Report on E J’lem arrests: ‘150 stand in the courtyard of the stolen house, double what we had last week’

on 72 Comments

Just got this. The writer David Shulman on the beating and arrests of 24 activists in Sheikh Jarrah, opposing the evictions of Palestinians. Beautiful writing is important. Just read it and try not to weep. Thanks to Rebecca Vilkomerson.

December 10, 2009 Sheikh Jarrah (2)

As always in violence, it’s impossible to put together a coherent story. You lose track of what happened first, what came next, who got hurt when; the moments stretch out endlessly, run together, overlap, images are superimposed or interwoven; the physical pain gets buried somewhere safe, more or less, inside the surreal limbo of your memory, which seems oddly to correspond to the external limbo of the action as you saw it unfold. So this time I won’t try to tell the story. Instead, a few vignettes:
— A grey, cold Friday afternoon. Winter. Fore-taste of rain. The weekly march to Sheikh Jarrah, to the Palestinian houses that have been invaded by Israeli settlers. As usual, we march to the drums, shouting our slogans. Lo tignov ve-lo tirzach ts’u miyad mi-sheikh jarrah, "Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not murder, Get out now from Sheikh Jarrah." Some in English: "Five, six, seven, eight, Israel is a Fascist state." I think the so-called Anarchists came up with this one. Do I agree with it? Not really. But this is hardly the moment to fuss over the niceties. How about a "proto-Fascist" state? Doesn’t fit the meter. Anyway, it’s not quite true. Inside the Green Line, but not counting East Jerusalem, Israel is a semi-functional democracy. On the other side of it, in Palestine, there’s another Jewish state, lawless, ruthless, yes, Fascist. The trouble is that the latter state has largely taken over the former.
— We stand in the courtyard of the stolen house, with the Palestinian owners beside us. There are between a hundred and a hundred and fifty of us, perhaps double what we had last week. Many soldiers and border police, also more than last week. Protest is gaining ground. The atmosphere is volatile, riddled with rage. Drums beating louder and louder. Children from the dispossessed families are tying small plastic Palestinian flags on a cord stretched opposite the string of plastic Israeli flags the settlers have draped over the door and window. The courtyard is littered, still, with the detritus that was once a family’s life: toys, kitchen appliances, an old couch, a wobbly table; all have been rained on this week, some have sunk into the mud. There’s probably something a little irritating to the soldiers and the settlers, I think and hope, in the chants we are hurling at them. "From Sheikh Jarrah to Bil’in/ Freedom now for Filastin." I look around me: mostly young people, gentle but tough—many students, some I know from my classes, musicians, painters, poets, meditators, activists, young parents with babies folded in slings on their breasts—all of them totally non-violent, of course; and the demonstration is perfectly legal, no question about that, the police themselves issued the permit.
— Somehow it begins. Someone gave the order. I don’t know who. Later someone says it may have been connected to the flags. It’s possible—I didn’t see it—that one of our demonstrators reached the window of the stolen house and tore down the plastic Israeli flag. Maybe that triggered it. But I think they were anyway just itching to tear into this crowd. So when the moment comes, it starts somewhere at the edge of the family’s tent set up in what’s left of their own front yard and then swirls rapidly in widening arcs and circles, a vortex drawing each of us in. I am washed by a human wave out of the courtyard and into the street. They have grabbed one of our people and they are pushing him up against the command car and we surround them, trying to release our captive from their grip.
— Waves of green uniforms followed by waves of blue—police reinforcements have arrived. Many screams. The border police, as usual, are the most aggressive. Punching, fighting their way forward through the crowd, seizing victims at random, pushing them to the ground, pinning their arms behind them, carrying them off. Drumming goes on, builds toward a climax, ebbs, rises again. We stand our ground. We lock arms in a circle to keep them from forcing one of their chosen victims into a waiting police car. Much shouting. They break through, drag their prey brutally by the arms along the ground.
— Wandering in a pocket of relative silence. Eddies of dizzying attacks all along the street. Another wave. Now they have drawn blood, and they seem to like the taste of it. They want more. More and more. They go after the drummers, arrest them. Many seemingly random victims, too. Sandy says to me: "They’re like storm troopers. No other image comes to mind." Some of our people are crying. Another charge. Young girls carried off, screaming. Sarah thrown to the ground, pounded, dragged over the stones. Again we try to close ranks. More waves. Time expands, elastic, twisting and turning back on itself, remorseless; this misery will never stop. Some of the border police are spraying us with an aerosol mix of chilly pepper and tear-gas, at close quarters, straight into the face. It’s not like the usual tear-gas canisters I know well; this is concentrated, and it burns and scorches as if it had burrowed into the pores of your skin and, in particular, your eyes. Even now, two hours later, my face and lips feel singed by flames.
— In the middle of it all—perhaps you won’t believe me—an elderly Palestinian gentleman from one of the evicted families materializes with a round bronze plate loaded with dozens of tiny white plastic cups of Turkish coffee. He moves, dreamlike, among us, an imperturbable, humane host worried about how his guests are faring. He calmly offers us coffee. Vicious bursts of staccato blows and intimate violent follies spin madly around him.
— Pushed heavily from behind by a phalanx of policemen, we are driven unevenly away from the stolen homes, toward the upper end of the street. Our numbers have diminished: some 15 have been arrested so far; by a fluke, I am not yet among them. Some of them are herded, captive, into the courtyard and then, we learn later, into the house, with the settlers there to gloat at them. They are lost to us for now, out of contact. We make rough lists of those we know are under arrest. Meanwhile more and more are seized, for no apparent reason, and marched off into the waiting vehicles—by now a considerable fleet. About ten of our people have been wounded. Alon, an internationally known jurist, my colleague at the university, is arguing fruitlessly with the officers: what they are doing, he tells them, is totally illegal. He quotes the law. The soldiers rough him up, too.
— Cries floating through the late-afternoon space, in rhymed Hebrew: "Soldiers, listen well, you have the right to refuse." Another nicety: if you say to them, "You have the duty to refuse," they can arrest you for incitement. "Criminals! Cowards! Thieves! You’re protecting thieves!" A few courageous drummers are still beating out the time. The senior officer tries desperately to shout through the megaphone that we must disperse at once or we will all be arrested; his voice is drowned out by the drums. More attacks, yet another wave. On and on and on. The longer it goes on, the clearer it becomes that this is no random business, a police action that got out of hand; someone higher up has taken a decision to stamp out dissent in East Jerusalem.
— Tonight is the first candle of Hanukah, another one of those alleged Jewish festivals of freedom. Early this morning, at Kafr Yasuf in the northern West Bank, settlers set fire to a mosque. They left some graffiti on the walls: "We will burn you all." Copies of the Koran were torn and torched, prayer-rugs burnt. Jews did this. It’s important to understand what this sentence means. Burning means something to us. No doubt the occupation system will protect the perpetrators; and even if, by some miracle, they’re pursued and arrested and, by a still greater miracle, brought to trial, you can depend upon the Israeli courts to set them free without punishment. It’s been that way for decades now. Soldiers, border police, probably plain-clothes intelligence agents too—they’re the ones beating my students, spraying us with gas, prodding us like cattle along the street; all this to protect the settler hooligans who have taken over these homes. These same soldiers and policemen routinely protect the settlers all over the territories. So I guess Hanukah doesn’t really count any more when it comes to freedom; or maybe it merely celebrates our freedom to lie to ourselves and to others, as Bibi does when he pretends he wants peace as he hurts and humiliates the Palestinians ever further. There’s no end to it, either, only deepening darkness, early winter of the soul. Suddenly I realize that we Israelis have never truly been free, despite what we say; for nature has a law: you cannot diminish another’s freedom without impairing or destroying your own. I hope a day will come when the Jews, too, will have the courage to be free.

