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11 December 2008

(ZOA) is deeply disappointed with Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s decision

December 10, 2008




The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is deeply disappointed with Defense Minister Ehud Barak's decision to unnecessarily and forcibly evict the Jewish residents of Beit Hashalom (Peace House). Beit Hashalom is a large building in Hebron strategically overlooking Worshippers Way, the access road to the Cave of the Patriarchs. It was apparently purchased by an American Jew from its Arab owner for close to $1,000,000 and transferred to the Jewish Community of Hebron in a legal transaction that is now being challenged in the Jerusalem District Court. Up until the last moment before the eviction, it was abundantly clear that Mr. Barak could have avoided last Thursday's violent confrontation by continuing to negotiate through the good offices of the local regional council.

To the best of our knowledge, there are legal documents, videotapes and audiotapes attesting to the legitimacy of the sale of Beit Hashalom by its former Arab owner to a Jewish owner. Having at first confirmed the sale, the former Arab owner has now recanted, for fear of Arab retribution. Remember, Palestinian Authority law calls for the death penalty for selling land to a Jew.

After refusing to consider the aforementioned video and audiotape evidence, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that "it will be possible to act in accordance with Squatters' Evacuation Law" and evict the residents. Therefore, until the Jerusalem District Court decides on the legal ownership of the structure, authorities may remove the tenants. This does not mean they are required to be removed, as was confirmed in no uncertain terms by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Turkel who said, "The ruling does not obligate the State to act to evacuate the Jews, but rather gives them the freedom to decide whether to do so or not."

It should also be noted that Israeli Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish unfairly "biased" the panel by unilaterally removing two justices, including Orthodox Justice Edmond Levy. Our understanding is that both of the removed justices might have been more sympathetic to the Jews of Hebron. Justice Beinish substituted two justices, Ayala Procaccia and Salim Joubran, who are known to be hostile to Jews in the territories. But even with these unsympathetic justices, they did not rule that the Jews of Beit Hashalom House are required to be moved but only authorized the removal if the government made that decision.

Approximately twenty-four hours prior to the violent eviction, ZOA's Israel Director, Jeff Daube, was in Beit Hashalom for the official opening of a ZOA branch office. The intended purpose of the office was to serve as a focal point for visits to Beit Hashalom; to raise public awareness about the strategic importance of the structure's location for access to the Cave of the Patriarchs; to express solidarity with the peaceful Jewish residents of Beit Hashalom; and to affirm the right of Jews to live in peace in Hebron. Hebron is the city of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and the first capital of the State of Israel during the reign of King David.

Due to the escalating crisis, even this short ceremony commemorating the opening of the ZOA's office had to be curtailed. When news broke about the forced evacuation of Beit Hashalom, Mr. Daube said, "I was hopeful earlier this morning – especially when I heard that negotiations were ongoing – that a nonviolent resolution could have been found to the Beit Hashalom dispute, so I planned another visit later in the day. I was obviously wrong. As an Israeli citizen, a proud Jew and a Zionist, I am deeply troubled by my government's behavior in forcibly uprooting the residents of Beit Hashalom before the Jerusalem District Court decision has been made as to the building's legal owners. Apparently those Arabs who are dancing on their rooftops and clapping gleefully at the sight of Jews being forcibly removed from Beit Hashalom understand the implications of this rash and misguided act far better than we." This act may send a message that the Jews are less committed to the Land than the Arabs; delegitimizes the Jews of Judea & Samaria; encourages more Arab intransigence; and sends a message that the Arabs are winning, which will only cause them to demand more concessions and could even promote more Arab violence.

The ZOA cannot help but question the motivation for this tragic action in light of Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai's denunciation of Barak's "strange and wretched" decision on the same day as the Labor Party primaries. Yishai had told Barak that he should wait for a court ruling on the evacuation before ordering the security forces to carry it out (Ha'aretz, December 4).

MK Arieh Eldad also lashed out at Barak, saying that he was responsible for all those wounded in the lightening-quick raid in Hebron: "Barak sent the IDF and police as part of the left-wing's election campaign and the blood of the casualties is on his hands."

MK Uri Ariel said: "Defense Minister Barak violated all the understandings with him, and he has provided proof that he cannot be trusted."

Yechiel Leiter, former Deputy Director General of Israel's Ministry of Education and former Chief of Staff to Benjamin Netanyahu, said that to evict the Jews was not judicial but rather political. "If it was a matter of law, then the law must be distributive, i.e, must be applied to all sectors alike. There are thousands of orders against illegal Arab structures that are not being implemented..."
Even a member of the Kadima party, MK Zev Elkin, called on Minister of Defense Ehud Barak to avoid a confrontation with Peace House activists in Hebron. Elkin said: "Barak is trying to get the Left to love him and save himself and his party on the back of the Jews of Hebron. We must negotiate with the settlers otherwise Barak and Olmert will be responsible for repeating the mistakes of Amona."
Many have also asked why Defense Minister Barak has flexed his muscles against innocent civilians in Beit Hashalom, while failing to defend the Western Negev communities from Gaza terrorist rocket attacks. Ashkelon's outgoing mayor, Roni Mahatzri, perhaps said it best on Saturday: "We saw that when the defense minister wishes to show determination and resolve, he knows how to do that; he did it while handling the case of the house in Hebron. I would like to see the same determination when it comes to the rocket fire."

