should hold that the Ra’am-Ta’al list and MK Cassif are barred from participating in the elections for the Knesset, as I shall explain.

Foreword

1.         The starting point for this discussion is that the restrictions upon the constitutional right to vote and to be elected to the Knesset must be minimal, and they must protect the most vital interests of the state (HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party [21], pp. 802-803). This Court has recognized the justification for limiting those rights even before an express provision was enacted to permit the disqualification of a candidate or list from participating in the elections for the Knesset when it was long ago held that the right to vote and to be elected can be limited in order to protect the very existence of the state (EA 1/65 Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 6th Knesset [8], p. 387) (hereinafter: the Yeredor case); EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset [4]) (hereinafter: the first Neiman case)). And as Justice J. Sussman stated: “Just as one need not consent to be killed, so a state need not agree to be annihilated and wiped off the map.” (the Yeredor case, p. 390). The restriction of rights is justified in the name of the right of a democracy to defend itself against those who would seek to employ democratic tools for the purpose of negating the very existence of the state, harm its fundamental principles or advance anti-democratic objectives (EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3], para. 8 of the opinion of President A. Grunis); EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi [6], para. 7 of the opinion of President M. Naor) (hereinafter: the Zoabi case).

2.         The desire to prevent the use of democratic tools to advance anti-democratic objectives that undermine the existence of the state stood at the basis of the enactment of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset (hereinafter also: the Basic Law), to which various amendments were made over the years. The last, in 2017 (Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 46), 5777-2017 (hereinafter: Amendment no. 46)) clarified that a candidate could be disqualified if his objectives or actions, “including his expressions”, included the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incitement to racism or support for an armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. The legislature had its say and defined the boundaries of the right to vote and to be elected in light of the basic and most vital principles for the existence of the state.

3.         It should be noted that sec. 7A of the Basic Law is not the only legal provision that restricts the use of a right granted by democracy in order to prevent harm to the basic, most vital principles for the existence of the state in general, and its existence as a Jewish and democratic state in particular. This purpose is also expressed in the framework of sec. 5 of the Parties Law, 5752-1992, which denies the possibility of registering a party, inter alia, for the causes enumerated in sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Section 1(a1) of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951 defines the limits of the material immunity granted to an elected official by virtue of his office in a manner similar to that in sec. 7A (HCJ 11225/03 Bishara v. Attorney General [13], pp. 306-307). As the President also noted, the Basic Law was amended in 2016 to include a provision authorizing the Knesset to end the tenure of a member of the Knesset for incitement to racism or for supporting armed struggle against the State of Israel (the cause of negating the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic was not included in the framework of that provision in view of its being general and more ambiguous, and upon the presumption that the Knesset plenum would have difficulty applying it (see: HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset [12], para. 29 of the opinion of President E. Hayut).

4.         These supplementary provisions define a clear boundary beyond which actions, objectives and expressions are not legitimate for elected representatives and for a party or list of elected representatives. The gates of the house of representatives are not open to those who seek to harm the character of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic (including the cause of “incitement to racism”, which constitutes a special case of harm to the democratic foundations of the state) or to support an armed struggle against it and thus to support a threat to its very existence. What is concerned are actions that do not afford material immunity for those who succeeded in being elected to the house of representatives. Some of those causes also permit the termination of the tenure of those who seek the state’s harm. The underlying premise is that a person who seeks to take an active part in Israeli democracy and its institutions must accept the principles of its existence and the democratic “rules of the game” (see, for example: EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], p. 23 (hereinafter: the Tibi case)). This, even though such actions or expressions may sometimes fall within the bounds of freedom of expression granted to every person in the state. In other words, what is permitted to every person is not necessarily granted to a person who seeks to be elected to the legislature. The reason for this is clear: the principle of freedom of expression grants every person the freedom to express himself even in a manner that contradicts the principles of the Jewish and democratic regime of the State of Israel (within the bounds of the law). However, permitting a person who voices such ideas to be elected to the legislature may lead to a situation where he will “import” his ideas into the legislature and thus undermine the foundations of the regime upon which the state rests by implementing or realizing his ideas. In this regard, Justice T. Strasburg-Cohen nicely distinguished the two (in the Tibi case, p. 70):

It would be appropriate to note that Israeli democracy does not prevent Knesset Member Bishara from expressing his views, which he terms “theoretical”, “philosophical”, or “historical”, from any platform, in accordance with the law. However, as far as membership in the Knesset is concerned, those views that are part of his political views, and he seeks to implement and realize them, inter alia, by means of his membership in the Knesset. Therefore, those views greatly deviate from theory, philosophy, and history and cross into the area of political activity.

 

The Causes for Disqualification and Amendment no. 40 of the Basic Law

5.         The criteria established in the case law in regard to the implementation of the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law were clarified at length by the President, and I do not intend to dwell upon the matter. I will only say a few words about the distinction in the framework of this provision between disqualifying a candidate and disqualifying a list from participating in the Knesset elections. Thus, while the section establishes that “a list of candidates shall not participate in elections to the Knesset … should there be explicitly or implicitly in the goals or actions of the list …” (emphasis added – D.M.) one of the causes enumerated therein. The wording in regard to the disqualification of a candidate is somewhat different. As it reads at present, after Amendment no. 46, the disqualification of a candidate shall be possible “should there be in the actions of the person, including his expressions” one of the causes enumerated in the section. This difference is no trifling matter.

6.         As we know, a law is interpreted in accordance with its language and purpose. First, the starting point of interpretation is the language of the law, where the written text should be given the meaning that its language can carry (Aharon Barak, Interpretation in Law – Interpretation of Statutes 81 (1993) (Hebrew) (hereinafter: Interpretation in Law); HCJ 7754/14 Tzalul Environmental Association v. Petroleum Commissioner [24], para 9). The language is the framework for the work of the interpreter, and he may not breach it (HCJ 2257/04 Hadash-Ta’al Faction v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 17th Knesset [5], p. 702). When the text tolerates different meanings, the interpretation that realizes its purpose should be chosen (Interpretation in Law, 85). In the present matter, as noted, Amendment no. 46 added the words “including his expressions” to sec. 7A of the Basic Law in regard to a candidate. According to the plain meaning, statements that can undermine the existence and fundamental principles of the state are sufficient to lead to the disqualification of a candidate from being elected to the Knesset, and there is no need for acts. That is also the interpretation that is consistent with the purpose of the section, which is intended to contend with those who seek to employ democratic tools in order to further anti-democratic objectives.

7.         Indeed, as the President noted, the Explanatory Notes to the bill state that the amendment was not intended to change the case law of the Court “according to which sec. 7A of the Basic Law should be used sparingly and strictly in order to protect the most vital interests of the state” (H.H. Knesset, 675). It is also important to explore the legislative history of legislation, through which it is possible to ascertain the legislative intent and purpose (Interpretation in Law, 161; CA 4096/18 Chacham and Or-Zach v. Assessment Officer [26], para. 20). However, I cannot concur with the position that the language of the amended provision is meaningless and that what has been is what will be. As has been said: “The legislative purpose, and certainly the legislative history, cannot give the law legal meaning that it cannot bear” (Interpretation in Law, 353). Indeed, there is nothing in Amendment no. 46 that would violate the principle that the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law be interpreted narrowly. I also accept that the words of a candidate or the Knesset, as well as his deeds, be examined meticulously, inasmuch as disqualification remains an extreme act that should be employed only in exceptional circumstances, as has been held in the past (see, e.g., EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset [2], para. 3 (hereinafter: the Balad case)). Nevertheless, that does not mean that the amendment does not affect the causes for disqualification established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law as we knew them in the past.

8.         First, one cannot ignore that in the past, the view was expressed in the case law of this Court that “expressions”, as opposed to “actions” do not fully fall within the compass of sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Thus, for example, in the Zoabi case, Justice H. Melcer noted: “An action in Israel’s sub-constitutional law does not generally include expression, and therefore, when the legislature sought to treat of expressing an opinion orally or in writing, it did so separately, alongside the action, or defined: “an action including an expression” (para. 2b of his opinion; and compare para. 121 of the opinion of Deputy President Rubinstein in the same matter). If, at the time, there was any doubt whether “expressions”, as distinct from “actions”, could be included under the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, then since the enactment of Amendment no. 46 of the Law, it has been expressly clarified. The legislature made itself unambiguously clear that the power of a word is as good as the power of an action. As was said: “Death and life are in the hand of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), “Does the tongue have a hand? This comes to teach us that just as the hand can kill, so the tongue can kill…” (Babylonian Talmud, Arakhin 15b).

9.         Second, although the line separating “expression” and “action” is not always clear, we cannot ignore that the interpretive principles outlined in the past in regard to the causes for the disqualification of a candidate placed emphasis on the candidate’s actions as against his expressions. Thus, for example, “actions” that must be given severe, extreme expression was spoken of (the Tibi case, p. 17). As for the third cause, which concerns support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, it was held that such “support” can be “material” or “political” (the Tibi case, p. 26; the Balad case, para. 7). Thus, Amendment no. 46 has the potential to change the criteria that were developed for the disqualification of a candidate, which have, until now, been based upon those established for the disqualification of lists.

 

The Probability Test

10.       Another matter that requires examination, and which should be addressed prior to diving into the appeals before us, is the question of the applicability of “the probability test” noted by the President, that is, whether the participation of a party or a candidate can be prevented from participating in the elections where it has not been proven that there is a probability that they may actually realize one of the causes established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. This question already arose in the first Neiman case, which was adjudicated prior to the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, in regard to the disqualification of a list. In that matter, Justice A. Barak expressed his view that although the matter was not expressed in either the majority or minority opinions in the Yeredor case, the disqualification of a list is possible only when there is a “reasonable possibility” that the party’s platform will be realized in practice. However, after the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, it was clearly established in EA 1/88 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset [5], 188 (hereinafter: the second Neiman case) that:

In setting forth the principles of sec. 7A, the legislature did not require the existence of a clear and present danger, the probability of danger arising from the objectives and conduct of the party in question, or any similar test that looks to the connection between the condemned action and the possible results. Through this, the legislature changed the legal status until the enactment of Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 9).

            Thus, in enacting sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset, the legislature abandoned the possibility of “the probability test”. In this regard, I join in the comments of my colleague Justice M. Mazuz. The provisions of the Basic Law contain no requirement for a reasonable possibility of the actual realization of the threat arising from the actions or platform of the list or its objectives (or from the actions of a candidate or his objectives, under the current wording of the section). There is firm support for the view that the matter was decided long ago in the second Neiman case, despite the questions that later arose in the Tibi case. In brief, I would note that I also find great substance in the view of Justice E. Mazza in the Tibi case (pp. 98-99) that making disqualification contingent upon the probability test could render sec. 7A devoid of all content, inasmuch as the more extreme, severe and outrageous the message, the less the probability of its actually being realized.

 

Critical Mass

11.       The case law of this Court has established that in order to approve a disqualification decision, the Court must have before it evidence that is “persuasive, clear and unambiguous” (the first Neiman case, pp. 250-251; the second Neiman case, p. 197). When the Court is convinced that such evidence has been laid before it, then the material thus constitutes the critical evidentiary “mass” required in this regard (see: the Tibi case, p. 42). This evidence can satisfy the Court as long as it is convinced of its truth, as the Court does in every matter given to its decision.

            This is not a quantitative but a qualitative test. If, for example, the Court is convinced by a single piece of evidence (and unlike this case in which there is a compendium of evidence) that can decide the matter in a certain direction, then it can base its decision thereupon. Only then will that single piece of evidence constitute a “critical mass”. As opposed to this, sometimes there is an accrual of many pieces of evidence whose force does not tip the scales and it will not constitute a “critical mass”. There is nothing actually new in this (see, for example, in the various proceedings: CrimA 7007/15 Shmil v. State of Israel [27], para. 22; CA 8742/15 Astrolog Publishers Ltd., v. Ron [28], para. 44; Yaakov Kedmi, On Evidence, Part IV, 1761ff. (2009) (Hebrew)). Indeed, the force of the evidence required for a decision changes in accordance with the category of the matter given to the Court’s decision. Sometimes, evidence that banishes all reasonable doubt is required. Sometimes, evidence that tips the scale of probability is required. Sometimes, “administrative” evidence of varying degrees is required. This, too, is not new (see, for example: CrimA 961/16 Alharoush v. State of Israel [28], para. 15; AAA 3326/18 A. v. Director of Firearm Licensing [30], para. 20). The present matter requires highly persuasive administrative evidence, and not necessarily a large amount of evidence. It is not the quantity that is decisive, but the quality.

            And now to the matter before us in the proceedings in which I disagree with my colleagues.

 

EA 1806/19 In the Matter of Cassif

12.       As noted, my colleagues decided not to disqualify Cassif’s candidacy for the Knesset elections, and I cannot concur. In my view, an examination of the material presented to us reveals that there is no room for doubting that Cassif’s statements clearly cross the legitimate boundaries defined in the framework of sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Thus, inter alia, Cassif published the following:

Uniting the democratic forces for a struggle against the Judeo-Nazism that is taking over our society is not enough, although it is certainly needed, there is a necessity for changing the methods, you don’t sing songs against fascism, you fight (report on Channel 20, May 22, 2016, quoting Cassif).

            In another report, he is heard saying that “in the Israeli discourse that the current Israeli government has created, killing Arabs is legitimate. This is how one descends into the abyss of what happened in Germany 80 years ago” (report of Channel 20 of April 12, 2018). Similarly, in regard to the Hamas, which is known to be a terrorist organization that is waging a murderous war of terror against Israel (and see: HCJ 7052/03 Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel v. Minister of Interior [31], para. 10 of the opinion of Deputy President M. Cheshin), Cassif is quoted as saying that the organization is a “political party” (report on Channel 20 of April 11, 2018). In addition, in an article on the Makor Rishon website from Feb. 7, 2019, it is reported that in the course of an interview with him, he stated that the State of Israel must not be a Jewish state. In addition to those statements, his clear, unambiguous statements expressed in a personal interview in the Ha’aretz supplement of Feb. 8, 2019, entirely fall within the scope of two of the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. Thus, Cassif presented an unadorned statement of his worldview, which includes the revocation of the Law of Return, 5710-1950 (hereinafter: The Law of Return) (p. 28 of the interview) and changing the symbols and anthem of the state (p. 26 of the interview).

            One cannot ignore that it is his position that The Law of Return should be revoked, as if it were a stumbling block rather than a law that expresses a supra-constitutional principle grounded in the Declaration of Independence, the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, and its connection to its homeland (see, for example: HCJ 7625/06 Rogachova v. Ministry of Interior [31], para. 28 of the opinion of President M. Naor; Ariel Bendor & Elichai Shilo, Israel as a Jewish State: Constitutional Significance, in Strasburg-Cohen Volume 160 (2017) (Hebrew)). Cassif’s clear statements fall completely within the bounds of statements that express the negation of the most nuclear foundations of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, as defined long ago in the Tibi case.

13.       However, these statements are dwarfed in their intensity in view of what Cassif stated about harming IDF soldiers. This is what he said:

Harming soldiers is not terrorism. Even in Netanyahu’s book on terrorism, he expressly defines harming soldiers or members of the security forces as guerilla warfare. This is absolutely legitimate according to every moral criterion, and incidentally, in international law as well. Nevertheless, I do not say that this is something wonderful, delighting, or desirable (p. 26 of his interview with Ha’aretz).

            We are concerned with matters that are most explicitly included in the cause for disqualification for support for armed struggle against the State of Israel. The fact that harming soldiers, in certain circumstances, is viewed differently from harming civilians under international law, or that it can be defined, according to Cassif, as “guerilla warfare”, does not change the fact that his statements explicitly express granting legitimacy and support for armed struggle against the State of Israel in accordance with the cause of disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. We are concerned with clear, unambiguous statements that cannot otherwise be interpreted or explained. There is “cold comfort” in that Cassif does not see such harm as “something wonderful, delighting, or desirable”.

14.       I do not find any real repudiation of these strong statements in Cassif’s statements before the Central Elections Committee or in the affidavit he submitted to the Committee, other than a denial of things attributed to him in the Makor Rishon newspaper (sec. 10 of the affidavit submitted to the Elections Committee), which, in any case, can be given only minimal weight in view of their being “second hand”. Cassif tried to place his extreme statements in a “political” context (pp. 29-30 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019), but this does not constitute a retraction of his harsh statements. In view of the severity and clarity of the statements, a general declaration alone, as Cassif expressed in para. 9 of his affidavit to the Elections Committee, is insufficient: “The request to disqualify my candidacy is a factual distortion and misleading interpretation of my words, and I therefore completely deny what is cited there”. It might have been expected that Cassif would clarify what that “factual distortion” was, and what misleading interpretation was given to the words. But other than this general, vague statement, what Cassif declared is insufficient to refute the existence of the solid evidence grounding the causes for disqualification.

            Cassif indeed notes, in a general way, in his affidavit that he “opposes all forms of violence against any person” (Cassif’s affidavit of March 3, 2019, para. 11). However, he in no way retracted the things he said in that interview – and not what he said in regard to harming IDF soldiers, in particular. On the contrary, in his affidavit, Cassif emphasized that in that interview in the Ha’aretz supplement he noted that he opposes harm to innocent civilians (ibid.). And as for harming IDF soldiers? Cassif’s silence is deafening.

15.       In his affidavit, Cassif reiterates his explanation that the statements attributed to him are, at most, “isolated” statements that “were made in order to sharpen a particular idea”, that the style of expression that included the term “Nazi” is not “characteristic” of him in general, that the statements were made in the heat of political debate, and that we are merely concerned with metaphor (para. 13 of the affidavit to the Elections Committee of March 3, 2019). However, it cannot be said that Cassif denies those expressions, retracts or denounces them, but at most, he explains them with various excuses. In the hearing before the Elections Committee, as well, Cassif did not express a clear, concrete disclaimer as to what he said, and in particular, I did not find any clear disclaimer of the statement that there is legitimate and moral justification for harming IDF soldiers. In the end, Cassif was kind enough to tell the Committee that he opposes violence (p. 34 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019). But that, as noted, is not enough. General statements according to which he rejects and opposes violence are insufficient in view of his sharp, clear statements in regard to harming IDF soldiers. According to Cassif’s approach, harming soldiers is not a form of “violence”. Moreover, when he was expressly asked in the Elections Committee hearing: “When you justify terrorist attacks upon IDF soldiers, is that not violence?” (ibid.), he did not provide a pertinent answer. In response to the question, he diverted to the causes for disqualification: “We are speaking here the language of the law, and we are talking about whether there are causes for my disqualification in light of Basic Law: The Knesset…”, while he repeated his general position that “I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all. That is one cause that I do not meet”.

16.       Even Cassif’s repeated excuse that he made the statements as a “regular citizen” and not as a public representative, and that he would “not necessarily” use those expressions if he were elected to the Knesset (para. 13 of the affidavit submitted to the Elections Committee), do not work to his benefit. Cassif is currently being examined in regard to what he has already said, and upon opinions he has already expressed as a citizen. I would note in this regard that it is clear that the provisions of the law look to the future and do not seek to “punish” a candidate for his conduct in the past, but rather to contend with the fear of an elected official exploiting his status to perform improper acts (see: the Tibi case, p. 64). However, in order to answer the question whether the actions of the list or a candidate meet one of the causes for disqualification listed in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the evidence that has accumulated in regard to that list or candidate must be examined, and this, naturally, often means before they were elected to the legislature. How can one accept the argument that Cassif should not be held accountable merely because we are concerned with statements that he made as a private individual? Every statement and action of a candidate (who has not served as a member of the Knesset in the past) is examined with consideration for the fact that the person concerned is a private individual seeking that the gates of the legislature be opened before him. Every such candidate is examined with consideration for things that he said before being elected as a public representative, while the accumulated material will always be from the period prior to his candidacy.

17.       Moreover, the argument by Cassif’s attorney that only “ideas on an intellectual basis” were concerned, cannot be of help. Statements supporting armed struggle against Israel and the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state cannot be explained away by saying that they concerned an “intellectual” debate (see, for example, the Tibi case, p. 70, which was quoted above in para. 4). This is all the more so in view of Amendment no. 40 to Basic Law: The Knesset of 2017, which made it clear, as noted, in accordance with the interpretive rules set out, that a candidate will be disqualified if his objectives or actions, “including his expressions”, constitute a negation of the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic, incitement to racism or support for armed struggle by a hostile state or terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

18.       As noted (in para. 4, above), the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law create a distinction between the legitimate right of every person to express “ideas on an intellectual basis”, whatever they may be, from every platform (subject to very limited constitutional restrictions) and the statements of a candidate for election to the Knesset, where such a person seeks to move to the area of political activity. In accordance with the dictate of the legislature, theoretical ideas are examined from a different perspective when a person seeks to realize them by means of membership in the Knesset. Were Cassif’s statements examined as of an ordinary citizen, one might say that they are infuriating and enraging or that one should forcefully take exception to them, but they are protected as free speech. However, once Cassif sought to be elected to the Knesset, we must examine whether we are concerned with statements that express support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the state of Israel or whether they negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, in the sense of denying its core foundations as established in the Tibi case. If the answer is positive – and as noted, I find it difficult to think otherwise – the candidate cannot rely upon the argument that the statements were made by him as “a private person” and that he is, therefore, exempt from answering for them. That is so in view of the purpose of sec. 7A, which, as noted, limits the use of the right granted by democracy, and in the present matter, the right to vote and to be elected, in order to prevent harm to the most basic, essential principles of its existence.

            In any case, once Cassif chose to clarify in his affidavit that he would “not necessarily” use the same expressions once elected to the Knesset (para. 13 of his affidavit), the excuse that the statements were made by him as a private individual cannot be maintained. Cassif is even unwilling to declare that those severe statements will no longer leave his lips as a public representative. Cassif himself made it clear that even after being elected, it is not necessarily the case that he will not repeat those things. In so doing, Cassif also declares that he refuses to accept the rules of the game – even if ultimately elected to the legislature (which actually occurred while these lines were being written).

19.       Indeed, not infrequently, a candidate will seek to “fix up” the positions that he publicly flaunted after he is threatened with disqualification, and in the framework of disqualification proceedings he will seek to explain that things are not what they seem. However, as a rule, a candidate’s request to deny his public statements – statements that often are those that paved his way to election to the Knesset and upon which the public trust in him was based – should be taken with a grain of salt. Dissociating from such statements in the disqualification proceedings may show those “corrected” positions to be stated solely to evade the verdict, as lip service, and not reflecting an authentic position (see: the opinion of Justice E. Rubinstein in the Zoabi case, para. 48). Cassif’s statements should be measured by the same criterion by which Ben Ari’s statements were measured. The two should not be distinguished. In a certain sense, Amendment n. 46 closed the gap between the evidentiary requirement for proving the causes for disqualification in regard to negation of the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic and support for armed conflict against the State of Israel and that of the cause of incitement to racism. Just as incitement to racism generally disqualifies by means of verbal statements (as also noted in para. 47 of the position of the Attorney general in EDA 1866/19), so too, the other causes disqualify through expression. If not identical, the evidentiary level of all the causes for disqualification should be similar.

            Just as Ben Ari’s statements disqualify him from running for the Knesset – despite his claim that he “is not a racist”, so Cassif’s words should disqualify him – despite his general claim that he “opposes violence” of any kind. The result should be identical for both.

20.       However, in certain circumstances, the gates can be opened to a candidate who retracts his statements. This, for example, if the candidate convinces that the evidence presented refers to old events, while declaring that he has changed his ways (that is the situation in the matter of Ben Gvir). A candidate who changes his ways is like a “penitent”, of whom the sages said: “In the place where penitents stand, even the wholly righteous cannot stand, as it is stated: Peace, peace upon him who is far and him who is near” (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 34b). Such a person is unlike one who “confesses but does not repent” who is likened to one who “immerses himself with a reptile in his hand”:

R. Adda b. Ahava said: To what can one compare a person who has sinned and confesses his sin but does not repent? To a man holding a reptile in his hand, for even if he immerses himself in all the waters of the world his immersion is useless for him. But if he throws it away, then as soon as he immerses himself in forty se'ahs of water, his immersion is immediately effective, as it is said: “He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy” (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit, 16a).

            A fortiori in the case of Cassif, who does not even confess his expressions. Even before the Elections Committee, and in his affidavit as well, there is no retraction of his words, nor a declaration that he has changed his path. The paltry statements that Cassif uttered do not come close to the vitriolic statements that he uttered from a public platform. On this it has been said: “He who covers up his faults will not succeed,” as opposed to “He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

21.       The State of Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state, is obligated to defend itself and to act against those who oppose it. My colleagues defend Cassif, and it has, indeed, been said, “Judge your neighbor justly” (Leviticus 19:15). Relying upon the Gemara in tractate Sanhedrin, Rashi explains: “Judge your neighbor favorably”. However, the Siftei Chachamim [Shabbethai ben Joseph Bass (1641–1718)] adds: “That is to say, specifically when he is your neighbor judge him favorably”. In other words, when he behaves like your neighbor. In my opinion, there is no doubt that the terrible things said by Cassif do not allow us to judge him favorably, and they clearly and unambiguously meet the causes for disqualification that seek to protect the state against its destroyers and block their path to being counted among its legislators.

22.       To summarize this section, as noted, Cassif presented the core of his social and political approach in the interview with him and before the Committee, and his extreme, severe and unambiguous statements express dominant, central, core characteristics of his approach. We are concerned with persuasive, clear evidence that constitutes a “critical mass” that indicates support for armed conflict and terror against Israel, and negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The force of the evidence is bolstered by the absence of clear, concrete repudiation of his statements by Cassif.

            In my opinion, all of the above unequivocally suffices to ground the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A in accordance with the criteria and proper interpretation as delineated above and that are long established by this Court.

 

EA 1876/19 In the matter of Balad

23.       Here too, as opposed to the view of my colleagues, I am of the opinion that that there is no room for doubt that the Balad list openly undermines the State of Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state and openly supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

24.       The evidence presented includes various statements and actions by members of Balad, some from the immediate past. Additionally, the petitioners requesting Balad’s disqualification referred to Balad’s activity in the past, and to the statements and actions of it former head – MK Azmi Bishara – and to the relationship between its activity and its current Knesset members to Balad’s former leader. In addition to all of that, it was argued that the “State of all its Citizens” bill (hereinafter: the bill) that the Balad Knesset members sought to present before the 20th Knesset last June makes it unequivocally clear that Balad expressly denies the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State.

            In this regard, and even were I of the opinion that no significant weight should be accorded to the other evidence to which I will refer later, I am of the opinion – like position taken by the President in para. 58 of her opinion, with which I fully concur – that no one can deny that the bill expresses a negation of “nuclear characteristics” of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Presenting the bill crossed the line sharpened in the Tibi case, which distinguished between one who supports a “state of all its citizens” in the sense of achieving civil equality and one who seeks to negate the minimal, core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Moreover, after reviewing the opinion of my colleague Justice Mazuz, I would add that, in my opinion, not only does the bill express a negation of “the nuclear characteristics” of the State of Israel, as noted, but even denies the existence of the State of Israel as “the State of the Jewish people in the national sense”. This, in reference to the identity of the state as a place where the Jewish people realizes its right to self-determination, as my colleague so well expressed in his opinion.

            In order to understand the consequences of presenting this bill in regard to examining the disqualification of the list, I will expand somewhat on the prior proceedings in the matter of Balad.

25.       The matter of Balad was addressed in the elections for the 15th Knesset (EA 2600/99 Ehrlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee [33] (hereinafter: the Ehrlich case)), and in the elections for the 16th Knesset (the Tibi case), as well as in the elections for the 18th Knesset (the Balad case). Already in the Ehrlich case in 1999 – which addressed the matter of MK Azmi Bishara, who led Balad, along with the matter of the list (when the provisions of the law permitted only the disqualification of a list and not a candidate) – it was made clear that, on their face, Bishara’s statements at the time, declaring that the Jewish people does not have a “right to self-determination”, constituted a denial of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Indeed, it was ultimately found that Balad’s candidacy should not be disqualified despite coming “dangerously close” to the line that cannot be crossed that is defined in sec. 7A of the Basic Law.

26.       In the Tibi case (in the framework of which the matter of the party was examined in a manner identical to that of Bishara, given the “powerful” connection between them), it was found that the actions attributed to Bishara in regard to the negation of existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and in regard to support for armed struggle were at the heart of its purposes and constitute a dominant objective of its activity that constituted a political potential that was realized in repeated activity and with great force. However, persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence against Bishara was not found, and thus not against the Balad list, when it was held that Bishara’s approach as to the State of Israel as a “state of all its citizens” “comes dangerously close to the possibility of negating the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state”, but it was not found that the “border had been crossed” (the Tibi case, p. 42). In addition. It was not found that there was sufficient evidence in regard to support of armed struggle, although there was some “doubt” in that regard (ibid.).

27.       Some clarification is required in this regard. In the Tibi case there was a difference of opinion as to the meaning of the phrase “a state of all its citizens” that appears in Balad’s platform. It was held that the principle of “a state of all its citizens” can take various forms, and that a purpose that sees Israel as “a state of all its citizens” does not inherently negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Thus, a person who acts to achieve the purpose of “a state of all its citizens” in the sense of guaranteeing equality among citizens is not the same as a person who employs that principle in order to infringe the rationale grounding the establishment of the state and thereby negates the character of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people (the Tibi case, p. 22).

28.       The minority was of the opinion that the evidence, taken in its entirety, showed that the expression “a state of all its citizens” served as a codeword for “abolishing Zionism, abolishing the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, and abolishing the state as a Jewish state and replacing it with another state, if not more than that” (para. 2(b) of the opinion of Deputy President (emer.) S. Levin), and that striving for “a state of all its citizens” was intended to strip the State of Israel of Zionism and of its Jewish national character (para. D of the opinion of Justice E.E. Levi).

29.       As opposed to that, the majority, as noted, did not find that the meaning of “a state of all its citizens” in regard to Bishara “crosses the line” in regard to the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. This, after finding that Bishara recognized the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel, did not argue for the repeal of the Law of Return, did not deny the centrality of the Hebrew language as the language of the state, and did not oppose the holidays and symbols of Israel (also see: para. 54 of the opinion of President E. Hayut).

            In other words, in the Tibi case, as well, where it was found that striving for the objective of “a state of all its citizens” in regard to Bishara and Balad was close to the disqualifying boundary, a remedy was found in the form of non-negation of the core principles of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The Court reiterated this position that the principle of “a state of all its citizens” in Balad’s platform does not ground a cause for disqualification in the Balad case. There, too, Justice E.E. Levy, dissenting, noted that in his opinion, the vision of Balad in regard to “a state of all its citizens” was nothing but a guise for the establishment of an Arab national state in all the territory of the Land of Israel.

30.       Thus, when examining the expression “a state of all its citizens” in the framework of Balad’s platform in the past, this Court was forced to cast about in order to discover what inhered in the concept and what meaning to give it. Where a doubt was found, the doubt worked in favor of approving the list, in view of the criteria established in regard to disqualifying a list. However, now that Balad has clarified – in the framework of dominant, significant, public and clear political activity – the significance of the expression “a state of all its citizens” for it, and the steps that it is willing to take in order to realize that vision, it can no longer be said that we are concerned with an ambiguous term. Now, following the presentation of the bill, it has been made absolutely, unambiguously clear that for this list “a state of all its citizens” means annulling the principle of return, denying the principle by which the state’s primary symbols reflect the national revival of the Jewish people, and denying the Hebrew language as the primary language of the state. It cannot now be said, by any criterion, that we are not concerned with the negation of minimal, nuclear elements of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, as held in the Tibi case.

31.       The fact that the bill was ultimately not brought before the plenum – only because on June 4, 2018 the Knesset presidium decided upon the drastic step of not approving its presentation to the Knesset – cannot be accounted to the list’s benefit, which argues that it is being retaliated against merely because it raised a theoretical “idea”. We are not concerned with just an “idea”, but rather with a concrete act – submitting a bill that sought to ground principles that undermine the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state (and also see in regard to expression by means of submitting a bill: the second Neiman case, p. 196). In view of this bill, I also find problematic the claim by the Balad list in its appeal that the requests for disqualification were not based upon a clear, direct statement, its publications, or official notices. What is a bill if not a “clear, direct statement” that expresses the values of the list and the principles that it pursues in the most simple, “clean” manner? What need do I have in looking for publications, official notices and so forth given the submission of a bill that seeks to undermine the most nuclear foundations of the state as a Jewish state? MK Mtanes Shehadeh’s “excuse” in his affidavit (affidavit of March 3, 2019 that was presented to the Elections Committee) that the bill was submitted only to “challenge the Nation State Basic Law and to hold a public debate on the issue” changes nothing in this regard or “kosher” this clear public step. On the contrary, even if the bill was submitted out of a sense of anger and grievance, I do not see how that could act in the list’s favor. Even if the members of the list presented the bill in a moment of rage, the saying goes: “By three things may a person's character be determined: By his cup, by his purse, and by his anger” (Babylonian Talmud, Eiruvin 68b). Rashi explains there: “In his anger – that he is not too hot tempered”. It is precisely when one is roiled and angry that a person is judged, and not when he is calm and at ease.

32.       Under these circumstances, no weight can even be given to what is stated in the affidavit that Shehadeh submitted to the Elections Committee that he and the members of Balad are committed to the principle of “as state of all its citizens” as reflected in the in Balad’s platform that was examined and approved long ago by this Court.  Balad itself clarified – in its own voice and not in the framework of quotes from newspaper articles that may be given to different interpretations – in the petition that it submitted to the Court (HCJ 4552/18) that the bill was consistent with its platform. In this sense, the claim that Balad now adheres to the platform that was examined and approved long ago – before the true nature of its vision of “a state of all its citizens”, which was recently publicly clarified and expressed as noted by Balad – cannot be accepted.

33.       That being the case, and in view of the background detailed above, I am of the view that there is no alternative but to say that by presenting the bill, and certainly in filing the petition (HCJ 4552/18) by members of Balad in which it was made clear that the bill was consistent with Balad’s platform, the Balad party crossed the line to which it had come “dangerously close” more than once in the past. In this context I would note that presenting the bill was an expression of real, substantial, clear parliamentary activity that, in my view, cannot be dismissed as a one-time or sporadic matter, as is the opinion of my colleague Justice Amit.

            The argument presented by Balad’s attorney that the matter of the bill was not raised before the Elections Committee but first and unexpectedly in the position of the Attorney General submitted to this Court, and that he is therefore unprepared to address it, cannot be accepted. Not only was this matter expressly raised in the framework of the disqualification request presented to the Elections Committee (paras. 17-24 of the Likud faction’s request to disqualify Ra’am-Balad), and not only was it raised in the hearing before the Elections Committee (p. 4 of the transcript of the hearing of the Elections Committee of March 6, 2019), but it was also addressed on the merits by Balad’s attorney, who raised the same claim made in that hearing that he raised before us that this is retribution merely for raising an “idea” (p. 35 of the transcript off the hearing before the Elections Committee of March 6, 2019). Moreover, the Ra’am-Balad list also expressly referred to the matter of the bill in the appeal that it submitted to this Court (paras. 23-25 of the appeal in EA 1876/19).

