50 Knesset Members Opposed Hebron Eviction — No Supreme Court Order For It Was Given
News
December 12, 2008

 


ZOA to ADL, AJC, Reform – Reconsider eviction support


 


  


The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has pointed to two letters signed by 49 and 51 Members of Knesset (MKs) respectively, pleading with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Internal Security Minister, Avi Dichter, and Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz not to evict Jews from Hebron’s Beit Hashalom, a building apparently purchased by an American Jew from its Arab owner for close to $1,000,000 and transferred to the Jewish Community of Hebron in a legal transaction that is now being challenged in the Jerusalem District Court. Having at first confirmed the sale, the former Arab owner has now recanted, for fear of Arab retribution.  (Palestinian Authority (PA) law calls for the death penalty for any Arab selling land to a Jew). The Knesset signatories included former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom; former Knesset Speaker Reuben Rivlin; former Education Minister Limor Livnat; the Chairmen of Kadima, Likud, National Union, Shas, Israel Beiteinu and Pensioners parties and the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee.


 


The Knesset Members also state that “the Supreme Court … did not obligate the government to evict them.” They also stated that, “the settlers have serious evidence to prove their claims [of legal purchase]… in light of the new evidence presented last Thursday to the prosecutor’s office: an audio cassette in which the Arab seller admits that he sold the building and received full compensation for it … [A] heavy feeling of bias and injustice has followed the entire case. As public representatives we warn that continued proceedings along these lines, leading to this result, is liable to significantly damage public faith in the judicial system.” The Jewish residents of Beit Hashalom, a large building in Hebron strategically overlooking Worshippers Way, the access road to the Cave of the Patriarchs, were forcibly evicted on December 4.


 


After refusing to consider certain video and audiotape evidence of the buildings’ legal Jewish ownership, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that “it will be possible to act in accordance with Squatters’ Evacuation Law” and evict the residents until the Jerusalem District Court decides the case, but did not oblige the authorities to do so.  That there was no requirement for their removal was further confirmed by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Turkel who said, “The ruling does not obligate the State to act to evacuate the Jews, but rather gives them the freedom to decide whether to do so or not.”


 


*Despite these facts and contrary to the Knesset Members letters, the Anti-Defamation League, in its statement, publicly claimed that “Israeli soldiers and police … were there to enforce a Supreme Court order to evacuate a contested building” (Ben Harris, ‘Many U.S. groups denounce Jewish violence in Hebron,’ Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 9, 2008). Similarly, David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, claimed that “The IDF and Israeli police enforced the ruling of Israel’s High Court of Justice to evict Jewish settlers from a house in Hebron whose lawful ownership is disputed” (Statement, ‘AJC appalled by Settler Provocations in Hebron,’ American Jewish Committee, December 5, 2008). Also, the American Jewish Congress issued a statement referring to a “court-ordered eviction” (Statement, Threats of Violence and Resistance to Court-Ordered Eviction in Hebron Undermine Israeli Democracy,’ American Jewish Congress, December 5, 2008). Still other groups, like the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center, Americans for Peace Now and Ameinu all referred to soldiers and police acting to enforce the Court order. It is apparent now that these statements are clearly incorrect – there was no such Court order requiring the eviction of the twenty Hebron Jewish families.


 


The ZOA is respectfully requesting that the organizations that issued these statements rescind their support for the evictions that they made on the groundless basis that the Israel Supreme Court had ordered these evictions – a groundless claim that has already been exposed by nearly half the Knesset.


 


Moreover, Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) denounced Defense Minister Barak’s “strange and wretched” decision to evict on the same day as the Labor Party primaries and urged him to await a court ruling on the evacuation before ordering the security forces to carry it out. Even a member of the Kadima party, MK Zev Elkin, called on Barak to avoid a confrontation with Peace House activists in Hebron, saying, “Barak is trying to get the Left to love him and save himself and his party on the back of the Jews of Hebron. We must negotiate with the settlers otherwise Barak and Olmert will be responsible for repeating the mistakes of Amona.”


 


The texts of the two letters follow:


 


 


1. To: Ehud Barak – Minister of Defense


Avi Dichter – Minister of Internal Security


 


24 November 2008


 


We, Knesset members from various parties, turn to you requesting and demanding that you act fairly and responsibly to prevent eviction from Beit HaShalom in Hebron, at the very least until after the elections.


