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It's official: Anti-Semitism is "in." The decision to award the Palestinian film Paradise Now the Golden Globes Award for best foreign film tells us that Palestinian terror against Israelis has become so acceptable that it is now Hollywood kitsch. The sight of the Jewish American diva Sarah Jessica Parker, of Sex in the City fame, excitedly announcing that a film which glorifies the mass murder of Jews in Israel was the big winner for 2005 only served to demonstrate how deep this trivialization of evil now runs.
On Wednesday, it was reported that the Jordanian border police have adopted a new policy regarding the entry of Israeli tourists into the Hashemite Kingdom. Any Israeli trying to enter Jordan will be turned away at the border if he is wearing or carrying any Jewish religious paraphernalia. This anti-Semitic policy, the Jordanian authorities explain, stems from security concerns. Jews, after all, are prized targets for terrorists. By this reasoning, stopping people with overtly Jewish appearances, or who have Jewish ritual articles in their luggage, is a friendly gesture.
The Foreign Ministry is not pleased with this newest Jordanian move. Israeli officials are reportedly trying to reverse the new orders. The Israeli protest is ironic because the government itself uses similar justifications for its policy of prohibiting Jews from praying on the Temple Mount. The government claims that Jews are forbidden from worshipping at Judaism's holiest site because allowing Jewish worship entails security risks.
It is hard to muster much righteous wrath towards the Golden Globes gang for granting their prize to a movie that extols the virtues of mass murderers of Jews. Today the official policy of the Israeli government regarding the status and rights of Jews in Judea and Samaria is itself based on anti-Semitic foundations.
Case in point is the government's handling of the Jewish "squatters" in the former marketplace in Hebron. The property in dispute is owned by a Jewish trust - the Magen Avot Sephardic Community - which purchased the land 199 years ago. Today, the Magen Avot Sephardic Community is headed by former Sephardic chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu. The Community wants the property to be used to house Jews.
On the face of it, it all seems rather cut and dried. The area is directly adjacent to the Jewish Avraham Avinu neighborhood. It is owned by Jews who want its current Jewish residents to remain in place. Why would the government have a problem with eight Jewish families living in the former shops in full accord with the expressed wishes of the property's owner?
On Tuesday morning I asked Lieutenant Assaf Azoulay, the spokesman for the Judea and Samaria Division, this question during a visit to Hebron. Azoulay responded angrily, "It's an issue of the supremacy of law!" He then proceeded to shout that the Supreme Court ordered that the Jews be expelled from the former shops and the IDF's job is to implement the high court's ruling.
The problem is that the Supreme Court never held a hearing on the issue and certainly never made a decision on the matter. Palestinians did petition the court some five years ago, asking that the Jews who had "squatted" in the stores - that have been empty since 1994 and since replaced by new shops built by the Hebron municipality - be expelled. The issue was argued before the appeals committee of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria two years ago.
In their ruling, the military judges tended to accept the recommendation to allow the Jews to rent the property in accordance with the wishes of the property's owners. But the judges' common sense clashed with the state prosecution's world view. Last October, for no apparent reason, Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz decided that the Jewish families must be removed from the shops no later than February 15.
And here we arrive at the main issue. In 1949, after conquering Judea and Samaria, the Jordanian regime seized all Jewish owned lands and placed them under the control of the Jordanian Custodian for Enemy Property. Jews were by law prohibited from entering the areas. In 1967, after Israel took control of Judea and Samaria, the government transferred control over the seized Jewish lands to the Custodian for Absentee Lands in the Civil Administration.
The question arises, why did the government not simply allow the Jewish land owners to reassert their rights over their lands? Israel's refusal to enable Jewish landowners in Judea and Samaria to exercise their rights over their private property constitutes an Israeli adoption of the anti-Semitic Jordanian legal regime which denied all Jewish property rights in Judea and Samaria.
ON THE face of it, this past Monday those who believe that Jewish civil and property rights in Judea and Samaria should be defended scored a major victory at the district courthouse in Kfar Saba. There on Monday afternoon, District Court Judge Navah Bechor acquitted Mr. Avri Ran of charges of aggravated assault against an Arab who trespassed onto his clover field on March 20, 2005.
Ran, the owner of the "Eternal Hills" organic ranch in Samaria, was indicted last spring on charges of aggravated assault of an Arab named Hader Masalam Abu Haniyeh from the village of Hirbat Yanoun. Since the altercation 10 months ago, Ran has been prohibited from entering Judea and Samaria. For the past five months he has been jailed pending the conclusion of his trial due to the prosecution's claim that his "ideological zeal" rendered him a danger to the public.
