Who said Ehud Barak is insensitive? Who falsely accused Gabi Ashkenazi of being the silent type? And who suspects them of not being able to work together? The defense minister and chief of staff stood united at the end of last week to prevent the destruction of illegal homes in the illegal outpost of Givat Hayovel. Some of the houses were built on private Palestinian land; in other words, stolen land, and others were built on "state lands" and "survey lands" - more misleading terms to emerge from Israel's endless supply of tricks.
The Israel Defense Forces even pulled out from storage a particularly ridiculous reason we haven't heard for a while: These houses are "important for security" because they are "controlling points" where the IDF's presence is "important." As if the IDF can't be in a place without such homes.
Barak and Ashkenazi got together for the task because bereaved families live in two of these homes: the family of Maj. Ro'i Klein, who was killed in the Second Lebanon War, and the family of Maj. Eliraz Peretz, who was killed three weeks ago on the Gaza border. It's unclear whether this united front at the top was meant to prevent only the demolition of these two families' homes or the demolition of all 18 homes ordered by the High Court of Justice. Both possibilities raise serious questions. Does the blood of those who die in combat wash away their culpability? How can we discriminate between one illegal settler and another? Why should the Palestinian whose land was taken over care if one of those settlers gets killed in action? Here's the devilish thing: Of all days, on the day Barak and Ashkenazi published an emotional letter to High Court President Dorit Beinisch asking for "consideration and sensitivity," the IDF destroyed other houses. Civil Administration bulldozers crushed a two-story house and two shops in Kafr Hares, while demolishing a home and a factory in Beit Sahur and another home in Al-Khader. Sixteen people are now homeless, among them children and a 1-year-old baby. The people from the Civil Administration took the trouble to stress that this was just the beginning of the demolition operation.
It didn't occur to anyone in the IDF to check whether maybe the Sultan family in Hares or the Musa family in Al-Khader could cite extenuating circumstances justifying "consideration and sensitivity." Might they also have lost a son? And if so, would anyone have thought to stop the demolition because of it? Don't make the IDF, the Civil Administration, Barak, Ashkenazi and all of us laugh. Those are Palestinians, not humans.
The demolition of the homes in Givat Hayovel was decided on in 2001, when everyone in the families was still alive. They built their homes recklessly, without permits, and knew they were stealing land. There are many other settlers like them.
That is the original sin that has been followed by the sin of authorities' foot-dragging, which in this case has gone on for around nine years in terms of implementing the ruling on Peace Now's petition. Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer now says he is giving in on the demolition of the Klein and Peretz homes. One can understand him. It's hard to destroy a home whose inhabitants have just ended their week of mourning.
Indeed, it's not humane. But as usual, we deal with the marginal instead of the important. While the evacuation of the outposts has never been an operative term, while the Sasson report has become a worthless archaeological artifact, why are we bothering with Givat Hayovel, of all places? Do we lack other outposts to evacuate, those without mourning families? Moreover, the whole matter of "illegal" outposts - as if even one settlement is legal - has never been the heart of the problem. It's very convenient for everyone to turn the Givat Hayovel affair into another self-righteous and misleading fig leaf.
The settlers are waving these houses around for their own needs to squeeze out even more public sympathy and increase opposition to any evacuation at all. Barak and Ashkenazi are waving these houses around to show how much they want to enforce the law in the territories but can't. Even the justice system occasionally seeks to prove that it is careful to uphold the law and not discriminate when it comes to the settlers. All this is nothing less than ridiculous.
Those two homes should be left alone - even the entire outpost. As long as the main settlement, Eli, remains, what difference does its offshoot make?
Original article published on April 18, 2010
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