Thursday, January 26, 2006

Law-and-order or politics?

Law-and-order or politics?

On Jan. 19, Minister Tzippy Livni, quoted in Ha'aratz newspaper 'warned that "the conflict between settlers and the government is a struggle for supremacy."' Acting Prime minister Ehud Olmert "declared war on law-breaking settlers in the West Bank… and described illegal acts by settlers as "the undermining of the rule of law."'

What is the cause of such blatant demagoguery?

Hebron's Jewish community has come under fierce attack due to disturbances in the city a week ago. How did Hebron's leadership relate this turbulence and the youth involved? Quite simply, these youth are neither hoodlums or hooligans. Rather, they are some of the most ideologically motivated people in Israel today. These kids are true lovers of their land, of Eretz Yisrael. They are still crying the pain of expulsion from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron. Their hearts are still bleeding the wounds of our land being abandoned to our enemies. They hurt the hurt of thousands of homeless Jews, who committed no crime but to live in Gush Katif.
These youth want to prevent more expulsions, here in Hebron, in Amona, and in other places throughout Judea and Samaria. Enough is enough! No more expulsions, no more homeless, no more abandoned Jewish property. Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael, the Jewish people.
And what about the excessiveness, the seeming violence? Sixteen year-olds don’t react the same way as fifty year olds. Sometimes the reactions are exaggerated, but then again, remember what they are struggling for. Even the military commander of Hebron, Col. Motti Baruch lost control and loaded his weapon in front of a group of unarmed youth. Can teenagers be held more responsible than a Colonel in the IDF?

Is ideological motivation a "struggle for supremecy?" Clearly, all honest people must be able to live with themselves, with their actions and their conscience. True Jewish ideology has it roots in an eternal Torah, which has existed, not for fifty years, but for thousands of years. This Torah, as David Ben Gurion told the Peel Commission, is the justification for our national existence in Eretz Yisrael.

Religiously observant Jews have no problem obeying the law of the land, as long as that law does not force them to overtly transgress their beliefs. Should the Knesset pass a law demanding that one meal a day must include pig meat, or that Shabbat must be desecrated be each and every Israeli citizen, of course it would not be heeded. Eretz Yisrael is no different. Chopping up our land, or demanding that it be abandoned is certainly no less serious than eating treif meat. Why is one publicly acceptable and the other decried?

The present conflict has nothing to do with law and order, or governmental sovereignty. Rather, it is entirely political. An unwritten law of Israeli society states that preceding elections, or during the rule of a transitional government, major national actions and decisions are postponed.
For example, despite Shimon Peres's signing of the Hebron Accords in 1996, he refrained from implementing them due to upcoming elections. In January, 2001 then attorney general Eliyakim Rubenstein, in a publicly scolded Prime Minister Ehud Barak as a result of his Camp David negotiations with Bill Clinton, prior to an Israeli election. He wrote, "An election-eve agreement with the Palestinians should be such that it does not raise even the suspicion that it was subject to time-related considerations - namely, election considerations. Thus, great care and constant awareness of these suspicions is required, and even more so in the case of a minority government whose prime minister has resigned."
Presently, Attorney General Manny Mazuz has ordered the justice minister to refrain from convening a special panel to appoint supreme court judges, due to the upcoming election. He has even gone so far as to disallow new appointees to the Kiryat Ono religious council, because of the impending election.

Hebron leadership has been in constant communication with officials in various government offices in an attempt to reach a suitable agreement, satisfactory to all involved. The defense minister, Shaul Mufaz and very senior officers in the IDF are clearly in favor of a negotiated settlement, as opposed to a forced expulsion. The government has already expressed a willingness to rent the structures in question to Hebron Jewish residents. This being the case, we can only ask, why the hurry!? Why not allow the process to be completed, without eviction scenes on Israeli and world television. And should, G-d forbid, the attempts to reach an agreement fail, the from the government's view, an opportunity to evict will still remain a viable option.

In January, 2003, then Jerusalem Mayor Olmert issued a 166 page book, together with Dore Gold called, "Illegal Construction in Jerusalem," which enumerates over 6,000 examples of illegal Arab building in the capital. The conclusion declares, "illegal construction has reached epidemic proportions." Yet, an overwhelming majority of those illegal structures are still standing. Why then is there such an urgency to forcibly remove nine families in Hebron and destroy nine buildings in Amona, when so many other illegal structures are being overlooked?

