by Roy Tov
Friday, May 11th, 2012
The Israeli administration has an uncontrollable weakness for George Orwell’s 1984; the best example is the 1982 Lebanon War which was named by the government “the War for the Peace of the Galilee.” The Hebrew possessive contraction brought together the two words which sounded exactly like “War-Peace,” creating a perfect Orwellian oxymoron. These instances abound; the topic of today’s article sends us to a place which its name contradicts its nature. Beit El is a settlement just north of Jerusalem, in the problematic Mateh Binyamin Regional Council; its name means “House of God,” yet, its residents committed crimes in the name of God. In response, this week Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered the demolition of Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood by July 1, 2012.
Beit El – Ulpana Neighbourhood
One of the reasons Benjamin Netanyahu had to widen his government by the addition of Kadima (see Shaul Mofaz Walks to Canossa) was his urgent need to deal with a series of court decisions defining settlements and outposts in the West Bank as illegitimate. The previous government was narrow and composed by right wing parties, allowing single extremist members of the coalition to block government decisions aimed at solving these problems. One of the most notorious cases was Migron (see April 2012: Battle of Migron); in that case, Netanyahu’s government decided to move the entire outpost to a nearby hill in order to fulfill an eviction order while keeping coalitional peace. However, that is not always possible. Sometimes, settlements on the line of fire are too sensitive for that. That’s the case of Beit El.
At first, Beit El looks similar to any other settlement in the West Bank. A religiously observant town located next to a large Palestinian city (al-Bireh), and belonging to the extremist Mateh Binyamin Regional Council (see Mattot Arim and the Jewish Extremists Clockwork). Yet, two of its statistics draw immediate attention. It was founded in 1977, meaning it is one of the oldest Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Then, it has a population of over 1,200 families; it is the closest thing the settlements have to a megacity. Checking a bit deeper, one finds that this is a key settlement in the Religious Zionist Movement. The State of Israel wouldn’t have been possible without an alliance between the secular Zionists and the religious Haredim (see Netanyahu’s Mule: On an Unholy Alliance); the result is what outside Israel is known as Religious Zionist Movement, and in Israel it is generalized as “kipot srugot,” the “hand-woven kipas”, after the distinctively hand-woven headcovers used by its men.
Beit El is home to various prominent persons. Rabbi Binyamin “Benny” Elon is a former member of the Knesset for the Moledet party and lives in Beit El. His father Menachem Elon was the former Deputy Chief Justice of Israel, and his brother Rabbi Mordechai Elon, is a prominent figure in the Religious Zionist Movement. His wife, Emuna, is an author and journalist who spent significant period of her life in New York; this is a reminder that most settlers in the West Bank are American Jews.
Ya’akov Dov “Katzele” Katz, the leader of the National Union party, also lives in Beit El . Beyond being a Knesset legislator, he is also the Executive Director of Beit El Yeshiva Center Institutions and Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio which operates out of studios in Beit El and Petah Tikva. This shortlist is enough to convince that Beit El is not Migron; it cannot be moved to the nearest hill in the middle of the night. It is linked directly to the parliament, the government, and the media. In Netanyahu buys Justice, I described how it is also indirectly linked to the Supreme Court. How dares the High Court of Justice to evict them? (Note for non-Israeli readers; Israel lacking a Constitution, its Supreme Court can operate as High Court of Justice-Bagatz-to which any person can approach, bypassing lower courts).
Unlawfulness in the West Bank has various layers. The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law, but the Israeli government disputes this. The international community considers Israeli settlements a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition on the transfer of an occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory. Thus, they are illegal under international law. Israel disputes that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the Palestinian territories as they had not been legally held by a sovereign prior to Israel taking control of them. This view has been rejected by the International Court of Justice and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The vast majority of West Bank settlements are in between these definitions; they are considered illegal by the entire world, but legal by the Israeli government. However, sometimes they are considered unlawful even by the Israeli government.
