Law as Politics: The Case of Migron

What happened in Migron tramples the majesty of the Jewish people in our homeland.

Dr. Moshe Dann,

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The destruction of three homes in the Jewish community of Migron in the middle of the night raises serious questions about Israel's selective prosecution of law in Judea and Samaria and the abuse of police and judicial powers.

Although the State has the legal authority to carry out actions it deems necessary to protect the society which it serves, was the destruction in Migron – like that in Amona in 2009 – morally and ethically right?

What happened in Migron is an example of discriminatory application of building and planning laws to mask political objectives, arbitrarily against Jews and against Zionism garbed in judicial robes and police uniforms.   

A month after the three homes were finished in April, 2011, Peace Now petitioned the High Court, claiming that they were built on private Palestinian land and demanded that they be destroyed. A month later they admitted that their claim was false and withdrew their petition, but, they and the State Prosecutor demanded that the homes be destroyed anyway since they were built without authorization; the Court agreed.

The owners of the homes did not deny that they had built without permission, but argued that it was impossible to obtain that permission since the relevant authorities refused and the High Court had declared the entire community of Migron illegal and unauthorized and ordered its destruction.

The home owners argued that they had the right to build in Migron and that their homes should not be destroyed without providing an alternative solution, as the Court held in similar cases involving Arabs who built without permission.  And, they asked, why the rush?

The case of Migron, therefore, presents some disturbing problems.

First, why did the High Court accept Peace Now's petition when they were not a party to the issue and therefore had no basis for bringing a legal action? The homes cause no damage to anyone and could have remained to be resolved with the entire community. 

Therefore, there was no reason to destroy them, at least not now.

Second, regarding the community as a whole, relying on the State Prosecutor, the High Court accepted the claims of Arab petitioners and NGOs without examining whether those claims were valid and enforceable. This should have been decided by the District Court, but was not.

Third, an internal memo sent by Brig Gen Moti Almoz, head of the Civil Administration, revealed a policy of selective enforcement against Jews. But he does not make policy; that comes from PM Netanyahu who approved and DM Ehud Barak who ordered the destruction at Migron.

Fourth, why were the homes in Migron chosen for destruction? There are hundreds of thousands of illegal Arab buildings, including entire Arab and Bedouin towns which are illegal. Called "unrecognized," some of these towns have been and are in the process of being considered for legal recognition. Why are the homes in Migron, or other Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria different?

Fifth, why were officers of the State, Civil Administration and High Court justices so eager to destroy these homes? Was there collusion between government officials to carry out the destruction for ideological and political reasons? Why didn't the State Prosecutor, Osnat Mandel, contact the cabinet secretary as required, as she admitted at a Knesset committee meeting? 

Sixth, why didn't the High Court protect the civil and humanitarian rights of the home owners? Why didn't they follow proper legal and administrative procedures with regard to claims of ownership and property rights?

Seventh, to whom does the land on which Migron was built belong? Like other areas of Judea and Samaria in which Jews have built, if it is not State land, but not claimed, why not let it be built up? For whom is it intended?  Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch recently ruled in an opinion that all land that was not specifically designated as State Land would be considered Palestinian land. This ruling seems to eliminate categories of land that have not been determined, in which Arab land claims have not been verified, and land which Arabs have simply expropriated.

If Migron and other communities were built mistakenly on privately owned land, the owners can and should be fully compensated. Destroying these homes serves no purpose and strikes a blow at the raison d'etre of the State of Israel and Zionism itself.

Three piles of rubble in Migron join nine in Amona, ten gutted apartments in Hebron's  Jewish Quarter, hundreds of once-Jewish homes throughout Judea and Samaria, and thousands more in Gush Katif and Northern Shomron, monuments to Israeli injustice.

All done legally, with the authority of the State, they are memorials of disgrace. Such actions trample the majesty of the Jewish people in our homeland.