Adam Keller, spokesperson for Gush Shalom, translated this article from Yediot Aharonot, Israel's widest-read newspaper, from Hebrew, since it wasn't translated into English. His introductory note and the article are below.
Route 443 is one of the "apartheid roads" cut through the West Bank for Israeli drivers (as far as I know regardless of whether they are Jewish or Palestinian Israeli) to the exclusion of Palestinians. There have been ongoing popular protests in the West Bank against the road and the confiscation of lands that it causes, as well as a court case brought by Palestinians and ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel).
As Adam Keller notes below, despite the prominence of the article in Yediot, it was not translated to English or posted on the popular YNet website. This seems to be part of a pattern of lack of willingness to air "dirty laundry" to an international audience. a
It is certainly notable that such a prominent member of the Israeli establishment is using the word "apartheid." It is also interesting that this judge seems to despair for now of the court system, in the end reminding Israelis of their individual responsibility to protest and not allow the Court to give them a reason to be "voluntarily blind."
Don't travel on Route 443
The Apartheid Road - Silence of the Judges
By Boaz Okon
Yediot Aharonot, June 10, 2008
Boaz Okon is a prominent jurist, was a judge on the Jerusalem District Court and registrar of the Supreme Court, and since his resignation in 2006 is the juridical commentator of Yediot Aharonot. The following article appeared not only on the op-ed page, but also with a box, containing a summary, placed conspicuously on the paper's front page - which is quite exceptional. Exceptional in the opposite direction is the fact that this article, unlike many others of Okon's, was not included in the Y-net website nor translated to English. This I have decided to do myself.
Box on Page 1 - entitled "Don't travel on Route 443"
There are acts for which in retrospect we would not be able to forgive ourselves. Moments for which we would ask ourselves how we could have been so stupid.
Our Supreme Court is approaching such a moment. On its desk is the appeal against the decision of the Defense Minster to block to Palestinian traffic the part of Route 443 which goes through the West Bank, and allowing passage to Israelis only. The Defense Minster gave the order to create a network of alternative roads for the Palestinians, which came to be knows as the "Fabric of Life Roads". Which means: in the 1980's, a narrow village road was widened into a full-fledged inter-city highway, the present Route 443. In order to achieve that, the land of Palestinian villagers was confiscated; now, these villagers are forbidden to use that route, and face new confiscation of lands in order to have new routes, with a tempting and cynical names, created for their use.
Had words been capable of dying of shame, the words "Fabric of Life Roads" would have died long ago.
Main article on the op-ed page - entitled "The Apartheid Road - Silence of the Judges"
There are acts for which in retrospect we would not be able to forgive ourselves. Moment for which we would ask ourselves how we could have been so stupid. In order to overcome our shame and confusion, we will try to find support in the claim that "things were different than" or that "that's the way everybody was thinking at the time" or with arguments of national security.
Such moments come also for elected institutions, legislatures and governments, which in stormy situations, out of righteousness or security hysteria, are passing laws or defining policies which afterwards could not possibly be explained. This also happens to courts, when they abandon their fundamental duty to uproot any manifestations of racism.
Such a moment in the history of the US Supreme Court was, for example, the Dred Scott Case (1856). The court in this case decided that a Black person cannot be a citizen, since he belongs to an inferior race. Another such moment was the notorious ruling of Justice Holms (1927) approving a Virginia State law providing for the forced sterilization of retarded persons, since "Three generations of imbeciles are more than enough."
Now, our Supreme Court is also approaching closer to such a shameful moment. On its desk is the appeal lodged by ACRI (Association for Civil Rights) and by Palestinian villagers against the decision of the Defense Minster to block to Palestinian traffic on the part of Route 443 which goes through the West Bank (Modi'in - Jerusalem), and allowing passage to Israelis only. The Defense Minster gave the order to create a network of alternative roads for the Palestinians, which came to be knows as the "Fabric of Life Roads". All for reasons of security, of course.
Had words been capable of dying of shame, the words "Fabric of Life Roads" would have died long ago. In the 1980's, a narrow village road was widened into a full-fledged inter-city highway, the present Route 443; in order to achieve that, the land of Palestinian villagers was confiscated; now, these villagers are forbidden to use that route, and face new confiscation of lands in order to have new routes, supposedly aimed at their own good, with a tempting and cynical names, created for their use.
"Security" has been used, more than any other word, to justify acts of infamy. This word is like a suitcase with a false bottom, outwardly carrying a legitimate interest and in fact carrying a negative, illegal load.
For the time being, the Supreme Court ruled on March 3, 2008 not to deal with this appeal at all, and asked the Defense Minster to provide within six months information on the progress in construction of the "Fabric of Life Roads". This week, the court rejected a request by ACRI to hold a hearing on the subject anyway. In this way, the court in practice endorsed the decision of the Defense Minster, a decision which is leading us beyond the doorstep of Apartheid.
The rolling thunder of that decision is strong that no one can but hear it. The judicial backing of the Supreme Court serves as it powerful amplifier.
Sometimes, we prefer to become voluntarily blind, and rely on various bodies to take the decisions in our place. "It is a fact" we tell our conscience "that the judges have convened and took a decision, we are no longer personally responsible". Such a silencing of the conscience has a tendency to develop into a chronic disease, which through continuing erosion becomes a habit of obscuring even the most heinous of deeds.
Of course, the Supreme Court will continue to express its shock at individual act of discrimination ("An Arab was no allowed into the water park", "Ethiopians were not allowed to register their children at a Petach Tikva school") but will shrug at a comprehensive official policy which is systematically criminal.
So, what can we do? It is not always possible to rely on mass decisions, on institutions, on courts. It is possible to travel to Jerusalem by Route 1 only. ACRI should distribute stickers with text "I don't travel by Route 443" and all of us should avoid using this road until the evil decree is removed.
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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