Rabbi Yaacov Meidan, Rosh Yeshivat Har EtzionThe writer is Dean of Har Etzion hesder yeshiva, and a prominent Zionist leader who vehemently opposed the Oslo Accords He is a renowned Biblical and Talmudic scholar, essayist and lecturer.
Abraham the Patriarch was met with a solid brick wall of refusal from the sons of Het, when, after his wife Sarah’s death, he attempted to bury her in Hevron.
The locals were quite willing for him to bury her in the plot of his choice in one of their cemeteries, but were not prepared to allow this “Jewish” stranger to purchase land in their city and to mark it as his own.
That is how the first attempt at creating a “pale of settlement” for the Jewish people came about - nearly 4000 years ago.
The Midrash seems to have considered this a familiar event, as it interpreted Abraham’s opening words, “I am a sojouner and a resident among you”, to mean: "if you wish me to be a sojourner, so be it. If you do not, then I will become a resident and take the land as my right, because G-d has told me that the entire land will be mine."
Some readers may deduce from this that those who have a Heavenly promise regarding their rights to the land can employ force to wrest it from its present owners, whose claims stem from the legal systems created by man.
However, Abraham did not act that way, he offered to pay for the land in a perfectly straightforward real estate deal. Had he not done that, he would have sinned against the just and lawful way of life he had chosen for himself, and gone against the ways of Torah.
Furthermore, the Midrash does not seem to be meant as a real alternative, for these negotiations were with the sons of Het, who certainly did not include Heavenly covenants in their legal frames of reference.
Yet the sons of Het do call Abraham “a prince of G-d.” They recognize him as a man of standing, perhaps because he had freed the land from the yoke of the kings who attacked it. Even according to the legal practices of the time, Abraham must have had some rights to a gravesite.
Abraham intended to realize them, but he preferred to engage in peaceful negotiations and mutually satisfactory financial transactions, rather than to use his authority.
That is also the way Moses acted towards the Emorites. He had G-d’s permission to fight Sichon, the king of the Emorites, and conquer his land, and an assurance that he would win. Yet he preferred to turn to the Emorite king peacefully, promise him renumeration and refrain from conquering his land, which was not part of Canaan anyway. It is only when Sichon refused to let the Israelites pass through his land, and went out to battle against them, that Moses attacked and defeated him.
Today, even though we are back in the land promised to our forefathers, there is no justification for us to simply take over plots of land for which Arabs have deeds, in order to observe the Biblical commandment to “settle the land”.
And that is why, even though it hurts, it seems at first glance that the Supreme Court and its head, Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, who has a vendetta against the outposts and is working zealously to destroy them – while intending to go on to do the same to other communities built on private Arab land, such as Givat Assaf, Migron, and parts of Ofra and Beit El – may have justice on her side.
However, as I wrote in the above paragraph, “it seems” that way – and only “at first glance”.
The truth is that since the time of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence there has never, or almost never, been a situation where land was stolen from present Arab owners in order to build a Jewish community.
In most of the contested cases, communities were built on uncultivated, barren and virgin land, claimed by no one.
Claims of Arab ownership of these contested lands originated because during the period when King Hussein ruled the area, he authorized arbitrary parcellation of large plots of land that were distant from and cut off from Arab populated areas in Judea, Binyamin and Samaria (Yesha).
The properties were given as gifts to his loyal circle of followers and registered in their names, but nothing was ever done by them to realize that registration.
Not only that, some experts claim that there is no legal basis for this registration, that Hussein did not have the right to hand out these lands as he was an occupier [Jordan ran over those lands during Israel’s War of Independence, when Israel fought for its very existence, and stayed there, ed.] and Jordan’s sovereignty was never internationally recognized in Judea, Samaria and Binyamin.
Many of the Arabs who inherited these parcelled- out lands from Hussein’s friends knew nothing about them and had certainly never done anything with them, having no interest in barren, untouched land far from Arab villages. Some of them have long left the country for other continents, so that the question is not one of their desire to actually live on those lands.
This is when the lawyers for Peace Now stepped in and invested much effort in searching for those who could lay a claim to the lands upon which Jewish communities and outposts had been built.
They convinced these Arabs to sign papers that allowed them to initiate lawsuits claiming the land, all for the sake of “The Cause” – that is, destroying Jewish homes built on these desolate plots of land.
Sometimes these homes were built in places where Jews had been murdered, as a living memorial, sometimes they were built in places that had provided opportunities for terrorists to attack, this in order to protect Jews traveling past those locations.
I do not know of any other phenomenon bearing a resemblance to the determined and single-minded efforts of Peace Now and its cohort organizations, a concerted effort aimed at destroying Jewish homes at any price, no matter what.
Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch and lawyer Talia Sasson do not have a monopoly on justice and integrity. Anyone aware of their professional and personal lives knows this well.
After all, in other parts of Israel, if land on which homes were built is shown to belong to another party, but the existing construction was built without that knowledge and therefore without unlawful intent , it is accepted that the courts impose a financial settlement or mandate the purchase of alternate land for the claimants.
In exactly the same situations, but in Judea, Binyamin and Samaria, the Supreme Court insists on destruction, only destruction, without any attempt to pay damages to the claimants.
That is how, just recently, three families in Migron were thrown out of their homes, out to the great outdoors, with their young children - in the dead of night – with no prior warning that would at least allow them to pack their belongings.
The Israel National Council for the Child, for some reason, was not heard from when that travesty occurred.
The residents of Binyamin are not land robbers, and Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch and lawyer Talia Sasson [who wrote the infamous, much discredited report commissioned by then PM Ariel Sharon to prove the illegality of the Yesha outposts, ed.] do not have a monopoly on justice and integrity. Anyone aware of the details of their professional and personal lives knows this well.
The purposeful act of injustice that they plan to carry out in the near future for tens of families who are supposedly on ‘stolen’ land cries out to the heavens.
And whoever remains silent in the face of this evil is a tacit partner to it.
(This article was translated with the author's permission from the Makor Rishon Hebrew newspaper)