On Monday, the heads of six Knesset factions representing a majority of MKs
called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to stop the demolition of
“settlement” outposts and set up a legal team with a mandate to find “creative
solutions” allowing all communities and neighborhoods to remain in
The recent destruction of three homes in the Jewish community of
Migron, like that of a dozen in Or Hatzion a few days ago, several in Bat Ayin
last week, nine in Amona in 2009 and many more throughout Judea and Samaria
because they were built without permits, raises serious questions about the
propriety and purpose of government actions.
In response to threatened
and impending destruction of more Jewish homes Netanyahu instructed Justice
Minister Yaakov Neeman to form a task force to examine the possibility of
legalizing homes that were built without permits on allegedly private
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein is opposed, thus
setting the stage for a major political confrontation.
MK Zevulun Orlev
(Jewish Home) has proposed a law that would legalize communities (“outposts”)
like Amona, Migron and Givat Assaf, as well as an area of school buildings,
Haulpana, in Beit El. These places face demolition after the High Court ruled in
favor of local Arabs who claimed ownership of the land.
would give the court jurisdiction to legalize homes in cases where those filing
claims of ownership have waited more than four years to do so, providing in
essence a statue of limitations.
Valid land owners would receive
alternate land and/or financial compensation instead of destroying Jewish
Orlev’s party has threatened to leave the coalition if this policy
is not stopped.
Demolishing homes that were constructed without building
permits seems entirely legal and reasonable – as long as that policy is carried
out without discrimination and prejudice, and is not employed to mask political
Such drastic action should not be taken without a compelling
According to government estimates, there are more than
100,000 illegal Arab buildings, which include large “unrecognized” Arab and
Beduin towns within the Green Line. Many of these towns are being considered for
retroactive legal recognition, including their land claims of a million
A decision last week to provide hundreds of street names in
eastern Jerusalem for thousands of illegal Arab buildings highlights a glaring
WHY ARE homes in Migron and other Jewish communities in
Judea and Samaria treated differently from those of Arabs? What happened in
Migron was an example of ideologically motivated action that is now being
carried out systematically.
The entire story has not been adequately
A month after the three homes were completed in April, 2011,
Peace Now petitioned the High Court, claiming they were built on private
Palestinian land and should be demolished. A month later, admitting that their
claim was false, they withdrew their petition. Nevertheless, Peace Now and the
state prosecutor demanded that the homes be destroyed anyway since they were
built without authorization. The court agreed.
The homeowners admitted
that they had built without permission, but argued that the land had been
unoccupied and unclaimed, and, because the High Court had declared the entire
community of Migron illegal and had ordered its destruction, it was impossible
to obtain building permits. They asked the court to allow their homes to remain
standing pending a solution that would include the rest of the community, as the
Court had ruled in similar cases involving Arabs who had built without
permission. They were refused.
The threatened destruction of Migron,
therefore, presents disturbing problems that apply to many other Jewish
communities as well.
First, the fact that government institutions and the
offices of the prime minister and defense minister assisted in the creation of
Migron, providing infrastructure and services, implies legal approval. If Migron
was built on private Palestinian land, why was the community approved in the
first place? Second, no objections to the new community were filed by either
local Arabs, Peace Now or the State until 2005 – five years after Migron was
established. Why did it take them so long? Why should the residents alone pay
the price for alleged mistakes? Third, regarding the ownership of the community
lands as a whole, the High Court, relying on the Civil Administration and State
Prosecutor’s Office, accepted claims of Arab petitioners without properly
examining whether those claims were valid and how best to resolve the
No lower court examined the state prosecutor’' s opinions, as is
customary in Israeli judicial procedure. So to whom does the land belong? If it
belongs to local Arabs, where is the legally binding proof? And if not, it
should be considered State land, so why aren’t Jews allowed to develop it?
Fourth, an internal memo sent by Brig.- Gen. Moti Almoz, head of the Civil
Administration, revealed a policy of selective enforcement against
“The summer camp is over,” he wrote.
“The enforcement of
laws against illegal building in the territories is unequal and we will destroy
buildings of settlers in the most difficult places and in great
Who is responsible for this draconian policy? Perhaps most
serious about the current wave of house demolitions is the attempt to create
facts on the (previously empty) ground – and legal precedent – by destroying
“outposts” and homes before the government has had a reasonable opportunity to
deal with the issue. Such actions make a mockery of the rule of law and of a
system which gives the army and police that authority. It is also a violation of
the civil and human rights that the State is obligated to protect.
of police and judicial powers by politically motivated selective enforcement of
law undermines the state and the Zionist ethos.
Three piles of rubble in
Migron now join nine in Amona, ten gutted apartments in Hebron’s Jewish Quarter,
the ruins of hundreds of once-Jewish homes throughout Judea and Samaria, and
thousands more in Gush Katif and Northern Shomron. Disgraceful memorials to
Israeli injustice, they trample the majesty of the Jewish people in their
The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist
living in Jerusalem.