Ran asserted that abetted by extremist leftist activists, Abu Haniyeh and his associate Amar Abu Shehadeh trespassed on his field with a tractor with the purpose of destroying his crop two months before the harvest. He maintained that he and three of his employees had gone to the field on the morning of March 20 to prevent the two men from harming his crop. Disturbingly, both the police and the state prosecutors refused to investigate Ran's version of events. They adamantly insisted that Ran and his men had brutally assaulted the two Arabs, and accepted the Arabs' statement that Ran and his men had a history of abusing their Arab neighbors, who never caused them any harm.
During Ran's three month trial, the police and prosecution's claims against Ran and his three employees completely unraveled. At a hearing on December 1, Ran's attorney presented a film produced in November by a French television crew where the Abu Haniyeh and Abu Shehadeh gave a candid version of the events of March 20. On film, to a sympathetic reporter, they explained that extremist leftist activists from Israel and abroad had distributed photographs of Ran to Arab villagers and asked them to provoke Ran by trespassing on his field and by filing complaints against him with the police. In his court testimony, under cross examination, Abu Haniyeh admitted that accompanied by these leftist activists, Arabs from Yanoun routinely entered Ran's field with the aim of destroying his crop. Abu Haniyeh further admitted that not only had Ran "not assaulted him," but that "I was instructed that anytime that Avri was in the area, I had to exaggerate what happened and get Avri in trouble."
In her ruling, Judge Bechor noted that in his testimony before the court, Bentzi Kessler, the Civil Administration's land supervisor for the Nablus district, "stated that [Ran] has cultivated the clover field at least since 2000 and that his ownership of the area stems from his proprietorship of the area, and that land sellers to Jews are afraid to admit that he owns the land for fear that they will be killed." The judge further noted that the police knew that Ran owned the field because Kessler "had stated his opinion on the matter in the past to two police investigators who questioned him on the issue."
Judge Bechor issued stinging criticism of the police in the Samaria and Judea district for their "tendentious" conduct of the investigation. In her closing paragraph the judge warned, "It would be hoped that in the future, the police will conduct its investigations of similar instances without being locked into preconceived notions and by truly clarifying all the sides' versions of the events."
Although, Bechor's ruling shows that there are judges in Israel who believe that the law should be enforced without prejudice, no solace can be taken from this fact. Over the past 10 months, at the insistence of the state prosecution and the police, two Supreme Court justices - Edna Arbel and Esther Hayut - saw fit to jail Ran pending the conclusion of his trial. They based their decisions on the prosecution's claim that Ran's ideological beliefs rendered him a danger to society.
Yet the protocols of his trial and Judge Bechor's judgment expose an opposite reality. Extremist leftist activists, together with local Arabs, with the backing of the police and the state prosecutors, staged a provocation with the intent of criminalizing Ran and his men who had done nothing but exert their legal right to defend their private property from trespass and destruction. The fact of the matter is that Ran, who was innocent of any wrongdoing, was jailed for five months and kept from his family and his land for 10 months.
THE REALITY that is exposed both by the Ran trial and the current dispute over Jewish property rights in Hebron is that the question of whether Jews do or do not have rights to their property is a question of policy and politics, not a question of law. Is Israeli society ready to change the current policy? Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is betting that the answer is no. He thinks that just as anti-Semitism is "in" in Hollywood, so too it is "in" in Israel.
And so it is that as terror groups ratchet up their activities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and exact their toll in Jewish blood in Tel Aviv, Olmert is fashioning his political campaign around a war against "Jewish hooligans." On Wednesday, Olmert angrily ordered the police and the IDF to take "all necessary measures" to not only eject the Jews from the disputed shops in Hebron but to stop attempting to reach an agreement with them. He further instructed the military and police brass to make plans to expel Jews from eight communities that are considered "unauthorized" because the current government refuses to acknowledge the rights of Jews to build in Judea and Samaria. At the same time, Olmert has announced his intention to waive the road map's requirement for the Palestinians to destroy terror groups by expressing his willingness to open negotiations with the Palestinians even as they prepare to convene a parliament packed with terrorists.
Is Israel about to adopt a policy of fighting Jews rather than defending them against Palestinian terrorists? We'll know the answer to that question on March 28 when Israelis go to the polls and elect their next government.
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