Court Rejects Petition Against Bnei Brak Closure

Israeli border police in Bnei Brak last week. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The High Court early Wednesday rejected petitions against the government decision to impose a closure on Bnei Brak. The court said that it saw no reason to intervene in a government decision on health matters, and that claims of religious or other forms of discrimination were not a factor in the decision to close off the city, as far as the court could tell.

The petitions, brought by several organizations and private attorneys, claimed that by the closure, “the government has turned all individuals with a chareidi appearance to spreaders of plague and poisoners of wells that all ‘normal’ and ‘enlightened’ people must avoid. The result of the closure is the stigmatization of an entire group. All Bnei Brak residents are now to be considered lepers, until proven otherwise.”

The “collective punishment” of Bnei Brak residents illegally cheats them of basic rights, said the petition, sentencing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to unnecessary “imprisonment,” all for the sake of satisfying public desire for a scapegoat. “They are sacrificing the chareidi public to buy some peace and quiet in the media,” the lawsuit said. “We have grave doubts on whether a step like this would have been taken in the case of a non-Jewish city.” The lawsuit named a long list of government officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, and city officials of Bnei Brak, among others, as plaintiffs.

The government said the issue was not discrimination, but the high numbers of infected individuals in the city and the need to isolate those infected. The court accepted the state’s argument, saying that the decision “was made based on professional considerations by responsible officials.”