72 Responses

  1. Chaos4700
    December 12, 2009, 3:35 pm

    Pretty soon, Israel’s going to have start shooting dead it’s own citizens — instead of just Palestinians, and international activists — if they want to keep “changing the facts on the ground.”

    • potsherd
      December 12, 2009, 5:42 pm

      They did, just last week. Shot dead an Israeli Jew who was running for the Gaza prison wall. This is according to the doctrine that a dead Jew is less costly than one who might have to be ransomed.

      • DICKERSON3870
        December 12, 2009, 7:24 pm

        RE: “the doctrine that a dead Jew is less costly” – potsherd
        SEE: “Israel’s Notorious Hannibal Procedure”, By JONATHAN COOK, 12/10/09
        (excerpt) The fatal shooting by Israeli soldiers of an Israeli man earlier this week as he tried to scale a fence into the Gaza Strip was reportedly part of a drastic procedure the army was supposed to have phased out several years ago. The Israeli media reported that Yakir Ben-Melech, 34, had bled to death after he was shot under the “Hannibal procedure”, designed to prevent Israelis from being taken captive alive by enemy forces…
        ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to

      • potsherd
        December 12, 2009, 8:11 pm

        Ah, good, you found that article.

  2. UNIX
    December 12, 2009, 4:23 pm

    I’m having trouble following this story, who do the houses actually belong to? From what I can tell they were Jewish owned, Jordanian owned and then Palestinian? Who really owns these houses??

    • Chaos4700
      December 12, 2009, 4:27 pm

      “Jewish” and “Palestinian” are not, in fact, mutually exclusive. They weren’t mutually exclusive before 1948, certainly.

