Al Haq: Rights Without Remedies: Israel’s Compensation Law 2005

This report is a legal commentary on Israel’s amendments of its Compensation Law (Civil Wrongs Law 5712-1952) in 2005.

This law proclaims that the State of Israel “is not civilly liable for an act done in the course of a war operation” of the Israeli military. The amendments narrow the eligibility of Palestinians to submit claims for compensation as a result of illegal actions carried out by the Israeli military.

Article 5B(a) excludes claims filed by specific groups of individuals (such as “citizen of an enemy state”, “activists “ and  “terrorists”). In addition, article 5C restricts claims coming from areas declared “conflict zone” by the Israeli Minister of Defense, who may do so retroactively. This allows Israel to deny compensation for any act which took place since the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000. In the first four years of the intifada, Israeli occupying forces have killed 3,044 Palestinians and totally demolished 5,479 houses, clear evidence of the need for Palestinians to have access to a remedy. Finally, article 5C(b)(1) provides for the establishment of a committee which is authorized to propose ex gratia payment, i.e. payment made without admitting liability, to a claimant under “special circumstances.” Such payments are clearly exceptional and are not deemed to arise out of Israel’s legal obligations, but are rather considered discretionary in nature.

The report concludes that Israeli law denies  seeks to preempt the Palestinians’ right to a remedy, in this case compensation, a right which is deemed customary under international law. This stands in stark contrast to domestic legal systems around the globe where compensation is an essential component of civil litigation. Further, it is a blatant example of discrimination formalized into law, as in effect, it will deny compensation to Arabs in general, and Palestinians in particular.