Succot Homeless Week: A Lesson from an NYTimes fiasco

Susie Dym,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Susie Dym
Susie Dym serves as spokesperson for Mattot Arim, with over 20 years of expertise on "peace-for-peace" issues.
Succot is “Homelessness Week”. It’s a fun family adventure for us -- because its discomforts will be over in a week.

But there are entire Jewish communities whose home comfort is in actual danger of extinction. Amona, for example.

As part of my Succot experience, I interviewed Avichai Buaron, spokesperson for Amona. He is a lawyer himself.
Avichai Buaron: At a time in which everybody is busy looking after Palestinian human rights, I feel compelled to make a case for Jewish human rights. My community, Amona, is also lived in by humans. But powerful NGOs and European student unions do not take on Jewish human rights for some reason.  That’s why the world's only Jewish government may soon push my own family and others and our children out into the street -- to protect Palestinian human rights.

Q: Why indeed? 

Buaron: Simple: there is a land dispute between Israeli families (our Amona community) and Arab individuals. The Arab side is backed by organizations and diplomats which oppose the Government of Israel's Eretz Yisrael policy.  As a result the Israeli Government is about to unjustly force us out of our homes.

Q: Can you explain the details, from a legal standpoint?

Buaron: Of course. No-one in Amona ever did anything “illegal”. The correct adjective to describe Amona is “disputed”: there is controversy between possibly competing rights, of Arabs and of ours,  to some of  the land at Amona. A  few Arab individuals have come forward who may (and may not) have certain real estate rights to certain areas within (not the entirety of) Amona. If any of these individuals’ claims ever turn out to be valid, we are fine with their receiving compensation. But we do not support the radical insistence on bulldozing Jewish homes.

We have real legal rights to our land, which conflict with any rights the Arabs may have. Our rights need to be respected, and they are not. We refuse to accept that any decent government – a fortiori the Israeli Government -- will unjustly force us out of our homes! 

Q: How did this mysterious situation come about?

Buaron: The original location of Amona was determined by the authorities of the State of Israel, not by anything illegal that we (the community of Amona) did. If there really was an encroachment of Arab property rights, long ago,  this would have been an inadvertent act of State, certainly not by us. Later we built our homes here, in good faith and not knowing anything about whatever happened (or didn’t) in the past. This timeline creates genuine legal rights for our Jewish community according to normative worldwide property law. The situation is called “conflicting land rights”.

Q: Is Netanyahu sacrificing your families' future and reputation for international  diplomatic reasons, perhaps?

Buaron:  Indeed all sorts of diplomats are busy denigrating us, or Israel's past governments, or both, for supposedly causing encroachment on  privately owned land.

Q: What should be Israel’s hasbara message, then?

Buaron: Despite the noisy anti-Israel cacophony, the facts are otherwise, as  I said. The error -  if any - was certainly not made by any of the Amona families. In addition, governmental errors, if any, were an unavoidable by-product of  hopelessly corrupted Judea and Samaria land registries. Those registries are not Israeli creations! Israel inherited these relics  from the Turks and Jordanians after the Six-Day War.

Here is an easy way to appreciate why the Government of Israel cannot be blamed: Recall that even a world-renowned liberal mouthpiece, the New York Times, was caught with its pants down, in a far greater error than the Israeli authorities could ever have committed. This happened when the New York Times ran a  front page report about land in Judea and Samaria -- based on the same ancient databases. The New York Times initially reported, based on data they found to be reliable, that  86% of Maaleh Adumim was private Arab land. http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=2&x_article=1301  Later, the New York Times had to admit, after even more investigation, that in fact, only 0.54% – half of a single percent, not 86 percent -- of Ma’ale Adumim’s land could possibly have been owned by Arabs.

Q: Diplomats and our own Haaretz would sternly tell you that  if Israel’s High Court has spoken, you should concede that the Arabs’ property claims constitute the truth.

Buaron:  They would be wrong. The High Court did not rule on the merits of the land ownership issue here at Amona because Israel’s High Court does not examine evidence.

Instead, the High Court relied on governmental positions derived from an ancient database whose unreliability is easy to establish. That is why this is completely unfair and requires Mr. Netanyahu to say: the buck stops here.

Q: If PM Netanyahu were standing right here, what would you say to him?

Buaron: I’d say: “Mr. Netanyahu, so much, then, for the reliability of these ancient databases! They don't "justify” throwing Amona families out on the street, penniless.

“This is something which everyone agrees was certainly not our fault  -- and in fact, was nobody’s fault.

“Legal experts have determined that excellent legal solutions exist, which would both compensate Arab owners  --  assuming there are any – and, at least as important -- would keep a roof over over our children’s heads!”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu, your (overworked) legal staff must decide upon and implement a humanistic, compensation-based solution. No draconian solutions based on razing Israeli families' homes!”

Q: Is  involvement of the public in the Amona issue, in Israel and abroad, important?

Buaron: It is critical. Israeli ministers and  legislators must be urged by the public to arouse themselves and educate themselves. The Government of Israel can compensate Arab owners that can prove claims. But the Government must leave our families alone!

 ------------

Calling all readers: as part of your Succot observance, YOU can help prevent children from becoming homeless.
Simply use email to remind  PM Netanyahu that his inaction is causing an unjust homelessness problem.
How? 4 easy steps:

1

Use the Likud MK email addresses here – these legislators have PM Netanyahu’s ear:
yedelstein@knesset.gov.il; Zelkin@knesset.gov.il; davidam@knesset.gov.il; oakunis@knesset.gov.il; gerdan@knesset.gov.il; nboker@knesset.gov.il; dbitan@knesset.gov.il; anatb@knesset.gov.il;ggamliel@knesset.gov.il; davraham@knesset.gov.il; mahlufz@knesset.gov.il; zhotovely@knesset.gov.il; ohazan@knesset.gov.il; myaalon@knesset.gov.il; hkatz@knesset.gov.il; yiskatz@knesset.gov.il; zakil@knesset.gov.il; ylevin@knesset.gov.il; ymazuz@knesset.gov.il; anagosa@knesset.gov.il; nkoren@knesset.gov.il; yoavk@knesset.gov.il; kayoob@knesset.gov.il; mregev@knesset.gov.il; ysteinitz@knesset.gov.il; sshalom@knesset.gov.il

2. The heading of your email can be something like: Likud – Netanyahu – Homeless Amona?

3.
Your email’s message can be simple - such as:
    Amona is an endangered Jewish community accused of stealing private land.
Can you send me the actual legal proof of this?
    And if none, 
please insist to PM Netanyahu that he change the ground rules. 
Courts that do not hear evidence cannot be given authority to evict people from their homes.
    Israel’s Government – through you - must  save Amona from European-funded settler-basher groups.
    Thank you! Sincerely (YOUR FULL NAME)

4. If you get a response, please forward to mattot.arim@gmail.com – or post on the Mattot Arim Facebook page.

Thanks for helping Israel!