      • UNIX
        December 12, 2009, 4:29 pm

        Hmm, ok I see what you mean, you mean if they were Palestinian owned they could have been owned by either Arabs or Jews? It’s confusing to me now because these Jews hold a legal title but there are Arabs living there for a long time.

      • Chaos4700
        December 12, 2009, 4:39 pm

        “Arab” and “Jew” are not, actually, mutually exclusive either. ;) Any more than “Arab” and “Christian” are.

        Are you starting to see how this discussion has been engineered for propaganda on an inherent semantic level by Zionists?

      • MRW
        December 12, 2009, 5:19 pm

        Jews hold legal title to the East Jerusalem houses the Palestinians are being kicked out of now? Where did you get that idea? East Jerusalem has been the Arab partition since 1948.

        And BTW, dont go to wikipedia…it’s Hasbara Heaven over there. Wait until Shmuel weighs in. He gave a great description of it a week or so ago.

      • potsherd
        December 12, 2009, 5:37 pm

        Some Jews came up with an old, Ottoman-era title. Nothing to say if the property had been sold over and over since that date.

        To the Israeli court, the actions of the Jordanian govt granting title to propery has no legitimacy, but Israel can grant title to property to Jews that was confiscated from Arabs, and the law gives the Arabs no right, no matter what titles they show up with.

      • Chaos4700
        December 12, 2009, 6:24 pm

        Oh, incidentally, about those Ottoman-era titles

      • UNIX
        December 12, 2009, 8:47 pm

        Ok yes I was following the official Wikipedia account:

        link to

        This said that the land was owned by Jews, stolen by Arabs and recently regained by Jews when the Arabs refused to pay rent.

        This is wrong? How does it have such innacurate information? Who added it? Is there anyone from here willing to change the article?

      • Cliff
        December 12, 2009, 9:19 pm

        Uh, it’s Wikipedia. Why don’t you check the sources and make up your own mind?

      • Chaos4700
        December 12, 2009, 9:53 pm

        Cliff, BSDNow is making an open invitation for people in the know to head over to Wikipedia and set the record straight. He’s asking the right questions, OK?

    • Shmuel
      December 12, 2009, 5:36 pm

      The pre-48 title is probably held by the Sephardic Community Committee. While under Jordanian rule (48-67), the land was leased by the Jordanian administration of absentee property to Palestinian refugees, who built their homes there and were afforded the status of protected tenants. The settlers have acted with the permission of the Sephardic Community Committee – recognised by the Israeli courts as the legal owner of the property.

      Detached from the context of blatantly discriminatory Israeli property law and constant efforts by successive Israeli national and municipal governments to settle Jews in all parts of Jerusalem (including the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods such as Ras el-Amud, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and the Muslim Quarter of the Old City), while actively seeking to reduce the Palestinian population of the city, the actions of the Israeli courts and law enforcement agencies might seem perfectly reasonable. Taken in context however, the eviction of these families and their replacement by Jewish settlers is nothing less than Apartheid (in the sense of inequality before the law, on the basis of religion/ethnicity) and ethnic cleansing.

      Sheikh Jarrah is particularly attractive to settlers, as it is a relatively well-to-do, quiet and pretty neighbourhood, close to a number of Jewish neighbourhoods and to the Old City. It has been targeted for years, beginning with the area surrounding the supposed tomb of Simeon the Just (high priest, 3rd cent. BC) – using the classic settler ploy of claiming “freedom of worship” and “access to holy places” in order to establish a bridgehead for settlement.

      • Citizen
        December 13, 2009, 4:37 pm

        Thanks, Shmuel; I believe you have given this information to us before. I love your
        objectivity–it’s so rare. Also your equitable use of logic. I am sure I am not alone on this blog. I wonder at this moment what you would do if you had Obama’s secular pulpit power? (And I wish you and yours well).

      • Shmuel
        December 14, 2009, 3:23 am

        Thanks for your kind words and good wishes, Citizen. Your question about Obama reminds me of my favourite book (and LP) when I was a kid: Dr. Seuss’ If I Ran the Zoo. Obama seems pretty competent in the pulpit department (all things considered), but he hasn’t actually done anything about the animals. All the best to you too.

  3. VR
    December 12, 2009, 6:08 pm

    “…using the classic settler ploy of claiming “freedom of worship” and “access to holy places” in order to establish a bridgehead for settlement. ”

    See Hebron Fund film I posted Rededicating The Temple.

    As far as the soldiers –

    “”Soldiers, listen well, you have the right to refuse.” Another nicety: if you say to them, “You have the duty to refuse,” they can arrest you for incitement. “Criminals! Cowards! Thieves! You’re protecting thieves!””


