‘You have to demolish them while they’re small’ — Israel’s chief justice approves destruction of mosque

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illegal mosque
Mosque in Al Mufaqara,West Bank demolished Dec.4,2012 (Photo: Regavim)

Amira Hass wrote an important article in Haaretz yesterday about a gruesome phrase uttered by Israel’s new Supreme Court Chief Justice referencing the demolition of a mosque in the south Hebron Hills last week: “You have to demolish them while they’re small.”

On its face, the demolition was nothing extraordinary and what we’ve come to expect. But the destruction of this little mosque in the village of Al Mufaqara provides yet another example of how Regavim, a rising, extreme-national-religious social movement whose goal is to encourage the state to demolish Palestinian homes and public buildings, works in symmetry with Israel’s recently radicalized Supreme Court to escalate efforts to remove Palestine from the map.

This is about a new political constellation: Regavim, the Supreme Court, and the Knesset are working together to circumvent the law and cleanse the land. In the past, though the court acted to facilitate the land grab, it was still an instrument of legal recourse, and at times worked in Palestinians’ favor. But recent changes by the Knesset’s judicial selection committee are apparently being used to make the court a more activist component of the push to clear Palestinians from Area C.

Israeli Supreme Court Chief Grunis (Photo:Yoav Dudkevitch)

Oddly, some Israeli supporters consider the words of the Chief Justice “a minor miracle.” Hass referenced the website Hakol Hayehudi (“The Jewish Voice,” whose tagline is “News for Happy Jews” ), which reported ‘rejoice’-ing at the judge’s phraseology.

I unearthed this same glee in an article at another site, the Jewish Press, which describes the mosque as an “ugly thing.” So let’s take a closer look at that “miracle” and later, what it tells us about Israel’s annexation plans .

The Jewish Press:

A miracle of sorts took place today at the Israeli Supreme court, which could be the sign of good things to come. It was during part of an ongoing discussion of Illegal Arab construction in Judea and Samaria, and this time the issue at hand was a mosque built illegally in Al-Mofkra (Regavim), on the southern slope of Mt. Hebron.

According to The Jewish Voice, the panel of judges headed by Supreme Court President Grunis, with Justices Miriam Naor and Edna Arbel, opened the discussion by saying that illegal construction cannot be allowed to go on at all, especially in Judea and Samaria. The panel added that enforcement activity should be performed efficiently.

In this context, Justice Grunis said that “we must kill them when they’re young” (the literal translation from Hebrew would be “We must destroy them when they’re little”). The quip was made in front of representatives of the State Attorney’s Office, who told the court they intend to destroy the illegal mosque in the coming weeks.

The reason this can be considered a minor miracle is that both of Grunis’s predecessors, chief justices Aharon Barak and Dorit Beinish, would not have been caught dead saying something so un-PC about a Muslim house of worship. The fact that Justice Grunis was able to joke about it – and then do the right thing and force the state to take down the ugly thing – is very much a step in the right direction for the court.

Asher Grunis’s February 2012 promotion to Supreme Court President was ushered in last January by the “Grunis Law,” designed to bypass other judges in line to lead the Court.

Lizzy Ratner, author of “Grunis discriminates his way to the top of the Israeli Supreme Court,” describes the implications of his court leadership as a “critical moment in Israel’s long moral suicide”:

 As a former Supreme Court justice told Haaretz, “It is no secret that Grunis holds rigidly to the idea of reducing the powers of the Supreme Court, and that is why ‘wild weeds’ on the right want him as president. He is their ‘favorite son.'”

With Grunis’s ascent, Israel’s Supreme Court officially ends its so-called “liberal-democratic” phase (though, truth be told, it was neither liberal or democratic) and enters what might be called its radical-fanatical right-wing phase. Just last month, the court got its first settler-judge, Judge Noam Sohlberg — that’s right, a man who regularly violates international law is now a member of the highest court in the land, as Eyal Clyne pointed out — and Grunis will have vast authority over future judicial appointments.