34.       In any case, beyond the fact that submitting the bill (together with what was stated in the petition) significantly and unambiguously grounds the said cause for disqualification, this bill does not exist in a vacuum. The bill is not the only evidence under consideration, although it would appear to be decisive evidence in and of itself. Additional evidence was presented that when added together points to a collection of evidence and a “critical mass” that demonstrates that we are concerned with a list that has raised the banner of open struggle against the foundations of the State of Israel.

35.       In this framework I would note that I do not believe that the fact that Balad’s activity and members were examined in the past renders addressing them now superfluous. Are we not required to examine the matter of Balad in accordance with the up-to-date material presented to us, which also casts light upon what was presented in the past? When the matter of Balad was examined in the past, the Court had before it the material that had accrued up to that date. Given that additional evidence has accrued in the interim, which might have led the Court to a different conclusion at that time, we cannot continue to rely upon conclusions drawn in the past from the material presented then while ignoring the updated material.

36.       Given the above, an examination of the entirety of the evidence in the matter of Balad and its members shows that this time it has gone too far. Even if in the past, the material presented in regard to it and its members came close to the bounds defined in the Basic Law but did not cross them, today the situation is different. Indeed, this Court found that MK Zoabi’s participation in the Marmara flotilla did not disqualify her from standing for election to the Knesset (the Zoabi case). However, I believe that weight should be accorded to her actions in examining the disqualification of the list of which she is a member (even if not in a “realistic” place), and in view of the additional evidence that has accrued in regard to that list since the Zoabi case. This is also true in regard to the Bishara matter, which was addressed in the past in the Ehrlich case and the Tibi case. Only later, as was also noted in the matter of Balad (in which the matter of Bishara was not addressed as he had left the country), it became clear that Bishara was suspected of serious security offenses pursuant to which he was forced to flee the country. Therefore, in examining the current evidentiary foundation in regard to the list in its entirety, weight should also be given to this matter (even though Bishara no longer stands at the head of the party). In view of the above, can one imagine that if the matter of Bishara were examined after new material came to light that pointed to serious suspicions of committing offenses, this Court would rely upon its findings in the Ehrlich case and the Tibi case without examining whether the new evidence added to the material that was examined and remained in “doubt”?

            The actions of those has since been compounded by the criminal-security related activity of MK Basel Ghattas, a member of the party who was convicted in 2017 of smuggling cellphones and other items into a prison in which security prisoners were held, as well as the conviction of another MK who was a member of the party, Said Naffaa, for the offense of contact with a foreign agent in 2014, after meeting with the deputy secretary general of the Popular Front (see the denial of his appeal in CrimA 6833/14 Naffaa v. State of Israel [34]), which was not considered in the past in the matter of the entire party.

37.       Added to all of that was the connection affirmed by Balad to its erstwhile leader Azmi Bishara in the course of the annual convention of the Ra’am-Balad party in Nazereth, when it deemed it appropriate to send him a “blessing”. And note that it was made clear to the Elections Committee that this matter was not denied (pp. 29-32 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019). By that, the present Balad list also declared that it is the successor of the person who led it in the past. It should be emphasized that we are not concerned only with a relationship with Bishara that justifies disqualifying the list (compare: the Balad case, para. 20), and I am not unaware that of the list’s argument that it cannot be held responsible for the actions of MK Naffaa, who has not been a member of the Balad party since 2010, or the actions of Zoabi, who is in an “unrealistic” place on the list. We are concerned with an aggregation of additional, compounded evidence over the course of years that indicates a significant, persuasive, and unambiguous tapestry in regard to meeting the causes of disqualification. An additional connection to Bishara was also presented in the article in the Ha’aretz newspaper of Aug. 18, 2014, according to which then members of the list – Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi, and Basel Ghattas – met with Bishara in Qatar, which was not denied by Shehadeh (pare. 8 of Shehadeh’s affidavit to the Elections Committee). To all of this is added the current conduct of the members of the list in the form of giving unambiguous, blunt support for terrorist actors who were convicted and incarcerated, whom the current head of the list, MK Shehadeh, refers to as “political prisoners” (article in the Makor Rishon newspaper of Jan. 13, 2019). This is compounded by unambiguous statements in a recorded interview (on Galei Yisrael radio) in the course of which Shehadeh stated in his own words that “every struggle against the occupation is legitimate” and that “we support every popular struggle”.

            Thus, the entirety of the clear, unambiguous evidence – together with the most significant piece of evidence concerning the submission of the bill – shows that the dominant characteristics at the center of the list’s parliamentary and extra-parliamentary action are directed at infringing protected values. The list vigorously acts to realize its objectives through actions and verbal statements.

38.       Under these circumstances, the list’s argument that part of the evidence concerns persons who are no longer candidates of the Ra’am-Balad list for the elections to the 21st Knesset can be of no assistance. The candidates of the 21st Knesset sought, of their own initiative, to join a list that has a “rich” past as detailed above. We are concerned with people who seek to join an existing list based upon the “reputation” that it has acquired, the ideology that is its banner, its purposes and actions that were expressed on various public platforms, and of course, its supporters. The candidates’ distancing themselves from the action of that list – at least in regard to the matter of the bill that was submitted during the term of the 20th Knesset – cannot be accepted. Beyond the fact that evidence was presented that indicates a real connection to its erstwhile leader Bishara, we cannot countenance the argument that the current members of Balad do not stand behind Balad’s platform that Balad itself declared in the 20th Knesset was consistent with what was stated in the bill that was submitted. The claim that we are concerned with “a new generation” cannot be accepted when it concerns the disqualification of a list regarding which clear, unambiguous evidence was presented regarding the meeting of a cause for disqualification.

39.       According to the position of the Attorney General as expressed before us (in sec. 44 of his written position as well as in the oral arguments – despite the fact that he said absolutely nothing on this matter in the written position presented to the Elections Committee), there is nothing in the bill that would lead to the disqualification of the entire list because we are concerned with a joint list of Ra’am-Balad and not of Balad alone. In my opinion, the Ra’am-Balad list cannot be approved for this reason alone. It is difficult to accept the argument that the existence of a cause for disqualification can be “healed” by joining one list to another in a joint list. In view of the purposes of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the combining of lists cannot confer “immunity” or a defense to a party that has deviated from the path. This, while undermining the fundamental principles defined in the framework of the Basic Law, is not repaired by adding a party. The Sages taught us the principle: “Woe to the wicked person and woe to his neighbor,” and “Blessed is the righteous person and blessed are his neighbors,” which is derived from the arrangement of the Israelite encampment in the desert. Thus, the tribe of Reuben, which encamped beside the members of Kehat, was punished with them in the dispute with Korach and his followers, while the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon, which encamped beside Moses, Aaron and his sons, became great Torah scholars (Numbers 3:29 and Rashi ad. loc.). If that is so for the arrangement of an encampment and the placement of neighbors, all the more so when we are concerned with a party joining with another. Joining together is premised upon a shared ideological, political, and conceptual platform. As the prophet Amos said: “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). We cannot accept the argument that if there is a cause for the disqualification of the Balad party, the very joining of Ra’am suffices to remedy it. The joining of the Balad party with the Ra’am party does not purify it, but rather it contaminates the Ra’am party that tied its fate with it in a joint list. The “pure” does not purify the “impure”, but rather the “impure” corrupts the “pure”. It would be better were parties to act cautiously when choosing to join parties whose extremist course is on the boundary (and certainly when it crosses the boundary) defined in the Basic Law.

            To summarize, in my opinion, both in the matter of Cassif and in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list, “all else has failed” even according to the strict criterion of my colleague Justice Sohlberg.

40.       In conclusion, my colleagues’ interpretation in regard to the disqualification of a single candidate and in regard to the disqualification of a list on the cause of support for armed struggle against the State of Israel and the cause of denying the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state render the words of the legislature merely theoretical. The Talmud (BT Sanhedrin 71a) addresses the elements of the offense of an individual – the stubborn and rebellious son, and of a group – the idolatrous city, which have committed certain offenses. However, the Tannaim interpreted the elements of the offenses so rigidly that that the Talmud concludes: “There never was and never will be a stubborn and rebellious son. And why was it written? So that you may expound upon it an receive reward”, and: “There never has been an idolatrous city and there never will be one. And why was it written? So that you may expound and receive reward” (a similar expression also appears in regard to Job, of whom it was said: “Job never existed and was never created, but was a parable” (BT Bava Batra 15a). However, alongside this view we find the view of Rabbi Yochanan, who was of the opinion that these were not merely theoretical matters, and who states in regard to the stubborn and rebellious son, “I saw him”, and in regard to the idolatrous city, “I saw it”. We are concerned with practical matters that were and will be in the future. By analogy, the above is applicable to the matters before us, as well.

            And so I say loudly and clearly: “I saw him,” “I saw it,” and we cannot turn our eyes away from seeing.

 

Justice G. Karra:

            I concur in the opinion of President E. Hayut and with the opinions of my colleagues U. Vogelman, I. Amit and E. Baron on the matter of the inapplicability of the probability test to the cause of disqualification for incitement to racism under sec, 7A(a)(2). I would add that the accumulated critical mass of statements and actions detailed at length in the President’s opinion thoroughly ground the conclusion that incitement to racism is a dominant, firmly rooted, and central purpose of Ben Ari’s doctrine. The escalation of racist statements over the last years leaves no possibility for accepting his artificial explanations, not even to the extent of raising doubt as to the intention and purpose of the statements.

            From among Ben Ari’s racist statements and actions, I would like to spotlight a dark, severe act mentioned in para. 44 of the President’s opinion, that is lost in the large catalogue of his inciteful publications. I refer to the act of tearing up the New Testament and throwing it into the waste basket when Ben Ari was serving as a member of the Knesset in the years 2009 to 2013. It is an act that has nothing to do with incitement against Arabs, but it serves to show us that Ben Ari’s racist worldview, which he has espoused over the course of years, is much broader and deeper than incitement against Arabs, whom he sees as enemies. It would appear that this racism is deeply rooted in hatred of the “other” and the different, per se.

            Approving the candidacy of a person who incites to racism and hatred of the other would taint Israeli democracy, and therefore, a normative statement is required saying that such an inciter must be relegated from the Israeli Knesset.

 

Justice N. Hendel:

  1. I concur in the clear, comprehensive opinion of my colleague President E. Hayut. I would briefly sharpen what I see as the main points in regard to each of the actors – candidates and lists – examined in the present proceedings, regarding which there are disagreements among the members of this panel. I will also present my position on a number of general issues regarding which questions or doubts were raised – the probability test, the consequences of two parties running jointly in regard to the existence of a cause for the disqualification of one of them, and the interpretation of the cause “denial of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state”.

The relationship between law and elections can be likened to two pillars. One pillar says: “This is democracy’s holiday. An equal vote for every citizen. The people must have its say. The Court does not – and must not – take a stand as to the desired results”. The other pillar says: “Elections without law may distort democracy. Not a day of celebration but of mourning. Bribery, bullying, or a regime takeover of the elections. The answer is the open eyes of the law as written, expressed, and intended. There must be rules even for the smallest details: the timeframe must be strictly observed; the ballot box must be accessible; who can vote and who can be elected. Maintaining the laws is also vital to democracy”. While the first pillar maintains a distance between the law and the elections, the second requires involvement and supervision. Is there a contradiction between the two? I believe that the answer is in the negative, and it is unsurprising. The two pillars sing the praises of democracy together. In other words: there is no contradiction between democracy and the Court’s supervision over the rules. On the contrary, the Court acts to advance democratic principles by virtue of the authority conferred upon it by the legislature.

            Democratic elections are not self-evident. History gives context. In the past, and for a very long period, change of regime was achieved by military coup or the death of the autocratic ruler. Democracy changed the rules. Not power but election. Decisions are made not by the powerful but rather every citizen has equal power. That is the aspiration, and it must strictly be put into practice. It is not a simple task. After all, the voice of the single voter is not, of itself, strong in comparison to the regime. Democracy strives to preserve its character and not lose it in the course of elections. This gives rise to the role of the Court and the proximity of the pillars.

  1. Israeli law establishes when a candidate or a list should be prevented from participating in the elections due to their objectives, actions, and expressions. Section 7 of Basic Law: The Knesset presents the substantive test and the procedures for preventing a list or candidate from participating in elections for the Knesset. This section, and section 63A of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969, establish the procedures for this. The substance is defined by three causes for disqualification:

 

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;

(2) incitement to racism;

(3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

The procedures are that when the Central Elections Committee for the Knesset Elections prevents the participation of a candidate, the approval of a nine-judge panel of the Supreme Court is required. It is not an appeal but an approval proceeding. The law chose to introduce the Court into the proceedings. It is not post facto judicial review but an ex ante decision. For the prevention of the participation of a list or the approval of a candidate of a list – there is an appeals process.

We addressed the tension between the two pillars presented. Each holds great power in our legal system, and thus the sensitivity required in the course of moving between them in practice and in real time. The path chosen by this Court is one of caution and self-restraint before it prevents the participation of a candidate or a list. Doubt acts in favor of the candidate. This is the consistent approach of the case law in election matters, as explained by my colleague the President. It is interesting to turn to another area of law in which doubts wields great power. In criminal law, a person can be convicted if the charge is proved beyond reasonable doubt. The reason for this is the recognition of the regime’s power to taint and punish the individual. As opposed to this, in Knesset elections, the power of doubt lay in a different consideration – the role of the voter in choosing the candidate and the list it prefers. This Court does not eagerly intervene in election matters. On the other hand, the law requires it to do so in the appropriate circumstances. Just as the will of the electorate must be honored, so too the will of the legislature in such matters. The compromise – or more precisely, the proper balance – is to employ the law only to prevent candidacy in exceptional cases in which, for example, the doubt is not of substance and is not rooted in reality. This rule is intended to permit the voter to express its position on the matter within the four cubits of the ballot box. As opposed to criminal law, in which the court establishes facts in regard to the defendant’s acts and intentions – in the present matter, we look not only backward but forward as well: is the candidate or the list, at the time of the elections, expected to act contrary to the causes enumerated in the law if elected – but in the present and not necessarily in the past. We are thus concerned with a certain evaluation in regard to the future.

However, in the exceptional case in which the candidacy of a candidate or a list meets the following criteria: the cause is a dominant characteristic of the list or the candidate; there is clear, unambiguous evidence of the cause; there is active conduct, including expression in the case of a candidate, for realizing the wrongful objectives; there is a critical mass of highly credible evidence (see the detailed description in para. 16 of the opinion of my colleague the President). Only if these conditions are met is there the necessary certainty to justify the result of disqualification. In the background stands the right to vote and to be elected. That underlies the democratic foundation of elections. And note that the right to be elected has direct consequences for the right to vote.

Another aspect of the matter is remorse or a candidate’s recanting an objective or activity related to one of the constitutional causes. The reason is self-evident. The decision is not personal or punitive but rather institutional and preventative. In other words, its purpose is to prevent an inappropriate actor from becoming a member of the next Knesset. Of course, we are not concerned merely with a declarative test. There must be an examination of whether there are grounds to conclude that the declaration is sincere. Or more precisely – that the declaration is not sincere. Of course, there is a possibility that a candidate may not live up to his declarations. This is not a danger that would justify expanding the list of disqualified actors. If a candidate or list does not live up to its expectations, there are “sanctions” and other means for contending with the matter, whether in the course of the Knesset’s term or in the elections for the next Knesset.

3.         Two points to conclude the general sections. The first concerns the dissenting opinions of my colleagues. I have read the opinions of my colleagues Justice N. Sohlberg and Justice D. Mintz. My colleague Justice Sohlberg is of the opinion that no one should be prevented from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesst, while my colleague Justice Mintz is of the opinion that along with Michael Ben Ari, Ofer Cassif and the Ra’am-Balad list should be prevented from participating in the elections for the Knesset. In my opinion, and pursuant to the above, Justice Sohlberg’s approach might lead to the non-disqualification even of candidates who clearly meet the causes for disqualification. This, while making even the strict case-law tests weighed prior to preventing the participation of a candidate or list in the elections more strict. As for the approach of my colleague Justice Mintz, in my view, his approach might lead to over-disqualification of candidates and lists from both sides. It would appear to me that the path taken by the case law in the past and in the present embraces both of the pillars presented above. Disqualification is imposed cautiously and only exceptionally.

            The second point is that of the symmetry test. My colleague Justice Sohlberg presented a statement by MK Michael Eitan in which he asks: “Where is the symmetry?” I agree with this question and would only like to sharpen the point. Symmetry does not have to be expressed in the final result, but rather in the application of equal criteria. Aspiring to symmetry in order to balance the results is a quasi-political consideration that the Court cannot adopt. I will allow myself to say that reading the opinions of my colleagues – of the majority and the minority – shows that the conclusions were based upon a legal approach and the examination of the evidence, and not upon any desire to maintain equally balanced results.

            Armed with these tools, I will conduct an individual examination of the relevant actors – Michael Ben Ari, Ofer Cassif, and the Ra’am-Balad list.

4.         Michael Ben Ari: The relevant cause in the matter of Ben Ari is “incitement to racism”. We are concerned with some forty different statements, most of which were uploaded to the Facebook page of “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari”, such that the matters cannot be denied. Indeed, Ben Ari does not deny them. Most of the material dates from the year preceding the elections. My colleague the President presented the relevant statements (paras. 38-41 of fer opinion). It makes for difficult reading. What was presented suffices, and there is no need to present it again, Comparing the statements with the language of the law raises the question of what is the test for “incitement to racism”?

            I will begin with the term “incitement”. Not racism but incitement to racism. The hand or mouth of one and the hearing ear of the other. In other words, we are not concerned with personal views that the candidate keeps to himself. The opinions must be expressed in order to incite to racism. In addition, my colleague Justice M. Mazuz referred to the probability test. In his opinion, that test should not be applied to the causes under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. I agree with his conclusion and reasoning. The language does not support the application of such a test, and such is also the purposive interpretation. Such a test would be too speculative and very difficult to apply at the time of the elections. Additionally, the basis of the causes for disqualification is not necessarily the prevention of a real, concrete threat to one of the protected values, but rather clearly expresses not granting legitimacy to lists or candidates who adopt the approaches set out in the causes. In summary, I accept his conclusion that “we are concerned with causes of ‘conduct’ not ‘results’” (para. 2 of his opinion).

            Now to the question of what constitutes “racism”. My colleague the President addressed, inter alia, the aspects of hatred, hostility, persecution, degradation, and humiliation (paras. 25-32 of her opinion). In regard to Ben Ari’s candidacy, I will say: there is no need to establish the minimal threshold for disqualifying a candidate on the basis on incitement to racism. It suffices to find that in this case, the candidate exceeded the threshold by a wide margin. His statements seek to influence conduct. And note that the lack of a need to prove the elements of the probability test does not contradict the fact that the aspiration to influence conduct in practice reinforces the ground for disqualification. In his statements, Ben Ari espouses the denial of civil rights to the Arab public. So in regard to participating in public tenders and so in regard to their ability to live in cities. He supports their collective deportation in certain circumstances, and employs violent imagery in regard to that community, including shooting. The evidence is very substantial, unambiguous, and dominant in his doctrine.

            In his affidavit to the Elections Committee, Ben Ari argues that he is not a racist, in that he accepts that every person – including the Arabs – are created in God’s image. Only then does Ben Ari proceed to the loyalty test. He is not against Arabs because of how they were born, but because they failed the loyalty test. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of Arabs are not loyal. That “overwhelming majority” was defined in various statements: from 99% to a few who can be counted on the fingers, and Ben Ari never met a loyal Arab. Thus, they have all become enemies. This is the fallacy at the base of incitement to racism. As President Shamgar held, racism is not just a matter that derives from the biology of the other (EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset [5], 191-192). Racist views can also be examined in accordance with theories, conclusions, and factors that arose after a person’s birth and not upon the DNA that characterizes a group of the population. Not just genetics but epigenetics. Ben Ari did not explain the meaning of the “loyalty test” – what are the criteria of this test, when does one fail it, and how is it that with the exceptions of a very small number of individuals, all Arabs belong to the disloyal group. We are concerned with very severe matters that are not based upon facts but upon a circular conclusion. The results are harsh. An Arab is presumed to be an enemy who must be dealt with. This, by means of denial of rights, deportation, or the possibility of violent treatment. For example, it was stated that anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live, but rather “a firing squad kills him, he is done away with”; that the “murderers” should not be employed, also in reference to the Arab residents of Israeli cities; that affirmative action should be rescinded in view of the “treasonous” and “murderous” character of Arabs; that Arabs are a “murderous people, a murderous nation”; and that the village from which a terrorist went to an “airport” should be uprooted and its residents “flown” to other countries.

5.         I will clarify the matter from another perspective. One may ask why these particular causes established in the law were chosen. The cause of support for armed struggle against the state is clear and requires no explanation. The cause of denial of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State was intended to defend the existing foundations of the state. As for incitement to racism, we are concerned with a desire to deny the legitimacy of a group. In a varied, multi-group society like that of the State of Israel, this harms the nature of the society. This is striking when we are concerned with some twenty percent of the population. It saddens me to say that reading Ben Ari’s positions – and the reader can read paras. 38-41 of the opinion of my colleague the President – leads not only to racism in the form of humiliation and hatred, but also to severe acts that might undermine social order or create discriminatory law in regard to the foundations of civil rights, including the right to remain a citizen of the state. This is not due to the actions of the group, not due to criminal offenses perpetrated or plans to do harm, but because they do not meet the conception of a proper minority as Ben Ari understands it. By that, I am not finding that he has committed a crime, but there are special requirements in regard to lists and candidates for the Knesset. Particularly in a system in which a representative often represents a specific group, we must make certain that even if he does not fight for the rights of the group, he cannot fundamentally deny the legitimacy of the other group and its right to elementary rights. And all the more so, harm and violence lacks any legitimacy.

6.         The conclusion from all of the above is that this is an unambiguously extreme case. And note well, Ben Ari did not express remorse, but rather embraced his position while explaining that he is not a racist and does not reject Arabs on the basis of their birth. To clarify the picture, let us compare him to Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir and to former candidate Baruch Marzel. It can be assumed that the three share a similar ideology, in that they ran together on the same list. However, this Court refrained from disqualifying Marzel and Ben Gvir. The decision not to disqualify Ben Gvir in these proceedings was unanimous. What difference is there between him and Ben Ari, who was disqualified by an eight-judge majority? It would appear that the tests of the strength of the evidence, its extent, quality, and unambiguity led to that result. But we would note one additional criterion: expressing remorse. Both Marzel and Ben Gvir informed the Court that they intended to act in accordance with the requirements of the law, including the causes for disqualification that it establishes. Even if they behaved differently in the past, they declared that that is how they would conduct themselves. They understood and internalized the qualifying conditions for Knesset candidacy. Ben Ari was not a partner to that choice. He continues to support the views that he expressed. We are not concerned with some technical defect or lack of comprehension. Just as we must respect the manner in which Ben Gvir and Marzel presented their arguments at the moment of truth, so we must respect Ben Ari’s position that justifies his disqualification. My colleagues spoke of how, due to its history, the Jewish people in particular must be sensitive to statements like those expressed by Ben Ari. In my view, we should add that it is not just the history of the Jewish people, but also its faith.  But truth be told, there is no need for that. In these circumstances, there is not even a need to demonstrate the matter by a thought experiment in which Ben Ari would express his views in another country against Jews.

7.         Ofer Cassif: The disqualification request points to two causes that can bar his participation in the Knesset elections. The first is “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” and the second is “support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel”. The evidence presented against him relies upon four publications, the central of which is an interview he gave to the Ha’aretz newspaper in February 2019. It would appear that my colleague Justice Mintz addressed both causes together, but there is a difference in the scope of the evidence and in Cassif’s explanations in regard to each cause, which requires that they be addressed separately. My colleague presented Cassif’s case as so clear as to leave no doubt, and according to his approach, there is no possibility of arriving at a different result.

            Below, I will sketch the general outline of why I hold a different view. The question in regard to Cassif, as for every candidate, is whether there is justification for preventing him from being elected as a member of Knesset in view of the causes established in the Basic Law. As I explained above, the matters are examined in a particular period of time, with a view to the future, and in regard to the candidates functioning in the legislature if he be elected. Past statements and actions may serve as the evidentiary foundation in regard to a position in the present and in the future. The purpose is not to punish improper actions and statements, but to ascertain whether the candidate constitutes an exception that justifies barring his participation in the elections. Cassif said things in the past, although not with great frequency and consistency, that would require him to explain why he should not be prevented from participating in the elections. Cassif’s answer to this is clear, consistent, and divided into three parts: one, in regard to the possibility that he supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, is that he does not support violence, not in the past and certainly not at present. I believe that an examination of the matter, as I will explain, supports that conclusion. Even if Cassif spoke harshly, there is a lack of a foundation proving that he supports violence – certainly the foundation needed to prove that he supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

            The second part of his answer concerns the possibility of negating the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In this regard, he does not deny that he has made statements in the past against various symbols of the state and against the Law of Return, but he declared that he accepts the platform of his list – Hadash-Ta’al – and does not, in that or any other frameworks, act or call for the annulment of the symbols or the Law of Return. He accepts the parliamentary rules. In other words, not only is this not a case of a dominant purpose, but rather there is no such purpose at all. As I explained above, the Court has consistently granted weight to a change of position and a declaration in regard to an absence of intent to act or express oneself contrary to the causes enumerated in Basic Law: The Knesset. As noted, this consideration, applied mutatis mutandis to other causes, is what allowed the candidacy of Baruch Marzel in the past, as well as that of Itamar Ben Gvir at present. It his unwillingness to follow that path that stands in Ben Ari’s way.

            The third part concerns various statements by Cassif that compare the State of Israel and the members of its government to Nazi Germany. My colleague Justice Mintz gave weight to those statements. We are concerned with shameful statements that do no honor to one who makes them, and certainly not to one who seeks election a member of Knesset. It were better had they never been said, and one hopes that if Cassif is elected to the next Knesset, he will refrain from acting in this manner. However, as my colleague the President noted in her opinion – and this is the third part of Cassif’s response – those statements do not fall within the scope of any of the causes enumerated in sec. 7A, and to my understanding, the Court cannot take them into account in examining the disqualification of a candidate. In this regard, I would note that the opinion of my colleague Justice Mintz also referred to Cassif’s statement in his affidavit (para. 13) that he would “not necessarily use those expressions if elected to the Knesset” (emphasis added). According to his approach, the absence of an undertaking by Cassif in regard to his future conduct does not work in his favor. However, and see paras. 12 and 13 of the affidavit, it appears that this statement referred to the shameful statements mentioned above, and not to statements related to the causes enumerated in the law, such that I do not think that this can be held against him in this proceeding.

            In view of the severity of the cause of supporting armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, it would be proper to present Cassif’s own words as stated in his affidavit to the Elections Committee. He affied that “I have never called for violence, and I am opposed to violence as such against any person”. As my colleague the President noted, Cassif explained to the Elections Committee that “I never supported violence, I always expressed opposition to violence, I belong to a party that has always rejected violence […]” and stated further on that “I rejected, and I reject, and I will reject, and I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all”. In regard to the definition of the term “terror” as opposed to “guerilla warfare” in all that concerns harm to soldiers, Cassif’s attorney emphasized in the hearing before us that the statements were made in the course of an academic debate on the subject and that one should not infer that he expressed support for harming soldiers from the presentation of his position in the matter:

He said that he has a dispute with the term “terror” even in the UN there is a dispute about this word. He wrote this and teaches his students. The dispute about the Prevention of Terror Ordinance then was a debate. Therefore, what he says about this matter of who is or isn’t a terrorist from an intellectual and academic perspective is debated […] these terms that he employs are not foreign to the Supreme Court and not to the international humanitarian court. Not one word here is a call [to terror] (p. 9 of the transcript).

            Even if one does not agree with the definitions adopted by Cassif, and even if they cause indignation, in the context presented to us they cannot be taken to imply, of themselves and certainly not given the entire collection of statements and explanations, support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. It is sad that his words show, in my opinion, a certain sense of contempt for the lives of IDF soldiers and complacency in regard to many citizens who have lost what was most dear to them in the name of defending the homeland. In such matters, a member of Knesset and a candidate for election as a member of Knesset is expected to act with sensitivity. But there is a gap between such a failing and the existence of a cause to prevent participation in the elections.

            In summation, I would say as follows. In my opinion, there is no basis for attributing to Cassif statements that support armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel or the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. As noted above, there are four conditions that must be met in order to bar a candidate from participating in the Knesset elections: the cause for disqualification constitutes a dominant feature; the existence of clear, unambiguous evidence of the existence of the cause; activity, including expression, for the realization of the wrongful purposes; a critical mass of highly credible evidence. In my opinion, there is no basis for attributing to Cassif expressions of support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. He made it clear that he always was and always will be against violence. As for his positions on the symbols of the state and the Law of Return, he declared that he abides his party’s platform. In regard to both causes, the evidentiary foundation is sparse, certainly not unambiguous, and lacks the requirement of dominance or activity for the realization of the purpose. In other words, both independently and cumulatively, the evidentiary foundation against him does not meet the four tests.

8.         Ra’am-Balad: The proceeding in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list focused upon the Balad party. It is argued that the central piece of evidence for disqualifying the list in these elections is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill that Balad sought to propose to the 20th Knesset. The bill was submitted to the Knesset presidium, but that body did not approve its presentation before the Knesset.

            The bill was of a general character. For example: “The state is a state of all its citizens, in which the regime is democratic; the state’s regime is based upon the values of the dignity of the person, his liberty and his being an equal among equals”. There is also reference to the language, the symbols and the anthem, which will be in the same spirit. It is argued that the positive implies the negative, that is, that the practical significance of this bill is the revocation of the Law of Return and changing the symbols of the state and its anthem such that they would not express its being Jewish but only democratic. Taking this step carries some weight. It is more forceful than a newspaper interview, for example. It is parliamentary activity that can bear fruit. The list’s attorney argued that the bill was a sort of “gimmick” in response to Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People. This argument, in itself, is insufficient. The bill refers to the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish (and democratic) state, and even if some party or other is frustrated as a result of the activity of the government and the Knesset, it is not exempt from the requirements of the Basic Law. However, the submission of the bill must be examined not just on the legal level but on the factual level. To be more precise, the factual level constitutes a central part of the legal examination. Thus, the party’s conduct in regard to the causes under the law must be examined in accordance with the strict rules. From that perspective, the bill, by itself, does not cross the necessary threshold. First, as already stated, one of the conditions is that of dominance in the purposes and active conduct. It was not argued that the bill also appears in the party’s platform. Second, the bill is signed by the Knesset members who served at the time, some of whom are no longer candidates in the current list, and others are place only symbolically. Thus, for example, MK Hanin Zoabi was placed in the 118th spot on the list. In regard to the candidates who appeared before us and who are placed at the top of the list, it turns out that they do not support that position. Their attorney even referred to the bill as a kind of mistake. And again, the matter must be examined according to the relevant tests. It would not appear that the desire to annul the anthem, the law and the symbols is dominant, or that they are actively working in such a manner, in particular in regard to the figures who currently represent the list. On the contrary, those positions are not part of the party’s planned parliamentary activity. Not just remorse, but a lack of devotion to the purpose, and conduct at a very specific time. Were the list continuing in that conduct – since the Law of Return remains in force – the situation might be different. But that is not the situation before us.

            From reading the opinion of my colleague Justice Mintz, it appears that he does not agree with the reasoning of the majority. He expanded upon the subject of the party’s conduct that was addressed in the case law in the past, in regard to previous Knesset elections. Of course, one can be of this or that opinion in regard to decisions rendered in regard to previous Knesset elections, but it does not appear that at present, significant weight should be attributed to conduct that this Court already decided was insufficient to prevent the party’s participation in the elections. Thus, the focus is upon the new material, and that is what I addressed.

            My colleague Justice Mazuz is of the opinion that the term “Jewish state” in the context of Basic Law: The Knesset should be understood as referring to the identity of the state in the national sense. In other words, it does not necessarily refer to a change of the internal content, like the state’s symbols. In my view, it would be incorrect to construe the term “Jewish state” as a test of the right of the Jewish people solely to national existence for three reasons. First, the term “Jewish” is not merely a geographical matter, but an historical one as well. The state’s symbols carry weight in the basic definition of the state. So it is in regard to other states as well. Second, the case law has also adopted this view in the past (see, e.g., EDA 50/03 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [35], 21-22, according to which “the ‘nuclear’ characteristics that shape the minimal definition of the state being a Jewish state…the right of every Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel in which Jews will be the majority; Hebrew is the primary official language of the state; Jewish heritage is a central component of its religious and cultural heritage”). Third, it would appear that practical experience shows that the objections in debates upon negation of the Jewish state focused upon the return to Zion, and not upon questions of general, historical, and religious symbols. Thus, the practical consequences of this distinction are unclear. The primary practical problem concerns proposals to annul the Law of Return, and not merely the changing of the symbols. In any case, it would seem that a construction that includes “internal” characteristics of the term “Jewish” would be more precise, and thus I would take exception to my colleague Justice Mazuz’s distinction. Of course, when I say “internal”, I refer to the most basic matters, but there is no need for elaboration or for a precise delineation.

            A final point. According to the position of the Attorney General, there is significance to the fact that the Ra’am and Balad parties are running together on one list. As opposed to this, I am of the opinion that as a rule, a party that has been tainted by a cause that disqualifies it from participating in the elections cannot cross the hurdle by joining with another party. Such an approach would afford too easy an exemption for a party that should be disqualified simply because it joins with another. In my view, the Attorney General’s approach, according to which weight should be given to the combining of parties – even if this does not grant an “exemption” – is problematic. The reason for this is that it is not clear how to calculate such a factor. There is also the fear that parties might join together so that one will “clean” the other of the cause that has tainted it. It is one thing to recognize remorse, and another to grant a seal of approval due to joining another party. I am of the opinion that if there is a cause for disqualification, then the law requires that the list be barred from running, subject, of course, to restricting disqualification to exceptional cases. Therefore, I did not grant weight to the arguments concerning the relationship between Balad and Ra’am in examining the matters.

9.         The right to vote and the right to be elected are twins, but not identical. In practice, “to vote and be elected” is presented as a single right, when each actually has an independent dimension. This is so, despite the strong connection between them, regarding which it suffices to mention that the right to be elected influences the right to vote. I will demonstrate what the two rights share and what distinguishes them in regard to the issue addressed in these proceedings – the application of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset.  

