Monday, January 18, 2010

Freedom of Demonstration

Regular readers will know I'm hardly a fan of our far-left organizations who falsely use the language of human rights in our national discussions. Sometimes, however, they're right, and in the present case, it was the stupidity of the police which cast the mantle onto them and forces people such as myself, who really do care about human rights, to defend them.

For the past few months there have been demonstrations at Sheikh Jarrah, an area about one block to the East of Route One where there are Jewish graves from the Mishnaic era and from which Jews were violently evicted by the Jordanians in 1948. If you think political matters can be resolved by wielding laws (I don't) you'll have to accept that the legal stand of the Jews who have been moving into Sheihk Jarrah over the past 15 years or so is rather solid, and the recent spate of activity and demonstrations is pure politics with very little to do with human rights or law. Anyway, that's how the courts see it.

None of which detracts from the right of people to object. It would be nice if they clearly stated that their objection is political, but even if they don't, and pretend otherwise, they still have the right to express their opinion. As a society we must be scrupulous in defending their right. On Friday afternoon a police officer arrested 17 demonstrators, and it took more than 30 hours to get them out. The fact that Hagai Elad, the boss of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel was one of the 17 gave the event a high profile, but the event would have been equally wrong if no-one had ever heard of any of the arrestees. Eventually, late Saturday night, the case reached a judge, and she rejected the position of the police. Hopefully whoever is in charge will take note and take heed, and such things won't happen again.

What does this say about Israeli democracy? The editorial of Haaretz proclaims that
The only conclusion is that the police have decided to wage war on the demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah and use force to end the protests, something they have neither the right nor authority to do.
I don't see how this can logically be so. It's a possible conclusion, yes, though the police won't be able to go very far with it if the court objects, which means they've cooked up a stupid policy and will now be forced to back down. But it's clearly not "the only conclusion". It might be the particular police officer, on his own authority, made a serious misjudgment. Perhaps he was convinced things were about to spin out of control and he responded as best could, while the court saw it differently, as courts and police officers often do all over the world. Perhaps the officer who should have been in charge was called away unexpectedly because his mother in law was hospitalized and his replacement wasn't briefed on the situation. I'm making this up, of course I am, but so is the editor of Haaretz.

The bottom line is that freedom of demonstration has been defended, as it must be, though 17 people wrongly spent 30-some hours in detention and didn't enjoy it at all.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

thank you for defending the right of police officers to be fallible/imperfect human beings - that is something that is done so rarely that the exception makes me feel really good
rgds,
Silke

Jon said...

Can you provide evidence for the claim that the Jews moving in have a decent legal basis for living there? Because I know that every "peace activist" is gonna claiming they don't, so it'll help to be aware of the basis for our claim.

Yaacov said...

Well, Jon, Jews have slowly been moving in to the Shekh Jarrah neighborhood, as I said, apartment by apartment, for about 15 years, or something like that. Most moves have been contested in the courts so far as I'm aware, and every case where they've won... they won in a court. The most recent case, from mid-2009, was exactly the same. The Jewish legal owners of the building proved in court not only their ownership, but that the Palestinian family had been refusing to pay rent, and thus were eligible to be ejected. Some other Palestinian families who have been paying rent were not evicted, because the legal case for their eviction, even if the ownership question isn't in question appaerntly, still wasn't enough.

Joe in Australia said...

Can you provide evidence for the claim that the Jews moving in have a decent legal basis for living there?

The essence of the case is simple enough - that the land was illegally confiscated by the Jordanians when they invaded in 1948, and the owners have reclaimed it. The tenants installed by the UN and Jordanians had a special status that meant they could not be evicted, but in some cases they lost it by refusing to pay rent. I don't know what the actual evidence for this consists of, but it was enough to convince the courts on repeated appeals - some of these fights have been going on for over thirty years.

Victor said...

The counter-argument is that thousands of Palestinians were also dispossessed in 1948, so if the Jews of Sheikh Jarrah can go back - and no one actually contests that they were driven from their property by Arabs - then Israel should let in all those Arabs who lost property in the war of independence.

My personal response to that is to take a page out of the anti-Israel handbook. We always accuse them of disproportionately focusing on Israel, when true massacres and genocides are happening in broad daylight, sometimes mere miles from Israeli borders, and are never condemned. They typically reply that injustice is injustice, and it's not their job to take care of all the horrible injustice in the world before focusing on Israel's much less severe form of injustice.

So, in that spirit, the Jewish owners returning to their rightful property is justice. Why should the rightful Jewish owners not be allowed back to their rightful property, confiscated by Arab armies through force, just because some other peoples somewhere else in the world also have claims to some properties that they can't reclaim? Justice is justice, after all, and justice is being done.

Anonymous said...

Yaacov,

The reason the issue in Sheikh Jarrah is a human rights issue, is that while Jews with legally valid claims to property from before 1948 are given recourse to reclaim their land, Arabs, across the board, are not. It is the discriminatory asymmetry which violates human rights. Does Israel really want to allow all individuals with pre-1948 land claims to realize their rights at the expense of current residence????

And yes, the police said quite explicitly in court that their purpose was to quell the weekly demonstrations, so that they wouldn't have a "Bilin II" on their hands...

Yaacov said...

Heh, Victor. No sooner had you made your point (two of them), someone said it.

My response is different: it's not a question of justice, it's a question of politics. Of what can be achieved. In the long run it cannot be achieved that Jews live in Hebron or Shiloh, even though they have legal and historical justice in claiming to do do; they can't even dream of living in Beirut or Medina (tho who would want to live in Medina). Jerusalem, however: After centuries when things were sometimes murky on that, now they're not. Jews can live in Jerusalem. Obviously they have to prove legal standing in the particular building they wish to live in, but the idea that parts of Jerusalem are or should be off limits for Jews is an unacceptable proposition.
This can be developed further, but the essential position is clear. Jews living in Jerusalem is a good thing.