  4. MRW
    December 12, 2009, 6:22 pm

    I’ve read this twice. It’s so unbearably I dont know what, such a heaviness. The image of the elderly evicted Palestinian moving “dreamlike” amidst the violence with a bronze plate “loaded with dozens of tiny white plastic cups of Turkish coffee” to slake the protesters’ thirst threw the settler cruelty into 3-D for me.

  5. Cliff
    December 12, 2009, 9:23 pm

    As to Sheikh Jarrah:

    I encourage people to check out this exchange between David Myers, professor of Jewish history at UCLA and Gary Ratner, national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America (then Roberta Seid – don’t know who she is).

    link to

    Jerry Haber weighs in at the end as well.

    David Myers has a lecture on I-P on YouTube as well:

    link to

    Check it out.

    BTW, anyone else noticing how BSDNow *always* begs the question on the Zionist perspective? Troll much? Willfully ignorant?

    • Chaos4700
      December 12, 2009, 9:49 pm

      Let’s not jump the gun here, Cliff. He’s asking questions and he’s accepting serious answers. You know, once upon a time I was asking questions, like BSDNow. Most Americans have the Zionist perspective drilled into them, via political discourse, the media, and (if they’re really unlikely) social pressure and outright channelization at their church/synagogue.

      Never punish someone for asking an honest question. BSDNow has been a catalyst for some serious, earnest discussion since he arrived on this blog.

      • Chaos4700
        December 12, 2009, 9:51 pm

        Wow. I must be having end of the semester burn-out. Swap out “unlikely” with “unlucky” and “channelization” (where did that come from?) with “evangelization.” And then maybe my post will make sense. :)

    • UNIX
      December 13, 2009, 1:47 am

      I’m new to this, please bare with me. I’m looking for truth. I usually use wikipedia as my source of info.

      Well I just used it to look up trolling :)

      Anyway thanks for being patient and I am learning a lot on here

      • tree
        December 13, 2009, 4:01 am

        Can I recommend reading the link that I posted below from Ir Amin?

        The Ir Amin site itself is a good resource for more information.

        link to

        Also I would suggest checking the B’Tselem site for info on East Jerusalem.

        link to

        Both are Israeli NGOs with good reputations.

      • tree
        December 13, 2009, 4:03 am

        Also, there is an Irish database site called “Palestine: Information with Provenance” which usually has a good search function for historical articles. This is a search result for “Sheikh Jarrah”.

        Here’s the home page for the database:
        link to

        (Apologies for the separate posts, but I had to break this up into two comments because creating more than 2 links in a post gets the comment flagged as spam.)

  6. wondering jew
    December 12, 2009, 10:42 pm

    In the David Myers Gary Ratner article listed above, the opinion of Roberta Seid was also added, in which she detailed the suit for ownership of the property. She writes this: “A 1988 court settlement determined the Palestinian Arab residents did not own the property but enjoyed “protected tenancy” status, and could continue to live in the homes if they paid rent. The two evicted families had refused to comply with this agreement.” She also wrote that 26 other Palestinian Arab families who do pay their rent were not evicted.

    If this is true, this means that the court was seeking a middle ground trying to both determine ownership and give the residents some degree of fairness. Not perfect, given the fact that Palestinians cannot reclaim property in Israel, but not as egregious as previously stated, kicking them out with some recourse. This was not previously reported in this article.

    • potsherd
      December 12, 2009, 11:18 pm

      Seid’s apologetics is mendacious. She claims the former occupants fled voluntarily in anticipation of the coming war, and never sought to return or reclaim ownership. This, of course, is a lie. The Palestinian residents have been seeking to return for 60 years, illegally prevented by Israel. Many of them were murdered, making the attempt.

      • wondering jew
        December 12, 2009, 11:38 pm

        Her apologetics regarding Palestinians wishing to return and claim property is indeed mendacious. But the facts (if true) regarding this specific case were unknown to me before reading her comments and they cast the matter in a different (although still imperfect) light.

    • Chaos4700
      December 13, 2009, 1:11 am

      So first the Palestinians get kicked out of their homes and villages from 1948, and now they get kicked out of the temporary homes they were forced to take up since then.

      Who says the Nakba is over?

      • wondering jew
        December 13, 2009, 1:49 am

        They got kicked out of the temporary homes because they refused to pay rent on houses that weren’t theirs.

      • Chaos4700
        December 13, 2009, 2:16 am

        …After Jews kicked them out of the houses they already owned and stole those.

      • Chaos4700
        December 13, 2009, 2:18 am

        I mean, really now. Just how many times do you have to f*ck the Palestinians over until you’re satisfied?

