The law of the land grab
by Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank – Aljazeera
Whenever Israeli actions in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are criticised by the international community, state officials readily evoke the defensive mantra that Israel is a democracy and a law-abiding country.
However, Palestinians, human rights activists, including London-based Amnesty International do not buy this argument, dismissing it as deceptive.
They contend that when it comes to the occupied territories, the authority of the law in Israel is effectively subservient to the requirements of the occupation.
Manifestly illegal acts, such as house demolitions, civilian deportations and the confiscation of privately owned land, are rendered legal by the issuing of a military order. Such orders enable the army to carry out the originally illegal act “in accordance with the law”.
Mahmud Nammura, a human rights activist from the town of Dura near Hebron, has ample experience of the Israeli justice system.
He says the laws Israel applies in the occupied territories are “inherently incompatible with even most elementary elements of justice”.
“Of course Israel claims it follows the rule of law. The question is: what law? It is the occupier’s law that is designed to torment the Palestinians, persecute and dispossess them of their land and property. The Nazis also claimed they did everything according to the law.”
Nammura, whose home and small library were dynamited last year without him being informed in advance as a punishment for his two sons’ involvement in the Intifada, says the problem with Israeli laws, particularly those pertaining to non-Jews, is that they are racist and devoid of justice.
He gives the example of home demolitions, a sinister and routine form of punishment, meted out to Palestinian civilians.
“Where on earth is a person punished for a crime he or she has not committed? Here, in the so-called only democracy in the Middle East. Innocent people, including children, babies and old men and women are tormented and tortured because a grown-up member of the family threw a stone at an Israeli tank or was involved with the resistance.
“When Israeli troops come before dawn to demolish the family home of a Palestinian detainee, without giving the family even five minutes to save their belongings and furniture, they are punishing not the culprits but the innocents.”
According to Nammura, the Israeli justice system is used as a “rubber stamp” in the hands of the occupation army for the purpose of tormenting Palestinians.
According to Israeli military law, the family home of a Palestinian detainee cannot be destroyed before the detainee is sentenced by the military court and granted the opportunity to appeal against the sentence.
In Nammura’s case, however, his home was dynamited before a court judgment was issued, leaving Nammura unable to appeal a non-existent court sentence.
“A large force arrived at our home at dawn,” says Nammura. “They told us they wanted to blow up our home and that we had five minutes to leave. I asked them if they had a court order to destroy the home. The commanding officer said: ‘I am the law.’”
“I told him: ‘You are the most honest Israeli I have ever met in my life. You are telling the truth. You are the law.’”
A historian, Nammura, argues that the Israeli army is “worse than the Nazis”.
“History’s worst occupiers didn’t do what the Israelis are doing to us. When the Nazis occupied Paris, they forced the French to do certain work for the army, but they didn’t destroy the homes of French citizens; they didn’t confiscate the private property of the French like Israel is doing in Palestine.”
Ada Ravon is an Israeli lawyer dealing with, among other things, the Israeli occupation army’s violations of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
She told Aljazeera.net whenever it came to the Palestinians, the rule of law (and the law itself) became “utterly emasculated”.
“The occupation itself is illegal. The rest is details,” she says.
“Israel knows that what it is doing is blatantly illegal, but it does it nevertheless.”
When pressed to explain why the Israeli justice system allowed blatantly illegal activities, such as building “illegal settlements on private Arab land,” Ravon says:
“In dealing with the Palestinians, Israel stops acting as a law-abiding country. That is the crux of the matter.”
In addition to “legalising” the oppression of the Palestinians, apparently in order to make their daily life unbearable and force them to immigrate, Israel applies two sets of laws in the West Bank, one for Jews and the other for non-Jews.
According to Yusuf Rabai, a prominent Palestinian lawyer in the Hebron region, Israel uses “anachronistic and draconian laws” dating back to the British mandate era.
“They select the harshest and most unjust laws and apply them to the Palestinians. If they find that these laws are not sufficiently oppressive, they issue additional military orders to inflict maximum suffering on the Palestinians.”
Rabai points out that the discriminatory nature of the Israeli justice system is conspicuous in preventing Palestinians from building homes in the vicinity of Israeli settlements.
“What they are saying is that only Jews have the right to build on “meiri” or state land. If a Palestinian builds a home on his own land near a settlement, the house is demolished.
“Sometimes they claim that the land doesn’t belong to him. But when he produces a land deed, they claim he can’t build for unspecified security reasons. In the final analysis, everyone knows it comes down to the real thing, namely that he is not a Jew.
“And they call themselves the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Extracted 02/28/04 from Aljazeerah.net