So everyone is happy. Or not.
Two major news stories last week confirmed
what I have suspected for a long time: People don’t change their minds; they
interpret the facts to reinforce their existing opinions.
example was the publication of the so-called Outposts’ Report by the committee
headed by Justice Edmond Levy, and the phenomenon was even more noticeable
midweek with the announcement of the verdict in the corruption cases faced by
former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
The Commission to Examine the Status
of Building in Judea and Samaria, as it is officially known, determined that
“Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and the
establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered
I could have predicted ahead of the report’s publication who
would object to its findings: Basically anybody who has a hard time even calling
the land in that area by its biblical names was programmed to react by slamming
it – whatever it said.
The report starts out by stating that the classic
laws of occupation “cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui
generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and
Samaria spanning over decades.”
In other (simpler) words: The area is
literally one of a kind. A Jerusalem Post editorial on July 10 explained that
“it enjoys a unique status in international law as land that has never been
unequivocally set aside for a specific people by the international community” –
although I’m not sure that the word “enjoys” is the best one given all its
In the last page of their conclusions, however, the three
committee members – former Supreme Court justice Levy, former Foreign Ministry
legal adviser Alan Baker and former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District
Court Tehiya Shapira – wrote: “We wish to stress that the picture that has been
displayed before us regarding Israeli settlement activity in Judea and Samaria
does not befit the behavior of a state that prides itself on, and is committed
to, the rule of law.”
Israel is no longer in a formative state, and
construction must take place in accordance with legal rules and procedures, the
report added, and included a series of recommendations to retroactively legalize
construction and stop any further unauthorized building.
importance lies not only in its interpretation of the facts, but because it
directly contradicts the findings of its predecessor – the so-called Talia Sasson
Report. Sasson, a former senior prosecutor, published her conclusions at Ariel
Sharon’s behest in 2005, shortly before announcing she would be running for the
Knesset with the staunchly anti-settlements Meretz party.
It only goes to
show that there’s more than one way of seeing any situation, and we will
inevitably go with the one that makes us feel more comfortable.
kneejerk reactions and there are the just-jerks’ reactions.
people who praised Sasson’s report and promoted hers as the only worthy
conclusions – “in the name of the law” – are those who have now turned jurist
Levy into Public Enemy No. 1.
A US State Department spokesman also
rejected the panel’s conclusions saying: “The US position on settlements is
clear. Obviously, we’ve seen the reports that an Israeli Government appointed
panel has recommended legalizing dozens of Israeli settlements in the West Bank,
but we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and
we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts.”
includes such parts of Jerusalem as the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus
(whose cornerstone was laid in 1918, not long after Britain wrested it from
Ottoman control), I’m afraid to ask.
There are certain
settlements/towns/communities whose future should not feature even as the tiny
dot of a question mark: Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and the Gush Etzion communities,
(Residents of Gush Etzion, in particular, can tell you a
thing or two about the changing presence, fortunes and misfortunes of the Judean
I don’t have a problem with these places growing just as – dare I
say it – I don’t have a problem with Ramallah developing. Having thriving
communities, be they Israeli or Palestinian, seems to be a lot better than the
On the same day that Levy handed his report to the prime
minister, there were rocket and sniper attacks on Jewish communities along the
Gazan border, which shows that, for some, “the settlements” obviously means any
place where Jews reside, and legal niceties be damned, along with the
Reactions to the Outpost Report go to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that we are all guilty of seeing the world through our own
What scares me is what happens when we no longer want to
even listen to the other point of view.
THE SECOND experience of kneejerk
reaction came when three judges declared the verdict in the three cases against
Olmert. His supporters, conveniently ignoring the fact that Olmert was, in fact,
found guilty of the not insignificant clause of breach of trust in the
Investment Center Affair, hailed the results as a victory and immediately
accused State Attorney Moshe Lador of a witch-hunt.
on the other hand, noted that the ongoing Holyland trial still casts a shadow,
much as the housing complex seems to stand out in all its ugliness wherever you
look in the capital. They also questioned whether Olmert’s aide Shula Zaken, who
was found guilty on most charges, had not taken the rap for him.
chilling comment came from Ma’ariv’s former editor Amnon Dankner, who boldly
stated: “Some say Moshe Lador should consider resigning, but I think he should
Dankner perversely not only urged a high-ranking
official to kill himself, hopefully in an attempt to sound witty, but also
turned the state attorney into the criminal, rather than the former prime
minister who had just been found guilty in court.
Had such a remark been
made by a right-wing activist (or “settler”) against any senior member of the
the judicial system, the Left would be clamoring for charges of
I heard another, no less frightening, response from two of my
neighbors – sweet-looking old ladies – as they waited at the bus stop the
morning after the trial.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if the judges were
bribed,” announced one, to the agreement of the other.
While it worries
me that anyone truly believes Lador decided to press charges as an alternative
to removing the prime minister from office through democratically held
elections, I find it no less disconcerting that members of the public have so
little faith left in the country’s legal system.
If the state is deterred
from pressing charges – leaving it up to the courts to determine innocence or
guilt – then the system of justice will be meaningless.
If every case
brought before the judge is predetermined, there is no point in holding a
Heaven help us if the state attorney has committed professional
It would mean the death of democracy.
The writer is
editor of The International Jerusalem Post. firstname.lastname@example.org