Court dismisses Gisha’s petition to allow B’Tselem’s Gaza-based staff members to enter Israel for professional training, AP 19657-08-13 B’Tselem v. Minister of Defense
On August 12, 2013, Gisha filed an urgent petition to the Beer Sheva District Court sitting as the Court for Administrative Affairs. The court was asked to instruct the army to allow two Gaza-based B’Tselem staff members to enter Israel for professional training.
At a hearing held on August 15, 2013, before Judge Nechama Nezer, counsel for the petitioners claimed that given the fact that the army allows hundreds of Palestinian employees of international organizations to travel from Gaza to Israel, it should, a fortiori, allow the passage of employees of an Israeli human rights organization. To support this argument and to underscore the arbitrary nature of the decision to deny the two B’Tselem staff members passage, Gisha presented the court with the entry permits and confirmation letters given to its own Gaza-based staff member whose yearly entry into Israel has been approved by the DCO since 2009. In their supplementary response, the respondents stated that the requests made by Gisha’s staff member had been approved “ex gratia, and this aberration will not be repeated”. In response (Hebrew) to the state’s supplementary response, the petitioners argued that: “When an authority grants permits to individuals in a particular set of circumstances consistently and over many years […] and when the granting of such permits falls within the respondents’ broad discretion and is not unlawful, the granting of such permits points to a de-facto policy that stems from consistent, albeit non-explicit, interpretation. It follows that ceasing to grant such permits amounts to arbitrariness […]”.
In a partial judgment (Hebrew) given on November 26, 2013, the court dismissed the petition, stating that, “The state has broad discretion to decide who enters its borders”, and that within the scope of this discretion, “It cannot be said that the respondents’ decision is unreasonable, let alone inappropriate. The fact that all or some of the respondents approved the entry of Gisha’s staff member in the past does not mean free rein is to be given for the entry of employees of Israeli organizations […]”. In the supplementary judgment (Hebrew), issued on January 28, 2014, the court added that with respect to the interpretation of the criteria for travel between the Gaza Strip and Israel, “The fact that the respondents have seen fit to recognize the right of international organizations but not that of Israeli organizations speaks for itself and certainly does not constitute a slip of the pen, or an oversight”. The petition was therefore dismissed without a costs order.
Partial judgment (Hebrew)
Supplementary judgment (Hebrew)