Demolishing Zionism, home by home

The ruins of hundreds of once-Jewish homes throughout Judea and Samaria, and thousands more in Gush Katif and Northern Shomron serve as disgraceful memorials to Israeli injustice.

Migron Demolition 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Migron Demolition 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
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 place.
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 Palestinian land.
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.
The proposal 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 homes.
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 objectives.
Such drastic action should not be taken without a compelling national interest.
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 dunams.
A decision last week to provide hundreds of street names in eastern Jerusalem for thousands of illegal Arab buildings highlights a glaring discrepancy.
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 explained.
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 issue.
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 Jews.
“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 numbers.”
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.
Abuse 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 restored homeland.
The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.