            The right to vote focuses upon the identity of the decider and the right to be elected on the question of who is qualified to represent the people, or in our case – who is not qualified to represent them. It would appear that the right to vote places its emphasis upon the individual. The vote of every voter is worth no less that the vote of any other voter, regardless of his status, position, conduct, or statements. Therefore, the criteria for identifying who is entitled to vote are formal. As opposed to this, the question as to who can be elected is not merely formal, but value based. This is how we are to understand the causes that prevent participation in the elections that concern not only support for armed struggle, but also negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and incitement to racism. Its purpose is to define the society and its boundaries. The purpose of the right to vote is to protect the individual, whereas the purpose of the right to be elected is to protect the unity of the nation. Both rights are precious.

***

It was therefore decided, on March 17, 2019, by a majority, in accordance with the opinion of President E. Hayut, not to approve the decision of the Central Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of the candidacy of Cassif; to grant the appeal in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list and rule that it is not barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset; to grant the appeal in the matter of Ben Ari and rule that he is barred from participating in these elections. In addition, the Court unanimously decided to deny the appeal in all that regards the Election Committee’s decision not to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list, and to deny the appeal in the matter of the non-disqualification of Ben Gvir.

Given this day, 15 Tammuz 5779 (July 18, 2019).

 

 

[1] Mishna Eduyot 5:7 – ed.

[2] Jeremiah 51:5 – ed.

Alian v. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 4466/16
Date Decided: 
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Decision Type: 
Original
Abstract: 

[This abstract is not part of the Court's opinion and is provided for the reader's convenience. It has been translated from a Hebrew version prepared by Nevo Press Ltd. and is used with its kind permission.]

 

The debate revolved around whether reg. 133(3) of Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945 (hereinafter: the Defence Regulations) authorize the Military Commander to order temporary burial of terrorists' bodies to be held for negotiation purposes. The background for this debate was a decision by the Israeli government's Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs (the State Security Cabinet) in the matter, establishing a general policy, while implementation of the policy was delegated to the Military Commander under reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations.

 

The High Court of Justice (per Justice Danziger with Justice Kara concurring, contrary to the dissenting opinion of Justice Hendel), accepted the petitions, holding:

 

The High Court of Justice first addressed the relationship between the Cabinet's decision and the authority of the Military Commander, as well as the requirement for a specific source of authority for the Military Commander's action. The Court held that since the decision of the State Security Cabinet was established as a matter of general policy, but the Military Commander was the one charged with its execution and implementation under the authority granted him by law, it was necessary to examine whether the law included any provision authorizing the Military Commander to implement and execute the Cabinet's policy. Moreover, if an enabling provision of law did exist, further examination would be required to ascertain whether it was anchored in explicit, specific primary legislation, inasmuch as the actions that the Military Commander wishes to carry out violate human rights.

 

The High Court of Justice held that reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations does not constitute explicit, specific primary legislation for the Military Commander's action ordering the temporary burial of terrorists' bodies to be held for negotiation purposes. This conclusion is required by virtue of the principle of the rule of law and the principle of administrative legality. It follows from interpretative analysis of the regulation's language, which shows it to be a broad, general regulation that cannot qualify as explicit, specific legislation. It also derives from the purpose of the regulation, which comprises its historic context, its inner and external logic, and the application of the rules of interpretation practiced in the Israeli legal system. The Mandatory legislator, followed by the Israeli legislature, never envisioned a situation involving the temporary holding of terrorists' corpses for negotiation purposes, and did not seek to create a unique arrangement in order to grant authority to that effect. The conclusion regarding the authority is further bolstered when juxtaposed with rulings in similar contexts involving terrorists' bodies and live detainees held as "bargaining chips", as well as with international humanitarian law treating of the laws of armed conflict, and international human rights law. While the reciprocity argument—the fact that the Hamas organization is holding Israeli captives and missing persons—could possibly serve as moral justification for reciprocal action, it is no substitute for the obligation to act on the basis of authority established by Law.

 

In view of the holding that reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, as a general and non-explicit provision of law, does not grant the Military Commander authority to hold terrorists' bodies for negotiation purposes by way of temporary burial or any other way, the Military Commander is not permitted to use his authority by virtue of the regulation in order to hold terrorists' bodies for negotiation purposes. Therefore, the burial orders that are the subject of the petitions were unlawfully issued by the Military Commander. A possible remedy is to declare the burial orders void, which would mean the immediate return of the terrorists' bodies to their families. However, considering the entirety of rights and interests at stake, and if the State so wishes, it should be given a chance to formulate a full, complete legislative arrangement, in the form of explicit, specific primary legislation—meeting the pertinent legal standards—dedicated and unique to the issue of holding corpses for the sought-after purposes. In light of the above, the remedy ordered should be a suspended declaration of voidness, giving the State time to formulate a full legislative arrangement within six months of the date of rendering this judgment. Should the state fail to formulate an arrangement by this time, the bodies of the terrorists whose matter is the subject of the petitions shall be returned to their families.

 

Editor’s note: Following the above judgment, the Government requested and was granted a further hearing before an expanded panel (HCJFH 10190/17). The Court (per President Hayut, Justices Hendel, Amit and Sohlberg concurring, Justices Vogelman, Barak-Erez, and Karra dissenting) overturned the judgment in HCJ 4466/16,  holding that “Regulation 133 (3) of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations authorizes the Military Commander to order the temporary burial of the corpses of terrorists or fallen enemy soldiers for reasons of national security or public safety, while ensuring the dignity of the deceased and his family, for the purposes of negotiations for the return of IDF soldiers, fallen soldiers, and Israeli citizens held by terrorist organizations”.

Voting Justices: 
Primary Author
majority opinion
Author
concurrence
Author
dissent
Full text of the opinion: 

 

HCJ 4466/16

HCJ 8503/16

      HCJ 285/17

HCJ 6524/17

 

 

Petitioners in HCJ 4466/16:

Muhammad Alian and 6 others

Petitioners in HCJ 8503/16:

Yousef Abd A-Rahim Abu Saleh and 3 others

Petitioners in HCJ 285/17:

Sabih Abu Sabih

Petitioners in HCJ 6254/17:

Mohammad Ahmad Qunbar

 

 

 

v.

 

 

Respondents:

1. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank

 

2. Israel Police

 

3. Office of the State Attorney

 

4. State of Israel

 

 

 

The Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice

Before: Justice Y. Danziger, Justice N. Hendel, Justice G. Karra

 

 

Israeli Supreme Court cases cited:

[1]        HCJ 7893/09 Almagor - Terror Victims Association (R.A.) v. Government of Israel, (Oct. 1, 2008)

[2]        HCJ 6063/08 Shahar v. Government of Israel, (July 8, 2008)

[3]        HCJ 5856/08 Farhangian v. Government of Israel, (July 6, 2008)

[4]        HCJ 914/04 Victims of Arab Terror International v. Prime Minister, (Jan. 29, 2004)

[5]        HCJ 9290/99 MMT Terror Victims HQ (R.A.) v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 54(1) 8 (2000)

[6]        HCJ 9594/09 Legal Forum for the Land of Israel v. Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs, (April 21, 2010)

[7]        HCJ 548/04 Amana – The Settlement Movement of Gush Emunim v. Commander of the IDF Forces in the Judea and Samaria Region, IsrSC 58(3) 373 (2004)

[8]        HCJ 2717/96 Wafa v. Minister of Defense, IsrSC 50(2) 848 (1996)

[9]        HCJ 358/88 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Central District Commander, IsrSC 43 (2) 529 (1989) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/association-civil-rights-v-central-district-commander]

[10]      HCJ 1539/05 MASHLAT – Law Institute for the Study of Terror and Assistance to Terror Victims v. Prime Minister, (Feb. 17, 2005)

[11]      LCA 2558/16 A. v. Pensions Officer – Ministry of Defense, (Nov. 5, 2017)

[12]      CA 7368/06 Luxury Apartments Ltd. v. Mayor of Yavneh, (June 27, 2011)

[13]      HCJ 1640/95 Ilanot Hakirya (Israel) Ltd. v. Mayor of Holon, IsrSC 49(5) 582 (1996)

[14]      HCJ 6824/07 Manaa v. Israel Tax Authority, IsrSC 64(2) 479 (2010)

[15]      HCJFH 9411/07 Arco Electric Industries Ltd. v. Mayor of Rishon LeZion, (Oct. 19, 2009)

[16]      HCJ 1437/02 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Minister of Public Security, IsrSC 58(2) 746 (2004)

[17]      HCJ 5100/94 Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v. State of Israel, IsrSC 53(4) 817 (1999) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/public-committee-against-torture-v-israel]

[18]      HCJ 5128/94 Federman v. Minister of Police, IsrSC 48(5) 647 (1995)

[19]      HCJ 355/79 Katlan v. Israel Prison Service, IsrSC 34(3) 294 (1980) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/katlan-v-prison-service]

[20]      CrimA 40/58 Attorney General v. Ziad, IsrSC 12 1358 (1958)

[21]      LCA 993/06 State of Israel v. Dirani, (July 18, 2011)

[22]      HCJ 52/06 Al-Aqsa Company for the Development of Islamic Waqf Property in the Land of Israel Ltd. v. Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum Corp., (Oct. 29, 2008)

[23]      HCJ 3114/02 MK Barake v. Minister of Defense, IsrSC 56(3) 11 (2002) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/barake-v-minister-defense]

[24]      HCJ 7583/98 Bachrach v. Minister of the Interior, IsrSC 54(5) 832 (2000)

[25]      HCJ 6195/98 Goldstein v. GOC Central Command, IsrSC 53(5) 317 (1999)

[26]      HCJ 3933/92 Barakat v. GOC Central Command, IsrSC 46(5) 1 (1992)

[27]      HCJ 11075/04 Girby v. Minister of Education, Culture and Sport – Chair of the Higher Education Council, (Dec. 5, 2007)

[28]      HCJ 6536/17 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Israel Police, (Oct. 8, 2017)

[29]      HCJ 962/07 Liran v. Attorney General, (April 1, 2007)

[30]      HCJ 693/91 Efrat v. Director of the Population Registry in the Ministry of Interior, IsrSC 47(1) 749 (1993)

[31]      HCJ 1075/98 State of Israel v. Oppenheim, IsrSC 54(1) 303 (2000)

[32]      CrimA 2013/92 State of Israel v. Jose, IsrSC 48(2) 818 (1994)

[33]      CA 421/61 State of Israel v. Haz, IsrSC 15 2193 (1961)

[34]      HCJ 7803/06 Abu Arfa v. Minister of Interior, para. 46 (Sept. 13, 2017)

[35]      LCA 3899/04 State of Israel v. Even Zohar, IsrSC 61(1) 301 (2006)

[36]      CA 524/88 "Pri Haemek" – Cooperative Agricultural Society Ltd. v. Sdeh Ya'akov – Workers Cooperative Village of Hapoel Hamizrachi for Agricultural Cooperative Settlement Ltd., IsrSC 45(4) 529 (1991)

[37]      HCJ 6807/94 Abbas v. State of Israel, (Feb. 2, 1995)

[38]      HCJ 4118/07 Hanbali v. State of Israel, (Aug. 30, 2015)

[39]      HCJ 9025/01 Awadallah v. Commander of IDF Forces in Judea and Samaria, (May 11, 2014)

[40]      HCJ 8086/05 Masri v. Commander of IDF Forces in Judea and Samaria, (May 11, 2014)

[41]      HCJ 8027/05 Abu Selim v. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank, (July 15, 2012)

[42]      HCJ 5887/17 Jabareen v. Israel Police, (July 25, 2017)

[43]      HCJ 9108/16 Shaludi v. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank, (Jan. 29, 2017)

[44]      HCJ 9495/16 Hagug v. Commander of IDF Forces in the Judea and Samaria Area, (Dec. 7, 2016)

[45]      HCJ 2204/16 Alian v. Israel Police, (May 5, 2016)

[46]      HCJ 2882/16 Awisat v. Israel Police, (May 5, 2016)

[47]      HCJ 7947/15 A. v. Israel Defense Forces, (Dec. 16, 2015)

[48]      CrimFH 7048/97 Does v. Minister of Defense, IsrSC 54(1) 721 (2000) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/does-v-ministry-defense]

[49]      HCJ 769/02 Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v. Government of Israel, (2006) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/public-committee-against-torture-v-government]

[50]      HCJ 7957/04 Mara'abe v. Prime Minister of Israel, IsrSC 60(2) 477 (2005) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/mara%E2%80%99abe-v-prime-minister-israel]

[51]      HCJ 2056/04 Beit Sourik Village Council et al. v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 58(5) 807 (2004) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/beit-sourik-village-council-v-government-israel]

[52]      HCJ 698/80 Qawasmeh v. Minister of Defense, IsrSC 35(1) 617 (1980)

[53]      HCJ 4764/04 Physicians for Human Rights v. Commander of the IDF Forces in Gaza, IsrSC 58(5) 385 (2004) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/physicians-human-rights-v-idf-commander-gaza]

[54]      HCJ 168/91 Morcus v. Minister of Defense, IsrSC 45(1) 467 (1991)

[55]      Abu Hdeir v. Minister of Defense, (July 4, 2017)

[56]      HCJ 5839/15 Sidar v. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank, (2015)

[57]      CFH 5698/11 State of Israel v. Dirani, (Jan. 1, 2015)

[58]      HCJ 11163/03 Supreme Monitoring Committee for Arab Affairs in Israel v. Prime Minister of Israel, (2006) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/supreme-monitoring-committee-arab-affairs-israel-and-others-v-prime-minister-israel]

[59]      LCrimA 10141/09 Ben Haim v. State of Israel, (March 6, 2012)

[60]      HCJ 337/81 Mitrani v. Minister of Transport, IsrSC 37(3) 337 (1983)

[61]      HCJFH 9411/00 Arco Electrical Industries Ltd. v. Mayor of Rishon Lezion, (Oct. 19, 2009)

[62]      CA 1600/08 Maximedia Outdoor Advertising v. Tel Aviv – Jaffa Municipality, (Aug. 18, 2011)

[63]      HCJ 693/91 Efrat v. Director of Population Registry, IsrSC 47(1) 749 (1993)

[64]      CrimA 6434/15 State of Israel v. Shavir, (July 4, 2017)

[65]      HCJ 6893/05 Levy v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 59(2) 876 (2005)

[66]      CA 8622/07 Rotman v. Ma'atz - National Roads Company of Israel Ltd., (May 14, 2012)

[67]      HCJ 680/88 Schnitzer v. Chief Military Censor, IsrSC 42(4) 617 (1989) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/schnitzer-v-chief-military-censor]

[68]      HCJ 3037/14 Abu Safa v. Ministry of Interior, (June 7, 2015)

[69]      HCJ 2959/17 Alshuamra v. State of Israel, (Nov. 20, 2017)

[70]      CA 2281/06 Even Zohar v. State of Israel, (April 28, 2010)

[71]      HCJ 5290/14 Qawashmeh v. Military Commander, (Aug. 11, 2014)

[72]      HCJ 4597/14 Awawdeh v. Military Commander, (July 1, 2014)

[73]      HCJ 5376/16 Abu Hdeir v. Minister of Defence, (July 4, 2017)

[74]      HCJ 3132/15 Yesh Atid Party v. Prime Minister of Israel, (April 13, 2016) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/yesh-atid-party-v-prime-minister]

[75]      CA 294/91 Jerusalem Burial Society v. Kestenbaum, IsrSC 46(2) 464 (1992)

[76]      HCJ 52/06 Al-Aqsa Association for the Development of the Assets of the Muslim Waqf in the Land of Israel v. Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum Ltd., (Oct. 29, 2008)

[77]      CA 7918/15 Doe v. Friedman, (Nov. 24, 2015) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/doe-v-friedman]

[78]      HCJ 6167/09 Avni v. State of Israel, (Nov. 18, 2009)

[79]      CA 1835/11 Avni v. State of Israel, (Nov. 17, 2011)

[80]      HCJFH 3299/93 Wechselbaum v. Minister of Defence, IsrSC 49(2) 195 (1995)

[81]      HCJ 794/98 Obeid v. Minister of Defence, IsrSC 58(5) 769 (2001)

[82]      HCJ 6063/08 Shachar v. Government of Israel, (July 8, 2008)

[83]      HCJ 10203/03 Hamifkad Haleumi v. Attorney General, (Aug. 20, 2008) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/hamifkad-haleumi-v-attorney-general]

[84]      HCJ 4491/13 Academic Center for Law and Business v. State of Israel, (July 2, 2014)

[85]      HCJ 1125/16 Mari v. Commander of Military Forces in the West Bank, (March 31, 2016)

[86]      HCJ 7040/15 Hamed v. Military Commander in the West Bank, (Nov. 12, 2015)

[87]      HCJ 794/17 Ziada v. Commander of the IDF Forces in the West Bank, (Oct. 31, 2017)

[88]      HCJ 7523/11 Almagor Terror Victims Association v. Prime Minister, (Oct. 17, 2011)

[89]      HCJ 9446/09 Karman v. Prime Minister of Israel, (Dec. 1, 2009)

 

Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights cited:

[90]      Sabanchiyeva v. Russia Judgment ECHR 38450/05 (6/6/2013)

[91]      Maskhadova v Russia Judgment ECHR 18071/05 (6/6/2013)

[92]      Pretty v. The United Kingdom ECHR 2346/02 (2002)

[93]      Pannulullo v. France ECHR 37794/97 (2001)

[94]      Girard v. France ECHR 22590/04 (2011)

[95]      Dodsbo v. Sweden ECHR 61564/00 (2006); Hadri-Vionnet V. Switzerland ECHR 55525/00 (2008)

[96]      Hadri-Vionnet v. Switzerland ECHR 55525/00 (2008)

 

 

 

 

JUDGMENT

 

Justice Y. Danziger:

The question before us is whether reg. 133(3) of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945 (hereinafter: the Defence Regulations) authorizes the Military Commander to order the temporary burial of terrorists in order to hold their corpses for the purpose of negotiations.

Background of the Petitions

1.         At the end of 2016, the State of Israel decided to update its policy on returning the corpses of terrorists to their families. The decision was made by the Government's Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs (the State Security Cabinet), and recorded in its resolution:  "A Uniform Policy on Handling the Corpses of Terrorists" (B/171) (unclassified version) (January 1, 2017) (hereinafter: the Cabinet Decision). The Cabinet Decision was the first instance where a clear policy was enunciated on the issue of holding terrorists' corpses by the State for negotiation purposes. This policy determines that, as a general rule, terrorists' corpses are to be returned to their families under restricting conditions that would ensure that public order is maintained. However, two conditions to this rule were established, under which the corpses of terrorists would not be returned to the families, but be kept by the State of Israel in a temporary burial. The first exception was terrorists belonging to Hamas. The second concerned the bodies of terrorists who had carried out a terrorist act classed as "particularly exceptional". The State Security Cabinet thought it justified to hold on to these corpses specifically, as they might prove to have "special symbolic context", and keeping them might help the State of Israel reach an agreement on the exchange of corpses and prisoners held by enemies. The Cabinet's Decision was established as a general policy, while the actual implementation of the policy was delegated to the Military Commander in accordance with the authority granted to him by law, under reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, to order the place and time for burying the dead.

 

2.         The Cabinet Decision was not made in a vacuum, but must be understood in context and in terms of its timing. Starting in early 2015, Israel faced a wave of terrorist attacks dubbed the "Intifada of the Individuals". This reality led the political echelon and the security establishment in Israel to make various decisions and, inter alia, also reconsider the policy on holding terrorists' corpses for negotiation purposes. Accordingly, the Cabinet undertook an administrative procedure, wherein it was presented with various professional opinions and assessments by political and security entities involved in contacts with enemies, including the Coordinator of POWs and MIAs in the Prime Minister's Office, the Israel Security Agency, the National Security Council, and the Israel Defence Forces. The senior lawyers at the Ministry of Justice also pondered the issue in a number of meetings. The 2004 position of then Attorney General M. Mazuz was also presented to the decision makers. According to the State, the position of Attorney General Mazuz was that terrorists' bodies should not be held based on an indefinite need to keep "bargaining chips" for some future negotiation, but that the possibility should not be excluded given special reasons for holding the bodies, including a concrete deal with an enemy for an exchange of corpses (hereinafter: the Attorney General's 2004 Decision).

 

3.         Since the Cabinet Decision was taken, the State of Israel has held a few dozen terrorist corpses in its custody. These were held by virtue of orders or decisions issued by the Military Commanders or police commanders. The large majority of corpses—more than 40—were returned to the terrorists' families in keeping with the rule laid down in the Cabinet's Decision. On the other hand, the minority of corpses, which the State claims fall under the exceptions defined in the Cabinet's Decision, were held by the State. At this point in time, nine terrorist corpses are held by the State of Israel. Seven were buried temporarily under orders issued by the Military Commander. Two have yet to be buried, after legal proceedings in their matter resulted in the issuance of interim orders preventing their burial. The Petitioners are family members of six of the terrorists whose corpses are currently held by the State of Israel: Fadi Ahmad Hamdan Qunbar, who carried out a terrorist attack at the Armon HaNatziv Promenade on January 8, 2017, murdering IDF soldiers Shira Tzur, Yael Yekutiel, Shir Hajaj and Erez Orbach of blessed memory, and injuring 18 more (HCJ 6524/17(; Muhammad Tra'ayra, who carried out a terrorist attack on June 30, 2016 in Kiryat Arba, murdering the girl Hallel Yaffa Ariel of blessed memory (HCJ 8503/16); Muhammad al-Faqiah, who participated in a terrorist attack on July 1, 2016, in which Rabbi Michael Mark of blessed memory was murdered and members of his family injured (HCJ 8503/16); Masbah Abu Sabih, who carried out a shooting attack on October 9, 2016, murdering Mrs. Levana Malihi and Police Sergeant First Class Yossef Kirma of blessed memory and injuring others (HCJ 285/17); Abd al-Hamid Abu Srur, who carried out a terrorist attack in a Jerusalem bus on April 18, 2016, injuring tens of people (HCJ 4466/16); and Rami al-Ortani, involved in an attempted terror attack  on July 31, 2016 (HCJ 8503/16).

 

            The State of Israel argues that holding these terrorist corpses might help reach a concrete deal for the exchange of corpses and prisoners with Hamas, which holds the corpses of IDF soldiers Lieutenant Hadar Goldin of blessed memory and Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul of blessed memory, and holds Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayed.

 

            4.         To complete the factual picture, we would note that the State of Israel has transacted past deals with terrorist organizations for the exchange of prisoners and missing persons. A substantial part of the deals involved returning bodies of terrorists affiliated with the organizations in question as part of the "consideration" that the State of Israel "paid". An unclassified affidavit submitted by Head of the POW and MIA Department of the IDF Intelligence Directorate stated that in 1991, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2007 and 2008, the State of Israel concluded deals for the exchange of prisoners and missing persons with enemy organizations, in the context of which it handed over 405 bodies of dead terrorists, along with living detainees and prisoners. Within the framework of these deals, the State of Israel repatriated, among others, IDF fallen soldiers Samir Asad, Yossef Fink, Rahamim Alsheikh, Itamar Ilya, Benny Abraham, Omar Suwad, Adi Avitan, Gabriel Dawit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. These data only relate to deals transacted by the State of Israel with non-state terrorist organizations, not to deals concluded with enemy states at the end of Israel's wars and military campaigns.

 

The Parties' Arguments and the Proceedings

 

5.         The main argument in the petitions is that the State of Israel has no authority to hold the terrorists’ corpses. The Petitioners point to the absence of any arrangement under Israeli or international law authorizing the Military Commander to hold terrorists’ corpses for purposes of negotiation by way of temporary burial or any other way. Beside this key point, the Petitioners further argue that to hold terrorists’ corpses for negotiation purposes is a practice that disproportionately violates the dignity of the dead and that of the families seeking to bring them to burial, and one that constitutes collective punishment against the terrorists' families for no fault of their own.

 

6.         According to the State, the Military Commander does have authority to order the temporary burial of terrorists to be held for negotiation purposes. As the State sees it, reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations authorizes the Military Commander to order the place where a person’s body is to be buried. This is also the basis for his authority to order the temporary burial of terrorists who were involved in terrorist attacks, for negotiation purposes. According to its position, this source of authority constitutes explicit, primary legislation in Israel's domestic law that suffices to allow the Military Commander to act. According to the State, this source of authority is also consistent with international law. The State adds that terrorists' corpses are being held for a proper purpose and proportionately, considering that this practice is meant to help bring back Israeli captives and missing persons.

 

7.         The proceedings were conducted in a number of stages. In brief, we held several hearings. The petitions were initially heard separately, before different panels, and were later joined into a single proceeding. At a certain point, interim orders were issued with respect to the two yet-unburied terrorists, as well as orders nisi in all the petitions. The State was given an opportunity to present its position in two separate response affidavits. In addition, the State submitted a number of updates and answers to questions addressed to it by the Court. By the end of the judicial proceedings, the scope of dispute was clarified, and the questions requiring decision, which I will discuss below, were defined.

 

Discussion and Decision

 

8.         As noted above, the central question to be decided in the petitions is whether reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations authorizes the Military Commander to order temporary burial of terrorist corpses with a view to hold them for negotiation purposes.

 

Preliminary note: On the relationship between the Cabinet Decision and the authority of the Military Commander, and on the requirement for a specific source of authority for the Military Commander's action

 

9.         As noted, the decision by State Security Cabinet was established as a general policy in the present matter, whereas its execution and implementation were delegated to the Military Commander under the authority granted to him, as argued, in reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations. This legal situation deserves discussion and a preliminary clarification.

 

10.       The Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs (the State Security Cabinet), as we know, is responsible for shaping the government's policy on matters pertaining to the country's security and foreign relations. Its members include, among others, the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Minister of Justice, Foreign Minister, Minister of Public Security and Minister of Finance. The principal legal norms that regulate the Committee's activity are found in sec. 31(e) of Basic Law: The Government, in sec. 6 of the Government Law, 5761-2001, and in the Government Work Regulations. The areas covered by the Committee are decided by dedicated government decision. Currently, Decision 41 of the 34th Government, "Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs (The State Security Cabinet)" (May 31, 2015) states that the Committee may deal with a number of areas, including the State of Israel's security policy and foreign relations. Cabinet decisions have the same binding validity as government decisions, namely: they are decisions by the executive branch, not provisions that have normative status like a law enacted by the legislature. With that said, it should be clarified that decisions made by the Cabinet lie at the heart of the executive branch's prerogative, and the degree of judicial intervention therein is accordingly highly restrained and limited for the most part (see: HCJ 7893/09 Almagor - Terror Victims Association (R.A.) v. Government of Israel [1],  para. 3 ; HCJ 6063/08 Shahar v. Government of Israel [2], para. 4; HCJ 5856/08 Farhangian v. Government of Israel [3], para. 5; HCJ 914/04 Victims of Arab Terror International v. Prime Minister [4], para. 2; HCJ 9290/99 MMT Terror Victims HQ (R.A.) v. Government of Israel [5], 12).

 

11.       Policy decisions reached by the government via the State-Security Cabinet direct and obligate the branches of government. One such branch is the Israeli Military Government and its commanders. The military echelon and its commanders often implement orders in line with the policy laid down by the political echelon, serving as the long arm of the government in these cases. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as the actions of the military echelon and its commanders are legal per se. And note that the Military Commander, in exercising governmental powers, is required to implement the political echelon's policy, but in doing so remains subject to and committed to the principles of Israeli administrative law. Within this framework, he must act in accordance with the rules of administrative authority. As previously held: "The Military Commander is authorized, and even obligated, to act in the area under his command in a way consistent with the policy set by the government, provided that, as part of his discretion, he acts in accordance with the authority granted him under any law" (HCJ 9594/09 Legal Forum for the Land of Israel v. Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs [6], para. 15; and also see: HCJ 548/04 Amana – The Settlement Movement of Gush Emunim v. Commander of the IDF Forces in the Judea and Samaria Region [7],  379; HCJ 2717/96 Wafa v. Minister of Defence [8], 855; HCJ 358/88 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Central District Commander [9], 537-538).

 

12.       We should make it clear that while the government often outlines the policy for the activity of the public administration, its decision does not supplant the need for the executive echelons to have sources of authority. In reality, the government often determines a general policy, which is then supposed to be carried out by administrative organs based on specific authority granted to them by law. The government formulates policy in some area—such as housing, security, support, pensions, education, etc.—but clearly not just any administrative agency acting under the government can undertake its implementation, but only those bodies vested with the authority to do so. Accordingly, it has been held, for example, that the government may decide that, as a matter of policy, it wants to release Palestinian prisoners within the framework of negotiations with enemies. Yet, it has been held that this policy does not supplant the need that action taken by administrative organs be in accordance with authority granted to them by law. It has been held that while the political echelon's authority still stands, "the authority to decide the release of prisoners before serving their full sentence is not the government's to make", but lies instead with others holding executive powers, among them the President of Israel and the Military Commanders. It was thus made clear that in order to order the release of Palestinian prisoners, it is not enough for government to set a policy, but that a given authority granted to the executive echelon must be exercised (HCJ 1539/05 MASHLAT – Law Institute for the Study of Terror and Assistance to Terror Victims v. Prime Minister [10], [para. 3).

 

13.       The requirement for a specific source of authority for the action of the Military Commander derives from rule of law and the principle of administrative legality. Any administrative organ must operate within the confines of the authority granted it by law. This principle is the cornerstone of administrative law. It makes it incumbent upon administrative agencies to act according to the law, thus limiting the power of government and ensuring individual liberties. The administrative obligation that applies to the Military Commander to act by authority applies regardless of the nature and wisdom of his decision. Even "good" administrative action or action arising out of an "administrative need" can be found to be illegal in the absence of a source of authority (LCA 2558/16 A. v. Pensions Officer – Ministry of Defence [11], para. 37; CA 7368/06 Luxury Apartments Ltd. v. Mayor of Yavneh [12], para. 33; HCJ 1640/95 Ilanot Hakirya (Israel) Ltd. v. Mayor of Holon [13], 587; Dahpne Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, vol. I, 97-98 (2010) (Hebrew); Baruch Bracha, Administrative Law, vol. I, 35 (1987) (Hebrew); Yitzhak Zamir, Administrative Authority, vol. I, 74-76 (2nd ed., 2010) (Hebrew) (hereinafter: Zamir, Administrative Authority).

 

14.       When the administrative act infringes human rights, not only is the administrative entity required to point to a source of authority for its action, but the enabling provision must meet constitutional requirements. Inter alia, it must be anchored in primary legislation, in a special provision of law intended to permit the violation of the fundamental right. In addition, it must be clear, specific and explicit. This is what this Court has long held, and this principle was eventually even anchored in sec. 8 of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which provides that a violation of basic rights protected under the law shall only be permitted "by virtue of express authorization in such law" (see: HCJ 6824/07 Manaa v Israel Tax Authority [14]; HCJFH 9411/07 Arco Electric Industries Ltd. v. Mayor of Rishon LeZion [15]; HCJ 1437/02 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Minister of Public Security [16], 762; HCJ 5100/94 Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v. State of Israel [17], 831 (hereinafter: the Public Committee case); HCJ 5128/94 Federman v. Minister of Police ]18], 653;  HCJ 355/79 Katlan v. Israel Prison Service [19]; CrimA 40/58 Attorney General v. Ziad [20]).

 

15.       In our case, the actions of the Military Commander involve a violation of human rights. This Court has often held that the right to human dignity also gives rise to the rights of the dead and their family members to bring the deceased to a proper, dignified burial, which will allow them to commune and commemorate. These rights have been recognized in the case law regardless of the identity of the deceased, even when they were terrorists or enemy soldiers. The background for this is the general convention that human rights are granted to all people as such, even if they fall under the definition of "enemy". For our purposes, it is indeed an accepted convention that even the most abhorrent murderer has the right to burial, and his family has a right to bury him. This convention may raise difficult emotional responses, especially in those who have suffered from the deceased’s actions, but it is necessary in a regime that respects human rights, as often explained in the case law (see: LCA 993/06 State of Israel v Dirani [21], para. 54; HCJ 52/06 Al-Aqsa Company for the Development of Islamic Waqf Property in the Land of Israel Ltd. v. Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum Corp. [22], paras. 190-194; HCJ 3114/02 MK Barake v. Minister of Defence [23], (hereinafter: the Barake case); HCJ 7583/98 Bachrach v. Minister of the Interior [24], 841-842; HCJ 6195/98 Goldstein v. GOC Central Command [25], 330 (1999); HCJ 3933/92 Barakat v. GOC Central Command [26], 6 (hereinafter: the Barakat case); Aharon Barak, Human Dignity: The Constitutional Right and Its Daughter Rights, vol. I, 381-383 (2014) (Hebrew) [published in English as Human Dignity: The Constitutional Value and the Constitutional Right (2015)].

 

16.       To complete the picture, we should note that the State did not dispute the necessity that the action by the Military Commander in this case be based on some specific authority granted by explicit, primary legislation. The State agreed with this, and did not raise any alternative argument. In particular, the State did not argue that the Military Commander's action in our case could be based on residual or inherent powers of the government. Note, in this context, that it is possible to imagine situations in which the government might lay down some general policy, where it would hold some of the authority involved in its execution as inherent power. In these situations, there may be scenarios where the policy would be implemented by an administrative organ, as the long arm of government, even in the absence of a specific source of authority in the law for its action (see sec.  3 of Basic Law: The Government; HCJ 11075/04 Girby v. Minister of Education, Culture and Sport – Chair of the Higher Education Council, [27], para. 15; "The Authority to Enter a Contractual Undertaking on Behalf of the State", Attorney General’s Guidelines 6.2000 (May 15, 2003); Zamir, Administrative Authority, 423). However, these are concrete, well-defined situations, whereas in most situations—especially those involving the violation of human rights, as in our case—government policy cannot be executed based on residual powers granted to the government. As noted, the State never even raised such an argument in this case.

17.       To summarize the point: The decision by the State Security Cabinet was established as a general policy, but its execution and implementation were delegated to the Military Commander under the authority granted to him by law. In this legal state of affairs, we must examine whether the law does have a provision authorizing the Military Commander to implement and execute the Cabinet's policy. Furthermore, if an enabling provision of law exists, we would then also have to examine whether it is anchored in explicit, specific primary legislation, seeing as the actions that the Military Commander seeks to carry out violate human rights,.

 

Does Regulation 133(3) of the Defence Regulations constitute an explicit, specific primary source of legislation that authorizes the Military Commander to order the temporary burial of terrorist bodies for negotiation purposes?

