Israel selectively prosecutes... Jews?

Recent events here have demonstrated that the Israeli government does not always treat Jews and Palestinians as equals under the law.

August 12, 2015 21:11

A spate of anti-Semitic attacks triggered by the Gaza conflict has rattled French Jews. (photo credit: PHILIPPE WOJAZER / REUTERS)

Recent events here have demonstrated that the Israeli government does not always treat Jews and Palestinians as equals under the law.

Instead, some pretty glaring episodes reveal Jews have been singled out for punishment while Palestinians who were caught red-handed committing similar or far worse offenses faced little to no consequence.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

For starters, in the past few weeks the Israeli government has focused much energy on countering the phenomenon of Jewish homes and structures constructed without a building permit in the West Bank. At the same time, there have been no legal ramifications for thousands of Palestinian apartments built illegally on Jewish-owned property, including in strategic areas of Jerusalem where the illicit construction could alter the status quo of the city during future negotiations.

Two weeks ago, just days after the tenth anniversary of Israel’s 2005 evacuation of Gush Katif, a clutch of Jewish communities in the southern Gaza Strip, I bore witness to Israeli military bulldozers’ razing two Jewish buildings located within the sizable settlement of Beit El. I had traveled there from Tel Aviv to report from the ground as Jewish nationalists defied security forces in scenes reminiscent of the civil disobedience that preceded the Gaza evacuation 10 years earlier.

In this case, activists tried repeatedly to occupy the two partially built structures, called the Draynoff buildings after the family that constructed them. The details of the case are striking: the two structures had been built without official permits but with the encouragement of the Beit El City Council and other government agencies there. Meant to become apartment buildings, the two shells were located next to other apartment buildings within the small city. Their demolition did not change the facts on the ground in Beit El in any way, nor was the land, located within the settlement, intended to be used by Palestinians.

In 2010, attorneys for the far-left, European-funded, anti-settler Yesh Din Israeli legal activist group petitioned the Supreme Court on behalf of a private Palestinian named Abd al-Rahman Qassem, who claimed he owned the land where the buildings were built.

Qassem did not conclusively prove that he was the rightful owner. Instead, the Supreme Court gave the state two years to arrange for building permits and approve the status of the land or to raze the buildings.

The ruling largely hinged on the buildings having been erected without the proper permits.

Despite the approval by the local council, the state never officially approved the land permits, instead asking for several extensions while considering a plan that would have sanctioned building permits for the properties retroactively. The Supreme Court did not accept the state’s actions and ruled the two buildings must be destroyed. Largely unreported in the Israeli media is that one week before the demolitions, Israel’s Civil Administration officially gave approval for future construction at the site. Still, the Supreme Court ruled the state acted too late and that the buildings must be razed.

The ruling seems to be a judicial activist stab at the country’s defiant nationalist movement. And it could precipitate other such demolitions as similar isolated cases snake through the court system.

The events were followed by a government crackdown on so-called “Hilltop Youth,” or hardline nationalists known for establishing illegal outposts outside of existing settlements. The youth have been accused of a series of “price tag attacks” against Palestinian villages, and may be tied to a suspected Jewish terrorist attack in Duma that killed a Palestinian toddler and his father and wounded other family members. Israel has already placed three extremist youth leaders under administrative detention, where they can be jailed without trial for up to six months.

As for the demonstrations at the Draynoff buildings, the protesters eventually dissipated after the property owner threw in the towel, explaining that the complexes would simply be rebuilt anyway.

While the controversial, heavy-handed tactics against accused Jewish provocateurs are quite understandable in today’s sensitive security climate, it is notable that security forces took a very different approach toward Palestinian extremist youth actually caught in the act of trying to attack Jews on the Temple Mount last month.

On Tisha Be’av, while Jews worldwide commemorated the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples, masked Arab troublemakers on the Temple Mount used the Aqsa Mosque platform to amass stones and firebombs and other explosives with the intent to attack Israeli police and Jewish worshipers at the holy site. Instead of making arrests – as they did liberally with the Jews protesting in Beit El – the Israel Police pushed the attackers inside the Aqsa Mosque and locked the door to secure the area and let Jewish worshipers ascend to the site.

No arrests were reportedly made this week, either, when a group of Muslim men, including some from the Wakf custodians of the Temple Mount, harassed and stalked a delegation of US congressmen visiting the Mount on Tuesday, as first reported by The Jerusalem Post.

Now a quick visit to the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Kfar Akeb, Qalandiya and Samir Amis, which are close to the Jewish neighborhoods of Neveh Ya’acov and Pisgat Ze’ev and located within the Jerusalem municipality.

In contrast to the dramatic events in Beit El, the government has failed to stop Arabs from illegally building a large number of housing projects on these lands, including on land owned by the Jewish National Fund, or JNF, which bought the area in the early 1920s using Jewish donor funds for the specific purpose of Jewish settlement. JNF lands have been used for illegal construction of dozens of Arab apartment buildings, a refugee camp and a UN school. According to officials in Israel’s Housing and Construction Ministry, Arabs first constructed facilities illegally in Qalandiya and Kfar Akeb between 1948 and 1967, before the 1967 Six Day War during which Israel retook control of the entire city of Jerusalem. Qalandiya, still owned by JNF, came under the management of the Israeli government’s Land Authority in the late 1960s.

It’s under Israel’s management during the past decade that Palestinians have built dozens of new apartment complexes in the area. A tour by this reporter of the three Jerusalem neighborhoods in question found some surprising developments: official Palestinian Authority logos and placards abound, including one glaring red street sign at the entrance to the neighborhoods warning Israelis to keep out.

Again, all on land undisputedly owned by Jews.

The Israeli government did not take any concrete measures to stop the illegal construction, which continues unabated to this day. Unlike in Beit El, where the structure demolitions would not change a thing, this illegal Palestinian construction has resulted in a clear Arab majority in these neighborhoods and could impact future final-status negotiations, with the lands becoming part of an eventual Palestinian state.

Perhaps the time has come for Israel to reassess the way it maintains two very different standards for Jewish and Palestinian offenses.

The writer is a radio host, reporter and New York Times bestselling author.

Related Content

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks in Tel Aviv
March 17, 2018
An open letter to Defense Minister Liberman and the haredi leadership


Israel Weather
  • 9 - 31
    Beer Sheva
    11 - 28
    Tel Aviv - Yafo
  • 12 - 25
    11 - 26
  • 18 - 31
    12 - 31