      • tree
        December 13, 2009, 3:48 am

        My understanding is that the homes were built by the families that were evicted. The legal question, which the Israeli courts ruled on, was who was the owner of the land on which the houses were built. The issue goes back to a possible sale of land in 1875 and the extent of that purchase. The Palestinian families involved have claimed that the land title under which they were evicted was a forgery, a not uncommon occurrence when it comes to settler claims to land in the Occupied Territories. It may or may not be a legitimate land claim, but it is naive to assume that the Israeli government and court system is capable of sound, just and dispassionate reasoning on this issue, as they have proven time and time again that they are incapable of treating Jews and non-Jews as equals.

        As I understand it, the Palestinian families felt that paying rent implied an acceptance on their part that the houses they lived in were not theirs. Paying rent certainly doesn’t protect anyone from eviction, and it does indicate that one acknowledges the ownership of those to whom you pay rent.

        Here is a detailed paper from May 2009 from Ir Amin, an Israeli NGO , made up of Israeli Jews and non-Jewish Israeli Palestinians, dedicated to a more equitable Jerusalem:

        Evictions and Settlement Plans in Sheikh Jarrah:
        The Case of Shimon HaTzadik

      • Eva Smagacz
        December 13, 2009, 4:58 am

        Alas, they were in possession of a legal agreement from Jordanian authority that stated that if they pay rent for three years they will gain absolute title over the property.

        They did pay rent for three years but the Israelis never recognised the legal document and never transferred the title to them.

        IF they continued to pay rent, they would voluntarily forgo the absolute title to the property and accepted a completely unprotected status of “protected tenants”.

        Israeli law does not work on precedent: so if things are interpreted by High Court one way in a given case, it does not mean that they are then applicable to all persons equally in future. It simply mean that High Court can come to opposite conclusion next time.

        If the law of precedent was used in Israel, all Palestinians with titles to homes in Jerusalem could request to be allowed back.

        It is one of the most disingenuous hasbara talking points in Anglo-Saxon world:
        Israel KNOWS we assume that the eminently fair decisions of the High Court becomes binding interpretation of law for all, and they advertise those with all their might.

      • Citizen
        December 13, 2009, 4:44 pm

        RE: “Israeli law does not work on precedent: so if things are interpreted by High Court one way in a given case, it does not mean that they are then applicable to all persons equally in future.”

        This observation by Eva is very important. It means essentially that Israeli law is subjective, and it enables pure force as the the Law. Most Americans do not realize this.

      • syvanen
        December 13, 2009, 8:26 pm

        Eva good point. Let’s put this simpler terms. Ottoman property titles are recognized by Israeli courts if the property in 1948 belonged to Jews. These titles are ignored by Israeli courts if the property titles belonged to native Christians or Moslems.

  7. homingpigeon
    December 13, 2009, 5:23 am

    There is a point that seems to come up only rarely on this land question as well as the question of property in Hebron. Why does past Jewish ownership of a piece of property, real or imagined, and whether sold, abandoned, swindled, or confiscated, give the right to the property to any other Jewish person who chooses to claim it in later years? If indeed the land in this story or the houses in Hebron were once owned by any Jewish people who lost it unjustly, then their descendents should be the ones making the case for repossession, preferably politely, and in the context of Palestinians getting back their lost houses. Have any of the settlers in Sheikh Jarrah or Hebron ever bothered to claim that they are descendents of anyone who once owned the specific houses and plots of land that they say were once Jewish owned?

    • Eva Smagacz
      December 13, 2009, 5:58 am

      Do you think I could walk to the Iraqi court with book of Genesis and claim a really old title for real estate between Tigris and Euphrates that belonged to my ancestors, certain Adam and Eve ( I am even named after this matriarch of my family!)?

      If only I could argue the point using Israeli law and in front of Israeli High Court of Justice!

    • Shmuel
      December 13, 2009, 5:59 am


      Hasbarah has indeed made it difficult to sort out the mess that is Zionist ethnic cleansing in Palestine. The means used to dispossess Palestinians are legal, semi-legal and illegal – in short, every excuse in the book. The case of Sheikh Jarrah is a legal one, involving settlers authorised by the owners of the land (at least according to the Israeli court). Sometimes, settlers simply seize land or houses identified (truly or falsely) as “Jewish property”, counting on the fact that their presence will either be supported or at least not contested by the supposed Jewish owners of the property (for various reasons), and that Israeli authorities will not remove them. Sometimes the Israeli state itself unjustly and illegally seizes land (we have discussed the mixture of legal systems and fictions employed) and hands it over to settlers or developers.

      The bottom line is that there is no legal consistency here, and the whole point is to take as much land as possible from Palestinians in order to give it to Jews – any Jews. Sometimes, the legal justification is perfectly valid, and the Palestinians involved are in the wrong, but when we consider that the entire system is designed to dispossess Palestinians, legal validity loses all meaning.

