Jerusalem skyline 370 .
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Over two years after receiving a petition demanding an end to nearly NIS 70
million in annual government funding for private security guards to protect
Jewish residents of east Jerusalem, the High Court will hold a second hearing
Tuesday to review the case.
The petition, filed in October 2011 by the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) on behalf of Palestinian
residents, alleges that the security guards employed by the state for the past
10 years represent a de facto “private police force,” exclusively serving Jewish
According to the petition, an annual budget of NIS 67m.
allocated by the Construction and Housing Ministry unconstitutionally
compensates roughly 370 private security guards in the state’s employ to protect
approximately 2,500 Jews living in the contested areas.
petition contends that Palestinian residents living near the Jewish
neighborhoods are entitled to the same level of security, adding that the
present policy has resulted in two Palestinian deaths and numerous injuries at
the hands of the guards.
The High Court will review the petition for a
second time, following an initial hearing in December 2012 during which it asked
the state to explain why the Construction and Housing Ministry – and not the
Internal Security Ministry – has the authority to oversee such security
The court also requested that authority granted to the
private security contractors, all of whom are armed, be
While ACRI attorney Keren Tzafrir, who filed the petition,
concedes that the Jewish residents are entitled to protection, she said the
state must provide an equal measure of protection for their Arab
“Unlike the police, which are responsible for keeping
public order and obligated to act for the benefit of all residents without
discriminating, the settlers’ armed guards, funded by taxpayers, are committed
only to the defense of one party in the tense reality of east Jerusalem,” she
During a Monday phone interview, MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beytenu)
dismissed as “ridiculous” the notion that Arabs living in east Jerusalem are in
need of protection equal to that afforded to Jewish residents.
know that dogs bite human beings, but human beings do not bite dogs,” he added.
“What this petition is trying to do is claim the opposite, and I hope even the
Israeli High Court will understand how ridiculous this claim is.”
Feiglin said the constitutionality of allocating government funds for private
companies to protect Jewish residents living in east Jerusalem raised “an
interesting question,” he emphasized that such protection is unequivocally
“It’s a ridiculous claim because if you measure the number of
Arabs that were stabbed or slaughtered by Jews in east Jerusalem it will show
zero,” he said.
“But we know of many Jews there who have been stabbed by
Feiglin continued, “We’re nowhere near the point where Arabs need
the same protection as Jews.”
Meanwhile, Meretz city councilman Dr. Meir
Margalit, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio, said Monday that the question
of which ministry allocates the funds is irrelevant. Instead, he asserted, the
issue should be the legality of the government paying private security guards
only for Jews.
“It’s a private militia that works for the settlers and
right-wingers,” said Margalit of the guards. “This is what we have to stop – not
change where the money comes from.”
Citing two Palestinian deaths at the
hands of the guards over the past two years, Margalit said it is reasonable for
the government to also allocate private security for Arabs living near the
“I think that if the settlers have private guards,
the state also must pay for private guards for Arabs living there,” he said.
“The deaths prove there is a danger for Palestinians.”
The second hearing
is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.