High Court: Police were violating Jews rights to visit the Temple Mount

The right-wing NGO Honenu broke the story on Wednesday, stating it had overcome years of illegal off-the-books police policies for keeping activists from the Temple Mount.

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December 7, 2016 16:29
2 minute read.

Yehuda Glick at the entrance to Temple Mount (Video: Jack Brook)

Yehuda Glick at the entrance to Temple Mount (Video: Jack Brook)

 
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Police violated Jews’ rights to visit the Temple Mount over an extended period by restricting certain activists from returning after claims of disturbing the peace, but without presenting a basis for the allegations, the High Court of Justice has ruled.

The right-wing NGO Honenu broke the story on Wednesday, saying it had overcome years of illegal, off-the-books police policies for keeping activists from the Temple Mount.

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In the particular case, two Jews were separately told to leave the Temple Mount, brought to a police station and told that they could only return if they signed a written declaration that they would not violate the status quo limits for Jews visiting the Mount. The two are Hananel Butzko and Yuval Nolar.

Under the status quo, while Israel has sovereignty of the Mount and Jews are allowed to visit, the Wakf Islamic trust connected with Jordan runs day-to-day operations, and Israeli police prevent Jews from praying or other actions that might upset the majority Muslim worshipers.

However, in recent years, especially since the start of the so-called “knife intifada” in October 2015, there has been increased tension between police and some Jewish activists over observing the restrictive rules for visiting.

Each of the two who were removed from the Temple Mount asked for explanations as to why they were removed and why they needed to sign, and refused to sign without a hearing.

At different points, both were orally told they could not return to the Mount until they signed the declaration.



Both were eventually granted a hearing, but even at the hearings they were either not told what they did wrong or were given superficial explanations that they said they could easily disprove.

The police also failed to give each of them a written transcript of the hearing or of the decision rejecting their appeal and maintaining restrictions on their visiting the Temple Mount.

They petitioned the High Court to intervene, claiming their due process rights and right to visit the Temple Mount were being violated and requesting at the very least written explanations of the restrictions on them and of police policy on the issue.

Though the state eventually produced its policy, it said that there was no formal written restriction on the two visiting the Mount, and that it was voluntarily already reforming and clarifying the policy to avoid misunderstandings, the court in a Tuesday ruling still granted Honenu attorneys fees and court costs.

Justice Noam Sohlberg wrote the decision on behalf of a three-judge panel which also included Justices Yoram Danziger and Uri Shoham. He wrote that absent the petition to the court, the police likely would have continued an illegal policy of using oral conversations to coerce activists to sign declarations or tell them orally they could not return – all without leaving a paper trail or making a “formal decision” against them.

Therefore, even as the state’s providing information to Honenu did not require a court order, the court granted the NGO fees and costs.

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