Israel’s High Court rejects a petition brought by a Gaza runner asking to participate in the Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem
April 8, 2014. The justices of the High Court rejected a petition brought by Gisha on behalf of Nader al-Masri, an athlete from Gaza who asked to travel from Gaza to the West Bank in order to participate in the second annual Palestine Marathon taking place in Bethlehem on April 11th. Al-Masri, 34, has represented the Palestinian Authority at competitions abroad, including the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The justices wrote in their decision that it wasn’t possible to accept the petition because “the Minister of Defense allegedly acted according to the discretion vested in him by the [relevant] policy document, and as is known, room for intervention in this discretion is very limited”.
Nonetheless, the justices also wrote that given that the criteria for travel from Gaza includes passage for soccer players and athletes from the Olympic team, “It stands to reason that, even according to security officials, passage for the purpose of athletic activities is worthy of consideration” and that “it would be good if the respondents weighed the possibility of expanding this exception to other athletic fields, in the same spirit, and considering appropriate cases that might arise in the future”.
Despite the fact that the criteria for exit from Gaza allows for exit of residents for the “purpose of participating in special conferences and events sponsored by the Palestinian Authority”, the state argued that this clause “reflects political considerations and those of foreign relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and by its nature, is subject to an individual assessment of each request on its merits and decision-making based on political interests which are at the broad discretion of the respondents. Therefore, approval of the application depends on the status of relations between the Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority and not on the status of relations between the individual applicant and the State of Israel”. In light of this, the justices requested to verify that the decision was indeed made by the Minister of Defense himself. After several hours, his confirmation of the refusal was delivered by the state attorney to the justices.