      • Citizen
        December 13, 2009, 7:30 am

        This is the larger responsive context to Witty’s constant, apparently rational, comments urging legal, judicial settlement of real estate claims. I notice he has stayed out of this fine thread
        on this title issue, so far.

      • Aref
        December 13, 2009, 7:41 am

        I agree that the whole legal system is designed so as to permit the dispossession of the Palestinians. My family’s property in West Jerusalem is still standing today with the same gate as pre 1948. Would the Israeli supreme court rule to return the property to my family? We of course know the answer is no and BTW also forget the rent that supposedly the Israeli government has been collecting on behalf of the absentee owners.
        The law in Israel exists for the benefit of the “Jews”. If you are a Palestinian forget about recourse to the courts to get any restitution.

      • Richard Witty
        December 13, 2009, 8:09 am

        Your last phrase “but when we consider that the entire system is designed to dispossess Palestinians, legal validity loses all meaning” sadly gives up on law.

        I prefer to return to law, to establish consented principles of title that both societies can accept, as there will likely be overlap of communities in any settlement.

        Title is by individual entity. An individual entity can be a corporate entity, that then confers some individual rights downstream.

        But, in the modern world, all land is titled, registered.

        There is no valid basis of some Jews claiming other individual Jews’ former homes as theirs on the basis of Jewishness. But, the claim by Palestinians is equally unperfected.

        If Jordan can be construed as conferring valid title to land that they occupied as a result of war (in contravention of Geneva principles), then by consistency Israel would be as well.

        I think they are both improper conveyance of title. The ambiguous status remains until there are consented principles that are consistently applied, adjudicated by a court system that is accountable to appeal to higher courts, with consistency of law defined by legislation, precedent, reason (all reconciled with another).

        Neither politically driven “decree” are legal.

      • Shmuel
        December 13, 2009, 8:58 am

        RW:Your last phrase “but when we consider that the entire system is designed to dispossess Palestinians, legal validity loses all meaning” sadly gives up on law.

        On the contrary, it asserts that blatantly and consistently discriminatory laws, combined with an institutional disregard for those very same laws, empty the law itself of meaning, rendering it merely another weapon in the arsenal of oppression. In pointing this out, I am opposing the abuse of the law and advocating true legality, which necessarily implies equality. Condemn this cynical abuse of law and I will believe that you actually have some faith in law as a means to justice. Otherwise you too are using “legality” as an excuse to perpetuate oppression.

      • Chaos4700
        December 13, 2009, 8:58 am

        I prefer to return to law, to establish consented principles of title that both societies can accept, as there will likely be overlap of communities in any settlement.

        Bullshit, Witty. You advocate for the complete dispossession of any victim of the Nakba who wasn’t born on the land taken by Zionists by force — and you blithely endorse the squatting on that land of migrant Jews in perpetuity.

      • Citizen
        December 13, 2009, 9:09 am

        I agree with your approach, Shmuel. My caveat is that there is no inherent
        connection between Law and Justice. However, because equality under/before the law may be the only consistent/universal value inherent in Justice’s goal, your approach reaches in a practical way towards equitable relationships in our complex society.

      • Aref
        December 13, 2009, 9:24 am

        RW:”I prefer to return to law, to establish consented principles of title that both societies can accept, as there will likely be overlap of communities in any settlement.”

        This sounds fine. But could you please inform us what those principles might be in your opinion?

      • Shmuel
        December 13, 2009, 9:34 am

        I agree with your caveat, Citizen. On these forums, we sometimes have to simplify or use shorthand, to get our our messages across.

      • LeaNder
        December 13, 2009, 10:00 am

        I will believe that you actually have some faith in law as a means to justice. Otherwise you too are using “legality” as an excuse to perpetuate oppression.

        I have to admit that this is my suspicion too. That’s why the comparison between Jordan and Israel is only rather superficially correct. It all ends with the beloved idea that we are talking about terra nullius, the people that lived there for centuries ultimately have no rights till they were no “nation” like e.g. Jordan or Israel. While the settlements are not only facts on the ground but also legal since connected to the Israeli nation.

      • Chaos4700
        December 13, 2009, 10:04 am

        This is the 21st century. There are international laws to consider, and Israel made itself part of the Geneva Conventions. Passing and enforcing laws that are flagrant violation of the country’s international commitments does not represent legality. Does it?

      • potsherd
        December 13, 2009, 10:49 am

        Exactly so. When there is one set of laws in a state for Jews and another for Arabs, there is no validity to the laws. When the state upholds this set of laws, there is no validity to the state.

        This was established in the US, when it invalidated laws that established rights for whites and denied them to blacks.

