courtצילום: ISTOCK

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court delivered a ruling on Tuesday that almost completely revokes the bill passed by Shuli Mualem in 2017, guaranteeing residents of Judea and Samaria the same access to e-commerce as the rest of the country.

The original bill forbids business owners to discriminate against customers based on place of residence. Although the new ruling is not binding to other courts, it shows adoption of an interpretation of the law that effectively gutss the bill in question.

Oved and Maor Pearl sued a well-known chain of electrical stores after buying a stove roughly two years ago, when the chain refused to ship it across the Green Line. The store had promised free shipping throughout Israel, with nothing in the terms of service to indicate any exceptions.

The Jerusalem court ruled that the law only applies to discrimination on the premises; shipping charges and policies take effect when the product has left the place of business and so are not included in the law.

As the Pearl family was not told outright about these restrictions, the judge ruled that they had been 'deceived', but had not suffered 'discrimination'. The couple was awarded NIS 10,000 under the Consumer Protection Act, a sum far smaller than the awards for victims of discrimination.

"As a taxpayer, reservist, and former career soldier, I cannot be a second-class citizen," Mr. Pearl said. "When there is a company in Israel that discriminates against citizens in Judea and Samaria, I feel betrayed. That is why we filed suit."

The indictment quoted the explanatory memorandum to MK Mualem-Refaeli's bill, which leaves no doubt about the bill's purpose. "As someone who lives beyond the Green Line, I am well acquainted with the policies of many bodies involved in providing public goods or services, who discriminate based on the customer's place of residence. This discrimination does not take place on the premises; indeed, it would rather stay as far from the customer as possible. Goods and services are frequently inaccessible to far-flung towns in Judea, Samaria, and other areas, or else only at an increased cost. There is no reason why residents of such areas should not be able to enjoy the same standards as those living in urban centers."

Attorney Eliram Oved, who represented the Pearl couple, said: "The bill's intention was clear and unequivocal. It is inconceivable that hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria should not enjoy the same rights as those living in central cities, and needless to say, should not have to be misled into thinking they do."

"Naturally, purely commercial considerations on the part of the business are legitimate, but the decision not to ship across the green line bears no explanation, nor an option to have the customer pay the additional expense for a long drive or armed guard. This is outright discrimination based solely on the place of residence. Would a moving company ever deny service to residents of Tel Aviv on the basis of insufficient parking? of course not. This case is no different.

"In our opinion, the court erred in its interpretation of the amendment to the law. From the two possible interpretations, the judge selected the one that effectively strips the law of its power."