This push to the extreme right involves coordination of Knesset legislation, the radical fanatic group Regavim, and the Supreme Court all in one fell swoop. Michael Sfard reminds us Israeli legislation doesn’t apply to the West Bank because the Knesset doesn’t exercise jurisdiction over the West Bank. That’s left to the courts, which Ratner rightly describes an entering a “radical-fanatical right-wing phase.” 

amira hass
Amira Hass

Hass reports Haaretz called the court for clarification of Grunis’s comments, and it claimed that “the procedural question……refers to both sides,” Palestinian and Israeli. She deftly laid that claim to shame by juxtaposing the fulfillment of Regavim’s demand to demolish Al Mufaqara’s little mosque, serving 400 Muslims, with earlier court decisions in which the court has considered demands by Palestinians to be able to control planning in Area C. Hass questions whether Israel’s Supreme Court President even speaks the same “legal and values-based language” as those who represent the Palestinians.

A judge who creates symmetry between those who rule by force and their subjects who are denied their rights, knowingly and deliberately sides with the powerful.


Is a justice who says, “You have to demolish them while they’re small,” and who fails to take into account the profound difference between prohibiting Palestinian construction and encouraging Jewish construction, speaking the same legal and values-based language in which the Dirat Rafa’iya petition was written? If not, it’s not too late for him to learn it.

Read the whole thing. With all due respect to Hass, I have serious doubts about the learning curve of a Chief Justice who sides with the powerful and, according to a former Supreme Court justice, has long supported reducing the powers of the high court. Though reducing the Supreme Court’s powers may well be on hold now, given Grunis’s importance to the rightwing agenda.

For a revealing, and frightening, look at Regavim, I recommend the links and video at this earlier post: Influential Israeli org ‘Regavim’ focused on expelling Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. Or listen to Regavim as it describes its aims:

Regavim’s activities are directed at influencing all the State of Israel’s government systems in order to bring them, and effectively the whole country, to act based on the fundamental principles of Zionism and protect Israel’s lands and national properties.

Drip drip drip. Slowly but surely, Palestinian life in Area C continues to be undermined and whittled away…

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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22 Responses

  1. Woody Tanaka
    December 11, 2012, 12:45 pm

    Nothing new: Fascist government has fascist jurists. Roland Freisler would be proud.

    • Annie Robbins
      December 11, 2012, 2:03 pm

      well, can’t exactly agree it is nothing new woody. although the expansion has been constant and persistent i do believe we can see definite signs of a thrusting forward. the grunis law is indicative of that and the ‘recent changes by the Knesset’s judicial selection committee’ was designed to put settler friendly judges into the court system. while the court has facilitated the land grabs before it has also sided with palestinians, like with the bil’in ruling.

      the michael sfard link (‘our brown vs board of education’) and the court’s decision to order migron/ulpana be removed, that is much less likely now (imho). remember, when the government tried to go against the court ruling ..that was a first and it was shot down (thankfully) but the original court ruling was made prior to the grunis law. now, it is less likely a ruling favoring palestinians will cross the courts desk.

      the other thing was the mention of Regavim. i don’t know if people realize the level of lawfare going on here. these are not people interested in a democracy, at all.

      there’s an escalation and they have done lawyerly things to mask how it’s changing the laws of the land, in a very bad way. this supreme court president is trouble.

      • American
        December 11, 2012, 2:15 pm

        ” they have done lawyerly things to mask how it’s changing the laws of the land, in a very bad way.”…annie

        And why I don’t believe in a one state solution. ….this is what they would continue to do…….’lawyerly things’……make sure Palestines would be discriminated against enough to gradually drive them out of the country.
        We see lawyerly things done in the US for special immoral purposes of the State…or at least for the purpose of various US administrations.

      • ToivoS
        December 11, 2012, 6:52 pm

        Yes this is new but is part of a trajectory that began in the last decade. Before then it was all lies but at least the Israelis attempted to placate international opinion. For a variety of reasons they have decided to go the in-your-face, up front truth of what they are doing.

        It does make the job for BDS that much easier, but also in the mean time Palestinian suffering will increase.

  2. American
    December 11, 2012, 2:06 pm

    ”illegal construction cannot be allowed to go on at all, especially in Judea and Samaria”

    I really have to avoid reading stuff that makes my head explode.
    A Israeli against “illegal” construction?…..as if by world and ICC opinion Israel hasn’t built 300,000 ‘illegal’ structures?
    KERBOOM!….goes my brain.
    Some Nobel scientist needs to be working on vaccination to cure the clinically insane in Israel if they want to save it.

