Today we received a rejection letter. This is not unusual. We get a lot of rejection letters. Our requests to the military for a permit so a West Bank Palestinian can visit a sick relative in Gaza are often denied; so are our requests to the Ministry of Interior to grant status to a stateless child; and the same goes for requests we send to the Ministry of Justice to open a criminal investigation into a complaint of violence during an arrest and interrogation of a minor. But these rejections are just the start of the story, because we don’t take no for an answer. In each case, we write back and ask that the request be reconsidered. If our appeal is rejected – or simply unanswered as is often the case – we petition the court. If our petition to a lower court is rejected, we appeal to a higher court, and if this fails, we might even ask the court to grant us a further hearing.
This process, of leaving no stone unturned, can take weeks or months or even years. It can feel like swimming against the tide. But often the end result of this road paved with failures – is success. In over 70% of our cases – both individual requests and principled challenges to policy – we eventually succeed.
A marked exception is our efforts against punitive home demolitions, which have been largely unsuccessful. Recently, we lost two punitive demolition cases: The High Court of Justice rejected our petitions, ruling that two families, elderly people, minor children and all, can be made homeless. While this is demoralizing, in each case, one justice wrote a substantive dissenting opinion – the first emphasizing the immorality of these demolitions, and the second stressing that the state’s classified material supposedly proving the effectiveness of punitive demolitions was inherently weak and unpersuasive. These dissenting opinions bolster our long-term efforts against such collective punishment.
So last month, when it seemed we’d lost another High Court case, we knew appearances can be deceiving. The High Court of Justice rejected our petition against the new COGAT policy restricting the entry of foreigners to the West Bank, but our petition brought about a precious two-month delay in the implementation date of these new restrictions. This gives us time to promote international advocacy efforts calling on Israel to change its policy of isolating Palestinian society and denying families the basic right to live together. If need be, we will go ahead and petition the court again when a new version of the procedure is published.
We are not naïve. Human rights violations are endemic to Israel’s military rule over the Palestinians, and we see no end in sight to the occupation. But in this uphill struggle for human rights, it is important to remember that sometimes what initially looks like a failure can actually turn into a success.
Executive Director of HaMoked