 

18.       Regulation 133(3) of the Defence Regulations states as follows:

 

 

Inquests, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

133.    (1)  (Cancelled)

(2)  Notwithstanding anything contained in any law, where a member of the Government's forces has died in Israel in any manner or in any circumstances whatsoever, it shall be lawful for an Army Medical Officer to issue a certificate of death of such person, and such certificate, upon being countersigned on behalf of the General Officer Commanding, shall be full and sufficient authority for the burial of the body of such person.

(3)  Notwithstanding anything contained in any law, it shall be lawful for a Military Commander to order that the dead body of any person shall be buried in such place as the Military Commander may direct. The Military Commander may by such order direct by whom and at what hour the said body shall be buried. The said order shall be full and sufficient authority for the burial of the said body, and any person who contravenes or obstructs such order shall be guilty of an offence against these Regulations.

 

 

19.       Answering the question whether reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations authorizes the Military Commander to make a decision on the temporary burial of terrorist bodies for negotiation purposes requires some interpretation. While the starting point for the interpretation is the regulation's language, it is not, as we know, the end point, given that among the existing linguistic possibilities, the interpreter must choose the one that best fulfills the purpose of the law. The purpose of legislation is the goals, values, policy, social functions and interests that the legislation is meant to fulfil. The purpose of legislation is a normative concept, which consists of the subjective and objective purposes of the legislation. The subjective purpose is the specific goal that the legislature sought to achieve through the law ("the legislative intent"). The objective purpose is the one that the legislation was meant to realize in our legal system as the system of a democratic society. Both purposes can be deduced from the language of the law, its legislative history and other external sources (HCJ 6536/17 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Israel Police [28], para. 30; HCJ 962/07 Liran v. Attorney General [29], paras. 33-34; HCJ 693/91 Efrat v. Director of the Population Registry in the Ministry of Interior {30], 764 (1993); Aharon Barak, Interpretation in Law: Interpreting Legislation (1992) Hebrew); Aharon Barak, Purposive Interpretation in Law (2003) Hebrew) (hereinafter: Barak, Purposive Interpretation) [English edition 2011]).

20.       Looking at the language of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, one is led to conclude that it cannot be considered an "explicit" source of authority for the Military Commander's action. The regulation's language refers to a situation where the security forces are in possession of a corpse. In this situation, the regulation authorizes the Military Commander to issue a burial order, and order who will bury the corpse, and at what place and hour it will be buried. While the regulation grants the Military Commander authority to issue such orders with respect to the body "of any person", it does not specify the circumstances under which  the authority is to be exercised. It does not make explicit whether the Military Commander's authority to make decisions concerning the burial of dead persons applies only in "times of emergency", or whether the authority is meant to exist in other contexts as well. It does not make clear whether the Military Commander's authority to make decisions on burial only exists when a dead person cannot be brought to burial in the acceptable, ordinary way, or in other circumstances as well. Furthermore, and this is the crux of our issue: The language of the regulation does not address the question of whether the authority granted to the Military Commander to order a burial also applies to temporary burial for negotiation purposes, which in no way constitutes burial in the usual sense, but a holding of the body, a holding by burial, where there can be no doubt that its circumstances and purpose differ from a classic, normal act of burial. In this context, the language of the regulation is vague and cannot be considered an explicit source of authority.

21.       Examining the purpose of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations leads to the conclusion that the regulation was never meant to authorize the Military Commander to order the temporary burial of terrorist bodies for negotiation purposes. As we will explain, when one traces the legislative history of the regulation, examines its internal and external logic, applies the presumptions of purposive interpretation, and looks at Israeli law and international law as they relate to issues similar to the holding of corpses, the result is a sharp, clear picture: The Mandatory legislator, followed by the Israeli one, never envisaged a situation relating to the temporary holding of terrorist bodies for negotiation purposes. They never imagined that the Military Commander would exercise his authority in such circumstances. And in any case, reg. 133(3) does not include the balances required between the conflicting interests and rights in this area. The regulation also makes no reference to necessary information related to exercising the authority in the unique situation of the temporary burial of corpses for negotiation purposes, among them: circumstances that would justify the temporary burial of a body; how long a body may be held in temporary burial; the authority and timing for disinterment after a deal is struck; the requirements for documentation and registration of the body and the burial; obligations to transmit information regarding the body, etc. The regulation is deafeningly silent on all the above, and cannot be taken to imply any intent by the legislator to grant the Military Commander authority and power to address them or make decisions in that regard.

22.       On examining the legislative history of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, one finds that it is, in fact, a later incarnation of reg. 19C of the Emergency Regulations, 1936 (hereinafter: the 1936 Emergency Regulations). Chronologically following the regulation's evolving formulation suggests that the regulation had seen a number of transformations and changes. In its historic formulation, as it appeared in the 1936 Emergency Regulations, the regulation mentioned a burial authority under very specific circumstances, where a person was hanged in one of the two central prisons in the cities of Acre and Jerusalem. With regard to these circumstances, the regulation stated, as published in the Hebrew Official Gazette, stated: "Notwithstanding anything stated in any Ordinance or law, the District Commissioner may order that the body of any person who has been hanged at the Central Prison in Acre or the Central Prison in Jerusalem shall be buried in the cemetery of the community to which such person belongs…", and in its English-language formulation, as published in the official gazette in the English language, the Regulation similarly stated that: "Notwithstanding anything contained in any Ordinance or law it shall be lawful for the District Commissioner to order that the body of any person who has been executed at the Central Prison, Acre, or the Central Prison, Jerusalem, shall be buried in such cemetery of the community to which such person belongs…". The title of the Regulation at the time was "Death certificates, inquests and burials".

            Then, in 1945, reg. 19C was copied from the 1936 Emergency Regulations into reg. 133(3) of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945 (hereinafter: the 1945 Emergency Regulations). The language of the regulation remained the same, except for minor changes, but its location was moved to the part devoted to "Miscellaneous Provisions". In addition, the title of the Regulation was shortened and re-defined as "Inquests, etc." A few years later, in January 1948, the Regulation underwent its last revision, fixing it in its current version (hereinafter: the 1948 Defence Emergency Regulations). As part of this revision, the High Commissioner announced his decision to change the regulation such that the District Commissioner would be replaced by the Military Commander as the administrative organ vested with the authority, and such that his scope of authority would be extended to allow him to order, inter alia, the burial of any person's dead body—i.e. not just a "person who has been executed at the… prison"; and anywhere, i.e. not just in the "cemetery of the community". The new, updated version of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations in Hebrew is the one quoted above. The updated regulation was officially published by the High Commissioner in English, as follows: "Notwithstanding anything contained in any law it shall be lawful for the Military Commander to order that the dead body of any person shall be buried in such place as the Military Commander may direct. The Military Commander may by such order direct by whom and at what hour the said body shall be buried. The said order shall be full and sufficient authority for the burial of the said body, and any person who contravenes or obstructs such order shall be guilty of an offence against these Regulations".

            (For the official publications of the regulation's text, both in Hebrew and in English, from its appearance in the 1936 Emergency Regulations, through its appearance in the 1945 Defence Regulations, to its appearance in the 1948 Emergency Regulations, see: Supplement No. 2 to the Palestine Gazette, issues No. 584, 753 and 825 (of 19 April 1936, 27 January 1938 and 13 October 1938 respectively) (Palestine (Defence) Order In Council, 1931, 1937) (Regulations made by the High Commissioner under Articles IV, 6 and 10); Supplement No. 2 to the Palestine Gazette issue No. 1442 (of 27 September 1945) (The Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945); Supplement No. 2 to the Palestine Gazette, issue no. 1643 (of 22 January 1948) (Palestine (Defence) Order In Council, 1937) (Regulations made by the High Commissioner under Article 6) (Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1948). We would note that the fact that the text of the regulation was also published from the outset in the Hebrew language in the official Mandatory publications makes interpretation easier, as it obviates the need to trace translation processes; compare: HCJ 1075/98 State of Israel v. Oppenheim [31], 326; CrimA 2013/92 State of Israel v. Jose [32], 825-826; CA 421/61 State of Israel v. Haz [33], 2206).

            Examining the legislative history of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations reveals that never once in its process of enactment was the possibility contemplated that the Military Commander would be able to order the temporary burial of a corpse for negotiation purposes. Rather, the existing data are more consistent with the conclusion that the historical purpose of the regulation was to handle burials primarily in situations where objective difficulties arose that made it hard to return the body of the dead to the relatives. And note: at the outset, the regulation authorized the District Commissioner to order the burial of the bodies of prisoners of the Mandatory regime who were executed at the central prisons in Jerusalem and Acre. Naturally, these prison executions made it necessary to regulate the handling of corpses. Indeed, the Mandatory authorities followed clear rules in this regard: The rule was to hand over the body of those executed to their relatives to be buried normally as per the dead person's customs. At times, however, an objective obstacle arose to transferring the dead person's body to his relatives. Such was the case, for example, when the relatives did not claim the body, whether because they had no knowledge of the ill fate that had befallen him (for example, because he was an illegal immigrant), or due to their fear of turning to the Mandatory authorities. In these cases, the Mandatory legislator sought to guarantee that the dead person would be brought to burial under proper, dignified arrangements, as consistent as possible with his customs and practices (reg. 19C of the 1936 Emergency Regulations instructed that the deceased should be buried "in such cemetery of the community"). For this purpose, the Mandatory administrative organs were granted various powers. Thus, reg. 302 of the Prison Regulations, 1925, stated that the Prisons Commissioner would be allowed to order how a body should be handled. Similarly, reg. 19C of the 1936 Emergency Regulations, later copied into the 1945 and 1948 Emergency Regulations, authorized the District Commissioner to order the burial of the corpse. This is how these things are described by Dr. Joshua Caspi in his comprehensive article Prisons in Palestine during the Mandate Period, 32 Cathedra  Quarterly - A Journal for the History of Eretz-Israel, (Yad Ben Zvi), 171-172 (1984) (Hebrew):

The hanging was usually carried out in secret, at night or in the early morning, when the other prisoners were sleeping, by 08:00 AM at the latest (reg. 298). Following the hanging, the physician would check whether the convict had already expired. The body was left hanging for one hour and then handed over to relatives for burial. If the relatives did not want the body, it was buried by the authorities (Regulation 302) (Emphasis added – Y.D.).

As noted, the regulation's historic context is more in keeping with the conclusion that it was primarily meant to manage exceptional situations where the corpse could not be transferred to the person's relatives. This conclusion also appears logical in relation to the regulation's later versions. While the wording of the regulation did undergo changes over the years, it can be reasonably assumed that the Mandatory legislator did not seek to change the rule whereby the body of the deceased person should be handed over to its relatives, if possible. This also holds true for the wording of the 1948 Regulation. While the wording of the regulation was changed at the time, and the holder of the authority was changed, it stands to reason that, at this point too, the regulation mainly targeted situations where the security forces had a corpse that, for some reason or another, could not be delivered to the dead person's relatives, whether because it was not possible to identify the dead individual, because no one came forward to claim the body, or because it was held by the security forces during confrontations. In these situations, where it was not clear where and how the body should be buried, the Military Commander was granted authority to make decisions, based on the understanding that he was the one in charge "on the ground" who could ensure a proper, dignified burial. It is hard to accommodate an inverse conclusion whereby the purpose of the authority was to give the Military Commander "general" power to order the burial of dead individuals across a large variety of circumstances, even when their corpses could be handed over to their families. In any cast, and this is the crux of the matter, even if we assume that the historic purpose of the regulation was to grant the Military Commander "general" power over burials, it is hard to adopt a conclusion that the intention was to also allow him to issue orders in a situation involving the temporary burial of terrorist bodies for negotiation purposes.

23.       The location and context of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations within the fabric of the legislation likewise support the conclusion that the power was not meant to authorize the Military Commander to order the temporary burial of terrorist bodies in order to hold them for negotiation purposes. Regulation 133(3) appears under part XIV of the Defence Regulations, devoted to "Miscellaneous Provisions", as one of several secondary regulations. The burial powers granted therein do not constitute a unique, specific and complete legal arrangement dedicated to the holding of enemy bodies for negotiation purposes. One might have expected that a legal system desirous of adopting a practice of holding terrorist bodies for some reason or another would do so by means of a unique, concrete legislative arrangement wholly devoted to regulating the matter. While reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations grants the Military Commander – at most – broad "general" powers from which one might derive action, even the State does not dispute that it does not represent a dedicated legal arrangement devoted to regulating the temporary burial of terrorist bodies. The fact that reg. 133(3) is at most a "general" arrangement under "Miscellaneous Provisions" undermines the State's claim that it should be seen as an "explicit" legislative arrangement. Parenthetically, it should be noted—and we shall return to this later—that there are, in fact, few countries in the world whose legal code includes a dedicated legislative arrangement to allow the holding of terrorist bodies, and even those countries that have decided to include such an arrangement in their legal code have done so by way of a dedicated, specific legislative arrangement, radically different from the one in the Defence Regulations.

24.       Implementing the accepted interpretive presumptions as to purpose in the Israeli legal system also reinforces the conclusion that reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations cannot be construed to grant the Military Commander broad authority to order the temporary burial of terrorist bodies for negotiation purposes. Inasmuch as the provisions of the arrangement violate human rights, the interpretative rule that a legal provision should be interpreted narrowly and strictly applies. Moreover, there is the purposive presumption that the goal of a legal provision is to inflict the least harm to human rights. In our case, as noted, the language of the regulation does not establish explicit authority to order the temporary burial of terrorists for negotiation purposes. Under these circumstances, the regular rules of interpretation relating to the protection of human rights obtain (for the rules and interpretative presumptions relating to the protection of human rights, see: Barak, Purposive Interpretation, 224; HCJ 7803/06 Abu Arfa v. Minister of Interior [34], para. 46;  LCA 3899/04 State of Israel v. Even Zohar [35], 317; CA 524/88 "Pri Haemek". v. Sdeh Ya'akov [36], 561). Another interpretative presumption that might apply in our case has to do with the compatibility of domestic law with international law (see Barak, ibid). As I shall explain in detail, the present case raises serious questions about the relationship between domestic Israeli law and the international humanitarian law treating of armed conflicts, and international human rights law.

25.       An examination of the case law of this Court in similar contexts also reinforces the conclusion that reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations cannot be interpreted as the State would have it. We would first note the absence of any prior ruling directly concerned with the Military Commander's authority to order the temporary burial of terrorist bodies by virtue of the regulation. While it was previously held that the regulation might constitute a source of authority for his decision to order a funeral to take place at a specific hour (the Barakat case [26]), and the Court even sanctioned a decision not to return to Hamas the body of a terrorist until information about the burial place of a fallen IDF soldier was provided (HCJ 6807/94 Abbas v. State of Israel [37]). However, the aforementioned rulings did not take up the question of the Military Commander's authority to order the temporary burial of bodies for negotiation purposes. It should be further noted that the State had previously presented its position on reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, but the Court was not required to express its opinion since the petitions became moot (See: HCJ 4118/07 Hanbali v. State of Israel [38]; HCJ 9025/01 Awadallah v. Commander of IDF Forces in Judea and Samaria [39]); HCJ 8086/05 Masri v. Commander of IDF Forces in Judea and Samaria [40]; HCJ 8027/05 Abu Selim v. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank [41]). In any case, despite the absence of rulings directly pertaining to the question of the Military Commander's authority to order the temporary burial of terrorist bodies by virtue of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, important debates held in similar contexts can be found in the case law.

            An examination of Israeli case law shows that most petitions similar to this one addressed situations where terrorist bodies were held in order to maintain public order. The State's position in those situations was not based on the Cabinet Decision or on reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations. The State argued that returning terrorist bodies to their families might lead to riots and to mass funerals that would lead to overt glorification of and identification with the acts of the terrorists, and become a locus of incitement (for recent examples, see: HCJ 5887/17 Jabareen v. Israel Police, [42] (hereinafter: the Jabareen case); HCJ 9108/16 Shaludi v. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank [43]; HCJ 9495/16 Hagug v. Commander of IDF Forces in the Judea and Samaria Area [44]; HCJ 2204/16 Alian v. Israel Police [45]; HCJ 2882/16 Awisat v. Israel Police [46]; HCJ 7947/15 A. v. Israel Defence Forces [47]). The situations in which terrorist bodies are held in order to maintain public order raise questions that are distinct from those in our case, and moreover, as noted, the examination mostly concerns other sources of authority. In any case, and this is the main point, the decisions in those situations also emphasized that terrorist bodies could not be held in the absence of a specific source of authority, anchored in explicit primary legislation.

            Of particular importance in this context is the judgment recently rendered in the Jabareen case [42], which stated that the Israel Police was not authorized to hold terrorist bodies as a condition for obtaining their families' consent to the conditions under which the funerals would take place. It was made clear that, for the purpose of holding the corpses, the Israel Police was obligated to point to a specific dedicated source of authority anchored in explicit primary legislation. The Police's position in the proceedings was that secs. 3 and 4A of the Police Ordinance [New Version], 5731-1971 constitute such an explicit source of legislation. The Police explained that sec. 3 of the Ordinance granted it broad authority to engage in the maintaining of public order and the safety of persons”, and that sec. 4 of the Ordinance authorized every police officer “to undertake any action that is necessary” to prevent serious harm to the safety of life and property. As the Police saw it, these general, broad powers were sufficient to allow it to hold on to terrorist bodies. As noted, this position was rejected by the Court for the same reason stated above in regard to reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations. It was held that "this position of the Police is inconsistent with the requirement for 'explicit' authorization in all that concerns an action that violates basic rights", since the existing sections in the Police Ordinance are general and were not intended to grant the police specific powers in regard to holding corpses (ibid, para. 9). Consequently, it was held that the Police would return the terrorists' bodies to their families. As noted, despite the difference in circumstances between the Jabareen case and the case before us, the reasoning regarding the authority requirement is identical.

            A similar ruling on the requirement for a source of authority, from which an analogy can be drawn to our case, was rendered in CrimFH 7048/97 Does v. Minister of Defence [48] (hereinafter: the Bargaining Chips case). In that case, the question debated was whether sec. 2(a) of the Emergency Powers (Detention) Law, 5739-1979, constituted a source of authority for holding live detainees as bargaining chips. This Court ruled by majority—per Justices A. Barak, S. Levin, T. Orr, E. Mazza, I. Zamir and D. Dorner, and contrary to the dissenting opinions of Justices M. Cheshin, Y. Kedmi and J. Turkel—that the answer to the question was negative. It was explained that, indeed, the language of the Detention Law gave the Minister of Defence general, broad authority to detain an individual "on grounds of national security or public safety" in a way that might also accommodate a reading that he may arrest detainees as bargaining chips. However, it was held that such a possibility "did not come up for discussion, and was not, in fact, examined, by those dealing with the tasks of legislation" (ibid, 739). In those circumstances, it was held that it was not possible to extend the boundaries of the authority and interpret the provisions of the Detention Law as if they were meant to grant detention powers in such situations as well. It should be noted that the ruling in the Bargaining Chips case was also rendered with the prospect of finalizing deals for swapping prisoners and missing persons floating in the background. Even so, and despite the understandable human difficulty, the ruling was that, in the absence of a dedicated source of authority in explicit primary legislation, live detainees could not be held as bargaining chips. This was aptly summarized by Deputy President S. Levin in his ruling: "It would be naïve and even dangerous to deprive the State of appropriate means for freeing its fighters.  However, the statute has not placed such a tool at its disposal. In my opinion, in order to place it as its disposal,  a different source or grounds for its authority is required in primary legislation for a matter that prima facie has significance of a primary nature. " (ibid, 753).

            It is true that  drawing an analogy from the ruling in the Bargaining Chips case to our case is not simple. There is no denying that holding live detainees—a decision that violates the right to freedom in the narrow, nuclear sense—carries different weight than a decision to hold corpses. We should also bear in mind is that the judgment in the Bargaining Chips case also included a minority opinion that cannot be ignored, according to which nothing prevents deriving specific authority to hold live detainees  from the general authority in the Detention Law, in circumstances where the other side to a conflict also holds prisoners and missing persons. In addition, we have before us various critiques of the judgment published in the professional literature, as well as academic discussions on the subject (see and compare: Emanuel Gross, The Struggle of Democracy against Terrorism: Legal and Moral Aspects, 287-259 (2004) (Hebrew) [published in English as: The Struggle of Democracy against Terrorism: Lessons from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel (2004)]; Eitan Barak, Under Cover of Darkness: The Israeli Supreme Court and the Use of Human Lives as “Bargaining Chips", 8 Plilim 77 (1999) (Hebrew) [published in English in 3(3) International Journal of Human Rights (1999)]). Still, and this for me is the crux of the matter, one cannot dispute that the rule laid down in the majority in the further hearing on the Bargaining Chips case also clearly supports the conclusion that actions of the kind in question—like those that the State wishes to carry out in the case before us via the Military Commander—must rest on authority based in explicit primary legislation intended to regulate the delicate, complex situation of holding live detainees, as well as terrorist bodies, for negotiation purposes.

26.       The position of Attorney General M. Mazuz in 2004 also supports the conclusion that it is hard to accommodate an interpretation whereby reg. 133(3) was intended to grant the Military Commander sweeping, practically unrestricted authority to order the temporary burial of terrorist bodies for negotiation purposes. We would recall that the State claimed that the Attorney General's position was that terrorist bodies could not be held based on a theoretical need to keep "bargaining chips" for future negotiations, but that the possibility should not be ruled out if there are special reasons to hold on to the bodies. An examination of the Attorney General's decision shows that  he never addressed the question of the Military Commander's authority under reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, and stated no opinion in that regard. On the other hand, the Attorney General did point out that "it is impossible to defend a general policy" of not returning terrorist bodies to their families (para. 1 of the decision); that "preventing the return of bodies is a measure that cannot be justified by a theoretical need to keep bargaining chips for future negotiations on captives and missing persons" (para. 7); and that: "a policy allowing terrorist bodies to be held in certain cases and no few cases, is inconsistent with the duty to strike a balance between the dignity of the dead and their families and considerations of security and protecting public order and safety in the area" (para. 8). Indeed, the Attorney General's position did not categorically rule out the measure of holding bodies for negotiation purposes in special situations, such as a concrete deal for the exchange of bodies. As previously noted, however, this determination was rendered under the clear assumption that there is authority to hold bodies, and in any case this should be read in light of the other determinations in his decision—which would seem to be the main point—that seek to limit such authority and confine it to specific, concrete circumstances.

27.       Interim summary: The conclusion from the interpretative analysis thus far is that reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations does not constitute a specific, explicit, primary source of legislation that authorizes the Military Commander to order the temporary burial of terrorist bodies for negotiation purposes. This conclusion arises, first and foremost, from the language of the regulation, which, as explained, is at best "general" and "broad" in a manner that fails to meet the requirement for explicit legislation. It also follows from the regulation's purpose, as suggested by its historical context, inner and external logic, and its juxtaposition with rulings made in similar contexts. As explained, the Mandatory legislator, followed by the Israeli one, never considered a situation concerning the temporary holding of terrorist bodies for negotiation purposes, and did not seek to create a unique legal arrangement that would grant authority to that effect. In the next part of the judgment, I will further explain that this interpretative conclusion is even reinforced, in my opinion, in light of the provisions of international law and comparative law treating of situations of handling bodies during armed conflict or confrontation.

International Law and Comparative Law

28.       In our case, the State's consistent line of argument was predicated on the assumption that the Military Commander had a source of authority in Israel's domestic law. The State made it clear that it was not predicating its position on international law, although emphasizing that, in its view, there is no prohibition upon holding dead bodies international law. In the previous part of the decision, I examined the provisions of domestic Israeli law and arrived at the conclusion that this examination itself shows that it comprises no source of authority for holding bodies for negotiation and bargaining. However, I think it justified to go further, and also address issues relating to international law, for three reasons: First, even though the State sought to base its actions solely on domestic Israeli Law, it is possible that international law may apply at least to some of the corpses. In this context, suffice it say that some of the terrorists whose bodies are held by the State of Israel are of inhabitants of the Territory[1] "affiliated" or "identified" with Hamas in a manner that may raise questions regarding the applicability of international law. Second, the discussion about international law may play a part in the interpretation of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, since the purposive interpretive presumption is that the legislature meant to grant the Military Commander powers conforming to the provisions of international law. Third, the discussion of international law is also required as it could contribute to establishing some legal order in similar body-holding situations in the future. We would emphasize that the goal of the discussion is not to make positive assertions concerning the applicability of international law in each of the possible body-holding situations, but only to present a general picture of the subject.

 

29.       The factual situation is that the State of Israel wishes to hold bodies of terrorists who have committed acts of terrorism against its civilians. The web of laws that might apply in this situation is complex. The normative framework might be based exclusively on domestic Israeli Law. Such is the case, for example, when the terrorist is a citizen and resident of Israel, and unaffiliated with any terrorist organization. In other situations, the normative framework might include the provisions of international humanitarian law on armed conflict, as well as complementary provisions from international human rights law. When it comes to armed conflict, the provisions of the law might relate to international armed conflict or non-international armed conflict. In certain circumstances, for example when the terrorist is a resident of the Judea and Samaria area, the laws of belligerent occupation might also apply in parallel. Alongside those, one has to keep in mind that the laws of armed conflict include fine distinctions that might also bear upon the legal situation. Particularly well-known is the distinction between combatants and non-combatants or civilians (for more on the systems of laws that might apply to a body-holding situation, see: Anna Petrig, The War Dead and their Gravesites, 91 Int'l. Rev. of the Red Cross 341-369, 343 (2006) (hereinafter: Petrig); Thomas L. Muinzer, The Law of the Dead: A Critical Review of Burial Law, with a View to its Development, 34 Oxford J. of Legal Stud. 791-818 (2014)).

 

30.       The international humanitarian law applicable to armed conflict comprises various norms on burials and the handling of corpses. The key provisions are anchored in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the two Protocols Additional to the Conventions of 1977. The large majority of the provisions constitute customary international law, which forms part of the binding domestic law of the State of Israel. There is no disputing that the State of Israel is committed to the First, Second and Third Geneva Conventions. On the other hand, its traditional position is that the belligerent occupation laws found in the Fourth Geneva Convention do not apply to the area of Judea and Samaria, even though it respects the humanitarian provisions included therein. In addition, the State of Israel is not party to the Additional Protocols. It has reservations about some of their provisions, but sees itself subject to their customary provisions of law (see HCJ 769/02 Public Committee Against Torture v. Government, [49], paras. 16-23; HCJ 7957/04 Mara'abe v. Prime Minister of Israel [50], 492; HCJ 2056/04 Beit Sourik  v. Government [51],  827; HCJ 698/80 Qawasmeh v. Minister of Defence [52],  (hereinafter: the Qawashmeh case); Orna Ben Naftali & Yuval Shani, International Law Between War and Peace (2006) (Hebrew); Ruth Lapidot, Yuval Shani & Ido Rosenzweig, Israel and the Two Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions (Policy Paper 92, Israel Democracy Institute) (2011) (Hebrew); Yoram Dinstein, The Laws of War  (Hebrew)  (1983)).

 

(For the conventions, see: The First Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field (hereinafter: the First Geneva Convention); The Second Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea (hereinafter: the Second Geneva Convention); The Third Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (hereinafter: the Third Geneva Convention); The Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (hereinafter: the Fourth Geneva Convention). For the Protocols, see: Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 1977 (Hereinafter: the First Protocol); Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), 1977 (Hereinafter: the Second Protocol)).

 

31.       Most of the norms relating to the handling of dead bodies in international humanitarian law apply to situations of international armed conflict. The Geneva Conventions impose various obligations upon belligerent parties with respect to the evacuation, documentation, identification, registration and handling of—and the communication of information on—bodies during combat in the field. These obligations are meant to ensure proper, respectful handling of bodies during combat, which would also make it possible to know the fate of the fallen in the future. These obligations are anchored, inter alia, in arts. 16-17 of the First Geneva Convention, arts. 19-20 of the Second Geneva Convention, art. 120 of the Third Geneva Convention, and arts. 27 and 130 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (for more, see: HCJ 4764/04 Physicians for Human Rights v. IDF Commander [53], 401-404 ; the Barake case). The Geneva Conventions do not establish an obligation to return bodies within the framework of an international armed conflict. The reason for this is that the representatives of the delegations who took part in formulating them preferred leaving this option open, since some of the delegations preferred that the dead to be buried on the battlefield (see: J.S. Pictet, Commentary of Geneva Convention (1949) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, 181 (1952)). However, even if the Conventions do not state an obligation to return bodies, the interpretation specified in the Red Cross's updated commentary on the First Geneva Convention (International Committee of the Red Cross Commentary of 2016 of I Geneva Convention (1949) For the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field 1643-1647 (2016)) states unequivocally that the preferred option is to return the bodies to the family members of the fallen:

 

The obligation to ensure that the dead are buried or cremated can be satisfied in different ways.

…The preferred option is the return of the remains of the deceased to their families so that they may bury or cremate them in accordance with their religious beliefs and practices. Another reason why this option is preferable is that it enables the families to mourn their loved ones. Indeed, return of the dead to their families can be considered a basic humanitarian goal, recognized in both conventional and customary humanitarian law.

 

Furthermore, the First Protocol adds and anchors a specific requirement to return bodies in certain circumstances. The Protocol establishes that the remains of people who died as a result of occupation situations or acts of hostility should be buried respectfully, and that as soon as circumstances permit, the parties to a conflict are expected to reach an agreement on their return (art. 34 §2(c)). The Protocol further states that, if no such agreement is concluded, the party holding the bodies may offer to return them (art. 34 §3). While the articles of the Protocol state that the parties "shall conclude agreements" without imposing an obligation to return bodies, their tenor is clear. The commentary on the Protocol even clarifies that although this arrangement seemingly applies in certain circumstances only, it might serve as a good platform for returning bodies in other circumstances as well (Commentary on the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, para. 1330 (1977)). Guidelines in a similar spirit also exist in the accepted interpretations of customary international law. Thus, the rules in the study by the International Committee of the Red Cross explain that a party to an international armed conflict must make every effort to facilitate the return of a dead person's remains to the other side upon its request (see: Jean-Marie Henckaerts and Louise Doswald Beck, Customary International Humanitarian Law, Vol. I: Rules, Rule 114 (2006)). As it transpires from this study, similar instructions appear in a number of military manuals, including in the United States, which announced its support of the rules of the First Protocol relative to the return of bodies in an international armed conflict.

 

32.       Beside these provisions, international humanitarian law includes norms pertaining to non-international armed conflicts. In this context, there is no denying that the law is more vague (see Petrig's criticism on this matter, 353). However, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, concerning the right to dignity, as well as certain provisions of the Second Protocol, might apply. While these provisions do not establish an explicit prohibition on holding bodies, they, too, can be used to derive obligations relating to handling deceased persons and bodies. We would further note that even in a non-international armed conflict, the provisions of customary international law may apply. In this context, the study conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ibid.) specifies that even though the applicable rules on returning bodies in non-international armed conflicts are vague, the international legal and humanitarian organizations have a clear position on the subject. Thus, for example, the 22nd Conference of the Red Cross established obligations aimed at ensuring that parties to a conflict would make every effort to facilitate the return of a dead person's remains to the other side of a conflict. Similar resolutions were rendered by the UN General Assembly in 1974, and by the 27th Conference of the Red Cross in 1999, which stated that all parties to an armed conflict must ensure that "every effort is made... to identify dead persons, inform their families and return their bodies to them". The International Committee further added that this was required in view of the basic rights accorded to the families of the dead (ibid, p. 414).

 

33.       International human rights law—which complements the laws of armed conflict—also includes general provisions on the right to dignity and to family life that are relevant to our case. These provisions are anchored, inter alia, in the European Convention on Human Rights; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereinafter: the Convention against Torture); and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These provisions do not lay down an explicit ban on holding bodies, but the legal approach in this matter can be inferred from them. We would note that, in accordance with the provisions included in these conventions, the UN Commission on Human Rights issued a number of resolutions against Belarus, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan stating that their refusal to return bodies of deceased persons to their families was a violation of rights (see: Staselovich v. Belarus, Communication No. 887/1999 (2003); Bazarov v. Uzbekistan, Communication No. 959/2000 (2006); Sultanova v. Uzbekistan, Communication No. 915/2000 (2006); Khalilova v. Tajikistan, Communication No. 973/2001 (2005); Shukurova v. Tajikistan, Communication No. 1042/2002 (2006)). Another thing to note is that the UN committee in charge of verifying the implementation of the Convention against Torture looked into the Israeli government's policy on retaining terrorist bodies. In its conclusions of 2016, the Committee's recommendation to the State of Israel was to take all necessary steps to return the terrorists' bodies to their families as soon as possible (see: UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), Concluding Observations on the Fifth Periodic Report of Israel, 42-43 (2016)). Note that the Israeli government's position is that the Committee's recommendations have no binding legal force).

 

34.       The rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) likewise attest that holding bodies is a legally problematic move from the perspective of human rights law. It was ruled, for example, that Russia's refusal to return terrorists' bodies to their families in Chechnya contravened a number of provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights (Sabanchiyeva v. Russia Judgment [90] (hereinafter: the Sabanchiyeva case); Maskhadova v Russia Judgment [91] (hereinafter: the Maskhadova case). The European Court emphasized that the decision by the Russian authorities violated protected fundamental rights, among them the right to respect for private and family life, protected by virtue of art. 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This conclusion was based on precedents that gave expansive interpretation to the right to family life and the possibility for relatives to unite with their kin (see, for example, Pretty v. The United Kingdom [92]; Pannulullo v. France  [93]; Girard v. France [94]; Dodsbo v. Sweden [95]; Hadri-Vionnet v. Switzerland [96]). The European Court did rule that in holding the terrorists' bodies, the Russian authorities acted "in accordance with a law" under domestic Russian Law, as required by art. 8 of the European Convention, and it even agreed to view the purpose for which the said law was enacted in domestic Russian Law as legitimate in itself. At the same time, it was ruled that the Russian arrangement did not meet the proportionality requirement, because of its sweeping nature and its failure to strike a proper balance between conflicting interests and rights.

 

35.       With regard to the ruling of the European Court on the Russian arrangement, we would note in passing that even if this arrangement had been found to be legal, it would not in any case have been possible to draw an analogy from it to the Israeli arrangement. Contrary to Israeli Law, the Russian arrangement included unique, concrete and explicit provisions of law that positively prohibited the return of terrorists' bodies. This arrangement was included in a law titled Federal Interment and Burial Act, Law no. 8-FZ, and a decree titled Decree no. 164 of the Government of the Russian Federation (20.3.2003). The Russian Law explicitly permitted action against bodies of persons defined as "terrorists" even in the absence of any objective reason preventing their return. It stated in no uncertain terms that their bodies would not be handed over for burial, and that their place of burial would not be divulged, as follows: "The interment of persons against whom a criminal investigation in connection with their terrorist activities has been closed because of their death following interception of the said terrorist act shall take place in accordance with the procedure established by the government of the Russian Federation. Their bodies shall not be handed over for burial and the place of their burial shall not be revealed" (§4) (English translation taken from the ruling in the Sabanchiyeva case). Furthermore, the authorities' action in Russia was also anchored in an explicit decree that regulates, in precise and rigorous terms, the way that bodies should be kept and their burial arrangements. Moreover, in the petitions in the Sabanchiyeva case and the Mashkadova case, it was argued that Russia was in fact the only state beside Israel that had a clear policy, seemingly grounded in law, on holding terrorists' bodies. The Israeli government did not contest this claim in the judicial proceeding conducted before us, nor did it point to any other country in the world with a similar arrangement.