The answer, it seems, is that Acting Prime Minister Olmert has undertaken to use Hebron and Amona as a means to politically prove his worth: 'I too know how to throw Jews out of their homes, whatever the cost.' Police Chief Moshe Karadi already hinted that use of ammunition is not out of the question. So the real question is: are we dealing with the rule of law-and-order, or an attempt to usurp political power for political purposes?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sodom and Gomorrah

Sodom and Gomorrah

January 24, 2006

In 1983 Deli Landau, then 19 years old, left London to live in Israel. A few years later she married Menachem, and for over twenty years the couple has lived in Hebron. Menachem is the principal of the Kiryat Arba Religious Junior High School for boys. Deli, in her words, specializes in mops and diapers. She is also a professional medic who frequently journeys in Hebron's ambulance to Jerusalem, accompanying, among others, women on their way to give birth. She also cares very much for where she lives, for her land and for her people. Not a bashful woman, Deli makes her opinion known, not only with words, but also with actions.

Last week, on her way into Kiryat Arba from Hebron, was stopped at the gate by a police officer, who asked her if she was from Hebron. When she responded positively, he demanded to see her ID card. Her response: "if you only demand IDs of Hebron residents, your motives are political." With that she put her foot on the gas and drove into Kiryat Arba. Moments later a police van pulled up behind her and, speaking through a loud speaker, yelled at her to stop. She suddenly heard the policeman screaming that she had tried to run him down. An officer, peering into her car, demanded that several others hand over their Israeli IDs. When they refused, they were arrested. Deli was ordered to follow the police to the local police headquarters. There she was charged with attacking a police officer, (as opposed to attempting to run him down).

However, the primary charge against Deli Landau revolves around the issuance of expulsion orders to Hebron residents of the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood a couple of weeks ago. Two uniformed officers of the Israeli "Civil Administration" arrived in the neighborhood at about 10:00 in the morning, accompanied by dozens of police, the riot squad, soldiers, and journalists. When the expulsion forces met, face to face with Hebron residents and supporters, a volcano erupted.

During the ensuing fracas, Deli, whose apartment borders the homes of the endangered Mitzpe Shalhevet apartments, stood on a porch and poured a pitcher of water onto people standing under her, in the road. Her goal was several police, but her aim was off, and the water splashed a few yeshiva students who got in the way.

As a result of her attempt to waste water on Israeli expulsion forces, Deli was charged with attacking police officers and rioting.

Last week, following her arrest, Deli and her 15 month old son spent the night at the Neve Tirza woman's prison. The next day, during a court hearing, the judge agreed to allow her to spend Shabbat at her parent's home in Jerusalem, under house arrest, until a second hearing. The prosecutor's office was demanding that she be remanded in prison until conclusion of all proceedings against her.

This morning, at the Jerusalem Shalom Court, judge Ilta Ziskind rendered the following decision:
Deli must remain in house arrest at her parent's home in Jerusalem, until conclusion of expulsion from the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood.
Following conclusion of the expulsion, the police will be notified and Deli will be allowed to return to her home in Hebron.
Deli is forbidden from being anywhere else in Judea and Samaria for a year.
She must deposit 5,000 shekels cash and sign a bail bond for another 20,000 shekels, which will be collected should she violate the court decision, or not appear at trial.

During the hearing, the 'honorable judge' lectured Deli: 'As the mother of eleven children, you should be more responsible and refrain from rioting and attacking police. Your children are liable to learn from you actions, and this is one of the reasons you must not be allowed home, to prevent your children from learning from your deeds.'

What can we determine from this court decision?
1. The judge has already decided that there will be an expulsion in Hebron.
(I asked Deli what will happen if, for some reason, the 'expulsion' is delayed or postponed. Her response: "Wow – I'll really be stuck."
2. Judges know better than mothers how to educate their children
3. Israeli courts may punish citizens, despite the fact that they haven't been tried or convicted. (Exile from all of Judea and Samaria for a year!) (I asked Deli if she was allowed to enter Kiryat Arba, to go to the doctor, post office, grocery store, etc. She didn't know).
4. Most importantly: pouring water on a policeman is a horrific crime, to be equated with 'physically attacking police.' (It is not clear which is to be considered more horrendous – throwing an egg on a policeman, or pouring water on him.)

Deli isn't the first person to be so oppressed by Israeli justice. A 15 year old Hebron youth was 'distanced from Hebron (where his family lives) for two months. He is under 'yeshiva arrest,' i.e., he cannot leave the yeshiva where he studies, except for Shabbat, when he is allowed home.

Why? What did he do? The police have a photograph of a male with his face covered by a stocking hat, whose jacket is similar to the Hebron boy's jacket. So, of course, that is proof enough to determine final identification and justify preemptive punishment and exile from his home.

Other examples: A 15 year old girl, with no criminal record, was charged with rioting, disturbing a policeman who was fulfilling his duty, and entering a 'closed military zone' because she attempted to leave Kiryat Arba to Hebron, despite a military order declaring the area a 'closed military zone.' She was not charged with any violent activity, but the prosecution demanded that she be held in prison until conclusion of all proceedings against her. The court ruled that she be held in house arrest until conclusion of the expulsion from Mitzpe Shalhevet. Only then will she be allowed to return to her studies at the Kiryat Arba religious girls High School.