      • LeaNder
        December 13, 2009, 11:17 am

        I exaggerated slightly, as you may have noticed. But I have to return to my VBA duties.

        This week we had a short report about an Israeli demonstration against the stop of the “temporary” expansion of settlements on TV. Many carried signs that equated Palestinians with terrorists. I would be interested in a research project that looks closer into the dynamics that feeds this self-righteousness: Demonization …

        Maybe the West should surrender to Israel’s territory desire and take in the Palestinians completely. Give them lavish funds for business and education. What will Israelis do if there is no enemy left “inside”? Will they start to fight each other? Religious against seculars? Anti-Arabs against humanists? After having first fought for the rest of the available land between themselves? Terra nullius. … light … nation …

      • Richard Witty
        December 13, 2009, 11:41 am

        Your knee-jerk on law is horribly disappointing. Did you read beyond the first sentence in my post?

        Again, identifying wrong is barely the first step in proposing solution. But, that’s as far as you go.

        Its odd thinking.

        Why give up, rather than get skilled to actually make change?

      • LeaNder
        December 13, 2009, 11:55 am

        I should have responded here, I just realized.

        Exaggeration below means: Richard comparison between Israel and/or Jordanian annexation (armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan) actually would leave a slot open for my point of view. But then, I feel more sympathy for Shmuel’s suspicion, or his excellent point.

        Title is by individual entity. An individual entity can be a corporate entity, that then confers some individual rights downstream.

        What corporate entities, for instance?

      • LeaNder
        December 13, 2009, 11:56 am

        I am not interested in offering solutions. Why should I?

      • LeaNder
        December 13, 2009, 11:57 am

        Why are there reply buttons, if you can’t reply directly?

      • Chaos4700
        December 13, 2009, 12:02 pm

        They only enable nesting down maybe three levels. Trust me, it’s better this way. Threads can become nigh unreadable with the indefinite nesting they have on Huff Po.

        Anyway, Witty’s lost the argument, so he’s resorted to an elaborate, pseudo-academic phrasology that basically boils down to “You’re stupid! You can’t read! Do you have a brain? I’m right!”

  8. Richard Witty
    December 13, 2009, 8:20 am

    This morning in Haaretz:

    link to

    Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday attacked a controversial plan to pump an additional NIS 110 million into West Bank settlements, saying that some of the money would end up in the hands of right-wing extremists.

    “I don’t think that we need to award them a prize in the form of including them in the national priority map,” said Barak, referring to the plan.

    Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, the defense minister cited the desecration of a West Bank mosque on Friday as an example of the rightists’ activity.

    link to

    A military court on Sunday convicted an Israel Defense Forces officer on charges of aggravated assault and conduct unbecoming an officer, after he was accused of hitting a Palestinian in the West Bank.

    The officer, 1st Lt. (res.) Adam Malul of the Kfir infantry brigade, was accused of hitting the man while making an arrest in the West Bank village of Kadum in September 2008.

    The court rejected testimony by former commander of the Kfir infantry brigade, Col. Itai Virob, and former commander of the Shimshon unit, Lt. Col. Shimon Harush, in which they justified hitting Palestinian detainees under exceptional circumstances.

    • Chaos4700
      December 13, 2009, 9:02 am

      Oh, wonderful, Witty. One soldier gets slapped on the wrist for (aggravated assault?) for what is, ostensibly, a Geneva Conventions violation (a soldier attacking a civilian in occupied territory). Meanwhile, dozens of soldiers who have shot dead Palestinians go free, and the whole question of Operation Cast Lead (bombing hospitals, using white phosphorous as an incendiary weapon, deliberately attacking UN facilities after encouraging Palestinians to congregate there) goes completely unaddressed.

      That’s Witty’s “rule of law” for you.

    • Citizen
      December 13, 2009, 9:20 am

      Well, that’s a few good signs–thanks, Witty. I think the problem is such practice of good law and policy never seems to reach the height of setting any significant legal
      precedent. Is there any constant stare decisis involving the application of Israeli
      law under a single standard currently existent?

  9. Chaos4700
    December 13, 2009, 9:33 am

    Anyone else notice that Witty has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to say about the continued ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem? Even the articles he cited focus on the Israeli perspective — what Israelis are saying, what is being done to Israelis.

    The Palestinians continue to be invisible to Witty. Like for most American Zionists.

    • Richard Witty
      December 13, 2009, 11:42 am

      Affirming and reforming law is the way to address the issues.

      • Chaos4700
        December 13, 2009, 12:05 pm

        And meanwhile, while you prevaricate and propose phony, doomed-to-fail attempts to beg for an intransigient Israeli regime to reform, yet more Palestinians lose their properties and yet more Zionist Jews get away with theft (and sometimes, outright murder).