 

36.       Along with this, we would note that other than the laws of armed conflict and human rights law, history has seen peace treaties signed between countries that have referred to how dead bodies are to be handled and repatriated (e.g. the Treaty of Versailles, 1919, arts. 225-226).

 

37.       The picture that emerges from the review is that although neither international humanitarian law nor international human rights law establish a statutory prohibition on holding bodies in an armed conflict, this practice is met with reservations, and involves considerable legal difficulty. True, it is possible to imagine situations where security interest might justify a party to a conflict holding bodies for certain periods of time within the framework of an armed conflict, for example, when battle on the ground is protracted, or certain bodies are required for investigation purposes. This is particularly so when both parties to a conflict simultaneously keep bodies (although we should note that each party is severally held to comply with international law and act according thereto, and violation by one party cannot, in itself, justify violation by the opposing party). Indeed, in these exceptional cases, the temporary holding of bodies might reflect a proper balance between security interests and conflicting rights, while also being legal under international law. Still, notwithstanding the existence of possible exceptions, international law expressly instructs that the preferred option is to return the bodies. Clear, explicit rules instruct parties to armed conflicts to make every effort to return the deceased to one another. This conclusion is understood from the spirit of many legal provisions of the Geneva Conventions, the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions, the various conventions on human rights, customary international law, the Red Cross commentary collections, judicial decisions by international tribunals, the professional literature on international humanitarian law and international human rights law, etc.

 

38.       As to the specific case of the State of Israel, its decision to hold terrorist bodies, as noted, is not based on international law but on domestic Israeli law. In any case, this decision also appears to raise weighty questions when examined in light of international law. The State wants to interpret reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations in a way that grants the Military Commander broad authority to order the burial of terrorists for negotiation purposes, whereas reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations does not refer at all  to relevant distinctions in international law and does not relate to it. The regulation makes no mention of the numerous obligations imposed on parties to conflicts by virtue of international law as regards the evacuation, documentation, identification, registration and handling of bodies, as well as the communication of information on bodies. In addition, the regulation does not factor in the full range of distinctions required by international law in a situation where terrorist bodies are held, including distinctions between different combat situations (routine, armed conflict, etc.); between different types of terrorists (combatants, "affiliated", civilians, etc.), and between different terrorists based on their territorial affiliation (residents of Judea and Samaria, residents of East Jerusalem, of Israel, etc.). Regulation 133(3) of the Defence Regulations does not "converse" with international law in these numerous contexts, in a manner that raises questions about the extent to which it conforms to international law. The Cabinet Decision is also silent on these numerous contexts. This fact naturally carries implications for the interpretation of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, and serves to reinforce the conclusion regarding its generality and its being a non-explicit provision of law.

 

The "Reciprocity" Claim and its Implications for the Decision

 

39.       An argument that floated in the background of the petitions—one that is detached from the interpretation, and that I believe warrants separate discussion—is the reciprocity claim. The claim is that the State of Israel is actually holding terrorist bodies because the Hamas organization is holding bodies of IDF soldiers, as well as Israeli civilians. Were it not for Hamas holding bodies of IDF soldiers, the State of Israel, too, would not have held bodies of Hamas-affiliated terrorists. There is no denying that this argument raises serious questions of principle, and certainly moral questions. One cannot ignore the strong gut feeling, also pointed out by Justice M. Cheshin in his minority opinion in the Bargaining Chips case, that a substantial, fundamental difference exists between a state of affairs where both sides to a conflict simultaneously hold bodies, and a second state of affairs where only one party to a conflict holds bodies and refuses to return them. Given the circumstances of the case, however, I do not consider it possible to lend much legal weight to the reciprocity claim, for a number of cumulative reasons.

 

40.       First and foremost, it is obvious that the reciprocity claim cannot replace the requirement for authority. The fact that Hamas holds Israeli captives and missing persons might constitute moral grounds for reciprocation, but does not replace the obligation to act on the authority of law. As pointed out, even justified administrative action can be found to be illegal in the absence of a source of authority. The authority requirement does not draw its vitality from the justification of the administrative action, but from the principle of the rule of law and from broad goals meant to limit the power of government and ensure individual liberties. The principle of the rule of law, and the authority requirement derived therefrom, are separate from the question of the morality of some concrete administrative action. These things must be distinguished. As Justice Zamir said, the principle requiring authorization in law "overrides other public interests, including interests of the first order"—and even an important security interest cannot legitimize administrative action not authorized by law—"This is the rule of law in government" (Zamir, Administrative Authority, 76). And note well that the obligation to act in compliance with a law that regulates the exercise of governmental power and its restrictions is particularly important in the fight against terrorism, where the wielding of governmental power often involves questions relating to human rights (see: Aharon Barak, The Supreme Court and the Problem of Terrorism, in Judgments of the Israel Supreme Court: Fighting Terrorism Within the Law 9 (2005); HCJ 168/91 Morcus v Minister of Defence [54], 470). As noted, the requirement of authorization in the law stands on its own. The reciprocity claim, justified and proper as it may be in moral terms, cannot legitimize the Military Commander's action in the absence of authorization in law for his action.

 

41.       Secondly, reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations does not stipulate any reciprocity condition. It does not establish that a necessary condition for holding bodies is for both parties to a conflict to hold bodies at the same time. The contrary is true: the authority in principle granted thereunder seems to be a broad authority that does not depend on the existence of any preconditions. The Cabinet Decision is also not explicit in this regard. While the Cabinet Decision was forward looking, at a time when Hamas held Israeli captives and missing persons, it did not clarify that it was only valid until their repatriation. Note that had there been a specific, explicit primary arrangement in Israeli Law that authorizes an administrative entity to hold terrorists' bodies for negotiation purposes, reciprocation ought to have been a primary and necessary condition. Indeed, if the purpose of the arrangement is to allow the State of Israel to negotiate with enemies for the return of its own sons, and if the State of Israel accepts (as it declared before us) that holding terrorists' bodies for negotiations should be reserved for situations involving concrete contacts for the exchange of prisoners and missing persons, it stands to reason that authority to hold bodies for negotiation purposes would be made conditional on both parties to the conflict simultaneously holding prisoners and missing persons. As noted, such a condition is absent from the Cabinet Decision and from reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations.

 

42.       Third, in the more general sense, one should bear in mind that the fact that the enemy acts in certain ways does not always justify similar action. As President Barak said: "This is the destiny of a democracy — it does not see all means as acceptable, and the ways of its enemies are not always open to it. A democracy must sometimes fight with one hand tied behind its back. " (the Public Committee case [49], para. 64, 844-845). In this context, as noted, even if one can envisage situations where the State of Israel would be able to hold bodies, and even if we accept the reciprocity claim in certain senses, this does not mean that the State of Israel can take every action taken by its enemies. “Reciprocity” does not necessarily mean “full reciprocity”. Indeed, even if the State of Israel sought to hold terrorists' bodies only when its enemies simultaneously held Israeli captives and missing persons, it would still be subject to internal norms that are incumbent upon it, and that it had itself chosen to abide, among them that its actions are in accordance with the law, meet the rules of proportionality, are consistent with various obligations in both domestic and international law, comply and respect constitutional balances, etc. In this sense, the assumption that the enemy's actions follow "different norms", some of them contrary to basic legal and humane norms, cannot serve as legal justification for sanctioning every action—by way of mirroring—on Israel's part as well.

 

43.       Finally, the reciprocity claim in this case ignores that the connection between the specific terrorists whose bodies are held by the State of Israel and Hamas is unclear. In this respect, the State made it clear that it did not claim that the terrorists whose bodies it holds are Hamas fighters. On the other hand, it was claimed that they are at most "affiliated" or "identified" with Hamas ideologically. Assuming even that Hamas were interested in holding negotiations on those bodies in dispute, it is obviously possible to imagine similar situations where the equation between the State of Israel and the terrorist organization would not be simple and clear-cut, and this too should be considered when examining the reciprocity claim.

 

44.       As noted, the conclusion is that the reciprocity claim cannot be accorded much weight within the judicial debate upon the petitions, and that it makes no difference to the analysis of the authority in this case.

 

The Remedy

 

45.       As explained above, Israeli Law does not grant the Military Commander authority to hold terrorists' bodies for negotiation by way of temporary burial or in any other way. As a general, non-explicit provision of law, reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations does not constitute such source of authority. Prospectively, the conclusion is that the Military Commander may not use his authority under the regulation to hold terrorists' bodies for negotiation. Retrospectively, the conclusion is that the burial orders that are the subject of the petitions were issued by the Military Commander unlawfully. A possible remedy in these circumstances is to declare those burial orders void, which would mean the immediate return of the terrorists' bodies to their families. However, considering the entirety of rights and interests at play, it is my opinion that if the State so wishes, it should be afforded the opportunity to formulate a full, complete legislative arrangement, in explicit, specific primary legislation that meets the relevant legal standards, and which will be intended and dedicated to treat of the issue of holding bodies for the desired purposes, and which would accord weight to the observations made in this judgment. While an outcome where the State of Israel continues to hold bodies even after it has been judicially determined that this action is done without authority is no simple matter, I believe that it is a balanced and appropriate outcome considering the totality of circumstances (on granting a remedy of the suspended voidance, see: Daphne Barak-Erez, Procedural Administrative Law, 430 (2017) (Hebrew); Yigal Marzel, Suspending a Declaration of Voidance, 9 Mishpat U'Mimshal 39 (2005) (Hebrew)). In light of the above, if my opinion be heard, my recommendation to my colleagues would be to grant the petitions, make the orders nisi issued within their framework absolute, and order the granting of a suspended declaration of voidance that would allow the State time to formulate a full legal arrangement within six months from the time of the rendering of this judgment. Should the State fail to formulate an arrangement by that time, the bodies of the terrorists whose matter was heard in the petitions shall be returned to their families. I would further recommend to my colleagues that we not issue an order for costs in this proceeding.

 

Comments on the Margins of the Decision

 

46.       Given my decision that reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations does not grant the Military Commander authority to hold terrorists' bodies for negotiation purposes, I need not address additional arguments raised by the Petitioners, including those made with respect to the Military Commander's exercise of his discretion and the purpose of his actions. I would note, in particular, that I have found no need to address the Petitioners' claim regarding the territorial application of the Defence Regulations. In this context, the Petitioners argued that even if reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations were determined to constitute a source of authority for the Military Commander's decision to hold bodies for negotiations, this authority would not have applied, in any case, to all the bodies in the petition. In their view, the authority under the Defence Regulations applies only to bodies of terrorists from Judea and Samaria, and not to bodies of terrorists from East Jerusalem. As I said, I am not required to rule on this claim, but I will note, beyond what is strictly necessary, that this claim is erroneous on its face. The Defence Regulations also apply within the State of Israel, as they constitute Mandatory legislation that predates the establishment of the State. Hence, the decision on the question of the Military Commander's authority by virtue thereof is also relevant to bodies of terrorists from East Jerusalem (see and compare: Michal Tzur (supervised by Prof. M. Kremnitzer), The Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945, The Israel Democracy Institute, Policy Paper No. 16, p. 11 (1999) (Hebrew); HCJ 5376/16 Abu Hdeir v. Minister of Defence [55], para. 32, per Justice E. Rubinstein); HCJ 5839/15 Sidar v. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank [56], para. 1, per Justice U. Vogelman).

 

47.       In debating the question of the remedy, I decided upon the remedy of a suspended declaration of voidness, in order to allow the State sufficient time to formulate a full, complete primary legislative arrangement. I would like to emphasize that, notwithstanding my decision to order that final remedy, this should not be taken as an expression of any position in regard to a decision, if such is made, to launch a legislative procedure. The decision to initiate a legislative procedure, with its possible implications, is the legislature’s to make, and it is assumed that it will exercise discretion as well as wisdom. It goes without saying that I am also not expressing any opinion on the content of any legislation that may be enacted. My only operative determination in this ruling is that reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations does not constitute a source of authority for the Military Commander to order terrorist bodies to be held for negotiation purposes. My judgment is based on this determination and it alone. As opposed to this, one should not read into it any other determination that might inhibit the Court from expressing positions on future legislation, including authority that may be granted by virtue of such legislation, its purposes, the discretion exercised within its framework, proportionality, etc. Of course, it can be assumed that these issues, too, might raise weighty legal questions in the future.

 

Summary

 

48.       This ruling addressed only a single question: whether reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations authorizes the Military Commander to order the temporary burial of terrorists' bodies for the sake of holding them for negotiation purposes. As explained, reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations does not constitute a source of authority for the Military Commander's action. This conclusion necessarily derives from the principle of the rule of law and the principle of administrative legality. It follows from interpretative analysis of the regulation's language, which indicates that this is a general, broad regulation that cannot be deemed explicit, specific legislation. It can also be understood from the purpose of the regulation, which comprises its historical context, its inner and external logic, and the application of the rules of interpretation applied in the Israeli legal system. As explained in the decision, the Mandatory legislator, followed by the Israeli one, never envisaged a situation related to the temporary holding of terrorists' bodies for negotiation purposes, and did not seek to put in place a unique arrangement to grant authority in that regard. Moreover, the conclusion in the matter of authority is reinforced when juxtaposed with this Court's rulings in other, similar contexts of terrorists' bodies and live detainees being held as “bargaining chips”, as well as when compared to international humanitarian law as it relates to the laws of armed conflict and to international human rights law.

 

49.       In effect, my judgment can be summarized as follows: The State of Israel—as a state under the rule of law—cannot hold terrorists' bodies for negotiation purposes in the absence of explicit enabling  legislation. If the State so wishes, it must formulate a full, complete legislative arrangement specifically tailored to this subject, in explicit primary legislation that meets the legal standards of Israeli law, and corresponds with those provisions of international law that are not disputed. Since Israeli law has no such legislative arrangement, I recommend to my colleagues that we grant the petitions, make the orders nisi issued within their framework absolute, and make a suspended declaration of voidness with respect to the burial orders, so that the State can formulate a full, complete, dedicated legal arrangement within six months of the rendering of this judgment. Should the State fail to formulate a legal arrangement by that time, the bodies of the terrorists whose matter was heard in the petitions shall be returned to their families.

 

50.       Before concluding, and not unnecessarily, I would like to note that in writing my opinion, I constantly had in mind the family members of IDF soldiers Lieutenant Hadar Goldin of blessed memory and Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul of blessed memory, and of Israeli civilians Avera Menigstu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as the relatives of the victims of the hostile acts committed by the terrorists whose case was heard in the petitions. Truth be told, deciding these petitions has been extremely hard for me. The suffering of the Israeli prisoners and missing persons held in Hamas captivity and the pain of their family members are unbearably heavy. The human outcome is hard, especially when the State believes that holding the terrorists' bodies might help obtain a deal for their repatriation. At the same time, as judges, our job is to rule in accordance with the law and the binding legal rules. To quote President Barak in the Bargaining Chips case [48], "as important as the purpose is of the release of prisoners and missing persons, it is not sufficient – in the framework of the petition before us – to legitimize all means." (ibid, para. 24, at p. 744). As previously noted, the State of Israel cannot, as a state under the rule of law, hold bodies of terrorists for negotiation purposes without authority. It has the option to arrange the issue in law, and the hope is that—with or without regard for this—all the legal means will make it possible to bring home the Israeli captives and missing persons as soon as possible.

 

51.       All that remains for me to do is to end this judgment on the well-known words of Justice H. Cohn in the Qawasmeh case, which I also had the opportunity to quote in the past in CFH 5698/11 State of Israel v. Dirani [57]:

 

How is the fighting of the State different from the fighting of its enemies? The one fights while upholding the law, whereas the others fight while breaking the law. The moral strength and material justification of a government’s fight are entirely contingent upon upholding the laws of the State. By giving up this strength and this justification of its fight, the government serves the enemy’s objectives. The moral weapon is no less important than any other weapon ‒ and perhaps superior—and there is no moral weapon more effective than the rule of law.

 

 

 

 

Justice G. Karra:

 

I concur in the opinion of my colleague Justice Y. Danziger, and will add this: Regulation 133(3) authorizes the Military Commander to order the place of burial of any person's corpse, who will bury that corpse, and at what time it will be buried, but it cannot be understood as testifying to the existence of authority for the Military Commander to hold a corpse after its burial. Since "the limits of interpretation are the limits of language", the language of the regulation cannot be interpreted to include what is not there.

 

 

Justice N. Hendel:

 

The State of Israel has existed in a state of emergency—literally, as well from the legal standpoint—since the day of its inception. A state of emergency, as well as of war. The law of war, in all its elements and aspects, is no oxymoron, but rather a constant legal challenge imposed upon the State by circumstances. Reality, which forms the factual foundation, does not dictate an outcome one way or another. This area—the law of war—is perhaps the most difficult of  legal disciplines. It is not theory, but concrete questions that stand on the shoulders of other questions, some of which are virgin soil: life and death, defense and morality, and even defining the kind of society we are, and the kind of society we choose to be. Caution is required, as well as sensitivity and legal analysis in accordance with its rules. Deciding the issue of handling terrorists' bodies thus requires an in-depth, meticulous and rigorous legal journey through the fields of the relevant norms and considerations—upon which I shall elaborate in my opinion.

 

1.         On January 1, 2017, the Israeli government—through the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs—adopted a new policy on handling bodies of terrorists. According to this decision, such bodies would be returned, as a general rule, to relatives "under restricting conditions" set by the security establishment. However, two groups form an exception to this rule: Bodies of terrorists who had belonged to the Hamas terrorist organization (hereinafter: Hamas) or had committed a "particularly exceptional terrorist act", would be held by Israel by way of burial. The decision by the Ministerial Committee was based on security evaluations that suggested that holding bodies of terrorists belonging to the last two categories—and hence known to hold "value" for Hamas—"might aid" in repatriating the civilians and the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers held by the terrorist organization, and facilitate future negotiations on the matter. At the very least, holding terrorists' bodies might improve the nature and parameters of a future repatriation deal, together with the significant, related security implications. Thus, the policy adopted by the Ministerial Committee was meant to promote the safe return of Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayed, and the return for interment in Israel of IDF combatants Lieutenant Hadar Goldin of blessed memory and Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul of blessed memory—while protecting the security and safety of the general public.

 

According to this policy, and by virtue of burial orders issued by the relevant Military Commanders, four bodies of terrorists were buried in the cemetery for fallen enemies in Amiad, and DNA samples were taken to allow for future identification. Two other bodies of terrorists are held by the Israel Police, with no burial orders having been issued for them as yet. On September 13, 2017, we acceded to the request of the Petitioners in HCJ 285/17 and HCJ 6524/17, and instructed the Respondents—pursuant to previous decisions—not to bury these bodies until a decision is made on the petitions.

 

2.         In their petitions, the Petitioners ask that we order the Respondents to return the bodies of their relatives, claiming that holding the bodies violates the constitutional right—of the terrorists and their family members— to dignity, constitutes collective punishment, and is contrary to international law. From the Petitioners' perspective, the Respondents' policy is unreasonable and disproportionate. Furthermore, in the absence of explicit grounding in primary legislation, it violates the principle of administrative legality and does not meet the conditions of the limitation clause. As opposed to this, the Respondents invoke reg. 133(3) of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945 (hereinafter: the Defence Regulations; the regulation, verbatim, will be presented below), which authorizes the Military Commander to order the place, time and manner of burying "any person"—and thus also applies in the case of terrorists. The Respondents believe that the limited violation of the rights of the dead terrorists and their families is reasonable and proportionate, and given the circumstances—i.e., the Israeli civilians and the bodies of fallen soldiers held in Hamas hands—even consistent with the binding provisions of international law.

 

3.         In his comprehensive opinion, my colleague Justice Y. Danziger determined that refraining from delivering the terrorists' bodies to their families violates their constitutional right to dignity—since even "the most abhorrent murderer" is entitled to a dignified, proper burial—and hence adopting this measure requires "clear, specific and explicit" authorization in primary legislation. The problem being that reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, on which the Respondents relied, "does not constitute a specific, explicit, primary source of legislation that authorizes the Military Commander to order the temporary burial of terrorist bodies for negotiation purposes", while the residual powers of the government do not comprise steps that violate fundamental rights. My colleague therefore proposes to grant the petitions in the heading, and order a suspended declaration of voidness of the relevant burial orders—should the State fail to resolve the issue with suitable legislation by June 1, 2018.

 

            I accept my colleague's position that there is value to comprehensive legislative regulation of the authority to hold terrorists' bodies, while specifying the relevant considerations and criteria for exercising it, and laying down the manner and limitations for holding bodies. I am also willing to concede that the handling of terrorists' bodies might infringe the right to dignity. In this respect, even the existing international law and custom carry weight. In other words, not every instance whatsoever of handling bodies is immune to judicial review. As grave as the terrorists' activity may be, it is not their values or actions that will dictate to us the binding legal norms within our system. But even from this perspective, the conduct of Hamas and the terrorist organizations, and the prevailing security situation, are pertinent in examining the violation of the right to dignity and its magnitude. For this reason, but not only for this reason, bringing the terrorists' bodies to proper burial, even if in a different form than the one they had hoped for before setting out on their murderous rampages, considerably reduces the violation.

 

            When all is said and done, I cannot concur in the result reached by my colleague, and condition the validity of the burial orders on some future legislative arrangement. For the reasons that I shall clarify below, my position is that reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations authorizes the Military Commander to order the time, place and mode of burying terrorists' bodies, and that considerations having to do with preserving public safety and security—including against a background of civilians or bodies of fallen soldiers being found in enemy hands—lie at the core of this authority. The aspiration to promote a lex ferenda, i.e., a complete, comprehensive legislative arrangement of the issue, cannot blur the nucleus of authority entrusted by the existing law to the Military Commander—reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations. In these circumstances, although holding the terrorists' bodies oversteps the residual authority of the Israeli government (see HCJ 11163/03 Supreme Monitoring Committee v. Prime Minister [58], para. 20, per Deputy President M. Cheshin), I have found no real substance in the Petitioners' claims as concerns the authority.

 

4.         Before I delve into the interpretation of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, we should recall that its current version was shaped in early 1948, when its scope was extended and the authority was vested in the Military Commander (sec. 2 of the Palestine (Defence) Order In Council, 1937, Official Gazette, Supplement 2, 66)). As such, the regulation and its provisions come under the aegis of the preservation of laws provision in para. 10 of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and are not subject to the conditions of the limitation clause in sec. 8 of the Basic Law, including the requirement that the violation of rights be done "by law… or by virtue of express authorization therein".

 

            It has indeed been ruled that even in the absence of direct applicability of the limitation clause—whether because the violated rights lack constitutional status, or because their violation is not anchored in secondary legislation—"a piece  of legislation is not to be interpreted as authorizing a violation of fundamental rights unless the authorization to do so is clear, unequivocal and explicit" (HCJ 7803/06 Abu Arfa v. Minister of Interior [34], para. 52, per justice U. Vogelman (hereinafter: the Abu Arfa case); LCrimA 10141/09 Ben Haim v. State of Israel [59], para. 22, per President D. Beinisch; HCJ 6824/07 Manaa v. Tax Authority [14], para. 14, per Justice U. Vogelman (hereinafter: the Manaa case). Considering the importance of the fundamental rights, surely the legislature did not intend to authorize the executive branch to violate them, unless this is explicitly stated in law. This interpretative presumption also rests on the difficulties raised by a general authorization, be it implied or vague, which hinders the identification of the nature and boundaries of the authority, and allows for its arbitrary use (ibid.; HCJ 337/81 Mitrani v. Minister of Transport [60],  355-358).

 

            That being said, the case-law requirement for explicit authority should not be given strict, rigid, literal interpretation. On the contrary, it is a flexible requirement whose real content varies depending on "the nature of the right being violated and its underlying reasons, the relative social importance of the right, its social repercussions, the identity of the violating authority and how severely the protected right is violated in the situational context". Even when the language of the law does not clearly delineate the scope and boundaries of the authority, "It suffices that its particular purpose… makes the existence of authorization to violate the fundamental right a necessary conclusion" in order to fulfil, in the appropriate cases, the explicit-authorization requirement (HCJFH 9411/00 Arco Electrical Industries Ltd. v. Mayor of Rishon Lezion [61], para. 11, per President D. Beinisch).

 

            These following was stated in relation to the explicit-authorization requirement in the limitation clause, but it equally holds true for its case-law counterpart, inasmuch as:

 

Interpreting the case-law rule on clear, and explicit authorization “flexibly” rather than “literally", and adopting a “contextual” approach by which the degree of strictness in applying the explicit-authorization requirement is followed in accordance with the relative importance of the violated right, the degree of its violation, the purpose of the law and the entirety of circumstances, promotes interpretative harmony, and is also justified for substantive reasons, in that it is characterized by flexibility and lack of dogmatism, as is required in a discourse on rights, and strikes a balance between the reasons justifying the limitation of human rights only in primary legislation and contrary values of administrative effectiveness and effective maneuvering room" (the Manaa case, para. 15; the Abu Arfa case, ibid; see and compare CA 1600/08 Maximedia Outdoor Advertising v. Tel Aviv – Jaffa Municipality [62], paras. 7-8, and 12).

 

The question whether or not a given piece of legislation comprises clear, explicit authorization cannot, therefore, be resolved through exclusively literal interpretation. The interpreter must delve into the purposes of the relevant norm, and examine whether, given the overall circumstances of the matter, they attest to a legislative intent to grant the executive branch permission to infringe the fundamental rights in question.

 

5.         Against this background, I will now address the interpretation of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, which instructs as follows:

 

Notwithstanding anything contained in any law, it shall be lawful for a Military Commander to order that the dead body of any person shall be buried in such place as the Military Commander may direct. The Military Commander may by such order direct by whom and at what hour the said body shall be buried. The said order shall be full and sufficient authority for the burial of the said body, and any person who contravenes or obstructs such order shall be guilty of an offence against these Regulations.

 

As we know, "the limits of interpretation are the limits of language ", and so the first order of business is to examine the language of the relevant norm, in context, and weed out interpretations that find no support therein (the Manaa case, para. 19; Aharon Barak, Interpretation in Law, vol. 2Statutory Interpretation, 104 (1993) (hereinafter: Interpretation in Law) (Hebrew)). A text does not deviate from its plain meaning, and read literally, reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations tips toward the Respondents' position. The Regulation grants the Military Commander broad discretion, allowing him to order where and when the body of "any person" is to be "buried"—and by whom. There is nothing in the text to point to a distinction between permanent and temporary burial—since the term "burial" is used in both contexts (see, for example, secs. 3A and 4B of the Military Cemeteries Law, 5710-1950; Dorit Gad, Second Jewish Burial–“Gathering Bones”, 26-27 Yahadut Hofshit (2003) (Hebrew))—and surely the phrase "any person" does not rule out terrorists' bodies. Furthermore, as the words "by whom… the said body shall be buried" suggest, the Military Commander's authority does not come down to limiting the identity or number of those attending the funeral (a limitation discussed in HCJ 3933/92 Barakat v. GOC Central Command [26], 5-6; (hereinafter: the Barakat case), but also pertains to the identity of the burying entity—in a way that allows a departure from the norm relating to the delivery of the body to the family. The regulation thus grants the Military Commander a broad array of powers, from specifically ordering the time of burial to a more significant decision on the identity of the burier. At any rate, as my colleague also suggests, the regulation makes no direct or detailed reference to the possibility of temporary burial with negotiations taking place in the background.  For this reason, I am willing to assume, within the framework of this decision, that its language does not tip the scales in favor of the Respondents, and that the Regulation also "tolerates" a more restrictive interpretation.

 

6.         Having said that, we must move on to the second stage of the interpretative process and examine which of the proposed alternatives optimally fulfils the purpose of the legislation in both its layers (HCJ 693/91 Efrat v. Director of Population Registry [63], para. 11, per President A. Barak; (hereinafter: the Efrat case). First, we need to trace the subjective purpose that the legislature sought to advance—and which can be established, inter alia, by analyzing the social and legal background of the legislation, the explanations given for it, as well as the language and structure of the law and the interrelation among its various provisions (ibid, 13-15; Interpretation in Law, pp. 201-202).

 

            The first pertinent reference in Mandatory legislation to the issue at hand appeared in reg. 302 of the Prison Regulations, 3 Laws of Palestine  2091 (1925), which provided that after hanging prisoners sentenced to death, "the body shall hang for one hour, after which it will be taken down and handed over to the relatives for burial. Should the relatives  not desire to take charge of the body, it will be buried at  Government expense". Incidentally, it is interesting to note that this provision deviates from the law practiced in Britain at the time, under which prisoners who were executed were buried in the prisons, and not handed over to their families (see, for example, Caroline Sharples, Burying the Past? The Post-Execution History of Nazi War Criminals, in A Global History of Execution and the Criminal Corpse 249, 250-251 (Richard Ward, ed., 2015)). In any event, reg. 19C of the Emergency Regulations 1936—as amended in October 1938, under the Palestine (Defence) Order in Council, 1937, Official Gazette, Supplement 2, 825, 1095—authorized the District Commissioner to deviate from the provisions of reg. 302 on handing over the body to relatives, and to order, "Notwithstanding anything contained in any Ordinance or law… that the body of any person who has been executed at the Central Prison, Acre, or the Central Prison, Jerusalem, shall be buried in such cemetery of the community to which such prisoner belongs".

 

            This amendment of reg. 19C was preceded by another, in early 1938, wherein the coroner was authorized "not to perform an autopsy on the corpse of a person" who was "killed as a result of actions by His Royal Majesty's navy, army or air forces… for the purpose of suppressing riots" (Palestine (Defence) Order in Council, 1937, Official Gazette Supplement 2, 753, 77). The consolidation of these two provisions into one regulation, under the umbrella of emergency regulations, creates the impression that what we have here is a general arrangement on processing the bodies of persons killed or executed, against the background of hostilities with the security forces. This impression grows stronger in view of the social reality that led to the enactment of the emergency regulations—that is, the Arab revolt that took place in Palestine between 1936 and 1939, which met with a strong response from the Mandatory authorities. Scholars note that the increasing magnitude of the hostilities shifted the balance between the civil and military authorities in the country, and that by the end of 1938, the pendulum had already swung in favor of the latter, "leading to the implementation of complete military control in Palestine by October 1938" (Jacob Norris, Repression and Rebellion: Britain’s Response to the Arab Revolt in Palestine of 1936-9, 36 The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 25, 29 (2008)). The arrangements relating to the handling of corpses of the fallen and of terrorists should thus be seen as an integral part of the continuous struggle of the colonial authorities against terror, in which extensive use was made of legal tools meant to broaden their powers, "as a means of specifically combating the revolt" (ibid, pp. 29-30; for a general description of the colonial fight against the locals' uprising, see also Yehoshua Porat, From Riots to Rebellion: The Palestinian Arab National Movement, 1929-1939 (1979) (Hebrew); Yigal Eyal, The First Intifada: The Suppression of the Arab Revolt by the British Army in Palestine, 1936-1939 (Hagai Porshner, ed., 1998) (Hebrew)).

 

            Let us continue to present the socio-legal historical background. A few years later—this time in the face of the intensifying Jewish struggle for independence (CrimA 6434/15 State of Israel v. Shavir [64], para. 4, per Deputy President E. Rubinstein)—the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945 replaced the 1936 Regulations, and reg. 19C was reincarnated—lock, stock and barrel—in reg. 133 of the new regulations. Historians note and that the Mandatory authorities exercised this authority, and sometimes dictated the place of burial of those executed, in disregard of the family's requests and those of the deceased themselves (thus, for example, the Mandatory authorities decided to bury the three Olei Hagardom [“Those who went to the Gallows”] Eliezer Kashani, Mordechai Alkahi and Yehiel Dresner of blessed memory in Safed, even though all three expressed their wish to be buried in Rosh Pina, and despite the request of the Alkahi and Kashani families to bury their sons in their place of residence in Petah Tikva (Bruce Hoffman, Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel 1917-1947 530 (2015); 4 Hanged in secret at Acre: Funeral at Safad, Palestine Post, April 17, 1947; Families were not told before, Palestine Post, April 17, 1947).

 

            In any case, in January 1948, after the UN partition resolution was adopted and the first shots of the War of Independence were fired, substantial changes were made to sub-sec. (3) of the new regulation, the sub-section that is our main focus: The narrow scope, limited to the burial of prisoners who had been executed, was replaced by a broad reference to "the body of any person", and the provision requiring burial of deceased persons in the cemetery of the community they belong to was dropped. What this means is that the original authority to prevent the return of the body to relatives was significantly broadened, and transferred from the District Commissioners to the Military Commander. Here too, the broader authorities granted to the Military Commander were not detached from the security context, i.e. Britain's joining the fighting that broke out between the Jews and the Arabs in November 1947 (see: Benny Morris, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War 97 (2010). Benny Morris is a history professor at Ben-Gurion University).

 

7.         Hence, the Mandatory legislator considered the Defence Regulations—including reg. 133(3)—a legislative platform intended to give the (mainly military) authorities effective powers with which to fight the terror directed at them from both sides of the Palestine divide (Tom Segev, Days of the Anemones: Palestine during the British Mandate 387 (1999) (Hebrew) [English: One Palestine Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate (trans. Haim Watzman) (2000)). Initially, the regulation was satisfied with laying down a narrow exception to the norm relating to the return of prisoners' bodies to their families, but the authority was later expanded to apply to other bodies as well—belonging, as evidenced by the other components of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, to terrorists killed by the "forces of His Majesty", or to the fallen of these "forces". Thus, even if the historical and legal background for reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations does not provide a direct answer to the question before us, it suggests that the Mandatory legislator sought to authorize the Military Commander to refrain from handing over bodies to the relatives given considerations of protecting public safety and security, and be satisfied with burying them at the time and place, and in the manner he saw fit. From here, it is but a short distance to determining that considerations having to do with releasing the bodies of fallen soldiers, or live civilians, held captive by terrorist organizations lie at the heart of this purpose.

