Thursday, December 15, 2016

 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column

I have avoided writing about Amona until now. This is because the legal issues surrounding the notion of land ownership in Judea and Samaria are so arcane that one legal scholar (email correspondence) wrote that “the number of people who have a good understanding of West Bank property law can be counted on one hand.” And I don’t want to add to the noise by writing yet another amateur legal brief about it. There are, though, some things that are clear and worth saying.

First of all, let me state my prejudices: I do not believe Jews living in Judea and Samaria are an obstacle to peace, nor do I think that Jewish communities there are illegal or even “illegitimate,” whatever that means. Indeed, I think that Jews settling anywhere in the land of Israel are performing a religious and Zionist mitzvah, and I’m all for it. Those who find this position offensive can stop reading now.

The last time I mentioned Amona, someone took me to task for advocating “land theft.” It’s private Palestinian land, he said. What more do you need to know? Well, actually there is a great deal to know. Some of the complexities are discussed here. It’s worthwhile reading if you care about more than slogans.

My take on the legal part is that the draconian decision by the Supreme Court to destroy all of Amona and uproot its residents because of what turned out to be a claim on about one half acre of the 125 acres on which it is built, and which ultimately rested on the illegal actions of the Jordanian king, was highly unjust. 

How does it happen that a Jewish court would punish Jews for settling in the land of Israel? How does it then happen that alternatives to expelling these families from their homes are opposed by the Court and the government’s legal advisor (who is hand-picked by the Court)?

The answer isn’t legal, but is connected to international politics. Israel is the only country in the world whose real estate laws and transactions are scrutinized by the US State Department, the UN and the European Union’s Foreign Ministry. The Obama Administration, for example, recently weighed inopposing an attempt to move the Amona families to a nearby unused location that was listed as property abandoned by Arabs in 1967. And the EU opposed the Regularization Law (as did the UN), which is intended to legalize outposts built on land claimed by Palestinians by compensating the claimants. 

I should add that the EU seems to see nothing wrong with directly financing illegal Palestinian construction in the territories, while vehemently opposing any Israeli building there – all this in “Area C,” which under the Oslo accords is supposed to be under full Israeli control. But their concern for legality apparently doesn’t include obeying Israeli laws.

The Palestinians who claim ownership of the land on which Amona was built didn’t decide to sue the state by themselves. Indeed, the petition to the Supreme Court was filed on their behalf by an “Israeli” NGO called Yesh Din (“there is justice”), an organization which claims to work on behalf of “human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT),” which it does by 

collecting and disseminating reliable and updated information regarding systematic human rights violations in the OPT; conducting public and legal advocacy in order to pressure Israel’s authorities to cease violations; and raising public awareness to human rights violations in the OPT.

I put “Israeli” above in quotation marks because although its staff and directors are mostly Jewish Israelis,  the organization receives almost all of its funds from foreign sources. According to NGO Monitor, which examines annual reports filed by Israeli-registered NGOs, 93.5% of its funding from 2002 through 2014 came from foreign sources. Total donations between 2002 and 2016 were about 18 million Israeli Shekels, or about US $4.73 million. Sources (see link above for a breakdown) include individual European countries and the EU, and the US-based New Israel Fund.

When Yesh Din is not petitioning the Supreme Court to throw Jews out of their homes, it is falsely accusing the IDF of war crimes. How patriotic.

I think it’s safe to say that the  international community, led by the Obama Administration, the UN, and the EU, with the support of the great majority of the world media and its academic establishment, wish to force Israel to abandon Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. It is also an article of faith of the international “progressive” movement – including the Israeli Left – that “The Occupation” is the greatest source of evil in the world. This is shown by the fact that far more effort and money appears to be expended on combating it than on fighting Da’esh or nuclear proliferation.

I won’t speculate what the next step would be if Israel were to leave the territories. But I doubt that would be the end of the pressure.

There are historical reasons that we find ourselves in opposition to so much of the world: Oil, the KGB, victim-blaming from European Holocaust guilt, cowardice in the face of Arab terrorism, Stockholm syndrome, anti-nationalism, Arab grants to educational institutions, bribery of politicians and public figures, old-fashioned Jew-hatred, and our own anti-genius for public relations all had a part in it.

On our side, too, there is a huge expenditure – of effort and money (how much time have the Knesset and ministers spent on issues connected to Amona?), but also of national spirit. How many times can we send our police and soldiers to drag Jews out of their homes in the middle of the night? How many times before we lose our national soul?

To be honest, I think the answer is “no more times.” We spent all we could afford at Yamit and Gush Katif.

It’s time to decide.  Do we care about Judea and Samaria and the Jews that live there? If so, we need to commit, to act as though we truly are the sovereign power; as Annika Rothstein wrote, to make a marriage and not just an extended engagement. Zionism demands it.

If not – well, I don’t want to think about the alternative.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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