protesting the prisoner release petition 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
A hearing on releasing Palestinian prisoners with “blood on their hands,”
attended by terror victims’ families wearing their emotions on their sleeves and
experiencing extreme anguish, is bound to be a highly charged event, but no one
would have predicted it would end as it did on Sunday.
panel of the High Court walked out on a group of families of terror victims as
they were trying to voice their opposition to the planned prisoner release deal,
near the end of a hearing on a petition they filed to block the deal.
past prisoner release cases, such as the Gilad Schalit hearing in 2011, the High
Court, then under Dorit Beinisch, gave the victims ample time to voice their opposition and emotion regarding the release,
even if the final ruling upholding the government’s decision was mostly a
On Sunday, however, the opposite was true. In Supreme Court
President Asher D. Grunis’s first hearing on a major prisoner release deal since
he took over as head of the court over a year ago, he allowed only one of the
terror victims’ families to speak.
Around half a dozen times, the
victims’ families asked to speak.
Each time Grunis cut them
Each time with little patience, like a schoolteacher who believed
some of his students had come to the wrong classroom.
But when Grunis
said “the hearing is over,” there was a spontaneous outpouring of anger by the
families, yelling and screaming at the judges.
The victims called out:
“This must not happen,” “Where is the rule of law?” “Listen to us, listen to our
hearts,” “They have no time for us” and “They threw candies” (referring to
murderers released in the past who were greeted with candies upon returning to
the Palestinian side).
Grunis and the other judges sat for a few moments,
turning red and looking something between shocked and indignant.
few moments they walked out of the room, as the victims’ families called out to
Afterward, Almagor Terror Victims Association head Meir Indor, who
can normally rattle off 10 points he thinks everyone has missed on an issue at
super speed, reacted in an unprecedented way: He was speechless.
others, appeared surprised that despite the emotional import of the issue, the
open and obvious tears and tormented faces of the families, the row of victims’
relatives who sat facing the court clutching pictures of their murdered loved
ones during the hearing, Grunis stuck to formalism, limiting voices in the
courtroom almost exclusively to lawyers, and concluded the proceedings in what
was probably record time for a petition of this kind.
Members of the
media were also in shock, not used to terror victims’ families’ voices being
silenced, and possibly expecting that Grunis, who started his reign as the
supposed darling of the right wing, would give them more of a voice than
Maybe most observers had forgotten that this was the Grunis
who formalistically issued a series of fines against human rights groups for
filing what he considered unnecessary petitions, with one as high as NIS 45,000
against the Association for Civil Rights in Israel for a petition claiming
unequal treatment of the poor at a medical center in Ashdod.
most observers thought that even Grunis, the king of procedure, would make an
exception for these families.
If the peace process continues, there could
be another three hearings in the next nine months, and Grunis may think twice
about whether to give the families a little bit more air time, as opposed to
leaving his courtroom under fire. •