 

8.         Indeed, identifying the subjective intent of the legislator is not enough—since the objective purpose of the law is much broader, and it has been held that "a piece of legislation often has an objective purpose that the members of the legislating body never contemplated" (the Efrat case, para. 12). This purpose is of secondary importance in our case, since, as this Court noted in regard to another provision of the Defence Regulations:

 

The interpretation of the Defence Regulations in the Mandatory period, where colonial values held sway, is not the same as their interpretation in the State of Israel, where Jewish and democratic values hold sway. The Defence Regulations will therefore be interpreted based on the fundamental principles of the Israeli legal system as they evolved over the years (HCJ 6893/05 Levy v. Government of Israel [65], para. 9, per President A. Barak (hereinafter: the Levy case).

 

It is therefore necessary to examine the objective purpose of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, which consists of the concrete purpose—stemming "from the type of legislation and the nature of its arrangements"—and of the general purpose, which derives from the fundamental values of the system and from legislative arrangements "that are topically close" (Interpretation in Law, pp. 202-203; CA 8622/07 Rotman v. Ma'atz - National Roads Company of Israel Ltd., [66], para. 98).

 

9.         Analysis of the Defence Regulations shows that their main and undeniable purpose is to maintain state security, and public safety and order, while focusing on the fight against terror:

 

First and foremost are considerations of state security and public order. These are the specific purposes underlying the exercise of the authority under the Defence Regulations. These purposes are inferred from the provision of the Palestine (Defence) Order in Council, by virtue of which the Defence Regulations were enacted. The Order in Council established that the regulations were meant "… to ensure the public's safety, the protection of Palestine, the imposition of public order and the suppression of uprisings, rebellions and riots, and to maintain the supply and services necessary for the public” (sec. 6). These objectives can also  be seen on close examination of the Defence Regulations themselves (the Levy case, p. 886; see also HCJ 680/88 Schnitzer v. Chief Military Censor [67],  628).

 

In the same spirit, the Defence Regulations were described, in the Abu Safa case, as "security-military emergency legislation, which contains broad enforcement powers and diverse tools, administrative and punitive, for fighting all types of terror, including from the economic aspect" (HCJ 3037/14 Abu Safa v. Ministry of Interior [68], para. 10, (emphasis added)).

 

The Defence Regulations give broad interpretation to the purpose of maintaining state security and public safety. They do not stop at granting powers pertaining to the "narrow", direct military struggle against armed terrorist operatives, but equip the authorities with a much larger toolbox. As stated:

 

It has long been understood that the war on terrorism is not simply a matter of thwarting a terrorist just moments before he carries out his plan. It is an extensive struggle aimed at undermining the infrastructure of terrorist organizations, the resources available to them and their ongoing operations. This fight involves diverse means, among them legal ones… The offence of performing a service for a terrorist organization, like other provisions in the Defence Regulations and the Counter Terrorism Law, expresses the recognition that the fight against terrorism also involves undermining the supporting structure of terrorist organizations. The law recognizes the importance of neutralizing terrorist activity while still in the bud, as well as the need to target infrastructures and mechanisms that allow it to grow (CrimA 6434/15 State of Israel v. Shavir [64], paras. 59-60, per Justice D. Barak-Erez).   

 

In this spirit, regs. 84 and 120 of the Defence Regulations allow the Military Commander to act against the economic infrastructure driving the terror machine and confiscate property linked—itself or through its owners—to these activities (on these regulations, which are no longer in effect within the territory of the State of Israel, see HCJ 2959/17 Alshuamra v. State of Israel [69], paras. 12-23 (hereinafter: Alshuamra case). Similarly, it was determined that reg.125 of the Defence Regulations authorizes the Military Commander to declare an area closed by order for the purpose of "delimiting training grounds, setting up military installations, etc." (CA 2281/06 Even Zohar v. State of Israel [70], para. 5, per Justice A. Procaccia, and compare para. 9 per Deputy President S. Joubran in the same matter; (hereinafter: the Even Zohar case))—and not necessarily for the purpose of preventing immediate confrontation (see the Levy case, pp. 892-893).

 

Regulation 133(3), which forms an integral part of the Defence Regulations, should also be interpreted in light of this broad purpose, i.e., promoting a systematic fight against terror and its various circles of support and activity. It goes without saying that curtailing the ability of terrorist organizations to use bargaining chips in order to gain achievements constitutes an integral part of this struggle.  The ongoing war on terror takes on various forms, and must adapt itself to the enemy's innovations. Actions result in reactions, and so the chain changes. New and ugly facets of terrorist organizations are nothing new. The tactics frequently change, and cannot be ignored. One might say that there is a direct relationship between the breadth of the fight against terror and the breadth of interpretation: when the former broadens, the interpreter must draw the necessary conclusions, and give the relevant norm a contemporary interpretation that expresses its spirit and purpose. The purpose of the Defence Regulations is broad, and its practical "translation" must be adapted to the changing reality—within the bounds of authority delineated by the legislature. The purpose is thus adapted to reality and is integrated with the powers granted to the Military Commander. Ignoring the frequently changing needs misses the clear purpose of the Defence Regulations, including reg. 133(3) that is the focus of this case.

 

10.       An "offshoot" that branches out from the purpose of maintaining state security and public order is the creation of individual and environmental deterrence. This purpose is expressed in a series of authorities that the Mandatory legislator granted to the Military Commander, believing that exercising them could "deter potential terrorists from carrying out a terrorist act and take human lives"—even if they are clearly devoid of direct, tangible military value (HCJ 5290/14 Qawashmeh v. Military Commander [71], para. 21).

 

Regulation 119 of the Defence Regulations, which authorizes the Military Commander to order the forfeiture and destruction of terrorists' houses, stands out prominently in this case, since its purpose—as determined by this Court repeatedly—"is not to punish but deter" (see, for example, HCJ 4597/14 Awawdeh v. Military Commander [72], para. 19). In other words, the justification for exercising the authority to order forfeiture and destruction "lies entirely in its hoped-for impact on the environment, and more particularly the terrorist's surroundings" (HCJ 5376/16 Abu Hdeir v. Minister of Defence [73], para. 3 of my opinion), even though destruction carries no "pure" military value. A similar purpose is reflected in reg. 120 of the Defence Regulations, which authorizes the Military Commander to order the forfeiture of all the property of a person who committed  an offence against any of the regulations—even when the offences are unrelated to the property, such that the forfeiture has no "deterrent justification" (the Alshuamra case, paras. 13-15). Without making a definitive statement, it seems possible that reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations—which primarily affects the non-implicated surroundings of the dead terrorist—also carries a similar deterrent purpose.

 

11.       Another concrete purpose of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations is to regulate the handling of enemy corpses while protecting the dignity of the dead. The regulation, which was, as noted, adopted against the background of the intensifying fighting against terrorist organizations and local militias, reflects the spirit of art. 17 of the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, 1949,  which imposes a duty upon parties to a conflict to ensure honorable interment for the enemy's fallen. In other words, the legislator authorized the Military Commander to undertake the burial of these bodies, bearing in mind the possibility that at some point in time—or, as stated in art. 17: "as soon as circumstances permit, and at latest at the end of hostilities"—the bodies would be exhumed and handed over to the family members. Naturally, such burial is of a temporary character; it is meant to ensure that the deceased rests in peace until the time comes—when fighting ends, or when an exchange arrangements are concluded (as part of which, as the State has declared, hundreds of terrorists' bodies have been returned in the past decades).

 

            This purpose of the regulation is not only reflected in the longstanding practice of holding the bodies of enemy fallen and terrorists— although this type of custom carries significant interpretative weight in itself (see and compare: HCJ 3132/15 Yesh Atid v. Prime Minister [74], para. 2 of my opinion ). An examination of sec. 76 of the Counter Terrorism Law, 5776-2016, which revoked many of the provisions of the Defence Regulations, suggests that the legislature chose to leave reg. 133(3) of the Regulations unchanged. This stems, as evidenced by the explanatory notes to the amending bill Defence (Emergency) Regulations (Revocation of Regulations), 5773-2013,  from perceiving reg. 133(3) as a vital, irreplaceable source of authority "for the burial of enemy dead" (the details of the authority are regulated in various secondary sources, such as General Staff Order 38.0109 "Enemy Army's Dead – Procedure on Identification, Disposal of Effects, Reporting and Burial in Times of Emergency"). Beyond the security considerations in their "narrow sense", the regulation therefore seeks to ensure proper temporary burial of enemy dead, until their possible return to their countries and families. Note parenthetically that the legislature's choice to refrain from revoking the regulation is particularly significant in view of the customary practice of burying enemy dead in dedicated cemeteries, and in light of the ruling that sanctioned the holding of terrorists' bodies for considerations relating to negotiation with terrorist organizations (HCJ 6807/94 Abbas v. State of Israel [37]).

 

12.       This last purpose "bridges" the security purposes of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations and the general purpose attributed to each piece of legislation, namely the protection of fundamental rights. It is true that the preservation-of-laws provision maintains the validity of the Defence Regulations, including reg. 133(3), but:

 

[that] their interpretation, especially when it comes to the objective sense, must be done in the spirit of the value-based normative declaration made in the Basic Law, while sometimes re-balancing the values underlying the piece of legislation, in the spirit of the renewed constitutional balance (the Even Zohar case, para. 5, per Deputy President S. Joubran).

 

In this sense—interpretation versus direct attack—the fundamental rights are back up for debate. Burying the dead as per their wishes and those of their family forms an integral part of the fundamental right to dignity—which in this context comprises two heads: the dignity of the dead and that of their family. As President A. Barak stated at the time, "human dignity is not only a person's dignity in life. It is also a person's dignity after death, and also the dignity of that person's beloved, who cherish their memory in their hearts. This dignity is reflected, inter alia, in the very erection of a gravestone, in visits to the cemetery on memorial days and public ceremonies, and in tending the grave" (CA 294/91 Jerusalem Burial Society v. Kestenbaum [75], 523).

 

The introduction of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom gave the principle of "the dignity of the dead" constitutional status, since "'the dignity of dead people derives from that of living people'… The dignity of the living person is violated when he is no longer guaranteed in life proper protection of his dignity when he is no longer alive" (HCJ 52/06 Al-Aqsa Association for the Development of the Assets of the Muslim Waqf in the Land of Israel v. Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum Ltd. [76] para. 135, per Justice Procaccia (hereinafter: the Al Aqsa case). Beside this aspect, albeit lower on the normative scale (CA 7918/15 Doe v. Friedman [77], para. 4 (hereinafter: the Friedman case)—stands, as noted, the right of the family members to determine how the dead and his memory are to be treated. The assumption is that "a violation of his memory and dignity is bound and intertwined with a violation of their dignity" (the Al Aqsa case, para. 139). Public policy, and the value attached by society to the care of its dead, reveal other facets in the principle of the "dignity of the dead" (ibid, para. 151)—and in some cases might even override the "private" rights of the dead and their families, dictating that their choices about the way to handle the corpse should be ignored (HCJ 6167/09 Avni v. State of Israel [78]; but see CA 1835/11 Avni v. State of Israel [79],  and the Friedman case).

 

13.       In my view, the "dignity of the dead", as such, stands on its own legs, and is higher up in normative status than "the dignity of the dead person's family". The more challenging question what is the basis for the principle of the "dignity of the dead": is it a derivative of human dignity—i.e., whether, just as human dignity is an individual "asset", so is the dignity of the dead, regardless of the surroundings and those surviving the deceased; or is protecting the dignity of the dead meant to send a clear message to the living, as a promise that their dignity will be preserved after their death. As noted above, the answer seems to comprise both possibilities.

 

            In this regard, it is interesting to turn to Jewish law, which also comprises several levels of the right of the dead to dignity. One aspect is inherent in the halakhic injunction that it is "a religious duty to carry out the wishes of the deceased" (TB Gittin 14b). Commentators see the duty to honor the last wishes of the deceased and execute their will—including in matters unrelated to the distribution of the estate—as an expression of human dignity (Rabbi Osher Weiss, Minchas Osher - Bereshit, Parashat Vayekhi, Siman 66, 435-439 (2002) (Hebrew) in regard to Jacob's final charge in his blessings to his sons, and on his place of burial ["Bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt"]). Another aspect is reflected in the biblical instruction not to leave an executed person’s body overnight, "for an impaled body is an affront to God" (Deut. 21:23). Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, one of the most illustrious Bible and Talmud commentators, who lived in France in the early part of the second millennium CE) interpreted this verse in a way that connects human dignity to God's dignity: "It is an affront to the King in Whose image Man is created", hence the dignity of God requires the dignified burial of man, even if one who had sinned and was executed. Accordingly, it was determined that "whosoever lets his dead lie overnight transgresses a negative commandment", unless he is "kept overnight for the sake of his honor, to fetch him a coffin or a shroud" (mSanhedrin 6, 7). And note that the Talmud (TB Gittin 61a) says that the "dead of the heathen are buried along with the dead of Israel", which means that the commandment of burial applies to Jews and non-Jews alike. (See the ruling by the late Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who served for many years as the IDF's Chief Rabbi, and as the Chief Rabbi for Israel, with regard to the burial of non-Jewish soldiers in military cemeteries (Trumat Hagoren, vol. II,  Siman 79 (2012) (Hebrew); Beoz Uvetaatzumot: An Autobiography, 152-153 (2013) (Hebrew)).

 

14.       Returning to Israeli Law, the right of the deceased and the deceased's family to dignity is broad in scope. It spans issues such as "tending the grave" or choosing the form and content of the inscription on the garvestone (see also HCJFH 3299/93 Wechselbaum v. Minister of Defence [80]). The duty to hand over the dead person's body to the relatives for burial derives therefrom.

 

            Indeed, in analyzing reg. 133(3), one cannot ignore that the dignity of the dead also applies to the burial of terrorists who had committed serious killing rampages. However, from a human-dignity perspective, and in the spirit of the Jewish law position—as shall be presented below—bringing the dead to proper burial expresses the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. These values are not diminished by the deceased's abject acts, nor do they distinguish between friend and foe, Jew and gentile. It is worth noting that international law, too—e.g., art. 17 of the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, 1949, mentioned above (para. 10)—attaches great importance to burying the  dead, even though they had fought in the enemy's ranks prior to their death. According to the ruling of the late Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli (the Israel Prize laureate for Judaic Studies, head of the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva and member of the Chief Rabbinate Council, who died in 1995), Jewish Law attributes great weight to the provisions of international law as regards the law of war:

 

And therefore, one has to see the agreement of the nations that war is one of the legal means, as long as the warring nations observe the accepted custom among nations with regard to war… and from now we will say that the prevailing law between countries also stems from agreement between the people of those countries, and although it concerns matters of life and death, their agreement is valid. And therein lies the foundation of the legality of war (Amud Hayemini, Part 16, Chapter 5 (1992)).

 

The Halachic term Dina d'malkhuta dina [the law of the land is law] thus also applies in the realm of relations between the state and the international community, and imposes upon the State of Israel a duty to act in compliance with the norms anchored in the law of war, including paying last respects to enemy dead.

 

            Beyond the weight that Jewish law accords to the provisions of international law in this context, Jewish law has its own deep, independent, ancient roots in regard to the duty to bury enemy dead. Thus, for example, we are told that after the Israelites returning to their land defeated the Canaanite kings who fought them, Joshua ordered the burial of the enemy's dead that very day (Joshua 8:29; Joshua 10:27). The book of Ezekiel, too, says (39:11) with respect to the Gog and Magog war to be waged at the end of the days, "And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place there of graves… and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it The valley of Hamongog". Based on the precedent set by Joshua, Nachmanides ruled that the general duty to bury the dead also extends to fallen enemies. Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who, as we said, served as the first IDF Chief Rabbi, wrote this on the subject:

 

During my service in the IDF, we set up special burial units whose role was to see to the identification and burial of fallen enemies in wartime. This is consistent with what we said at the outset, that the words of  Scripture, "for in the image of God made he man" (Genesis 9:6), hold true for any human, with no distinction between nations and races (Meshiv Milchama, vol. I, 40 (2nd ed., 1994) (Hebrew)).

 

We shall end with the responsum of Rabbi Nathan Ortner, who served as the Rabbi of Lod at the time, to a question put to him by an IDF soldier during the 1982 Lebanon War. That soldier said that his company had hit a Syrian tank and killed the soldiers in it, and wanted to know whether he was under religious obligation to bury the Syrians who had fought the IDF soldiers "and wanted to destroy us". After an extensive discussion, the Rabbi determined, with reference to Nachmanides's position presented above, that various nuances differentiated between the existing halakhic approaches—but that all of them recognized the duty to bury fallen enemies. Whether the duty originated in the Bible or with the rabbis, the rule is that the enemy's fallen must be buried, certainly when their bodies lie within the Land of Israel. (Nathan Ortner, Burying Enemy Dead, 4 Techumin 97 (1983) (Hebrew); see also Shlomo Brody's article on burying the body of the terrorist who staged the 2013 attack at the Boston marathon, Shlomo Brody, Even Criminals Rest in Peace, Tablet (May 9, 2013)). 

 

            Thus, Israeli Law, international law and Jewish Law have stated their cases. What emerges is that the general purpose of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations strives to minimize the violation of the dignity of the terrorist and his relatives, thus seeking to restrict the authority of the Military Commander to order the burial of the body as he sees fit in terms of the place and conditions of burial.

 

15.       Another general purpose derived from the State's fundamental values is the value of "redemption of captives". Whether this is an integral component of "state security" or not, it is hard to question the significance accorded to this value within Jewish tradition and within the Israeli ethos. As aptly described by Deputy President M. Cheshin (even if his interpretative position remained the minority opinion in the Does case [48]):

 

The commandment of redemption of captives—a commandment of the utmost order—was instituted for good reason, since all of Israel (and for our purposes not only Israel) are responsible for one another. An army's strength lies in the brotherhood of its combatants, and this brotherhood is monolithic when battle comes and a combatant falls captive in enemy hands. As in the oath of the Three Musketeers, the one that Alexandre Dumas put in their mouth, "Tous pour un, un pour tous", a combatant will fight knowing that he is not alone, and that his friends will come to his rescue when trouble arrives. We are ordered and we are adamant not to abandon an injured person in the field and, as with an injured person, we will not rest until the release of our captives from their captivity. Combatants are akin to mountain climbers tied to each other by rope and fate, and a climber whose grip has failed and whose body is hurled into the abyss will be saved by his comrades (p. 747).

 

Indeed, as Justice I. Englard noted at the time (HCJ 794/98 Obeid v. Minister of Defence [81], 776-777):

 

It has been held as a matter of halakha in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah, 252:1 that “There is no greater commandment than the redemption of captives,” and that:

”Whosoever ignores the redemption of captives transgresses against thou shalt not harden thine heart (Deut. 15:7), and nor [shalt thou] shut thine hand (Deut. 15:7), and neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor (Lev. 19:16) and [the other] shall not rule with rigor over him in thy sight (Lev. 25:53) and neglects the commandment of thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him (Deut. 15:8), and the commandment of that thy brother may live with thee (Lev. 25:36) and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Lev. 19:18) and deliver them that are drawn unto death (Proverbs 24:11), and many such things (ibid., sec. 2).

It has also been ruled that “To delay the redemption of captives by even a moment, where it can be expedited, is akin to spilling blood” (ibid., sec. 3).

 

16.       Jewish law attaches particular importance to the "redemption of captives" in the sense of bringing warriors to burial, beyond the general value of preserving "people's dignity", which I have pointed out above. Thus, for example, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, one of the greatest decisors of Jewish Law in the 20th century, determined that even if  saving a life overrides the whole of the Torah—and hence soldiers should seemingly not be put at risk in a mission to extract fallen soldiers—"the blow to the morale of soldiers who see that if they fall, they would lie by the wayside with no one to care for them, is an important factor in the fighting spirit and thus constitutes saving a life" (Yehuda Zoldan, Shevut Yehudah ṿe-Yiśraʼel: Erets Yiśraʼel -- Gush Ḳaṭif, Manhigut ṿe-Tsava, Tsibur ṿe-hHevrah, Chap. 21(B)(4) (Eyal Fishler, ed., 2007)(Hebrew)). On a different, yet not unrelated issue, Rabbi Shlomo Goren ruled that the Sabbath may be violated in order to evacuate soldiers' bodies from battlefield, since "leaving fallen combatants on battlefield undermines combatants' morale" and "considering the particular emotional sensitivity we have toward our fallen sons" (Rabbi Re'em Ha'Cohen, Responsa Badei HaAron: Answers in Current Matters, part 5 (2013) (Hebrew)). In interpreting reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations as regards the burial of the dead and conducting negotiations for the redemption of captives and fallen individuals, we must therefore also consider these essential Jewish and Israeli values.

 

17.       The above suggests that a certain conflict arises among the various purposes of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, and hence one must proceed to the third and final stage of the interpretative process—distilling the ultimate purpose of the regulation after balancing the conflicting purposes, while keeping within the bounds of the language. In this stage, "account shall be taken, inter alia, of the relative importance of the violated right, the extent of its violation and the overall circumstances of the case" (the Manaa case [14], para. 47).

 

            As noted, burial of fallen enemies—terrorists or regular soldiers—by the Military Commander, instead of handing them over to their relatives, violates the right of the dead and their relatives to dignity. However, we should bear in mind that the authority granted to the Military Commander incorporates protection of the core of this right. It instructs him to bring the bodies to proper burial, and does not authorize him to hold them under inappropriate conditions. Furthermore, the burial of the bodies in Israel as a tool for facilitating negotiations for the repatriation of civilians and fallen soldiers held in enemy hands is temporary in nature. This is not, therefore, a question of denying the murderers a family burial plot, but rather delaying its establishment until the relevant security considerations have dissipated (whether because negotiations have ripened, or for other reasons).

 

            As opposed to this limited violation stand considerations that lie at the core of the purposes underlying reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations—namely, protecting state security and public safety from the threat of terrorism. Returning the civilians held in Hamas captivity, Avera Menigstu and Hisham al-Sayed, and bringing back the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Lieutenant Hadar Goldin of blessed memory and Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul of blessed memory  for burial in Israel, themselves fall within the compass of these purposes. No less important, holding the bodies is significant due to its potential effect on the results of future negotiations—results that might have far-reaching implications for the security of the Israeli public at large (see, for example, the words of Justice E. E. Levy in HCJ 914/04 Victims of Arab Terror International v. Prime Minister [4]; HCJ 6063/08 Shachar v. Government of Israel [82]).

 

            The proper balance between these purposes thus makes it clear that reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations seeks to authorize the Military Commander to regulate the proper burial of fallen enemies—be they terrorists or regular soldiers—when considerations of state security and public safety preclude their delivery to relatives. We would emphasize that the authority granted by the regulation is not restricted to situations involving some practical obstacle to handing over the corpses. The regulation does indeed seek to prevent the desecration of enemy bodies, but its security dimension outweighs the humanitarian one. The legislator wished to grant the Military Commander authority to weigh a large array of security considerations and decide the burial issue based on these considerations, despite the limited violation of the dignity of the dead and their relatives. Thus, for example, President A. Barak ruled in the Barakat case (pp. 5-6) that the Military Commander is authorized to order the date and manner of burial of "a person whose death was security related"—even if not within the framework of a violent confrontation with the security forces—if he believed that this was necessary in order to prevent an incendiary outburst of emotions and disturbance of public order:

 

The Military Commander has the authority to order that the funeral of a person whose death was security related will take place at night, with the participation of family members only. This authority originates in the general powers of the Military Commander to maintain order and security in the Territory. It is also anchored in the provisions of reg. 133(3) of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945.

 

Even more important to our case is the court ruling in the Abbas case [37], where President M. Shamgar determined that there had been no flaw in the discretion exercised by the Military Commander when he made the return of the body of a Hamas terrorist conditional upon revealing the burial spot of soldier Ilan Saadon of blessed memory, who was murdered by the organization's terrorists. Reasonableness "requires that an authority weigh all the relevant considerations deriving from the purpose of the law, and only them, and grant each one its appropriate weight." (HCJ 3132/15 Yesh Atid v. Prime Minister [74], para. 7 of my opinion )).  Hence, in the Abbas case, the Military Commander's authority to weigh considerations of the kind that lie at the heart of these proceedings was recognized.

 

            Thus, even if these things are not explicitly written in reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, and certainly not in detail, purposive interpretation of the regulation makes it clear that the Military Commander is authorized to order the temporary burial of enemy dead for considerations of security, while showing respect to the dead. Indeed, contrary to the matter debated in the Jabareen [42], the Military Commander does not seek to rely on a general authorization to maintain order that makes no concrete reference to the possibility of preventing—or restricting—burial. What we have here is a dedicated provision regarding burial, in which case there is nothing to prevent us from resorting to interpretation in order to appraise its full scope (see and compare HCJ 10203/03 Hamifkad Haleumi v. Attorney General [83], paras. 30-33 per President M. Naor; HCJ 5100/94 Public Committee against Torture [17], 835-839).

 

18.       Before concluding the discussion on the question of authority, I will briefly address several issues. One concerns the primary arrangements rule, which states that "in matters falling within the framework of ‘primary arrangements', an administrative authority may only act with the clear authorization from the legislature" (Yoav Dotan, Primary Arrangements and the New Legality Principle, 42 Mishpatim 379, 411 (2012) (Hebrew)). In our case, the legislator was the one to outline the basic policy, determining that the Military Commander would be able to order—based on security considerations—the place, time and manner of burial for enemy dead. In the absence of complexity or extraordinary social disagreements, the implementation of the policy in the cases before us—the burial of terrorists' bodies, for security considerations relating to negotiations for the return of abductees and fallen soldiers—cannot therefore be seen as a primary arrangement (see and compare the Abu Arfa case [34], paras. 57-63 per Justice U. Vogelman; for general comments on the difficulty of identifying primary arrangements, see, for example, HCJ 4491/13 Academic Center for Law and Business v. State of Israel [84] para. 19, per President A. Grunis). In any case, in view of the said explicit authorization arising from the purpose of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations and its language, the primary arrangements rule—even if assumed relevant to our case—cannot influence the outcome (ibid, para. 21; the Manaa case [14], paras. 14-15). I would also add, beyond what is required, that the constitutional layer that some attribute to this rule (ibid, paras. 22-25) has no bearing on the status of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, which comes under the aegis of the preservation of laws provision.

 

19.       Another issue has to do with the possible comparison with the "bargaining chips" case, in which this Court gave sec. 2 of the Emergency Powers (Detention) Law, 5739-1979, a restrictive interpretation, determining that it did not authorize the Minister of Defence to order the detention of a person who poses no danger—even if this might facilitate negotiations for the release of captives (the Does case [48]). I will say, at the outset, as my friend, Justice Y. Danziger also noted (in para. 25 of his opinion), that comparing the force of the injury to the dignity and freedom of an individual held in custody with that involved in burying a terrorist in a way that does not suit his wishes, poses a difficulty. Since the interpretation of the norm in question is largely influenced by the nature of the right being violated and the degree to which it is violated, this difference carries an interpretative significance that cannot be ignored. Furthermore, the restrictive interpretation preferred in the Does case is anchored in the purposes of the Emergency Powers (Detention) Law, reflecting an essential distinction between the detention of a person who poses a threat to state security and the detention of another who does not, himself, pose any threat. On the other hand, reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations—which, by its very nature, focuses on environmental security considerations, since the dead no longer pose any danger—does not provide any basis for a random distinction between temporary burial and permanent burial, or between burying the soldiers of the enemy's regular army and burying terrorists. The desire to expand the protection of a dead person's dignity has merit, but cannot serve as a basis for an arbitrary outcome that makes random distinctions between different situations—and in fact requires the legislature to pedantically specify every scenario that the Military Commander might encounter, even if it even if it is not substantively unique. One must keep in mind, as the majority justices in the Even Zohar case emphasized:

 

The status of the right to property as a constitutional right casts interpretative "rays of light"  toward the old legislation preceding the Basic Law, including the Defence Regulations enacted by the Mandatory legislator in 1945. However, the effect of those interpretative "rays of light" is limited and confined to the margins of the old legal provision, and they do not have the power to turn it on its head and change its deep essence (para. 10, per Justice A. Procaccia [emphasis added]; see and compare paras. 5 and 10 per Deputy President S. Joubran).

 

In the absence of purposive anchoring of the distinction between permanent and temporary burial, or between security considerations relating to disturbances during burial ceremonies and ones relating to the repatriation of civilians held by the enemy, the substance of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations cannot be changed, despite the change that has taken place in the status of the "dignity of the dead".

 

20.       I will conclude the discussion on the question of authority by joining the result arrived at by my colleague Justice Y. Danziger, that "neither international humanitarian law nor international human rights law establish a statutory prohibition on holding bodies in an armed conflict," (para. 37 of his opinion)—certainly when required for a specific, real security need. This being the case, and considering the applicability of the Defence Regulations within both the State of Israel and the Territory (see, for example, HCJ 358/88 Association of Civil Rights in Israel v. Central District Commander [9], 532-533), there is nothing to support the distinction between bodies of terrorists who were residents of the Territory or residents of Israel—and the authority of the Military Commander extends to all of them.

 

            I shall only note that the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights mentioned by my colleague (Maskhadova v. Russia [91]; Sabanchiyeva v. Russia [90]) reinforce this conclusion, at least as concerns bodies of terrorists who were residents of Israel. The said rulings determined that the Russian authorities' decision not to return bodies of terrorist to their families disproportionately violated the right to privacy and family life (anchored in sec. 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights ( ECHR)). However, the Court's reasoning actually highlights the substantial difference between the Russian policy, which was rejected, and reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations, which we are now debating. First, in discussing the arguments made by the family members, the European Court noted (ibid, §138) that the Russian arrangement was particularly harmful:

 

In that it completely precluded them from any participation in the relevant funeral ceremonies and involved a ban on the disclosure of the location of the grave, thus permanently cutting the links between the applicants and the location of the deceased’s remains.

 

That is, the violation of rights is compounded, since the decision of the Russian authorities completely and irreversibly severed the link between the family members and the graves of their loved ones, excluding the families from the funeral ceremonies and withholding the location of the grave from them. These characteristics are clearly irrelevant to Israeli Law, which does not rule out the family's participation in the burial, permits the disclosure of the burial location, and certainly does not completely sever the tie between the family and its beloved deceased. Moreover, we should  recall that the burials in our case are temporary in nature, such that the terrorists' bodies will be returned to the relatives in the future, whether as part of an exchange arrangement or after such an arrangement will no longer be on the agenda.

 

            The ECtHR rulings, whose result was based on the sweeping, disproportionate nature of the Russian arrangement, also demonstrate the importance of the distinction between authority and discretion, showing that the question of authority is one thing (as it was indeed found to be in the Russian context) and the question of discretion is another. Furthermore, they suggest that the arrangement under reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations meets the tests of reasonableness and proportionality. As the European Court emphasized (ibid, § 144 146; see also paras. 233-238 in the Mashkhadova case) –  

 

The relevant official did not take the decision using a case-by-case approach and included no analysis which would take into account the individual circumstances of each of the deceased and those of their family members […] that was so because the applicable law treated all these questions as irrelevant, the decision of 15 May 2006 being a purely automatic measure […] Having regard to the automatic nature of the measure, the authorities’ failure to give due consideration to the principle of proportionality, the Court finds that the measure in question did not strike a fair balance between the applicants’ right to the protection of private and family life, on the one hand, and the legitimate aims of public safety, prevention of disorder and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others on the other.

 

In other words, the disproportionality of the decisions by the Russian authorities stems from the sweeping nature of the domestic legislation, which entirely rules out the return of terrorists' bodies to their families, automatically and without regard for the concrete circumstances,  and even denies them "some kind of opportunity for paying their last respects to the deceased person" (ibid, § 143). Expressio unius est exclusio alterius: there is nothing inherently wrong about the authorities burying terrorists' bodies instead of handing them over the relatives, as long as the authority is exercised on a case-by-case and proportional basis, while examining the overall considerations in the matter. As noted, the policy adopted by the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs, and the concrete decisions of the Military Commander are based on a case-by-case examination of the terrorist's identity and the circumstances of the event, and do not inherently rule out the family's participation in the burial ceremony. The rule is accompanied by an exception – an exception accompanied by case-by-case examination. This being the case, and in complete contrast to the Russian arrangement, these are proportional decisions in which there is no cause to intervene.

 

21.       We thus find that the Military Commander is authorized to order the place, time and manner of burying the bodies of fallen enemies—a burial that is often temporary in nature—when security considerations so dictate. Obviously, in exercising his discretion, the Military Commander must strike a balance between these considerations and the right to dignity of the dead and their family. However, as clarified with regard to other components of the Defence Regulations, authority is one thing and discretion is another (HCJ 1125/16 Mari v. Commander Military Forces in the West Bank [85], para. 20 per Justice M. Mazuz); HCJ 7040/15 Hamed v. Military Commander in the West Bank [86], para. 23 [hereinafter: the Hamed case]; the Alshuamra case, para. 17), and the limitations on how discretion is to be exercised do not blur the limits of the authority.

 

22.       Having reached the conclusion that the Military Commander is authorized to order the burial of terrorists' bodies for security considerations related to negotiating the return of civilians and fallen soldiers, we must now examine whether the concrete decisions in the matter of the Petitioners before us, with the general policy underlying them, meet the test of reasonableness and proportionality.

 

            I believe that the exercise of authority by the Military Commander, in accordance with the Ministerial Committee's policy, does not overstep the limits of reasonableness—whose bounds can be gauged, at least in the context of the violation of fundamental rights, using the proportionality tests as well (for a discussion on the relationship between reasonableness and proportionality (see HCJ 794/17 Ziada v. Commander of the IDF Forces in the West Bank [87], para. 118 per Deputy President S. Joubran, and the sources cited there). In any case, there is a difference between the reasonableness test and the proportionality test, and between the proportionality test in general and the proportionality test under sec. 8 of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty). Thus, the material presented by the Respondents, both in their pleadings and in the course of the hearing held ex parte, suggests that the burial policy is based on assessments by security agencies regarding its possible contribution to facilitating negotiations for the return of the civilians and the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers held by Hamas. The Ministerial Committee reached its decision following several discussions, in which it was presented with the assessments of the Israel Security Agency and the Coordinator for Prisoners and Missing Persons in the Prime Minister's Office, and heard the positions of the National Security Council and the IDF. These assessments suggest that the burial in Israel of "Hamas affiliated" terrorists, or terrorists who have committed "a particularly exceptional terrorist incident" of clear symbolic significance, would help further negotiations for the return of civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayed, and the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Lieutenant Hadar Goldin of blessed memory and Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul of blessed memory,  even if the contacts for an exchange agreement have yet to reach an advanced stage. The Respondents also noted that "the political echelon holds, and will hold, periodic evaluations of the situation on this issue"—as required due to the violation of the dignity of the dead and their relatives (compare with the Hamed case, para. 27).