 


The Supreme Court did reject the appeal of the residents of Beit HaShalom but it did not obligate the government to evict them, rather it permitted them to do so and left in its hands the full decision-making power as to the actual eviction, which can be totally cancelled, and the timing, so said retired Supreme Court justice Ya’akov Terkel.


 


There is a very heavy feeling of bias and injustice accompanying the handling of this case by the various law enforcement bodies concerning Beit HaShalom from its inception. These hard feelings have recently increased with the strange refusal of the attorney general’s office to review the case in accordance with the audio cassette presented by the settlers, which has been transformed into sharp protest and could, if ignited, G-d forbid, into a difficult confrontations.


 


We suspect that reasons and an atmosphere of upcoming elections are liable to drag the politicians and law-enforcement agencies to a serious confrontation, unnecessary and damaging, similar to ‘Amona.’ We believe that responsible leadership obligates you to prevent from creating an additional split against a loyal population which justifiable feels that it is being biased against.  We call on you to show responsible leadership and to take advantage of leeway and decision-making left up to your judgment, in order to prevent an eviction of Beit HaShalom, at the very least, until after the elections.


 


 


 


2. To Attorney General Menachem Mazuz


Nov. 2, 2008


 


We, members of various parties in the Knesset, turn to you requesting that you hold a renewed and serious meeting concerning the eviction order which was issued to the residents of Beit Hashalom in Hebron, that in light of the new evidence presented last Thursday to the prosecutor’s office: an audio cassette in which the Arab seller admits that he sold the building and received full compensation for it and in addition, the renovations we done for the purchaser.


 


As public representatives we believe that the new cassette that was presented to the media, strengthens the troublesome question marks around the very decision to evict the building’s residents/owners. It seems that the settlers have serious evidence to prove their claims, however they are prevented from utilizing this evidence because the case is presently before the Supreme Court (contrary to what would be accepted in a lower court). For this reason only they are liable  to find themselves outside the building, purchased for a huge sum, during the entire judicial proceeding, which could continue for years.


 


Such a result would be a travesty of justice.


 


This heavy feeling of bias and injustice has followed the entire case. As public representatives we warn that continued proceedings along these lines, leading to this result, is liable to significantly  damage public faith in the judicial system.


 


For this reason we suggest that the Attorney General hold a renewed hearing , paying attention to the new evidence, paying attention to the serious intervention of the Palestinian Authority, and to pay attention to the bias against the purchasers only because they are Jewish settlers.


 


The letters’ signatories included  Sylvan Shalom, former Foreign Minister; Reuben Rivlin, former Speaker of the Knesset; Gideon Sa’ar, Chairman, Likud Faction; Uri Ariel, Chairman, National Union Faction; Yoel Hasson, Chairman, Kadima Faction; Yaakov Margi, Chairman, Shas Faction; Yaakov Litzman, Chairman, Yahadut HaTorah Faction; Robert Elituv, Chairman, Yisrael Beteinu Faction; Yitzhak Galanti, Chairman, Gil (Pensioners) Faction; Rafi Eitan, Minister – Pensioners; Tzachi HaNegbi, Chairman, Knesset Committee – Security & Foreign Affairs; Michael Eitan, Chairman of Knesset Committee for State Comptroller; Limur Livnat, former Minister of Education; Yuval Steinitz, former Chairman, Knesset Security & Foreign Affairs.  Some other signatories included Yuli Edelstein (Likud); Zeev Elkin (Kadima); Gilad Erdan (Likud); Yitzhak Ziv (Pensioners); David Tal (Kadima); Shlomo Mula (Kadima); Sarah Marom-Shelo (Pensioners); Michael Nudelman (Kadima); Moshe Sharoni (Pensioners).


 


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said:  “The ZOA wishes to add to its previous statement expressing opposition to the forced eviction in Hebron, prior to any Jerusalem District Court determination on the legal ownership of Beit Hashalom, that we find the forced evictions now even less defensible than before. It is now clear that nearly half the Knesset strongly urged the Government to not proceed with this legally unnecessary eviction and also appealed to it to review the evidence that bore on the Jewish ownership of the building. The Government proceeded with the evictions regardless, possibly suggesting that it was not interested in the merits of the case, but rather with taking an opportunity to hurt the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and to delegitimize them in an apparent belief that the government officials would benefit politically. If this was not the case, why then did the Government not review the evidence it possessed? Why did it act when there was no court order requiring it to do so?”

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