    • Annie Robbins
      December 11, 2012, 2:25 pm

      hey american, that link to the jewish press is just over the top. the transparency, calling grunis’s words a ‘miracle’. you have to see the title of the article too. “‘Must Kill Them when They’re Young’”

      i’m not kidding.this kind of mentality (one would imagine) would be hidden from view, but it’s not! and this is the second example. i went looking for it because hass didn’t link to the ‘happy jew’ site and i couldn’t find the article she referenced. so i went looking elsewhere. on my search, just on a lark, i replaced ‘demolish’ with ‘destroy’ and destroy with’ kill’ and there it was.

      • American
        December 11, 2012, 2:43 pm

        annie, just clicked and saw it……..you’re getting smarter and smarter at figuring out ‘what’s left out’ of the news presentations…:):)

      • john h
        December 11, 2012, 4:46 pm

        Thanks annie, great job.

      • JennieS
        December 12, 2012, 3:03 am

        Thanks Annie. I read the article and the comments. As usual there were some decent comments, including suggestions that the Judge’s pronouncements would reflect badly on Jews as whole, and one pig ignorant one suggesting that Pakistanis are arabs along with the usual rubbish about there being nobody in Palestine before the Jews returned to claim it.
        The sad fact is that many non-jewish non-zionists willget a negative impression of all Jews from comments like those of the Judge not realising that ther are other Jews, like yourself, Amira Hass and most of those on the Mondoweiss site who have very different opinions.

  3. bijou
    December 11, 2012, 8:32 pm

    Stellar and important reporting Annie.

  4. kalithea
    December 11, 2012, 9:58 pm

    In this context, Justice Grunis said that “we must kill them when they’re young” (the literal translation from Hebrew would be “We must destroy them when they’re little”).

    I see the King’s Torah is now the Code in Israel’s highest Court. It was only a matter of time.

  5. gamal
    December 12, 2012, 5:11 am

    very smart hunting and a great report, Annie, they cant keep up the pretense of even minimal sanity, you are getting very good at this.

  6. Emma
    December 12, 2012, 6:26 am

    Excellent report. Thank you. I especially like the phrasing “to escalate efforts to remove Palestine from the map,” and I hope people use these important words often. Zionists have been “pushing the non-Jews of Palestine into the sea” and “wiping Palestine off the map” for far too long.

    • Annie Robbins
      December 12, 2012, 6:41 am

      thanks Emma. Amira said it too:

      On November 15, the High Court of Justice considered Regavim’s demand to demolish the concrete building under construction, covering an area of 97 square meters in the small village of Al Mufaqara – which Israel is trying to wipe off the map, like its other Palestinian neighbors in the south Hebron Hills. In addition to Regavim’s demand, the High Court justices also considered a request by Mahmoud Hamamda, a village resident, to freeze the demolition order and grant the building a construction permit. For about 400 Muslims in the area, there is no place of worship within a reasonable distance, said the petition submitted by Hamamda via the Society of St. Yves – Catholic Center for Human Rights. A few weeks ago, though not yet completed, the building began operating as a mosque.

  7. Annie Robbins
    December 12, 2012, 7:17 am

    thanks for the feedback everyone, very very much appreciated.

  8. seafoid
    December 12, 2012, 11:19 am

    No sign of the ADL. They are only interested in synagogues that are defaced.

    Hypocrisy is such a Jewish luxury.

  9. seafoid
    December 12, 2012, 12:27 pm

    Where is Israel on the Fascist DEFCON scale ?

    another ratchet achieved yesterday


    “It is untenable,” he (Lieberman) said, “to have a situation in which that soldier in Hebron gets punched by a Palestinian policemen and the Palestinian policeman remains alive after that.”

    • Annie Robbins
      December 12, 2012, 12:56 pm

      omg! just opening the link now but that guy has no limits to his madness!

      • seafoid
        December 12, 2012, 3:30 pm

        He just says what his constituents think.

  10. just
    December 12, 2012, 2:29 pm

    Thank you, Annie.

    Thank you Mondoweiss for truth.

  11. gamal
    December 13, 2012, 9:10 am

    Dear Annie I have found a video of the talk Smadar Lavie gave at UCC, which i recommend, very much recommend, in the sense of insisting you watch it, and oddly there are also some remarks that may interest anyone amused by “the get rich quick” discussions Hostage had with some posters.


    • Annie Robbins
      December 13, 2012, 4:44 pm

      fantastic gamal, thank you so very much. i was fortunate enough to meet Smadar at a friends house in berkeley. a coincidence actually, if one believes in such things.

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