This is a big question and there's endless research related to it. Is it possible to change social conventions and is it possible to implement social change through the legal system? When there's a groundbreaking ruling in the area of the freedom of speech, in the area of gays and lesbians, in the area of animal rights, is it the legal system that's leading the public or is the public already there and the legal system is only now recognizing it? It's a very difficult question, especially in the State of Israel where there is no such thing as a public - there's the conservative public and the liberal public, there's the public in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem. We sent a woman who had been a man
to the Eurovision Song Contest 2007 and at the same time we threaten not to allow a photographer who wants to photograph people in the nude in the Dead Sea into the country. This is our society. It's very hard to say what the public's position is.
On the subject of the fence and the legal struggle, there is a difference between the legal struggle in Israel and the one abroad. I wrote an article that dealt with the question: "What is the price you pay for internal resistance to a massive violation of human rights?" There's a difference between internal and external resistance. Internal resistance takes place within the structures of the authorities that are performing the human rights violations. To appeal to the court in The Hague, to try and obtain international pressure, is external resistance. There is a price to pay for internal resistance. We come to the [Israeli] Supreme Court of Justice and need to get a security-led justification for the construction of a barrier. The question is what is the correct route that the barrier should take? Is accepting the language, accepting its use, and legitimizing the basic idea a worthy price to pay? I think that the court's behavior over time on the subject of the fence has really intensified our dilemma because there's been some success in relation to the fence.
The legal procedures in Israel led to a situation in which, thanks to the Supreme Court rulings and their resulting changes, we have gone from a fence that was supposed to eat into 20-25% of the area of the West Bank to a fence that eats into 8.5% of it. [The rulings were] made by the State out of an understanding that the reality would not stand the test of the Supreme Court. There are people whose livelihoods have been saved, and there are entire families whose lands have been saved. But there is also another side - the legitimacy that has been granted and the lands that have been confiscated [through those court rulings]. Now, there's that public in Israel who can tell themselves that they can sleep in peace because the court checks when things are going too far, and because of this they don't take to the streets.
On the other hand, let's say the Supreme Court was banned, the Palestinians said, "We are no longer appealing to the Supreme Court," and [Israel] built a system in which the Seam Zone was 20% of the West Bank. Then 100 villages would not have suffered, but 300 villages, and 10,000 Palestinian residents would not have found themselves on the wrong side of the fence, but 100,000, and the bureaucratic apparatus of the permits would have become monstrous. Would it have even been possible to manage this thing? Have we not, with our appeals, made this thing turn into something manageable? Alongside the security forces that are responsible for the fence, there are parts of the fence for which I am also responsible because I influenced its route. It's become a joint project of human rights organizations and the security forces. These are terribly difficult questions and it's a dilemma that exists beyond the context of the fence.
For me this dilemma has been reconciled. As a human rights lawyer, as a human rights activist, I can't sacrifice the individual for the sake of some collective good. A client comes to me and says, "They're going to take away my grove." Will I tell him: "Listen, but the Palestinian people need, it's better that..."? No! I have to act on his behalf. You need to leave these questions to the academy and mainly be conscious of them. It's true that there are red lines here, too.
The villages of Azzoun and Nabi Eliascame to me. The fence seized 1,200 dunams of their densely planted olive groves for no reason. It turned out that in this case the State deceived the Supreme Court and didn't tell the truth about its rationale for the route. [The State] claimed that it was for security reasons, when, in fact, they planned on building an industrial area for the settlement of Tzufim there. The leaders of the [Palestinian] council met with me and I started telling them: "Listen, it seems illogical to me, we can try and demand that they change the..." They looked at me with total mistrust and said: "Listen, all we need is a gate which we can go through to reach our land." In my mind, I immediately said that the day I ask for a gate, I get a gate. That's exactly what the army wants. For them this is my role, to enable the management of this system. I must say that if [the council leaders] had insisted on not wanting to appeal against the fence itself, but only to demand a gate, I would have found it very difficult to represent them in the case, because for me that is virtually collaborating with and aiding the system in building the best fence. Fortunately for me, as well as for them, they agreed to file a petition against the fence. We won this petition and the route of the fence was changed.