PALESTINE - ISRAEL, 12 Mar 2018
12 Mar 2018 – When robbers are caught, the accepted practice is to arrest them and bring them to trial, to send them to jail in accordance with the severity of their crime, and to require them to pay compensation to their victims. But this is not the case in Israel when the robbers are the settlers who steal Palestinian land and build their homes or grow their crops on it. They receive special treatment, and if the state is forced to act according to the law, then it is the settlers who receive compensation!
Unfortunately, this scandalous situation is a substantial element in the corruption of Israeli society caused by the occupation. The land grabbing started when the State of Israel chose to begin its process of territorial expansion after the Six Day War in 1967. The Israeli government sent its army to carry out policies which stand in contradiction to the ethics of combat, to morality, and to international law. Along with the land theft, settlements were established, water was stolen, houses were demolished and some Palestinians were even expelled – all this while attempting to lie to us and the world that everything was being done for security reasons. Only right-wing governments began to partially come clean about their desire to annex the occupied territories, while still continuing the lie that they were interested in a two-state solution for the sake of peace.
The political falsehood was joined by a legal falsehood. When the issue of the legality of the settlements in the occupied territories was brought before the High Court of Justice, the latter ruled that it had no jurisdiction in the matter which was a case of government policy. And, being naïve, I thought that was exactly the High Court’s role – to criticize government actions. As I understand them, these actions stem from government policy in various areas…
For example, as in many other areas of Israeli life, here too we find privatization. What the government does as official policy, the settlers do privately. They establish settlements on their own initiative. These, of course, are illegal, but after a while they are recognized by the government, which in itself is a violation of international law. We especially see this in the unauthorized outposts. Let’s take the scandalous story of the unauthorized outpost Nativ Avot. It began with the settlers preventing the Palestinian landowners from the village of El Khader from cultivating their lands, which had previously been cultivated. Later on, in 2001, they started setting up trailers on the land. The Israeli Civil Administration in the occupied territories issued demolition orders for all the structures the settlers had set up in the outpost. Here is where the problem started. The Civil Administration did not bother to carry out the demolitions and expel the intruders from the place, and of course never even considered bringing them to trial for appropriate punishment. After all, law enforcement too is a question of policy. And so the landowners had no choice but to turn to the High Court, together with Peace Now, in 2008, to get a court ruling to order the state to carry out its duty, demolish the outpost and return the stolen land to its owners. The claimants never even entertained the idea that the robbers would be sent to jail and ordered to pay compensation to their victims. After all, these were settlers who were merely privatizing Israeli government policies.
And here begins the biggest scandal of all – the Israeli government, instead of immediately evacuating the robbers from the outpost and indicting them for their crimes, offered them huge compensation and an alternate site. In this way, the criminal act of establishing a settlement in the occupied territories became a joint venture of the government and the robbers! And this was nothing new.
So yes, the occupation corrupts and continues to corrupt. You won’t see civil society organizations fighting against this official corruption. Nor will you see popular protests against this ongoing scandal. And the lonely few who are still outraged by this scandalous behavior are, here in Israel, called leftist extremists and traitors… _____________________________________________________
Amos Gvirtz is founder of Israelis and Palestinians for Non-Violence, was chairperson of the Committee against House Demolitions, and a peace and human rights activist. He is a former Israeli representative to the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and wrote the book, Don’t Say We Did Not Know (working on the translation to English).
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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 12 Mar 2018.
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