While the ZOA is troubled by the fact that the defense minister chose to resort to what he surely knew would be a violent confrontation, the ZOA does not condone and, in fact, strongly criticizes the random and senseless acts of violence and vandalism committed by some Jewish youth, however few. Noam Arnon, the leader of the Jewish community of Hebron, expressed the same sentiments. It is the responsibility of parents, educators and community leaders to provide these often well-meaning young people with the proper guidance to channel their energies in a manner that allows their voices of protest to be heard, without compromising their potential to serve as ambassadors of a truly inspired Zionism.

Nevertheless, as Mr. Daube reported based on his observations and conversations, the overwhelming majority of young people at Beit Hashalom were there to make a non-violent, positive statement of support. Notwithstanding the few "hotheaded" young people, there was an overall sense of a desire to avoid confrontation. "I sat in on one meeting conducted by an adult leader, who instructed a large group of teens on exactly how to act with grace and dignity in the best tradition of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, should police forces enter to forcibly evict them. They were even given emergency phone numbers in the event that they were detained," recalled Mr. Daube.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said: "We are also troubled that the forced violent eviction took place before the Jerusalem District Court determined the legal ownership of Beit Hashalom. Even if the District Court rules against Jewish ownership, the ZOA urges that every peaceful avenue be explored before there is ever again a forcible eviction.

"The ZOA sincerely hopes that ways could be found to avoid future Gush Katifs, Amonas, and Beit Hashaloms, so that we will never again witness Jews being dragged from their homes by force. This is not good for Israel. This is not good for the Jewish people."
December 9, 2008
The Bostoner Rebbe Shlita, Rav Levi Yitzchak Horowitz, released the following statement this week regarding the expulsion of Jews from Chevron's Bet HaShalom and subsequent comments on the matter from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
"I was shocked by the rumor that the prime minister attacked the Jews of Chevron, who exhibit mesirus nefesh for Eretz Yisrael, labeling them law-breakers and their actions a pogrom. Pogrom is used for those who have abandoned any semblance of humanity and exhibit animalistic behavior. We must daven that what occurred will not occur again in the future."
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
The Following Letter Was Faxed to Israel's Ambassador and Consul to Canada:

December 5, 2008
The Honorable Ambassador of Israel,
Her Excellency Miriam Ziv, Ottawa, ON
And The Honorable Amir R. Gissin,
Consul General of Israel, Toronto, ON
We are writing this letter on behalf of Toronto Zionist Council. We are appalled by the continued anti settler venom being spewed forth by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other ministers and the brutal attack that expelled the residents of Beit HaShalom, a building which was purchased 100% legally by Mr. Morris Abraham.
How dare Mr. Barak allow the forces under his command to use stun grenades and tear gas against Jews – men, women and children – who were living peacefully and legally in a building in the Jewish homeland! How dare he have the audacity to say that the state must enforce the High Court decision to evict them, when he knows very well that the High Court issued no such ruling!
Mr. Barak needs to be stripped of his position as Defense Minster at once, for his illegal and immoral actions against our brethren in Beit HaShalom . With Jewish blood being spilled like water in Mumbai at the hands of the very same terrorist murderers who threaten our brethren in the State of Israel every single day – and while Hamas missiles continue to terrorize southern Israel, it is hard to believe that Mr. Barak can waste precious Israeli soldiers and Israeli police – that are needed to safeguard the population everywhere – and sending them instead to Hevron to evict Jews who posed no threat anyone – from their home..
He has a sworn duty to protect the lives of all our brethren in Israel and not just those people who support him politically. We demand that Mr. Barak cease and desist from his war against the settlers in general, and the residents of Beit HaShalom in particular!
I am sure you are acquainted with the lethal ambush which resulted in the massacre of 12 Israeli soldiers – that the Arab friends of Barak perpetrated not that long ago – on the very same road, "Worshiper's Way" where Beit Hashalom is located and how pleased the IDF was when it was disclosed that the building was finally in Jewish hands, thus making easier their task of protecting the visitors going to Machpela Cave, the burial place of our Patriarchs.
We said it before, and we will say it again and again until this selective oppression STOPS! We will not stand idly by and watch the government of the State of Israel treat our brethren like this.
Our organization was the driving force in staging two very successful "Israel Malls" in Toronto during the worst times of the 'Intifada' when tourists were avoiding Israel and the merchants on Midrachov Ben Yehuda (and other shopping centers) were standing in front of their stores trying to entice the few pedestrians to come in and buy something.
Your government should wake up to the fact that Israel's only true friends in the world are the Zionist Jews of the diaspora. With the blatant lies that some government ministers spread about the residents of Yehuda and Shomron, the deliberate provocations against them, their labeling true Jewish patriots and pioneers as 'internal enemies of the state', and the illegal and brutal expulsions, all they will accomplish is alienating us and all other supporters of Israel.
If this persecution and abuse of our brethren won't stop, we will start a campaign to withhold all monetary support while this government is in power. Instead we will advise everyone to channel that money to help our brethren who are being made to suffer by Ehud Barak. He – and others of his ilk – see the handwriting on the wall; that their political careers will be over after the next elections – unless they manage to start a civil war before then.
Please use your positions to influence the few decent people still left in the government that this should not happen!
Toronto Zionist Council, Yossi Winter, Pres. Izzy Kaplan Vice Pres.
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