No tolerance for hooligans

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The demolition of three homes at the Migron Heights outpost by the army was conducted in an unprofessional, brutal and primitive manner. Three families were awoken after midnight as soldiers in riot gear and bulldozers descended on them and demolished their new homes – only constructed after Passover. The male heads of the families serve in the IDF and one of the mothers had only two weeks before given birth. Twelve young children witnessed their homes being torn up and their personal possessions destroyed. The cruel and insensitive manner in which the police implemented this eviction was utterly disgusting.

A few words of background. Migron, located five kilometers north of Jerusalem, was founded in 2002, a few days prior to Operation Defensive Shield, with the tacit approval of the Ministry of Defense which endorsed it “as an independent community for all intents and purposes, including the matter of budgets and assigning it an official status.” In 2003 it received NIS 4.3 million from the Ministry of Construction and Housing Commission which stated that land is the property of the Custodian of Government and Abandoned Property.

This year, in response to a petition by Peace Now activists who appealed to the Supreme Court, the inhabitants of Migron were ordered to leave their homes or face eviction because their property was located on land now deemed to belong to Palestinians. Thus overnight a government sanctioned settlement was transformed into an illegal outpost. Fervent debate on this issue ensued, and the matter is still under review. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin is urging the government to authorize the settlement.

NOBODY DENIES that all citizens must obey the law. However, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of this issue and even assuming the families of the three homes demolished had broken the law by failing to fulfill police instructions to evacuate, the brutal manner in which the army bulldozed their homes in the middle of the night was unconscionable. It is also unacceptable for the IDF – a people’s army – to be obliged to act as law enforcement in such situations.

The government, the Ministry of Defense, the Supreme Court and the other authorities who initially authorized the settlement and have now abandoned them have much to answer for.

Yet having said that, nothing could remotely justify the obscene and thuggish reprisals perpetrated by as-yet unidentified criminals.

Israel must operate under rule of law. When hilltop youth go on a rampage they are not only guilty of criminal behavior but defame the entire settlement movement.

Desecrating a Mosque or any house of worship is vile and contrary to the values inculcated in us as Jews who suffered from such bigotry over the centuries.

Vandalizing an IDF base is anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli behavior which all, especially those from the national camp, must condemn as treason.

If, as hinted, religious Jews were involved in this abomination, they have disgraced the Torah and such Chillul Hashem (desecration of God’s name) represents an evil force utterly alien to our tradition which must be rooted out from our midst.

However, unless found guilty in a court of law, it is critical that Migron families, who are known as idealistic and law-abiding citizens, are not held responsible for perpetrating these abominable acts.

The suspicion is that the vandals are wild “hilltop youths.” The late National Religious minister Dr. Yosef Burg once confided to me his concerns about settlers living in small isolated communities surrounded by masses of hate-filled Arabs. His fear was that this animosity could distort their own outlook and values and infect them with bitterness and hatred. Alas, that may indeed have become a reality.

Such criminal behavior must be condemned unconditionally, in particular by leaders of the national camp, rabbis, national religious Jews and spokesmen for the settler movement – many of whom, to their credit, have already done so.

And when the perpetrators are arrested, they should be treated as criminals and punished with the full severity of the law. Such behavior cannot be tolerated in any law-abiding state.

The state and the courts have and will continue to make mistakes.

There are legitimate protest mechanisms that can be applied which may or may not succeed. But even if the state acts in error and individuals feel that they have been treated despicably, that can never justify acts of bigotry or sabotage against the state and the nation.

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This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post

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