 

            The concrete decisions that are the subject matter of the petitions before us are also based on an appropriate factual foundation regarding the organizational affiliation of the terrorists, the "symbolism" of the terrorist event in which they died—from the perspective of the terrorist organizations—or both. Thus, Musbah Abu Sabih, the terrorist who murdered a Border Police officer and an Israeli civilian in October 2016, is identified with the Hamas organization (HCJ 285/17), like the sons of Petitioners 2 and 3 in HCJ 8503/16 (the first, who was involved in an attempted terrorist attack in July 2016, and the other, who is among those who murdered Rabbi Michael Mark of blessed memory in the same month), and the son of Petitioner 7 in HCJ 4466/16 (who carried out a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in April 2016). As for the body of Petitioner 4's son in HCJ 8503/16, it has been clarified that it is being delayed due to the dire circumstances of the terrorist attack he committed—the murder of the girl Hallel Yaffa Ariel of blessed memory in her sleep, in June 2016—and the "standing" this terrorist had gained among the terrorist organizations. Finally, the decision in the matter of terrorist Fadi Qunbar (HCJ 6524/17), who murdered four soldiers in a vehicle-ramming terrorist attack committed in January 2017, rests on the dire circumstances of the attack and on Hamas claiming responsibility for it. As noted, according to the assessments of the security establishment, Hamas attaches greater importance to the bodies of its people, or to bodies of terrorists who committed particularly severe terrorist acts—and so holding these bodies effectively promotes negotiations for the return of the civilians and the bodies of the fallen soldiers held by the organization.

 

            In these circumstances, there is no real doubt that the terrorists' bodies are delayed for a proper purpose—facilitating the repatriation of the civilians and fallen IDF soldiers held by Hamas, and influencing the negotiation in the matter in such a way as to minimize harm to the state's security and its citizens' safety—and not as an arbitrary punitive measure.

 

23.       Moreover, the factual foundation presented to us suffices to show the reasonableness of the measures that the Military Commander adopted—or intends to adopt—in accordance with the policy of the Ministerial Committee, in order to further the said purpose. However, the link between the measures and the purpose might weaken, even considerably, as the circumstances change. As noted, the bodies with which the petitions before us are concerned have been held by the State of Israel for quite a while – as long as 20 months (HCJ 4466/16). Indeed, the security considerations underlying the Ministerial Committee's policy and the Military Commander's decisions dictate that no rigid "expiry date" be set whereupon the Respondents would have to return the terrorists' bodies to their families. Furthermore, past experience teaches us that Rome was not built in a day, nor the bridge to an arrangement, and that it may take more than a year for deals to mature for the exchange of prisoners or bodies of fallen individuals (see, for example, HCJ 7523/11 Almagor Terror Victims Association v. Prime Minister [88], and HCJ 9446/09 Karman v. Prime Minister [89], regarding the repatriation of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit). At the same time, clearly one cannot condone the unlimited holding of terrorists' bodies, and the competent authorities must frequently review the changing circumstances, both relative to the general policy (i.e., the "concreteness" of a possible exchange deal), and relative to the "value" of keeping specific terrorists (i.e., their current importance in Hamas' eyes). Thus, without establishing a definite timeframe, it is possible to determine that, at this stage, the measures taken by the Military Commander in order to further the proper purpose of the policy underlying his actions fall within the bounds of reasonableness—subject to renewed periodical examination of the issue, as the Respondents have undertaken to do.

 

            In view of the security establishment's evaluation of the possible contribution of the policy in question to the security (and moral) interests involved in the repatriation of the civilians and fallen IDF soldiers, no real alternative has been presented to this policy and its implementation in the cases before us, with minimal violation of the dignity of the dead.

 

            It should be emphasized that the decision of the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs instructs that terrorists' bodies be returned to their family members, except in relatively rare situations. Reality also testifies to this: The large majority of terrorists killed in recent years during terrorist attacks have been returned to their families, whereas the petitions before us relate to only six bodies. In other words, the Respondents have avoided adopting a comprehensive, deleterious policy of holding terrorists' bodies, and have sufficed with an individual arrangement that attributes weight to the organizational affiliation of each terrorist and the nature of terrorist attack committed. Moreover, the Ministerial Committee and the Military Commander have ordered the burial of the relevant bodies—as opposed to holding them in some other manner that would be less respectful of the dead.

 

            Incidentally, and to complete the Jewish Law perspective, we should note a ruling made during the War of Independence. The first Sephardi Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, Rabbi Uziel, addressed a situation where, in the midst of war and due to the constraints of the hour, a soldier was buried in the Ayelet Hashachar kibbutz, whereas his family and center of life were in Tel Aviv. It was ruled that, under the circumstances, this burial could be considered temporary, and the body could be transferred to the Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery (Ben Zion Meir Hai Uziel, Pisqei Uziel: BiShe'elot HaZman, 36 (1973) (Hebrew)). Despite the salient and clear differences between this case and ours, this serves to reinforce the obvious. A temporary grave fulfils the requirement, be it even preliminary, of the duty to bury the dead. Such is the case even if it causes a violation to the dignity of the dead and his family that justifies the transfer of the body at a later stage.

 

24.       Finally, the Military Commander's decisions also meet the cost-benefit test. As I noted above, we are concerned with decisions that  present a relatively minor violation of the right of the dead and their families to dignity, and not to the core of the right. What we are concerned with is essentially temporary burial that does not sever the link between the terrorists' families and their dead, and does not necessarily prevent them from visiting the temporary graves or even taking part in the funeral (subject, of course, to relevant security considerations). The proper burial of the terrorists, in accordance with their religious customs, and in a way that allows future identification of their bodies, further minimizes the violation of their dignity. Therefore, in weighing this violation against the substantial security purposes underlying the policy, by virtue of which the Military Commander's decisions were made, the scales tip, in principle, in favor of the latter.

 

            One should bear in mind that the policy adopted by the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs, in light of which the Military Commander acted—and intends to act—is restricted and limited. It only relates to the bodies of terrorists identified with Hamas, or ones whose brutal actions earned them "value" in the eyes of this terrorist organization. Furthermore, the Military Commander's decisions concern terrorists who went on blind, brutal killing sprees—even if, fortunately, they were unable in some cases to put their evil plans into practice (see and compare, for example the Abu Hdeir case, para. 33 per Deputy President E. Rubinstein). As long as there is real cause to assume that the Military Commander's decisions are effective—in the sense that they can further the security interests involved in repatriating the civilians and the bodies of fallen soldiers held by Hamas, even if not in any immediately apparent way—they fall within the bounds of reasonableness and proportionality, and we should not intervene.

 

25.       In closing, purposive interpretation of reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations shows that the Military Commander holds broad authority to order the burial of bodies of enemy terrorists or fallen soldiers, based on considerations of protecting the State's security and the safety of its citizens, while respecting the dignity of the dead. There is no doubt that repatriating civilians and fallen IDF soldiers held by the enemy, and minimizing the related security cost, lie at the heart of these considerations. Therefore, the Military Commander is authorized to order the burial of terrorists' bodies in order to further that purpose. The distinction between the sphere of authority and that of discretion is essential. Even when there is justification for limiting the way the authority is exercised, one cannot simply ignore, at the stroke of a pen, the language of the authorizing norm and its purposes, and give it restrictive arbitrary "interpretation". In these cases, the "rays of light" radiated by the Basic Laws will illuminate the discretionary sphere, but they will not change the basic nature of the authorizing norm and undermine its purposes.

 

            The material presented to us suggests that the Military Commander’s decisions before the Court are based on a full, up-to-date, factual foundation, and meet the tests of reasonableness and proportionality. Thus, were my opinion accepted, we would determine  that the Military Commander is authorized to continue to act reasonably and proportionately, within the bounds of his authority, to order the burial of terrorists' bodies.

 

26.       Considering the importance of these issues, and to avoid misunderstanding in a very nuanced issue, I will summarize my position as it relates to the discretionary plane and to the exercise of the authority. I will first state the obvious, which might fall between the stools and the table of terrorism: The desirable situation would be to return the bodies of the dead, including terrorists, to their families—in accordance with the rule laid down by the Ministerial Committee, and without exceptions. However, the abhorrence and brutality exhibited by terrorist organizations, who hold civilians and bodies of fallen IDF soldiers and demand a price not only for those held alive in their custody but for the dead as well, leave no other recourse. In this reality, which is also forced upon us, one has to walk a tightrope between achieving the objective of repatriating Israeli civilians and bodies of fallen IDF soldiers on the one hand, and on the other hand maintaining the dignity of the dead—be they even terrorists. And, of course, if the law recognizes the feelings of terrorists' relatives, then surely the cry of the families of the living and the dead held by Hamas will not let us rest. In other words: acknowledging reality, listening to the voice of the living who have not returned home and to the voice of the blood of our brothers who have not been brought to rest, and upholding the basic principles of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

 

            Of particular importance, in this regard, is the exact delineation of the Respondents' policy, according to which—as the attorney for the State has made clear—holding terrorists' bodies constitutes a rare exception. That is, even bodies of terrorists falling under both relevant categories will be buried temporarily only against a background of concrete negotiations for the repatriation of civilians and the bodies of fallen soldiers held by the terrorist organizations. The transfer of bodies should not be prevented in anticipation of what the future might bring. The security establishment is supposed, as it has done in this case, to exercise case-by-case discretion with regard to facilitating negotiations for the return of the Hamas-held civilians and fallen IDF soldiers. This is a very delicate matter. We should not turn a blind eye to the nature of negotiations in such sensitive matters between the State and a terrorist organization, even by means of a third party. A terrorist organization might declare that there is no negotiation in progress, where in reality this is not the case but only another stage in the negotiation. What matters is that if negotiations are indeed nonexistent, and no concrete contacts of any kind are underway for a deal, the bodies are to be returned. However, as long as there is a chance that is neither hypothetical nor slim of further  negotiations, there is no obligation to return them. Another important point is, as noted above, that the dignity of the dead requires their burial. A situation in which terrorists' bodies are held over time in some form other than burial—be it even, as in the cases before us, by request of the families—might excessively violate the dignity of the dead and the principles that are binding under international law. In this case, there is no need to quantify and draw time limits, but, as noted, the more time that elapses, the greater the need to bury the corpse, and the time dimension also constitutes a consideration with regard to its time of return. Again, there are no set formulas. This depends on the contacts, the negotiations, and the point that they have reached. In our case, based on the material submitted, it seems that this how the Respondents are acting in this case—although, as I see it, it is time to bring the bodies being held to temporary burial. Of course, the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs and the Military Commander must periodically review the existing policy—and how it is implemented in specific cases—and avoid the burial of bodies in Israel when this does not contribute to facilitating negotiations for the repatriation of the Hamas-held civilians and fallen soldiers.

 

27.       All that remains is to express the hope that a burst of humaneness—or at least the Hamas's interest—will overtake the madness of terrorism and allow the dead to rest in peace. If exercising the authority under reg. 133(3) of the Defence Regulations can accelerate the safe return of civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayed to their families, and the return for interment in Israel of IDF combatants Lieutenant Hadar Goldin of blessed memory and Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul of blessed memory, I shall be content. I would deny the petition without an order for costs. In my view, it would be right to rescind the interim order and bring the two remaining bodies to temporary burial as soon as possible, in such place as shall be determined by the Military Commander.

 

 

 

The petitions are granted by the majority opinion of Justices Y. Danziger and G. Karra, contrary to the dissenting opinion of Justice N. Hendel, according to which the petitions should be denied.

 

Given this day, 26 Kislev 5778 (December 14, 2017).

 

 

 

 

[1] Translator's note: In this context, the term "Territory" refers to Judea and Samaria.

Hamed v. Military Commander in the West Bank

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 7040/15
Date Decided: 
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Decision Type: 
Original
Abstract: 

[This abstract is not part of the Court's opinion and is provided for the reader's convenience. It has been translated from a Hebrew version prepared by Nevo Press Ltd. and is used with its kind permission.]

 

Petitions against the forfeiture and demolition orders that were issued for the homes of Palestinians who are suspected of perpetrating murderous attacks, pursuant to the authority of the Commander of the IDF Forces in the Judea and Samaria area under Regulation 119 of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations.

 

The High Court of Justice (per President M. Naor, Justices H. Melcer and N. Sohlberg concurring) denied the majority of the petitions, holding:

 

The scope of Regulation 119 of the Defence Regulations is extremely broad, but the case law has made it clear that use of this authority must be extremely cautious and restricted in accordance with the principles of reasonableness and proportionality. It has also been laid down in the case law that when the acts attributed to a suspect are particularly heinous, this may be sufficient in order to invoke this extreme sanction of demolishing the perpetrator’s home, for reasons of deterrence. The confidential information that was presented by the Respondents shows that concern about damage to the homes of relatives has a deterrent effect on potential terrorists; as such, there is no reason to deviate from the ruling whereby in general, intervention in the decision of the competent authority to employ this measure is not justified.

 

Nevertheless, it cannot be said that causing damage to a house owned by an “outside” third party, who is not a relative of the terrorist and who has no knowledge of the latter’s intentions, creates deterrence.

 

In the framework of the right to a hearing, it must be ensured that the timetables for carrying out the demolition orders, including the period of time for submitting an objection, are reasonable and fair in the circumstances of the case. Even though in our case, the flaw in this respect was repaired, in the future the Respondents must establish reasonable procedures regarding the relevant dates. As a rule, notice of the intention to confiscate and demolish should contain at least minimal details of the evidentiary material against the suspect who lives in the home marked for demolition, even though in the circumstances of the present case, there is no room for intervention in this matter.

 

The demolition should be conditioned upon repairing or paying compensation for damage caused as a result thereof to third parties who are not related to the terrorist, even if the damage was caused in the absence of any negligence on the part of the Respondents.

 

The Petitioners did not present a sufficient factual basis for their argument that the policy of the Military Commander discriminates between Jews and Arabs.

 

After reviewing the case of each of the Petitioners and the particular arguments, it was found that there were no grounds for intervention in the majority of the decisions concerning demolition of homes, subject to the duty of the Respondents to repair or pay compensation for damage caused to third parties who are not related to the terrorist. However, with respect to the terrorist who lives in a rented apartment owned by an outside third party, no connection was proved between the deterrent purpose and the demolition of the building. Consequently, the order nisi was made absolute, subject to the family of the terrorist vacating the apartment.

Voting Justices: 
Primary Author
majority opinion
Author
concurrence
Author
concurrence
Full text of the opinion: 

 

 

 

HCJ 7040/15

HCJ 7076/15

HCJ 7077/15

HCJ 7079/15

HCJ 7081/15

HCJ 7082/15

HCJ 7084/15

HCJ 7085/15

HCJ 7087/15

HCJ 7092/15

HCJ 7180/15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petitioner in HCJ 7040/15              Fadl Mustafa Fadl Hamed      

Petitioners in HCJ 7076/15            1.   Haj Hamed Abdallah

                                                        2.  Hosni Meshaki

                                                        3.  Ahmed Zoan

                                                        4.  Rushida Bashir

                                                        5.  Maryam Ganem

                                                        6.  Jamal Ziat

                                                        7.  Cooperative Housing Co. of Government Workers

                                                        8.  HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual

 

           

Petitioners in HCJ 7077/15:           1.   Zinab Munir Ashak Inaem

                                                        2.  Ali Munir Ashak Inaem

                                                        3.  HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual

           

.

           

Petitioners in HCJ 7079/15:            1.  Lutfi Rizek

                                                         2.  Rina Rizek

                                                         3.  Dana Lutfi Rizek

                                                         4.  Zaid Lutfi Rizek

                                                         5.  HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual

           

           

Petitioners in HCJ 7081/15:           1.  Hadija Ahmed Hassan Amar

                                                        2.  HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual

           

           

Petitioners in HCJ 7082/15:            1.  Afef Ahmed Rizek

                                                         2.  Ashraf Fathi Rizek

                                                         3.  Talal Lutfi Rizek

                                                         4.  Nasser Omar Rizek

                                                         5.  Ahmed Omar Rizek

                                                         6.  HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual

           

           

Petitioners in HCJ 7084/15:             1.  Hamed Seriah Abd Elmajid Mustafa

                                                          2.  Noeman Salah Jumah Hamed

                                                          3.  HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual

           

           

Petitioners in HCJ 7085/15:             1.  Muhamad Haj Hamed

                                                          2.  Hiam Haj Hamed

                                                          3.  Yusrah Haj Hamed

                                                          4.  Abdelrahman Hamed

                                                         5.  HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual

           

           

Petitioners in HCJ 7087/15:            1.  Welaa Kussa

                                                         2.  HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual

           

Petitioners in HCJ 7092/15:             1.  Welaa Alam Kussa

                                                          2.  Mahmoud Zahir Kussa

                                                          3.  HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual

           

           

Petitioner in HCJ 7180/15:               Lina Abdelghani

           

v.

 

Respondents in HCJ 7040/15,

HCJ 7076/15 and HCJ 7084/15:      1.  Military Commander in the West Bank

                                                          2.  Legal Advisor for the Judea and Samaria Region

           

 

           

Respondents in HCJ 7077/15:         1.  Military Commander in the West Bank

                                                         2.  Legal Advisor for the Judea and Samaria Region

                                                         3.  Fadl Elbasha           

           

Respondent in HCJ 7079/15,

HCJ 7081/15, HCJ 7085/15,

HCJ 7087/15, HCJ 7092/15

and HCJ 7180/15:                           IDF Commander in the West Bank   

 

Requesting to join as

Respondents in HCJ 7081/15:         1.  Almagor – Organization of Victims of Terror in Israel

                                                        2.  Devorah Gonen

                                                        3.  Eliezer Rosenfeld

           

For the Petitioner in HCJ 7040/15: Mufid Haj, Adv.

For the Petitioners in HCJ 7076/15: Gabi Lasky, Adv.

For the Petitioners in HCJ 7077/15: Michal Pomerantz, Adv.

For the Petitioners in HCJ 7079/15, HCJ 7085/15, 7180/15:  Labib Habib, Adv.

For the Petitioners in HCJ/7081/15, 7082/15:  Andre Rosenthal, Adv.

For the Petitioners in HCJ 7092/15: Lea Tsemel, Adv.

For the Respondents in HCJ 7040/15, HCJ 7077/15, HCJ 7081/15, HCJ 7084/15/ HCJ 7180/15: Avinoam Segal-Elad, Adv.

For the Respondents in HCJ 7082/15, HCJ 7087/15, HCJ 7092/15: Yuval Roitman, Adv., Yonathan Zion Mozes

For the Request to Join as Respondents: Pro Se

 

The Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice

Before: President M. Naor, Justice H. Melcer, Justice N. Sohlberg

 

Objection to a Decree Nisi

 

[1]       HCJ 4597/14 Awawdeh v. Military Commander

[2]       HCJ 5290/14 Qawasmeh v. Military Commander in the West Bank

[3]       HCJ 8091/14 HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual v. Minister of Defense

[4]       HCJFH 360/15 HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual v. Minister of Defense

[5]       HCJ 5696/09 Mughrabi v. GOC Home Front Command (Feb. 15, 2012).

[6]       HCJ 5667/91 Jabarin v. IDF Commander in Judea and Samaria, IsrSC 46(1) 858 (1992).

[7]       HCJFH 2161/96 Sharif v. GOC Home Front Command, IsrSC 50(4) 485 (1996).

[8]       HCJ 8084/02 Abbasi v. GOC Home Front Command, IsrSC 57(2) 55 (2003).

[9]       HCJ 9353/08 Hisham Abu Dheim et al. v. GOC Home Front Command, (Jan. 5, 2009).

[10]     HCJ 6288/03 Sa’adah v. GOC Home Front Command, IsrSC 58(2) 289 (2003).

[11]     HCJ 8066/14 Abu Jamal v. GOC Home Front Command, (Dec. 31, 2014).

[12]     HCJ 10467/03 Sharbati v. GOC Home Front Command, IsrSC 58(1) 810 (2003).

[13]     HCJ 7473/02 Bahar v. IDF Commander in the West Bank, IsrSC 56(6) 488 (2002).

[14]     HCJ 3363/03 Baker v. IDF Commander in the West Bank (Nov. 3, 2003).

[15]     HCJ 8262/03 Abu Selim v. IDF Commander in the West Bank, IsrSC 57(6) 569 (2003).

[16]     HCJ 2/97 Abu Halaweh v. GOC Home Front Command (Aug. 11, 1997).

[17]     HCJ 8575/03 Azzadin v. IDF Commander in the West Bank, IsrSC 58(1) 210 (2003).

[18]     HCJ 5839/15 Cedar v. IDF Commander in the West Bank (Oct. 15, 2015).

[19]     HCJ 6396/96 Zakin v. Mayor of Beer Sheba, IsrSC 53(3) 289 (1999).

[20]     HCJ 124/09 Dawiat v. Minister of Defence (March 18, 2009).

[21]     HCJ 358/88 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. GOC Central Command, IsrSC 43(2) 529 (1989).

[22]     HCJ 7219/15 Abu Jamal v. GOC Home Front Command (Nov. 3, 2015).

[23]     HCJ 361/82 Hamari v. GOC Judea and Samaria, IsrSC 36(3) 439 (1982).

[24]     HCJ 802/89 Nisman v. IDF Commander in the Gaza Strip, IsrSC 43(4) 461 (1989).

[25]     HCJ 897/86 Jabber v. GOC Central Command, IsrSC 41(2) 522 (1987).

[26]     HCJ7823/14 Javis v. GOC Home Front Command (Dec. 31, 2014).

[27]     HCJ 2418/97 Abu Farah v. IDF Commander in Judea and Samaria, IsrSC 51(1) 226 (1997).

[28]     HCJ 6026/94 Nazal v. IDF Commander in Judea and Samaria, IsrSC 48(5) 338 (1994).

[29]     HCJ 893/04 Faraj v. IDF Commander in the West Bank, IsrSC 58(4) 1 (2004).

[30]     HCJ 454/86 Tamimi v. Military Commander in the West Bank (Oct. 6,1986).

[31]     HCJ 1245/91 Fukhah v. Military Commander in the West Bank (Dec. 31,1991).

[32]     HCJ 299/90 Nimmer v. IDF Commander in the West Bank, IsrSC 45(3) 625 (1991).

[33]     HCJ 350/86 Elzak v. Military Commander in the West Bank (Dec. 31,1986).

[34]     HCJ 542/89 Aljamal v. IDF Commander in Judea and Samaria (July 31,1989).

[35]     HCJ 1056/89 Alsheikh v. Minister of Defence (March 27, 1990).

[36]     HCJ 869/90 Lafrukh v. IDF Commander of the Judea and Samaria Area Beit El (May 3, 1990).

[37]     HCJ 3567/90 Sabar v. Minister of Defence (Dec. 31,1990).

[38]     HCJ 3740/90 Mansour v. IDF Commander in Judea and Samaria (Jan. 8, 1991).

[39]     HCJ 6299/97 Yassin v. Military Commander in the Judea and Samaria Region (Dec. 4, 1997).

[40]     HCJFH 11043/03 Sharbati v. GOC Home Front Command (Jan. 18, 2004).

[41]     HCJ 4747/15 Abu Jamal v. GOC Home Front Command (July 7, 2015).

[42]     HCJ 1730/96 Salem v. IDF Commander, IsrSC 50(1) 353 (1996).

[43]     HCJ 228/89 Aljamal v. Minister of Defence, IsrSC 43(2) 66 (1989).

[44]     HCJ 6745/15 Abu Hashia v. Military Commander in the West Bank (Dec. 1, 2015).

[45]     HCJ 2722/92 Alamrin v. IDF Commander in the Gaza Strip, IsrSC 46(3) 693, 699 (1992).

[46]     HCJ 2006/97 Ghanimat v. GOC Central Command, IsrSC 51(2) 651 (1997).

[47]     HCJ 6932/94 Abu Elrob v. Military Commander in the Judea and Samaria Region (Feb. 19, 1995).

[48]     HCJ 8124/04 Al-Jaabri v. IDF Commander in the West Bank (Oct. 12, 2004).

[49]     HCJ 4112/90 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. GOC Southern Command, IsrSC 44(4) 626 (1990).

[50]     HCJ 769/02 Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 62(1) 507 (2006).

[51]     HCJ 2056/04 Beit Sourik Village Council v. State of Israel, IsrSC 58(5) 807 (2004).

[52]     CA 7703/10 Yeshua v. State of Israel – SELA (June 18, 2014).

[53]     HCJ 24/91 Timro v. IDF Commander in the Gaza Strip, IsrSC 45(2) 325 (1991).

[54]     HCJ 5139/91 Zakik v. IDF Commander in the West Bank, IsrSC 46(4) 260 (1992).

[55]     HCJ 3301/91 Bardaiya v. IDF Commander in the West Bank (Dec. 31,1991).

[56]     HCJ 2717/96 Wafa v. Minister of Defence, IsrSC 50(2) 848 (1996).

]57]      HCJ 7607/05 Abdullah (Hussein) v. IDF Commander in the West Bank (Feb. 14, 2005).

[58]     HCJ 466/07 MK Zehava Gal-On, Meretz-Yahad v. Attorney General, IsrSC 65(2) 1 (2012).

[57]     HCJ 434/79 Sahwill v. Commander of the Judea and Samaria Region, IsrSC 34(1) 464 (1979).

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

 

 

JUDGMENT

President M. Naor

We have before us a series of petitions filed against forfeiture and demolition orders issued for the homes of Palestinians from the Judea and Samaria area, who are accused or suspected of having committed murderous acts of terror in recent months.

Background

1.         Over the past two years, the security situation has deteriorated, both within the territory of Israel and in the Judea and Samaria area. This manifests itself in a constant rise in the incidence of terror attacks against Israeli citizens, including fatal attacks leading to the death and injury of dozens of people (see also: HCJ 4597/14 Awawdeh v. Military Commander in the West Bank, [1] para. 2 of my opinion (hereinafter: Awawdeh); HCJ 5290/14 Qawasmeh v. Military Commander in the West Bank [2], paras. 1-3 per Justice Y. Danziger (hereinafter: Qawasmeh). In recent weeks, there has been a further significant increase in the incidence of acts of terror. According to the data submitted by the Respondents in their responses, from the Eve of the Jewish New Year and until October 25, 2015, 778 attacks were recorded, in which eleven people were killed and another one hundred or so were wounded. Unfortunately, the wave of terror continues at present, and terror attacks, and attempts to carry out attacks, occur on a daily basis throughout Israel and in the Judea and Samaria area.

2.         As part of the general escalation, three serious shooting attacks occurred in recent months, in which Israeli citizens were murdered in cold blood. The details of these attacks, which are the focus of the petitions before us, are as follows: on June 19, 2015, Danny Gonen was murdered by shots from close range in a fatal attack close to the Ein Bubin Spring. Danny’s friend, Netanel Hadad, was wounded. According to the Respondents, the terrorist who carried out the attack is Muhammed Husseini Hassan Abu Shahin (hereinafter: Abu Shahin), who confessed to the attack in the course of his police interrogation. According to the Respondents, Abu Shahin’s confession is well supported by findings from the scene of the attack, and includes references to details that were not disclosed to the public. In addition, Abu Shahin confessed to the perpetration of a series of additional attacks, including thirteen attempted murders. On this basis, Abu Shahin was charged on August 17, 2015 on twenty-four counts, the first of which was causing the death of Danny Gonen and wounding Netanel Hadad.

3.         On June 29, 2015, another fatal shooting attack was carried out, in which Malakhi Rosenfeld was killed and three other people were wounded. According to the Respondents, the terrorists who carried out this attack were members of Hamas from the Judea and Samaria area, named Ma’ed Salah Jumah Hamed (hereinafter: Ma’ed) and Abdullah Munir Salah Ashak (hereinafter: Abdullah). From the interrogation of Abdullah – in the course of which he confessed to the acts and also incriminated Ma’ed – it emerged that he and Ma’ed belonged to a Hamas cell that planned to carry out a shooting attack against Israeli citizens. In this framework, on June 27, 2015, the two of them attempted to carry out a shooting attack against Israeli vehicles, which fortunately ended without harm to life or property. Two days later, Ma’ed and Abdullah met for the purpose of carrying out another shooting attack. The two of them drove towards the village of Maghar, and on the way they spotted an Israeli vehicle in which the victims were driving. When the Israeli vehicle stopped close to the attackers’ vehicle, Ma’ed opened the window of the vehicle and fired his Karl Gustav rifle in the direction of the passengers. Malakhi Rosenfeld was killed in the shooting, and three others were wounded. To support the responsibility of Ma’ed and Abdullah for these acts, the Respondents attached Abdullah’s police confession to their response, as well as the information filed against him.

4.         On October 1, 2015, terrorists carried out another vicious shooting attack in the area of the Beit Furik Junction. In this attack, Na’ama and Eitam Henkin were killed in front of their four young children, who were in the car with them and were left orphaned. According to the Respondents, three terrorists belonging to Hamas participated in the attack: Harem Lutfi Fathi Rizek (hereinafter: Rizek); Samir Zahir Ibrahim Kussa (hereinafter: Kussa); and Yehieh Muhamed Na’if Abdullah Haj Hamed (hereinafter: Hamed). In their response, the Respondents noted that the three of them had confessed to carrying out the attack, but they did not attach the actual confessions. After a discussion in an oral hearing before us, the confessions were submitted (parts of which were blacked out) to the Court, as well as to the Petitioners. In those confessions, which are consistent with each other, the three described, inter alia, their part in the murder and their motives for committing it.

The Forfeiture and Demolition Orders that are the Subjects of these Petitions

5.         Due to the severity of the three attacks described above, and the need to deter potential terrorists from perpetrating similar acts, the Military Commander in Judea and Samara (hereinafter: the Military Commander) decided to exercise his power under Regulation 119 of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations 1945 (hereinafter: Defence Regulations) by confiscating and demolishing the homes in which the terrorists lived. Six different buildings in the Judea and Samaria Area are involved.

The eleven petitions before us were filed against the decision of the Military Commander to demolish the said six buildings. Before we describe the petitions, we will sketch out a general picture of the buildings marked for demolition:

            (a)        The home of Ma’ed, suspected of the murder of Malakhi Rosenfeld (HCJ 7084/15): This is a single-story house built on a terrace, situated in Kfar Silwad, north of Ramallah.

            (b)       The home of Abdullah, accused of the murder of Malakhi Rosenfeld (HCJ 7040/15; HCJ 7077/15; HCJ 7180/15): This is apartment no. 23 situated on the top floor of a residential, eight-story building, in Kfar Silwad, north of Ramallah.

            (c)        The home of Hamed, a suspect in the murder of the Henkin couple (HCJ 7076/15; HCJ 7085/15): These are the two middle floors of a four-story building, in the Askan Rug’ib district of the city of Nablus.

            (d)       The home of Rizek, a suspect in the murder of the Henkin couple (HCJ 7079/15; HCJ 7082/15): This is an apartment on the second (middle) floor of a three-story building, in the Arak a-Ti’ah neighborhood of Nablus.

            (e)        The home of Kussa, a suspect in the murder of the Henkin couple (HCJ 7087/15; HCJ 7092/15): This is an apartment on the ground floor of a building with two stories that are built, and another one in advanced stages of construction, in the Dahi’ah neighborhood of Nablus.

            (f)        The home of Abu Shahin, a suspect in the murder of Danny Gonen (HCJ 7081/15): This is an apartment on the top floor of a three-story building, in the Qalandia refugee camp.

We will now describe the petitions concerning the six buildings. Note that our discussion of the petitions does not follow the order in which they were filed, but rather, the order in which we decided to address the various issues that arose.

Respondent’s decision with respect to the Petitioners in HCJ 7084/15 (regarding the demolition order for Ma’ed’s home)

6.         Ma’ed is a suspect in the murder of Malakhi Rosenfeld. According to the Respondents, he lived in a one-story building constructed on a terrace in Kfar Silwad, north of Ramallah. In this house – which is registered in the name of the father of the family, who is deceased – live the mother and brothers of the suspect, Ma’ed. On October 15, 2015, the Military Commander informed the suspect’s family that he intends to confiscate and demolish the entire building, and that if they wish to file an objection, they must do so in writing by Saturday, October 17, 2015. The family filed an objection, which was dismissed on October 19, 2015. On the very same day, the Military Commander signed the forfeiture and demolition order for Ma’ed’s home. Three days later, Ma’ed’s family petitioned this Court (HCJ 7084/15). The HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual, founded by Dr. Lotte Salzberger, filed a petition together with them (hereinafter: HaMoked Defence Center).

 

Respondent’s decision with respect to the Petitioners in HCJ 7040/15, HCJ 7077/15 and HCJ 7180/15 (regarding the demolition order for Abdullah’s home)

7.         Abdullah, accused of the murder of Malakhi Rosenfeld, lived in apartment no. 23, on the top floor of a residential building of eight stories, also located in Kfar Silwad. The apartment is leased by the mother of the accused, and his brothers and sister live there as well. On October 15, 2015, the Military Commander notified the family that he intended to confiscate and demolish the said apartment, and that if they wished to file an objection, they must do so by Saturday, October 17, 2015. The Military Commander did not notify the owners of the building and its other residents of his intention to demolish Abdullah’s apartment. Nevertheless, together with the objection filed by the family of the accused, objections were also filed on the part of the other residents of the building and on the part of the owner, Mr. Fadl Mustafa Fadl Hamed (hereinafter: the owner of the building), who rented out the apartment marked for demolition to Abdullah’s mother. After the three objections were dismissed and the forfeiture and demolition order signed, each of the objectors filed a petition against the order (HCJ 7040/15 – petition of the owner of the building; HCJ 7077/15 – the petition of the family of the accused and HaMoked Defence Center; HCJ 7180/15 – the petition of the residents of the building and HaMoked Defence Center).

Respondent’s decision with respect to the Petitioners in HCJ 7076/15 and HCJ 7085/15 (regarding the demolition order for Hamed’s home)

8.         Hamed is a suspect, as stated, in the shooting attack in which the Henkin couple were killed. Hamed’s home is in the Askin Rug’ib district of Nablus, in a four-story building. According to the Respondents, Hamed lived on the two middle floors of the building. They say that Hamed lived with his parents on the first floor (above the ground floor), whereas the second floor, which is in the final stages of construction, is intended for Hamed’s future residence. In any case, it is claimed that of late, Hamed sometimes lived in that apartment as well. On October 15, 2015, the Military Commander notified the family that he intended to confiscate and demolish the first floor and the second floor, and that if they wished to file an objection, they must do so in writing by Saturday, October 17, 2015. It should be noted that it was mistakenly written in the Arabic version of the notice that the Military Commander intended to confiscate and demolish the ground floor of the building. The suspect’s family filed an objection, as did a resident of the ground floor of the building – the brother of the suspect – as well as the residents of the adjacent buildings. In the framework of the decisions on the objections, the Military Commander apologized for the mistake in the Arabic version of the notice, and explained that, as noted in the Hebrew version, the intention was to demolish the first and second floors of the building. Subsequently, the objections of the family members were dismissed. The objections of the neighbor and of the residents of the adjacent buildings were likewise dismissed. Following the dismissal of the objections and after the Military Commander signed the forfeiture and demolition order, the objectors, together with HaMoked Defence Center, filed petitions in this Court (HCJ 7076/15 – the petition of the resident of the ground floor and the residents of the buildings adjacent to the building marked for demolition; and HCJ 7085/15 – the petition of the family members, including the mother of the suspect, who also owns the building).