        You really are trying to wait this out until the Palestinians are all dead, aren’t you?

      • Shingo
        December 14, 2009, 4:17 pm

        “You really are trying to wait this out until the Palestinians are all dead, aren’t you? ”

        I can’t think of a better way to sum up Witty.

        All along he’s argued that Obama’s approach is the only way to succeed and that BDS will not succeed, even while Netenyahu humiliates Obama on the world stage.

        The explanation is simple. He wants to buy time so that Israel can finish the job.

      • potsherd
        December 14, 2009, 5:20 pm

        Isn’t that the entire idea? Dead, or exiled, or locked into prison.

      • Donald
        December 14, 2009, 5:33 pm

        I don’t mean to defend Witty–his positions are often indefensible. But it’s better to be accurate about his motives. He wants peace, but it has to be on terms that make him feel good. He’s not as bad as you guys paint him–that is, he doesn’t actively wish the Palestinians dead. It’s just that he won’t listen to accurate criticism of Israel if it is too harsh–his brain turns off. To the extent he does criticize Israel he limits it to the Israeli far right, who are his scapegoats for all Israeli sins (or the ones he’s willing to acknowledge).

        You should try lurking at the comments section at Realistic Dove to get a better sense of Witty, not so much because he matters but for the POV that he represents, which I suspect is a fairly common one. He’s the lefty over there, in comparison to most of the regulars (including “Suzanne”, who used to be here.) He actually calls out the far right settler types at that blog. This is why he thinks of himself as the embattled peacemaker who receives criticism from both sides (though the people over there like him). Phil, btw, is a kind of demon figure over there, someone to scare children with. They hate his guts. Even Dan treats Phil like he is radioactive and apologizes for agreeing with him on anything. In that context Witty is like some sort of champion of Palestinian rights.

        Over here, where there are no constraints on telling the truth about Israel (and maybe occasionally going overboard with the rhetoric and where there are some whiffs of antisemitism in a few of the comments), then Witty’s Zionist reflexes kick in and we get the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” rationalizations for many (not all) of Israel’s crimes that we associate with him here.

      • pineywoodslim
        December 14, 2009, 9:29 pm


        In my opinion, what you say about Witty:

        “He’s not as bad as you guys paint him–that is, he doesn’t actively wish the Palestinians dead. It’s just that he won’t listen to accurate criticism of Israel if it is too harsh–his brain turns off.”

        perfectly describes the liberal enabler of Israeli settlement policy. It’s not the rightwing Zionist nutcases that are the ultimate “bad guys”, but the Witty’s of the world–and particularly of the US–who seemingly strike a middle ground, all the while being devoid of that small bit of humanity and conscience, and lacking the moral courage to take a truly ethical stand.

      • LeaNder
        December 13, 2009, 12:17 pm

        Law: How about, not simply ignoring it? Or twisting it to one’s own advantage?

        Where is law for Palestinian prisoners? State of Exception according to ethnicity and religion?

        Why do you keep talking about law in a context were it is often suspended to the disadvantage of one side only? How else could you steel people’s land?

        You think: “This is how it has to be done in Guantanamo and in Israel.”? It doesn’t matter if the jailed people are innocent. It’s for the Israeli services to decide. Also good to put lawyers in jail, right? We haven’t heard about this case for a while. If he can’t help himself, who should?

        That’s the context in which you talk about law.

      • Eva Smagacz
        December 13, 2009, 2:56 pm

        There appear to be no legal consequences (for some) in Israel if one simply ignores the inconvenient law:
        Even if it is a specific ruling of High Court.

        link to

        High Court appears to be creating a class of rulings where, wink, wink, it will not initiate contempt of court proceedings if those rulings are simply ignored.

        Voluntarily unenforced rulings seem to cluster around rights of Palestinians and foreigners.

      • Citizen
        December 13, 2009, 4:55 pm

        A key point is that that the USA MSM does not tell the average American that
        the Israeli Supreme Ct and the judgments of lower level courts in Israel’s judicial system, is NOT the same as the the USA court system. Two key differences are that the USCT rules, while the Israeli SC has no such top priority over all branches of government, and too, that Israeli law allows for double standards while in the USA, that is a NO NO.

      • potsherd
        December 13, 2009, 5:18 pm

        The rulings of the SC in Israel are often overruled or ignored by the military on “security grounds,” particularly in the territories where it is in effect a law unto itself. The wall in Bi’lin is still there, years after the SC ruling.

      • pineywoodslim
        December 14, 2009, 9:19 pm

        Yet Witty, your sine qua non for your proposal of “Affirming and reforming law is the way to address the issues” would be a ban on the Palestinian right of return, correct?

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