Sfard on Israeli Supreme Court ruling on Migron outpost: ‘It’s Our Brown v. Board’

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Human Rights Lawyer Michael Sfard

The ongoing battle to prevent the dismantlement of the illegal outpost of Migron took a nosedive on Sunday as Netanyahu’s ‘solution’ of extending the delay for years into the future was rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court, giving the settlers only thru August 1st 2012 to move out.

Legendary human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, representing six Palestinian petitioners who are registered owners of the land Migron occupies, was celebrating on Sunday.


JERUSALEM—The Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday rejected the state’s request to postpone dismantling a large, unsanctioned West Bank settler enclave until late 2015, dealing a serious blow to settler hopes to keep dozens of rogue outposts standing.

The ruling could ignite a violent showdown with settlers, who have vowed in the past not to abandon their hilltop stronghold, Migron. Settler leader Shimon Riklin, one of the enclave’s founders, told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that the evacuation of Migron “would not pass quietly.”

“The residents of Migron received today the harsh court ruling, which is based on the false claim of privately held land, and whose objective is the expulsion of peace-loving people,” said Migron spokesman Itai Chemo.

Attorney Michael Sfard, who represented the Palestinian landowners in court, welcomed the ruling and said he had no problem with the court’s agreement to extend the evacuation deadline to Aug. 1.

Marc Tracy interviews Michael Sfard at Tablet ‘It’s Our Brown v. Board


I’m very … happy’s not the right word, but content. I think the ruling is important. The danger of an opposite ruling was really a big threat, because in some way Migron became Israel’s 21st-century test of whether we really uphold the rule of law and whether any communities amongst Israeli society is above the law. And I did feel, while litigating the case, that there was a huge clash between the executive and the judiciary here, and the question of who will prevail is extremely important here, not just for Migron.

Do you trust the government to abide by and implement the decision? Prime Minister Netanyahu said he would.

I don’t want to sound naive, but I truly believe that there are enough forces among Israeli society that would not allow the government to disobey a clear, final, and binding ruling of the highest court in our land. If I’m wrong, then on Aug. 2 Israel would not be the same country. It’s our Brown v. Board of Education. That case was about equality and integration, but I don’t mean that: I’m referring to the question of the importance of implementing final court decisions, and the analogy is that I hope our government will send the National Guard, or the equivalent, to make sure.

Why is Migron especially important?
It’s the biggest outpost in the West Bank. It houses the sons and daughters of the leadership of the settler movement. Migron is a flagship outpost in size and in coming from the aristocracy of the settlers.


Some have said the Knesset can step in and prevent Migron’s evacuation. How does that work?

It’s difficult for me to explain it to myself. It’s a bit like children, when they are not happy with something, saying, “I’ll call my big brother, and he will show you.” When the court decided, the right wing said we will legislate in a way that will free us from this decision. The problem is that to circumvent the court decision by legislation, it must apply to the West Bank. Israeli legislation does not apply to the West Bank! Israel has never annexed or applied Israeli law to the West Bank. The Knesset doesn’t exercise jurisdiction over the West Bank. Even if it did, the kind of legislation needed would nationalize land, private property. That is not something that is constitutional. In the small number of exceptions that it is legal, it’s for very important public interests. There’s no public interest here, there’s only private interest. This is a bundle of nonsense.

Perhaps Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his settler cohorts were in cranky moods when they severed ties with UN Human Rights Council yesterday after Sunday’s Israeli Supreme Court decision. And whether the proposed establishment of an international investigative committee on the West Bank settlements added an air of pressure we will never know. But in the ongoing saga of events surrounding the Migron affair, this is indeed a positive turn of events.

I recommend the remainder of Tablet’s interview with Sfard.

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