A 15 year old girl, without any past criminal record, was arrested because of 'unbecoming behavior' (chuztpa). She resisted arrest and scratched an army officer. The same officer provided 'an eyewitness account' that he had seen her rioting several days earlier. As a result of this single witness, the judge ordered that the girl be held until conclusion of all proceedings against her. She is incarcerated in the Russian compound in Jerusalem, in very harsh conditions.

A 16 year old boy, from a family of terror victims, was arrested when a policeman argued that he could identify him as having 'pushed police' with his head covered by a stocking hat. As a result of this testimony, the boy has been in jail for over a week and the prosecution is demanding that he be remanded until conclusion of all proceedings against him.

Attorney Naftali Wertzberger noted the following trends presently utilized by the Israeli prosecution and courts:
Demands to imprison until conclusion of proceedings, even when dealing with minors, breast-feeding mothers, and people without any criminal record.
Usage of 'house-arrest' punishment on minors, causing them to miss school 'until conclusion of the expulsion from the 'shuk' in Hebron.'
Very frequent visits by police to 'check' those under house arrest – up to 5 to 6 times a day.
Demands to deposit 5,000 shekels cash to the court.

In addition, it has been learned that the director of special tasks in the prosecutor's office, Attorney Shi Nitzan, is taking a personal interest in the present cases, is following them and has issued instructions forbidding police prosecutors from reaching any kind of agreement or compromise with the 'suspects.' Any such agreement must have his personal stamp of approval.

Tomorrow Deli Landau's attorney will file an appeal with the Jerusalem municipal appeals court. However, no one has any illusions as to the outcome of the case. It is quite clear that prosecutor's office and the courts have joined together, not to seek justice, but rather to seek repression of basic human rights, punishing prior to trial and conviction, while oppressing Israelis attempting to protest a most dastardly crime: eviction and expulsion from Jewish homes, presently in Hebron, and likely also in Amona and other communities throughout Judea and Samaria, following in the footsteps of Gush Katif and the northern Shomron.

We are living a replay of Sodom and Gomorrah, when justice and hospitality were an anathema and evil was the name of the game.

And we all know what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Long Live the Youth of Israel