This usually happens when there are disputes regarding the purchase of the land upon which the settlement was built. For example, in the abovementioned Migron, most of the land occupied by the outpost belongs to several Palestinian families living in the nearby villages of Burqa and Deir Dibwan. Associated Press discovered in 2008, that Abd Allatif Hassan Sumarin, who supposedly sold a plot of land to Binyamin Regional Council owned Al Wattan Ltd in 2004, had been dead since 1961. In Nabi Saleh and other locations, settlements occupy lands unlawfully confiscated by the Israeli government. The Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El was established in 1999 on similarly problematic lands, which belong to people from the nearby Dura al-Qar village. In a lawsuit before the High Court of Israel, the state notified the court that the company developing the Ulpana neighborhood, Gush Emunim’s Amana Company, was aware that the seller of the land, a 7-year old Palestinian child, was not its legal owner at the time. Thus, even the State of Israel defines Ulpana as illegitimate, thus the eviction order issued on May 7, 2012, by the High Court of Justice. Supreme Court President Ahser Grunis along with Justice Uzi Fogelman and Justice Salim Joubran rejected an appeal from the state requesting it to reconsider its earlier ruling to evacuate the Ulpana neighborhood, despite the state itself recognizing the unlawfulness. Please let me clarify the situation. The State of Israel led a legal battle in its courts against its own laws.
Netanyahu faces a serious problem. A settlement belonging to settlers’ aristocracy has been evicted by Israel’s highest court. He cannot solve the problem legally. “Juden Raus!” (“Jews Out” in German) is being heard again, but this time the offensive words are uttered by the highest Jewish court. How big must be the settlers’ crimes in order to have achieved this shameful situation! Yet, Netanyahu is resourceful and manipulative. Reports from the government’s meeting after the court decision claim that Netanyahu is planning to deploy Israel’s secret weapon against the High Court. For the second time in its history, Israel is planning to legislate a retroactive law. Israel’s Nazis and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law (Hok Le’Asiat Din BaNatzim) from August 1, 1950, enables the execution of Nazis; its maximal punishment has been applied twice, but carried out only once. Between 1950 and 1961, this law was used to prosecute 29 Jewish Holocaust survivors alleged to have been Nazi collaborators. The first and only time it was used to execute a person, was in the Adolf Eichmann case. He was illegally kidnapped by Mossad from Argentina in 1960 and two years later was hanged. The second instance was the horrific persecution of John Demjanjuk (see Western Psikhushka Killed Demjanjuk), in which it became clear Israel knew it was prosecuting the wrong man. What makes this law special from a legal point of view is that it is retroactive and extraterritorial, since the State of Israel didn’t exist during WWII. Moreover, the alleged crimes were neither committed in Israel nor against Israeli citizens.
An ex post facto law (Latin for “after the fact”), or retroactive law, is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of actions committed prior to the enactment of the law. Ex post facto laws are expressly forbidden by the United States Constitution, though some countries accept them. These laws cannot be accepted as fair practice, regardless of the justifications used for their approval. Simply, how can one protect himself against a law that has not been legislated yet? States applying this horror assume people have the power of precognition (Israel publicly assumed to possess such powers, (see Minority Report: IDF arrests Palestinian prisoner released in Shalit swap). Thus, the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law cannot be accepted as a legitimate law, especially due to its geopolitical consequences. If we accept this, we will be forced also to accept a Laotian law sentencing Americans chewing bubble-gum in Honduras to death (no offense intended to any of these nations). Now, Netanyahu wants to do that again, by legislating a law that will transform the illegal purchase of land in Beit El into legal, rendering the court decision obsolete.
There is no doubt everything is unacceptable in this case: the land deal, the settlers’ actions, the government behavior in court, and now the possible legislation of another retroactive law. Mr. Netanyahu, we are entitled to live under a legitimate legal system, with no secret laws, with no retroactive laws, and with no extraterritorial laws. We are entitled to live in a society that respects its own laws, and that its laws are used for the benefit of its citizens not for the benefit of organized crime. You and yours are unable to provide that, thus, at least, let us tell you three words: Raus! Raus! Raus!