Court OK With Police Requiring Jews, Excusing Arabs on Har HaBayis Security Check

A Palestinian throws back a tear gas canister at Israeli soldiers during disturbances at Har HaBayis. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Police have a right to force Jews to undergo thorough security checks when they enter Har HaBayis – but they can excuse Arabs from the checks, the High Court ruled Wednesday. The Otzma Yehudit group, which sued police over the orders, said that the ruling reeked of discrimination. “If it were Arabs accusing police of discrimination, the High Court judges would emerge from their beds in the middle of the night, dressed in pajamas, to issue restraining orders,” said Michael Ben-Ari, head of the group. “The High Court day and night lecture us about the importance of equality, but the decisions they make are marked with discrimination and further divide Jews and Arabs.”

With tensions rising over the issue of Har HaBayis, Gedolei Yisrael have reiterated numerous times the authentic halachic position regarding the entry of Jews to the holy site, ruling that Jews are forbidden to enter the compound. But the issue, said Ben-Ari, was not limited to Har Habayis it went to the heart of how Jewish rights are compromised time and time again, while Arabs are given a carte blanche, with no restrictions on their behavior.

The lawsuit goes back to 2017, when police removed metal detectors that had been set up at the entrance to the compound, requiring all visitors to pass through them. Those detectors were placed at the site in the wake of a terror attack in June, in which Arab terrorists took refuge on Har HaBayis after murdering Israeli police officers Ha’il Satawi,and Kamil Shanan. After rioting by Arabs, police excused them from passing through the detectors – but Jews who came into the compound were still required to pass through them.

Defending police against the lawsuit, attorneys said that police had a right to set up security in the way it saw fit, in conjunction with the security needs of the moment. In response, Otzma Yehudit argued that historically it has been the Arabs who have used Har HaBayis as a base for terror attacks, including rock throwing at Jews davening at the Kosel. In addition, the court has ordered equality in security at other sites, including Ben Gurion Airport, as well as requiring Israel to allow Arabs to use roads built to access Jewish towns in Yehudah and Shomron.

In its decision, the court said that it saw “no reason” to intervene in the police decision. While acknowledging that there were differences in security examination at the site that could be considered discriminatory, the court said that after hearing the police side of the story, it was “convinced that they are in the right. The rights of Jews to enter the compound is not harmed by the security checks, so there is no reason to consider the discriminatory aspects cited.”

Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, who worked with Otzma Yehudit on the case, said that the decision heralded “a dark day for Israeli democracy. The court has affirmed the discrimination, and even justified it. The judges in the court have, in dozens of previous decisions, fought tooth and nail against even hints of discrimination, but when it comes to Jews seeking to pray at a holy site, there is no problem discriminating against them.”