Long Live the Youth of Israel! January 16, 2006The Jewish Community of Hebron has come under invasion by the Israeli police and other security forces. This morning, for the 2nd time in two days, dozens and dozens of police, border police and riot squad members invaded the Avraham Avinu neighborhood in Hebron.The background: History - (See the present: Two weeks ago an expulsion order ultimatum was issued: Be out of the homes in the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood voluntarily by the 15th of January, or face forced expulsion, no later than the 15th of February. Hebron families refused to even consider evicting themselves from their homes.
Last week several hundred youth from all over Israel started coming into Hebron in order to show support and provide assistance to the community and the families threatened by expulsion. Being aware that the 15th of January was quickly approaching, and without any idea as to when the expulsion might be implemented, the Hebron community welcomed the youth with open arms. All help would be needed if the forces moved in. It is expected that thousands of police, soldiers and other special security forces will participate in the expulsion attempt, should it actually occur (G-d forbid.)
On Shabbat, the 14th of January, tensions ran high. The next day, Sunday, was the deadline. That next night could be D-Day. During the day several clashes were reported, between Israelis and Hebron Arabs, who started pelting people with rocks, and between Israelis and some of the security forces. During this incident an Israeli officer was hit and slightly wounded by a rock thrown by an Arab. This despite reports in the Israeli media that a Jew intentionally hit the officer with the rock. A weekly Shabbat tour of the Kasba was canceled at the last minute, with over 100 people waiting to participate. Some people started runing through the Kasba in reaction to the cancellation and this caused a brief confrontation with some of the security forces.
Saturday night: Some kids start a fire in an abandoned store. Hebron youth put the fire out.
Sunday: January 15 – tension filled the air. Would nine families find themselves without homes the next day. Late Sunday morning: a group of youth, walking through Hebron, passing Beit Hadassah in the direction of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood find the road blocked by Israeli soldiers, who refuse to let them pass. Among the security forces: Hebron military commander, Col. Motti Baruch. A discussion quickly becomes heated, voices are raised, push comes to shove. The kids want to know: why can't they keep walking? The pushing and shoving between the two sides gets rough. And then, suddenly, Col. Motti Baruch loads his M-16 rifle, in the direction of the youth. All hell breaks loose.   Hebron leaders arrive at the scene and separate the two sides, pushing the youth away from the soldiers. Hebron police arrive and close off the street in both directions, declaring the gathering of youth 'illegal,' and threaten to start arresting people. The kids disappear and after a while the police leave. But the tension is so high you can cut it with a knife.
Sunday afternoon: Word filters out – the troops are on their way. A group of over 100 security forces, accompanied by horse-bound police march from Ma'arat HaMachpela to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. Marching in, they immediately take to the roofs of adjacent buildings and take down make-shift tents pitched in the neighborhood. They start chasing after some of the kids, snatching them, here and there. Several are arrested and dragged away. After a little while the action stops but the troops remain. It turns into a stand-off: the troops watching the kids on rooftops and the kids staring at the police. Every once in a while an egg lands close to one of the police. When some of the youth threaten to throw rocks, Hebron leaders call on them to stop. That's the way things remain for a few hours, until the police leave.
During the night: again, tense, but quiet.
Monday morning: January 16: calm and quiet blanket the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, site of the previous day's action. Some of the youth express a desire to head home.   Then, suddenly, late in the morning, again, word gets out: they're on their way again. The troops, the water cannon, the horses! This time over 150 people invade the neighborhood, making their way quickly into the courtyard. Riot squad members, running, break into the Beitar Guest House, and climb up to the roof. Other police line the walls of the neighborhood. Still others climb up other stairs, stationing themselves on people's porches and roofs. A chain of police line up on stairs leading to the Avraham Avinu synagogue and Beit Nachum v'Yehuda, preventing people from reaching them. After a short time the small neighborhood is full of uniformed invaders, who, after having taken up positions, do nothing else. Why have they arrived? One of the commanders tells his troops: "we are here to show 'strength.'" When Noam Arnon asks an officer, 'what are you doing here – everything is quiet and under control?" he is ignored. When he demands to see a search warrant from police chief Ali Zammir, allowing him to break into the Beitar Guest House, which is private property, Zammir's response: "if you have a complaint, put it in writing and send it to me."  The police break the locks on door's leading to building rooftops in order to take up positions. Who will pay for the damage? The police don't care.
For hours the police stand at their positions, doing nothing. Several arrests are reported, including that of a 12 year old girl who is dragged into a police van screaming for someone to stay with her, to no avail.
Finally, after hours of a second day of standoff, the security forces leave the neighborhood. Many riot squad members go down the road to Beit Hadassah and there too, stand outside, in a display of 'strength.' Eventually they too, leave.
It is clear that the primary reason for the day's police show is overtly provocative: The police, arriving en masse, hope to 'be attacked' by the 'violent hoodlums' thereby providing an excuse to beat and arrest them. However, the kids are too smart to fall into the trap. The police experience only cold and boredom.
Early Evening: Most of the youth have decided to leave. The expulsion is still pending. According to sources within the government, it will not be implemented for at least a couple of more weeks. The kids can take a break and come back again in a week or so, if they are still needed.
Many journalists asked: how can you put up with such 'violent hooligan's,' in their words. The answer is very simple. These youth are neither hoodlums or hooligans. Rather, they are some of the most ideologically motivated people in Israel today. These kids are true lovers of their land, of Eretz Yisrael.  These youngsters are still crying the pain of expulsion from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron. Their hearts are still bleeding the wounds of our land being abandoned to our enemies. They hurt the hurt of thousands of homeless Jews, who committed no crime but to live in Gush Katif.
These youth want to prevent more expulsions, here in Hebron, and in Amona, and in other places throughout Judea and Samaria. Enough is enough! No more expulsions, no more homeless, no more abandoned Jewish property. Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael, the Jewish people and no one, but no one, has the right to evict and expel Jews from their land.
And what about the excessiveness, the seeming violence?   Sixteen year-olds don’t react the same way as fifty year olds. Sometimes the reactions are exaggerated, but then again, remember what they are fighting for. In contrast, how many youth have been stabbed at Israeli nightclubs, due to 'love' or drugs or alcohol, or all three of the above? Dozens and dozens. Almost every weekend, another act of real violence, due to… a desire for what? For the good of our land, of our people, of our Torah?  When was the last time 'the troops were sent in' to prevent another stabbing, another murder? How many 'troops have been called in' to stop another terror attack, leaving more orphans and widows? How many troops are called up to prevent another Kasam missile from falling in Sderot? Our youth, having witnessed people singing and dancing, hugging and kissing their expellers this summer in Gush Katif scream out: "NO MORE! We will not sing and dance with people who want to throw us out of our homes, off our land. They are the real criminals, not us!" And how right they are!
We should be proud that we have such youth, whose motivation stems, not from personal desire or gain, but from a true love and yearning for their land, a G-d given gift to our people.
Long live the youth of Israel!