Crossing all the lines/When all is forbidden, all is permitted By Nadav Shragai
November 24, 2008
Hebron in the eyes of the state prosecutors and the High Court of Justice is an Arab city where a few hundred Jews reside until "the final status agreement" is struck. Hebron in the eyes of the settlers is the city of our forefathers in which Jewish settlement has existed "from time immemorial" and will exist "forever."
Hebron, where David established his kingdom before the conquest of Jerusalem, is also a true reflection of the fault line that divides Israeli society between political and secular Zionists - for whom this country is first and foremost a refuge and a national home - and religious Zionists, whose existence is obviously rooted primarily in Judaism; between those for whom "the future of our sons is more important than the graves of our forefathers" - and those who are convinced that there is no future for our sons in a place that is without the graves of our forefathers, no physical-existential future, and most of all no spiritual future.
For years, these two streams fed off one another. David Ben-Gurion, who was the main figure who merged these two worldviews, thought that "we will make a huge, tremendous error if we do not settle Hebron, Jerusalem's neighbor and predecessor, with an ever-expanding Jewish settlement in the shortest amount of time." Even the 51 members of Knesset who signed a letter opposing the evacuation of Hebron's "House of Peace" are in their own way merging these two worldviews, as is Morris Abraham of New York, a descendant of Jews who were banished from Hebron following the 1929 massacre, who gave up his retirement funds to buy the building in Hebron, to link Kiryat Arba with the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Now, however, in the case of that Hebron building, also known as the "House of Contention," all lines have been crossed by both sides. On the one hand, Jewish fanatics from the fringes of the settler camp whose place is in prison vandalize Muslim tombstones, and harm Arabs and Israel Defense Forces soldiers; a former member of Knesset says Kadima is worse than Hamas; and a rabbi says the State of Israel is the enemy of the nation (although he later recants).
On the other hand, and we are not talking here about the fringes, our nation's government is developing its own fanaticism whereby the ends - the banishment of Jews from Hebron - justify nearly all the means, to the point where that government and its mouthpieces become mute, deaf and blind. Even in the face of the facts and from a moral standpoint.
Here is a "minor" matter: the death sentence which the Palestinian Authority hands down to anyone who "commits the crime" of selling land to Jews. In any properly functioning state, the government, its attorney general and its Supreme Court would cry out to the heavens against such a punishment, which more or less constitutes a license to murder. But this law is accepted with near indifference, perhaps because the champions of human rights who were supposed to rise up in protest are themselves of the mind that a Palestinian who sells land to a Jew is a criminal.
Anyone who has listened to the tape that the settlers presented to the High Court of Justice cannot comprehend how the justices did not do the minimum that is required, and ask the state to reconsider its position in relation to the House of Contention. This audiotape includes everything. The supposed seller recalls how he sold the property, received the money, made renovations at the request of the buyer and even resisted serious pressure from the PA. Remarkably, the High Court and the prosecutors do not question the authenticity of the tape, but the latter - due to some bizarre, procedural considerations - simply refuse heed it.
In addition, Faid Rajbi, the ostensible seller, who in his first interrogation by Hebron police claimed that he never sold the house, but is later seen in a video tape counting his money, repeatedly changed his version of events - a serious mistake in the best-case scenario, and at worst an obstruction of justice which serves a political agenda.
There is no doubt that a case on a similar scale within tiny Israel proper would have been heard in a District or Magistrate's Court. There the facts and the evidence would have come into clear focus for their approval. But when dealing with Hebron and the House of Contention case, one gets the impression that the facts are not so relevant, and that someone here has decided that he will not let the evidence confuse him.
Even retired District Court judge Uri Shtruzman, perhaps by dint of the fact that he was the one who presided over one of the cases cited by Ayala Procaccia in her decision, was under the impression that the High Court erred in its legal interpretation of "his" case, noting that "there's no surprise in the settlers' forceful protests that it wasn't a fair trial that guided the High Court's considerations, but a political perspective."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak needs to take this into account. The High Court, contrary to misleading media reports and of which Barak has been made aware by his advisers, did not require the state to evacuate the settlers from the House of Contention, but simply enabled it to do so. The appointment of an impartial investigative panel or a deferment of a final decision until the facts have been sorted out in district court is the proper, measured way to handle this affair.
Women For Israel's Tomorrow (Women in Green)