The High Court of Justice rejected a petition on Thursday against the government’s decision to pass a law erasing the criminal records of people arrested during protests over the 2005 disengagement from Gaza.
An expanded panel of nine judges rejected the petition filed by left-wing activists who claimed such a law would harm the basic right of equality before the law, because it treats people differently based on their ideology. The petitioners claimed left-wing activists arrested during anti-occupation protests would not enjoy similar benefits to their right-wing counterparts.
The law was initiated by the Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin, and its goal is to pardon people who have no additional convictions on their record.
In the verdict, which was supported by eight of the judges including outgoing Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, the court wrote that it realizes the law aims to help a specific political faction, one that currently rules the country, but that in this case, the law is still justifiable.
The verdict said that though equality was being harmed, it was justified and nearly entirely symbolic. Statistics presented to the court showed that fewer than 150 people would benefit from this move.
Beinisch said that equality can be harmed by a law if it helps achieve a greater cause. She added that the goal of a united Jewish state is such, and that although the legislative branch harmed the right to equality before the law, that harm is outweighed by the values brought forth in the proposed law. “The law is meant to heal open wounds in society,” she wrote.
The judges also acknowledged that the disengagement plan — which provided for the complete dismantlement of the settlements in the Gaza Strip — was a unique case, one that caused massive public and political debate and turmoil.
Justice Salim Joubran was left in a minority position supporting the petition, as he claimed such a law would create a great divide in Israeli society.
Jubran wrote that although few people were affected directly by the law, it was still a bold statement since it gave opening for inequality before the law based on one’s political support. “Even though the law is meant to unify, it could end up dividing Israeli society,” he wrote.
While right-wing political activists were pleased with the verdict, lawyers representing those who filed the petition told Yedioth Ahronoth in response that Israel’s Supreme Court can “no longer help” humanists and democrats.