Respondent’s decision with respect to the Petitioners in HCJ 7079/15 and HCJ 7082/15 (regarding the demolition order for Rizek’s home)

9.         Rizek, too, is suspected of having participated in the attack in which the Henkin couple were murdered. The apartment in which Rizek lived is in the Arak a-Ti’ah neighborhood of Nablus. This is an apartment on the second (middle) floor of a three-story building, in which Rizek’s parents and brothers also live. On October 15, 2015, the Military Commander notified the family that he intended to confiscate and demolish the second floor of the building, and that if they wished to file an objection, they must do so in writing by Saturday, October 17, 2015. The family, as well as other residents of the building, filed two objections – which were dismissed. Immediately subsequent to this, the Military Commander signed the forfeiture and demolition order. Thereafter, the objectors, together with HaMoked Defence Center, filed two petitions in this Court (HCJ 7079/15 – the petition of the family members, and HCJ 7082/15 – the petition of other residents in the building).

 

Respondent’s decision with respect to HCJ 7087/15 and HCJ 7092/15 (regarding the demolition order for Kussa’s home)

10.       Kussa was the third suspect in the attack in which the Henkin couple were murdered. The apartment in which Kussa lived is in the Dah’ia neighborhood of the city of Nablus. This is an apartment on the ground floor of a building of which two floors are built, and the third is in advanced stages of construction. On October 15, 2015 the Military Commander notified the suspect’s family that he intended to confiscate and demolish the ground floor of the building, and that if they wished to file an objection, they must do so in writing by Saturday, October 17, 2015. Members of the family filed an objection, as did other residents in the building. After the objections were dismissed and the Military Commander signed the forfeiture and demolition order, the objectors, together with HaMoked Defence Center, filed petitions in this Court (HCJ 7087/15 – the petition of the suspect’s wife, who lives with their three children in the apartment marked for demolition; and HCJ 7092/15 – the petition of other residents in the building).

Respondent’s decision with respect to the Petitioner in HCJ 7081/15 (regarding the demolition order for Abu Shahin’s home)

11.       Abu Shahin, who is accused of the murder of Danny Gonen, lived with his family in an apartment on the top floor of a three-story building, in the Qalandia refugee camp. On October 15, 2015, the Military Commander notified the members of the family who lived with the accused and their relatives, members of the Amar family, that he intends to confiscate and demolish the third floor of the building. The notice stated that if they wish to file and objection, they must do so in writing by Saturday, October 17, 2015. An objection filed by the accused’s grandmother, Mrs. Hadija Amar, who lives on the first floor of the building, was dismissed on October 19, 2015. On that same day, the Military Commander signed the forfeiture and demolition order for Abu Shahin’s home. Three days later, Mrs. Amar, together with HaMoked Defence Center, filed a petition against the order (HCJ 7081/15). In order to complete the picture, it should be noted that according to the Respondents, the apartment marked for demolition is owned by the uncle of the accused, Ibrahim Abdullah Amar. Nevertheless, Mrs. Amar claimed that she owns the whole building, including the accused’s apartment on the top floor.

 The Main Arguments of the Parties

Fundamental Arguments Common to all the Petitions

12.       In the petitions before us, several arguments arose that are common to them all. First, according to the Petitioners, demolition of the homes of Palestinian residents in the Judea and Samaria area – in which the laws of belligerent seizure apply – constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law. They contend that the destruction of homes is contrary to the prohibition against destroying property except where absolutely necessary for military purposes (Art. 53 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (CA 1, 453 (opened for signature in 1949) (hereinafter: Fourth Geneva Convention); Article 46 of the Fourth Hague Convention concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land, including the Regulations respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land (1907) (hereinafter: Hague Regulations), constitutes prohibited collective punishment (Art. 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention; Reg. 50 of the Hague Regulations), and is contrary to the duty to ensure the welfare of the child (Art. 38 of the Convention concerning the Rights of the Child, (opened for signature in 1989). Against this background, and based on the opinions of Israeli academic experts in public international law, it was argued that extensive demolition of homes is liable to amount to a war crime under international criminal law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998). The Petitioners are aware of the institutional difficulty in a reexamination of the constitutionality of the policy of demolition of homes that has been approved by the Court over a long period. However, according to them, in view of the serious implications of the policy of demolition of homes, its examination is justified in the framework of the petitions before us.

The Petitioners further argued that even though the justification for demolishing the homes of terrorists is, according to the case law of this Court, deterrent and not punitive, there is no proof that demolishing homes actually serves the purpose of deterring potential terrorists. In this context Petitioners recalled that in 2005, the Minister of Defence accepted the recommendations of the think tank headed by General Udi Shani (hereinafter: the Shani Committee), according to which the demolition of homes should be stopped, in view of doubt as to its effectiveness. The Petitioners argued that it is not acceptable that the Respondents refrain from presenting empirical data or other evidence in support of the claim that demolition of homes deters potential terrorists from carrying out attacks. This, notwithstanding the comments of Justices E. Rubinstein and E. Hayut in HCJ 8091/14 HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual v. Minister of Defense [3] (hereinafter: the HaMoked Defence Center case), according to whom the Respondents ought to conduct “follow-up and research on the matter,” and “insofar as possible, should, as may be necessary in the future, present this Court with the data demonstrating the effectiveness of house demolition as a means of deterrence that justifies the infliction of harm to parties who are not suspected nor accused” (ibid., para. 27 per Justice E. Rubinstein). Another common argument is that of discrimination. According to the Petitioners, Reg. 119 of the Defence Regulations is implemented in a way that discriminates between Jews and Arabs. Whereas the homes of Arabs who perpetrated terror attacks have been demolished, the homes of Jews who carried out similar attacks are still standing. Finally, it was argued that the amount of time that was given to the Petitioners to file objections against the intention to demolish the buildings, and the amount of time given them to petition this Court against the orders that were issued was unreasonably short. Some of the Petitioners also pointed out that the forty-eight hours that they were given to file objections included days of rest. Moreover, some of the Petitioners argued that there were additional flaws in the hearing process, first and foremost the refusal of the Respondents to allow the Petitioners to examine material on which the decisions were based, such as the incriminating evidence against the suspects and the engineers’ reports in accordance with which the demolitions will be carried out.

13.       The Respondents argued in reply that all the fundamental arguments should be dismissed. In response to the Petitioners’ arguments that rely on international law, the Respondents argued that the Court has decided on a number of occasions, and recently in the HaMoked Defence Center case [3], that the demolition of terrorists’ homes is a legitimate action that is consistent with international and domestic law. The Respondents argued that the Petitioners showed no reason justifying a reexamination of these arguments. The Respondents also argued that in the present security reality, exercise of the authority under Reg. 119 of the Defence Regulations is essential in order to deter additional, potential attackers. According to them, the question of the effectiveness of the policy of demolition of homes has been addressed in a string of judgments (for example, in the HaMoked Defence Center case [3] in which a petition on a question of principle against use of the tool of demolishing the homes of terrorists was dismissed; a petition for a further hearing on that judgment was dismissed today (HCJFH 360/15 HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual v. Minister of Defense [4] (hereinafter: HCJFH HaMoked Defence Center). Indeed, as the Respondents agree, several years ago the Shani Committee recommended restricting the method of home demolitions to the point of non-use, but with the growing wave of terror, the need to use this authority in Jerusalem (as of 2008) and in the Judea and Samaria area (as of 2014) arose once more. The Respondents contend that renewal of use of the measure of demolitions is the result of circumstances of time and place, and as the face of terror changes, the Military Commander is required to act accordingly, changing the measures that he adopts. The Respondents further argued that the policy is implemented proportionately, and that in the framework of the balances that were considered, weight was attributed to the gravity of the deeds; the perpetrator’s residential connection to the home; the size of the home; the impact of implementing this measure on other people; engineering considerations, etc. It was also argued that in accordance with the case law of this Court, the claim of discrimination must be dismissed. Finally, it was argued that there is no substance to the Petitioners’ arguments regarding the hearing process.

 

Specific Arguments

14.       A number of specific arguments were also raised in the petitions, on which I will elaborate below, in relation to each order that was issued for the homes that are the subjects of the petitions before us. At the same time, we will already note at this stage that the main thrust of the specific arguments relates to the factual foundations on which the Respondents based their decision; to doubts in relation to the rational connection between the means of demolishing homes and the deterrent purpose in certain cases; to the delay in exercising the authority; to the possible harm to adjacent apartments and buildings; and to the question of whether the Respondents must provide compensation for this harm. The Respondents, on their part, argued that these claims, too, must be dismissed, as will be explained below.

 

The Proceedings in this Court

15.       In all these petitions, requests for interim orders were made and granted. In accordance with the interim orders, the Respondents were prohibited from confiscating and demolishing the six dwellings until the petitions were decided.

16.       On 27 October 2015, the Almagor Association, an organization for the victims of terror in Israel, together with the mother of Danny Gonen and the father of Malakhi Rosenfeld, asked to be joined as respondents to the petitions. We allowed them to submit their positions in writing, and to present oral arguments during the hearing on the petitions. They asked to express the voice of the grieving families, whose pain needs no elaboration, in support of the demolition of the homes of terrorists which, according to them, is liable to prevent additional victims of terror.

17.       A hearing was held before this Court on October 29, 2015. The petitions raise common questions, and some relate to the same buildings. We therefore decided to address them together. Nevertheless, each of the petitions has its own particular aspects, which must be considered separately.

18.       At the start of the oral hearing, we asked counsel for the Respondents whether the petitions could be treated as if a decree nisi had been issued. Initially, the Respondents answered in the negative, but after the hearing, they submitted notice that they agreed to this request. Furthermore, with the consent of counsel for the Petitioners, we examined confidential material ex parte, which addressed the deterrent power of the policy of the demolition of homes. At our instruction, a copy of the material was later sent to the Court, to be kept in the Court’s vault as part of the exhibits submitted in the present petitions. On November 9, 2015 a request was submitted on the part of the Petitioners to examine the possibility of revealing the confidential material, or at least some of it, to the Petitioners for their examination. The request was also raised in the oral hearing before us (see: transcript of the hearing of October 29, 2015, page 32). We did not find it possible to grant this request.

19.       Finally, after necessary clarifications on certain matters, on November 2, 2015 the Respondents submitted a supplementary notice (hereinafter: supplementary notice). In the framework of the supplementary notice, the Respondents argued that in each of the cases that are the subjects of the petitions, the various alternatives for executing the orders were examined (full demolition, demolition of internal walls and ceiling, or sealing the apartment). According to them, this examination revealed that all six structures should be destroyed “due to the full set of relevant circumstances, including engineering, operative and operational considerations, as well as considerations of deterrence.” The Respondents further explained that if the adjacent buildings were damaged as a result of negligent planning or execution of the demolition of the structures marked for demolition, the State would agree – beyond the letter of the law – to repair the building or to compensate its owners. This would be subject to the opinion of an appraiser and a string of additional conditions, namely: that the defect in the demolition of the building did not result from a disturbance of public order; that the owners of the structure did not receive compensation, restitution or participation of any kind for the damage from the Palestinian Authority or any other body; that the injured party is not a citizen of an enemy state or an activist or member of a terrorist organization or anyone acting on their behalf (in accordance with sec. 5B of the Civil Wrongs (Liability of the State) Law, 5712-1952 (hereinafter: Civil Wrongs Law)).

20.       At our request, the Respondents further presented details of the timetables of the execution of earlier demolition orders that had been approved by this Court since 2013. In this framework it emerged that some of the orders were executed immediately after the judgment approving the order was handed down, while some were executed only several months later. One order has not yet been executed, for operational reasons. Additionally, the Respondents attached the following documents to the supplementary notification: the suspects’ confession to the murder of the Henkin couple; the confession of another two people involved in the attack in which Malakhi Rosenfeld was murdered; and a summary of the mapping out of the home of the suspect Hamed.

21.       The Petitioners, on their part, submitted responses to the supplementary notice. In their responses, the Petitioners claimed, inter alia, that it emerges from the Respondents’ notice that alternatives to full demolition were considered only reluctantly. The Petitioners also claimed that the conditions specified by the Respondents for paying compensation to the residents of the adjacent buildings are not reasonable.

Discussion and Decision – Common Arguments

22.       The petitions before us turn on the implementation of Regulation 119 of the Defence Regulations, which authorizes the Military Commander to order the demolition of the houses of suspects or persons accused of hostile activity against the State of Israel.

 

Forfeiture and Demolition of Property etc.

119 (1)       A Military Commander may by order direct the forfeiture to the Government of Israel of any house, structure, or land from which he has reason to suspect that any firearm has been illegally discharged, or any bomb, grenade or explosive or incendiary article illegally thrown, or of any house, structure or land situated in any area, town, village, quarter of street the inhabitants or some of the inhabitants of which he is satisfied have committed, or attempted to commit, or abetted the commission of, or been accessories after the fact to the commission of, any offence against these Regulations involving violence or intimidation or any Military Court offence; and when any house, structure or land is forfeited as aforesaid, the Military Commander may destroy the house or the structure or anything growing on the land. Where any house, structure or land has been forfeited by order of a Military Commander as above, the Minister of Defence may at any time by order remit the forfeiture in whole or in part and thereupon, to the extent of such remission, the ownership of the house, structure or land and all interests or easements in or over the house, structure or land, shall revest in the persons who would have been entitled to the same if the order of forfeiture had not been made and all charges on the house, structure or land shall revive for the benefit of the persons who would have been entitled thereto if the order or forfeiture had not been made.

[…]

 

23.       The ambit of Regulation 119 of the Defence Regulations, as formulated, is very broad. Nevertheless, the case law of this Court has made clear that the Military Commander must use this power in a cautious, limited manner, in accordance with the principles of reasonableness and proportionality (see, e.g., the Awawdeh case [1], paras. 16-17 of my opinion; HCJ 5696/09 Mughrabi v. GOC Home Front Command [5], para. 12 per Justice H. Melcer (hereinafter: Mughrabi); HCJ 5667/91 Jabarin v. IDF Commander in Judea and Samaria [6]). This case law  is reinforced with the enactment of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, in light of which the Regulation must be interpreted (see HCJFH 2161/96 Sharif v. Commander of the Home Front [7],  488 (hereinafter: Sharif); HCJ 8084/02 Abbasi v. GOC Home Front Command [8],  59). Therefore, according to the rules developed in the case law, the authority must ensure that the demolition is carried out for a proper purpose and that it meets the proportionality test. In other words, the means adopted must rationally lead to the realization of the goal; the means adopted must achieve the goal with the least possible violation of the protected human rights – the right to property and to human dignity; and finally, the means adopted must be appropriately related to the underlying goal (see: Sharif [7], at pp. 60-61; HCJ 9353/08 Hisham Abu Dheim et al. v. GOC Home Front Command [9], para. 5 of my opinion, and the references there (hereinafter: Abu Dheim)).

24.       As the case law has held, the purpose of the Regulation is deterrent, not punitive. This purpose has been recognized as proper (for criticism of this approach, see, e.g., David Kretzmer, High Court of Justice Review of the Demolition and Sealing of Houses in the Territories, (1993) Klinghoffer Memorial Volume on Public Law 305, 314, 319-27 (Heb.); Amichai Cohen and Tal Mimran, Cost without Benefit in the Housing Demolition Policy: Following HCJ 4597/14 Muhammad Hassan Halil Awawdeh v. Military Commander in the West Bank, HaMishpat Online 5, 11-21 (2014) (Heb.)). Demolition of houses is undoubtedly a drastic, harsh step – primarily due to the harm it causes to the family of the terrorist, who sometimes did not aid him nor know of his plans. Indeed, “[…] the injury to a family member – who has not sinned nor transgressed – when he loses his home and shelter, contrary to first principles, is burdensome. (HaMoked Defence Center case [3], para. 2, per Justice N. Sohlberg). However, given the deterrent force of the use of the Regulation, there is sometimes no choice but to use it (see, e.g., HCJ 6288/03 Sa’adah v. GOC Home Front Command [10],  294 ). Therefore, the case law of this Court has held that when the acts attributed to the suspect are particularly heinous, this may suffice to justify use of this exceptional sanction of demolishing his home, due to considerations of deterrence (see: HCJ 8066/14 Abu Jamal v. Commander of the Home Front [11] para. 9, per Justice E. Rubinstein (hereinafter: Abu Jamal); HCJ 10467/03 Sharbati v. GOC Home Front Command [12], 814 (hereinafter: Sharbati)). These cases are all similar to the present cases, which concern cruel attacks in which Israeli citizens were murdered in cold blood. And all of this against the background of a harsh security situation in which, unfortunately, attacks and attempted attacks directed against the citizens and residents of Israel are a daily occurrence.

 

The Authority of the Military Commander – Compliance of the Policy of Home Demolitions with International Law

25.       The Petitioners contend that the Respondents’ policy violates international humanitarian law and human rights law. These contentions – which go to the root of the authority of the Military Commander to order the forfeiture and demolition of the homes of protected persons – were recently raised before this Court in the HaMoked Defence Center case [3]. This Court did not find grounds for deviating from the case law on this matter (for elaboration, see: ibid., paras. 2124 per Justice E. Rubinstein, and para. 3 per Justice E. Hayut). As stated, today I handed down a decision denying an application for a further hearing of that case (the above-mentioned HCJFH HaMoked Defence Center [4]). In my decision, I noted that a further hearing is intended to address explicit, detailed rulings of the Court, and not questions that the Court did not discuss in depth. I accordingly dismissed the applicants’ main argument that a further hearing should be held precisely because this Court refused to re-examine questions that had been decided in the case law concerning the authority of the Military Commander to order the forfeiture and demolition of the homes of terrorists.

26.       In view of the judgment of this Court in the HaMoked Defence Center case [3], I saw no grounds for revisiting these questions, inter alia, considering the fact that this Regulation has been invoked both within the borders of Israel as well as in the area of Judea and Samaria. On this matter, the words of Justice E. Rubinstein in the HaMoked Defence Center case bear repeating: “we shall see –– with all due respect – that the authority exists, and the main question is that of reasonableness and discretion” (ibid., para. 20). Judicial review of the exercise of authority under Regulation 119 of the Defence Regulations must focus on the subject of discretion, which I will now address.

 

The Effectiveness of the Policy of Demolition of Houses

27.       Over the years, Petitioners have often raised the argument that there is no evidence attesting that the demolition of the homes of terrorists has the potential to deter others from perpetrating acts of terror. A similar argument was made in the present petitions. This Court has ruled more than once that the effectiveness of the policy of demolition of houses is a matter for the evaluation of the security establishment, and that in any case it is difficult to conduct a scientific study that would prove how many attacks were prevented as a result of the demolition activity (see, inter alia: HCJ 7473/02 Bahar v. IDF Commander in the West Bank [13], 490; HCJ 3363/03 Baker v. IDF Commander in the West Bank [14]; HCJ 8262/03 Abu Selim  v. IDF Commander in the West Bank [15], 574-575 (hereinafter: Abu Selim); HCJ 2/97  Abu Halaweh v. GOC Home Front Command [16] (hereinafter: Abu Halaweh).

At the same time, since demolition of houses is, as we have said, a drastic measure – which sometimes violates the basic rights of those who have not been involved in terror – this Court has stressed that the security authorities should periodically examine whether their assessment on this matter is correct and effective (see: HCJ 8575/03 Azzadin v. IDF Commander in the West Bank [17], 213). Recently, it was held in the framework of a judgment in the HaMoked Defence Center case [3], on which the Respondents rely, that even though, at the time, there were no grounds for intervention in the policy of the Military Commander to order the forfeiture and demolition of the homes of terrorists who perpetrated serious attacks, he should bear in mind that he is under a duty to re-examine the effectiveness of this policy. Justice E. Rubinstein wrote as follows:

                      …I believe that the principle of proportionality does not allow us to continue to assume forever that choosing the drastic option of house demolition, or even of house sealing, achieves the desired purpose of deterrence, unless all of the data that properly confirms that hypothesis is presented to us for our review. We accept the premise that it is hard to assess this matter, and this Court has often addressed this problem … However, as aforesaid, I believe that employing means that have considerable consequences for a person’s property justifies an ongoing review of the question of whether or not they bear fruit, especially in view of the fact that claims have been made in this regard even among IDF officials, and see, for example, the presentation of the Major General Shani Committee which, on the one hand, presents a consensus among intelligence agencies regarding the benefits thereof, and on the other hand states, under the title “Major Insights” that “within the context of deterrence, the measure of demolition is ‘eroded’” … Thus I believe that State authorities must examine the measure and its utility from time to time, including conducting follow-up research on the matter, and insofar as possible should, as may be necessary in the future, present this Court with the data demonstrating the effectiveness of house demolition as a means of deterrence that justifies the infliction of damage upon parties who are not suspects nor accused persons […] In my opinion, the requested effort would be appropriate in order to meet the basic requirements of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, the importance of which in the Israeli democratic system requires no elaboration. We are not setting hard-and-fast rules as to the nature of the required research and data. That will become evident, to the extent necessary, at the appropriate time. At present, of course, the engineering issue should be thoroughly examined in respect of each specific demolition or sealing, in order to ensure that the goal is achieved within its boundaries, and without deviation.

Justice E. Hayut concurred, adding:

Finally, I will say that I attach great importance to the comment made by my colleague Justice Rubinstein concerning the need in the future to conduct, from time to time and to the extent possible, follow-up and research concerning the measure of house demolition and its effectiveness … The recent wave of terror that began with the frequent killings and massacres of innocent civilians, passers-by and congregation members at a synagogue, also marked an extreme change, characterized by terrorists from East Jerusalem, required a renewed application of this measure. However, these extreme cases should not obviate the need that was addressed by my colleague to re-examine from time to time, and raise doubts and questions concerning the constitutional validity of home demolition under the tests of the limitation clause. In his poem, “The Place Where We Are Right” the poet Yehuda Amichai lauds the doubts that should always trouble even the hearts of the righteous:

But doubts and loves

Dig up the world

Like a mole, a plow.

 

And a whisper will be heard in the place

Where the ruined

House once stood

(ibid., para. 6) (and see also, recently, the minority opinion of Justice U. Vogelman in HCJ 5839/15 Cedar v. IDF Commander in the West Bank [18] (hereinafter: Cedar).

28.       Against the above background, and mindful that several months have elapsed since the judgment in the HaMoked Defence Center case [3], we asked the Respondents at the hearing if there had been any examination of the matter. In answer to our question, the Respondents insisted that they were in possession of classified material that supported their argument concerning the benefit derived from demolition of the homes of terrorists (for a similar claim raised by the State in the past, see, e.g., the Abu Selim case [15], at p. 574). With the consent of counsel for the Petitioners, we examined the classified material ex parte. I will emphasize that the material that was presented to us does not fall into the category of “research”, but rather, it is a collation of information. This information attests to a not insignificant number of cases in which potential terrorists refrained from carrying out attacks due to their fear of the consequences for their homes and those of their family.

29.       Having examined the classified material, I am of the opinion that considering the fact that until recently, the number of home demolitions was relatively limited, what was presented to us is sufficient to support the conclusion that there is no cause at this time to intervene in the decision of the Military Commander and the political echelon (that was presented with the material), whereby the demolition of homes indeed constitutes a deterrent factor for potential terrorists, who are afraid of causing harm to their family. As Justice Vogelman noted in the Cedar case, “[…] in fact, if the demolition of the home of one terrorist deters another terrorist from harming human life, then we must say that the selected measure has achieved a benefit which may be the noblest of all imaginable benefits” (ibid., para. 3). Accordingly, the material that was presented to us satisfied me that the fear of harm to the homes of the families of the terrorists constitutes a deterrent for potential terrorists. Therefore, despite the doubts that have been expressed of late in the case law and the literature with respect to the deterrent power of house demolition, I see no reason to depart from the case law, according to which there is, in general, no justification for intervening in the decision of the competent authorities to implement this measure. Nevertheless, I will mention that after studying the material on which the Respondents relied in making their decision, I cannot say that causing damage to a house that is owned by an “outside” third party, who is not a relative of the terrorist and who has no knowledge of his intentions, creates deterrence. The classified material does not lay a foundation for a determination that harm of this kind, too, has a deterrent effect. I will return to this at greater length below.

 

Claim of Discrimination

30.       The Petitioners also argued that the policy of the Military Commander discriminates between Jews and Arabs. This argument should be dismissed. It is well known that the burden of proving a claim of discrimination falls upon the shoulders of the one making the claim. As has been held, this is not a light burden (see: HaMoked Defence Center [3], para. 25 per Justice E. Rubinstein; see also HCJ 6396/96 Zakin v. Mayor of Beer Sheba [19]). The present petitions make a general claim of discrimination, without offering serious support. The Petitioners did not, therefore, present a sufficient factual basis to support their claim, and as such it does not warrant our intervention (see and cf. also: HCJ 124/09 Dawiat v. Minister of Defence [20], para. 6 per Justice E.E. Levy; Sharbati [12], at p. 815; Qawasmeh [2], para 30 per Justice Y. Danziger).

 

The Hearing Process

31.       The Petitioners further argued that the timetable set for the hearing process in their matter was unreasonable. Some also complained that the material on which the Respondents based their decision, such as the evidentiary material incriminating the suspects and the engineering plans for demolishing the buildings, was not made available for their examination.

32.       It is a fundamental principle that an administrative agency may not exercise its authority in a way that may harm a person before that person is given a proper chance to present his arguments. This principle is derived from the conception that an administrative authority must act fairly (see: I. Zamir, Administrative Authority, vol. 2, 1148 (2nd ed., 2011) (Heb.) (hereinafter: Zamir). The rule that a hearing must be held, and the reasons underlying it, also apply to the exercise of authority under Regulation 119 of the Defence Regulations. As such, as this Court has held in the past, per President M. Shamgar, that the exercise of such authority must normally be delayed in order to allow those who will be harmed thereby to make their arguments:

                      … it would be appropriate that an order issued under Regulation 119 should include a notice to the effect that the person to whom the order is directed may select a lawyer and address the Military Commander before implementation of the order, within a fixed time period set forth therein, and that, if he so desires, he will be given additional time after that, also fixed, to apply to this Court before the order will be implemented. (HCJ 358/88 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. GOC Central Command [21], 541 (hereinafter: ACRI case).

Only in exceptional circumstances that require carrying out the demolition immediately due to military and operational considerations, will there be no postponement until the hearing is held:

The Respondents do not dispute that there are circumstances – and until now these were apparently the majority of instances – in which, even in their opinion, there is no reason not to permit the making of objections (within a fixed time) before the person who issues the order and also to allow the possibility of postponing its implementation for an additional fixed time (48 hours were mentioned) during which it will be possible to present a petition to the Court requesting the exercise of judicial review over the administrative decision. It is unnecessary to add that it is possible that an interlocutory order will be given, as a result of the application to the Court, and additional time will pass until the actual decision will be given.

However, it is argued, there are situations whose circumstances require on-the-spot action, and in which it is not possible to delay the implementation of the action until the said periods have passed. […]

According to our legal conception, it is, therefore, important that the interested party be able to present his objections before the Commander prior to the demolition, to apprise him of facts and considerations of which he may have been unaware […].

…There are military-operational circumstances in which judicial review is inconsistent with the conditions of time and place or the nature of the circumstances [...].

In my opinion, ways should be found to maintain the right to present one’s claim before implementation of a decision which is not among the types of situations [in which immediate demolition is necessary – M.N.] (ibid., at pp. 540-541) (emphasis added – M.N.)

In the present case, as part of the hearing process, notices were sent to the family members living in the buildings earmarked for demolition. The notices specified the grounds for the planned forfeiture and demolition of their homes. The notice also explained that they could submit an objection to the Military Commander. All the notices concerning the planned demolitions were sent on Thursday, October 15, 2015. The wording of the notices was also essentially the same (with the relevant changes), and the time-tables for submitting objections were identical. For the purpose of illustration, I bring as an example the verbatim wording of one of the notices that were sent (the object of HCJ 7079/15 and HCJ 7082/15):

The Commander of the IDF forces in Judea and Samaria, by virtue of his authority as the Military Commander in the area of Judea and Samaria, in accordance with Regulation 119 of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945 and his other powers under any law and security legislation, hereby notifies that it is his intention to render forfeit and demolish the apartment on the middle floor of a three-story building in Shechem […] in which the terrorist Karam Lutfi Fathi Rizek resides […].

This measure is adopted because the above-mentioned acted to carry out a terror attack on October 1, 2015 in the course of which he brought about the death by gunfire of the late Henkin couple […]

If you wish to present your arguments or objections to this intention, you must specify them in writing […] by October 17, 2015 at 12:00 […]

Any factual or legal claim that you raise must be supported by documentation and other proofs, which must be attached to your letter to the Military Commander (emphasis added – M.N.).

In my opinion, in the matter at hand, the timetable that was set is problematic. In all the present cases, the amount of time given to the Petitioners to submit objections was very short: from Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 until Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, which included days of rest. Is this a coincidence? I accept that, usually, demolition orders that are issued for the homes of terrorists must be carried out quickly in order to achieve deterrence. Fixing tight schedules is therefore justified. Nevertheless, and despite the urgency, the timetables must be reasonable and fair under the whole set of circumstances (see and cf: the ACRI case, at pp. 540-541; see also: Zamir, at p. 1177). This conclusion is derived from the basic principle that a competent authority has not fulfilled its duty by summoning the relevant person to present his arguments, but rather, it must hold a fair hearing process, in a manner that affords the person who will be harmed by the decision a suitable opportunity to have his say.

33.       I believe that considering the nature of the authority that is exercised and the violation of the human rights of innocent persons that it may cause, a time period of one working day, and sometimes less than that, to submit an objection is not sufficient. Moreover, the haste with which the procedures were conducted caused additional flaws, such as a mistake in the Arabic wording of the notice that was issued for the house in which Hamed lived.  Even though the mistake in the wording of the order was technical in nature, and it was later corrected in the framework of the decision on the objections, haste in the conduct of procedures of this type is liable to entail serious mistakes that might, on occasion, be irreversible (for an example of a recent mistake in the identification of the house marked for demolition, see: HCJ 7219/15 Abu Jamal v. GOC Home Front Command [22]). Nevertheless, since the Petitioners have had the opportunity to make their arguments before us, and the possibility of supplementing their arguments after the hearing, I do not think that the timetable under discussion in our case ultimately caused a miscarriage of justice (see and cf: the Abu Selim case [15], at p. 573). Therefore, in my opinion, the timetables do not justify  the extreme relief of voiding the orders. Looking to the future, the Respondents must establish reasonable procedures in regard to the relevant dates, including the amount of time for submitting objections.

34.       Several of the Petitioners further argued, as stated, that the Respondents ought to have allowed them to examine the evidentiary material incriminating the relevant suspect, and the engineers’ opinions. As I pointed out, the right to be heard that is accorded to the individual must be fair and appropriate. Therefore, in principle, the authorities should see to providing those involved with the contents of the documents on which their decision relies (regarding the general duties of the authority in connection with holding a hearing prior to making a decision, see: Zamir, at p. 1173; Dafna Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, vol. 1 499 (2010) (Heb). However, there may be circumstances in which this is not possible, for example, for reasons of state security and others (see: ibid., at pp. 506-507). Against this backdrop, the Respondents did well in ultimately submitting to the Petitioners and to the Court those unclassified parts of the confessions of the three suspects in the murder of the Henkin couple, and the confessions of additional persons involved in the murder of Malakhi Rosenfeld. Since the Petitioners were given an opportunity to respond to the contents of this evidence, there are no grounds for intervention in this regard. I will, however, comment that as a rule, the notice of intention to render forfeit and demolish should contain details, albeit minimal, about the evidentiary material that exists against the suspect who lives in the house that is marked for demolition (see and cf. the ACRI case [21], at p. 541).

35.       In my opinion, there are also no grounds warranting intervention in the refusal of the Respondents to allow the Petitioners to examine the engineers’ reports. In the cases before us, in which claims were made about possible damage to the buildings adjacent to the building marked for demolition, the Respondents, in the framework of their decision on the objections and in their responses to the petitions, described the way in which each demolition would be carried out, and explained that an engineer would supervise the demolitions themselves. Hence, the Petitioners were presented with a comprehensive picture of the planned demolitions, and their arguments that the demolition plans remained vague cannot be accepted. In addition, those Petitioners who so wished submitted engineers’ opinions of their own. The Respondents must examine these opinions, if they have not already done so, with an open mind. It may be that in the future, in cases in which, prima facie, an engineering problem arises (such as a case in which the apartment marked for demolition is the middle floor of a building, or a case in which the apartment marked for demolition is in a multi-story building that may collapse), it will be appropriate to describe the way in which the demolition is planned already in the framework of the notice of intention to render forfeit and demolish. At the same time, taking account of the entire set of circumstances of the cases at hand, the fact that the Respondents did not hand over the engineers’ opinions to the Petitioners does not constitute, in my opinion, grounds for intervening in the Respondents’ decision.

And now, from the general issues to the particular questions that arose in the petitions.

 

Deliberation and Decision – Particular Arguments

Decision in the petition concerning the demolition order issued for the home of Ma’ed (HCJ 7084/15)

36.       This petition relates to the forfeiture and demolition order issued for the home of Ma’ed, who together with Abdullah, is suspected of murdering Malakhi Rosenfeld. The suspect’s family, who live in a single-story house that is marked for demolition, petitioned against the order. The petition argued, in particular, that the Respondents have no basis for exercising their authority under Regulation 119 of the Defence Regulations. According to the Petitioners, Ma’ed was not arrested by the authorities in Israel and was not questioned by them. Rather, he is held by the Palestinian Authority.  In any case, he has not been charged in Israel. In these circumstances, the Petitioners argue that Ma’ed’s part in the act attributed to him was not proven. Alternatively, it is claimed that Ma’ed was not a resident of the building marked for demolition. As described in the petition, between the years 2006 and 2010, Ma’ed was in the United States, and after returning from there he married and went to live elsewhere with his wife. In the last year and a half, after divorcing his wife and until his arrest, Ma’ed would come to the house that is the object of the order two or three times a week, but most nights he slept at his workplace. Therefore, the Petitioners request that we order the Respondents to refrain from carrying out the forfeiture and demolition of the building to which the order relates.

37.       The Respondents responded that Ma’ed’s role in t