Daily Israel Report

Court Asks: Why Does Gov’t Bias Allow Illegal Arab Homes

A High Court judge expresses surprise that the government, which destroys Jewish homes in Judea, has left almost all illegal Arab homes intact.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 9/3/2009, 4:41 PM

Israel news photo courtesy of Regavim

High Court Justice Edna Arbel, in a response to a petition charging the government with bias against Jews, expressed amazement that the Defense Ministry has issued orders to destroy only three of 50 illegal Arab homes in one village in Judea and Samaria.

The petition by the Regevim organization complained that the government discriminates against Jews in Judea and Samaria, where Defense Minister Ehud Barak has authorized the destruction of hundreds of Jewish homes. Several of the demolitions have taken place in the middle of the night.

The three demolition orders against illegal Arab construction, which is rampant most places in Judea and Samaria and without supervision or planning, were issued since 1996. “Fourteen years? I think that everyone would say that is a bit too much” to understand, Justice Arbel told government attorneys.

Justice Hana Meltzer asked during the hearing on Thursday, “The problem is there are no clear guidelines in which circumstances orders are issued. The distinction between populations creates a feeling that officials are working only against Jews. If this is illegal building, what difference does it make [if it is Arab or Jewish]?”
If this is illegal building, what difference does it make [if it is Arab or Jewish]?

Nationalists have argued that the guidelines are political, and Defense Minster Barak has vowed several times to destroy Jewish homes in 23 hilltop communities that have been termed “illegal.” Barak has stated in defending his decision, “In a law-abiding country, we cannot allow a situation in which everyone does whatever he wants.”

Regevim noted in its appeal that when a Jew is found to have built a structure in Area C without approval, the structure is demolished almost immediately. However, when a PA Arab builds illegally in the same area, any subsequent demolition order is protested with help from anti-Zionist groups, and a lengthy court case commences.

It often takes years until illegal Arab homes are finally destroyed, while in the meantime, the builders benefit from having broken the law by living rent-free on Israeli land, the petitioners argued

The court hearing does not relate to the Negev, where Bedouins have built tens of thousands illegal homes on government land they have confiscated, claming that the areas belong to them by tradition.