Victor said...

"No sooner had you made your point.."

I have some experience in these matters ;)

In the long run it cannot be achieved that Jews live in Hebron or Shiloh

I understand your point. I would argue that this outcome has already been achieved, and that this outcome is permanent. Perhaps the Jews of Hebron and Shilo will not be Israelis, but Jews will remain. The only actor which can reverse this outcome is Israel itself, of its own free will. Not even the Palestinians are demanding the removal of settlements like Shilo, deep in Shomron.

If the residents of Shilo and Hebron are willing to slog it out in a Palestinian state - and most are, from my encounters - in order to stay on their land, then why should Israel remove them by force?

Of course, this is an ongoing discussion between you and I. No one else need pay attention.

Anonymous said...

Victor, Yaacov -
But here it isn't some other injustice being done somewhere else in the world: the very same government is selectively allowing "justice" to be done, in a discriminatory fashion. How is that OK? Jews living in Jerusalem is great, but don't the Palestinians who had been living in the property since being placed there in the fifties have some rights? What about Jews who currently inhabit homes or lands previously owned by Arabs? Don't they have rights? How can a policy based on discrimination form the basis of a stable democracy????

zionist juice said...

@ anonymous

it is easy:
israel made laws concerning property of people that were not there anymore, no matter why.
and jordan made laws concerning the same matter.
the territory for which jordan made these laws is not under jordanian authority anymore, but israeli. so israeli authority is quite free about her decision concerning the jordanian 19 years and has no reason to change her own law.

this conflict has 2 sides: a legal and a political. since the legal side is quite clear you try to play the political side (you refer to human rights).
every time something is disliked and has slightly an international character people scream: human rights.

so please tell me: which human rights is the one that is affected here (i say "affected", and not "violated")?
i hope you know the difference (since your concern is the Human Rights).

Anonymous said...

zionist juice - That is precisely the point! It is *Israeli* law which both allows Jews to realize property rights from before 1948, and in practice denies the very same right to Arabs! The human right "affected" is the right to equality under the law - surely you've heard of that one...

Victor said...

It is *Israeli* law

Yes, precisely right, it IS Israeli law, and not Jordanian law, or Ottoman law, or Sharia law or Palestinian tribal law, or even American law which determines the legal outcome of these cases.

Anon, I think you've hit on something very important here, namely, the transformational role of 1948, which inverted the power dynamic of the Levant. The Jews have gone from powerlessness to authority, and they have structured a judicial system that reflects the majority's national ambitions and national priorities, as has every other nation in the world.

The property rights of a (long since displaced) population which launched and supported a war to deny Jews, by force, the right to life and property, is not a primary concern for Jews who survived that war.

If the displaced Arab population wishes to pursue damages, it can take that case up against the Arab regimes which initiated the conflict, and who have yet to bear any price for their crimes.

The human right "affected" is the right to equality under the law - surely you've heard of that one...

Equality under the law is not at issue in this case. Any Israeli citizen (possibly even resident), Arab, Jew or Magyar, can pursue similar cases against unpaying, illegal tenants. Prove that they can't.

Anonymous said...

"... don't the Palestinians who had been living in the property since being placed there in the fifties have some rights?"

Clearly they do. They spent about 30 years arguing their case up the Israeli court system to the top. They got an answer they, and you, don't like — but that's not the same as "no rights", is it?

And on your earlier comment:

"The reason the issue in Sheikh Jarrah is a human rights issue, is that while Jews with legally valid claims to property from before 1948 are given recourse to reclaim their land, Arabs, across the board, are not. It is the discriminatory asymmetry which violates human rights."

Did you write that with a straight face? Jews have legally valid claims to property both in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank from which they were expelled by Jordan in 1948, for which no-one outside Israel offers recourse and about which we hear nothing from the "human rights" community. Many more Jews have legally valid claims to real estate and other property across the Arab world which are never mentioned by Arab or pro-Palestinian voices and for which no recourse is available. The "human rights" campaigners have nothing at all to say on this case either. All of which might lead a cynic such as me to think that their interest is not in human rights at all, but a manipulation of the language of human rights for partisan purposes.

Paul M.

zionist juice said...

@ anonymous

"zionist juice - That is precisely the point! It is *Israeli* law which both allows Jews to realize property rights from before 1948, and in practice denies the very same right to Arabs! The human right "affected" is the right to equality under the law - surely you've heard of that one..."

no. what you are doing is the following. you dislike the situation after a case and since this situation seems to be unjust do you, you state is a violation of the right of equality under the law. but the law is a lot more complicated (and it is a positive (i mean that in the philosophical and not the casual sense) system). law does not lie around in the street and whoever picks it up first succeeds. these people now moving back to some flats in jerusalem had to fight sometimes more about 30 years to be able to move back in. if israeli law would make it easy for them it would not take them 30 years. what they did is the following: they want to get their right (law) and after a long struggle a court decided, that they have the legal right to move back in. this legal situation you describe the israelis have (and as you say the arabs do not) they had just the moment they won the case and executed the sentence by putting it in action. you cannot say arabs do not have the right. all you can say is, that arabs have not taken the steps to achieve the same situation.

the israelis who moved back in have this right only because they won a long struggle in court. if arabs do not go this way it is their one fault, not the inequality under israeli law.

i should add, that each case is different and hence not equal. arguing that a different sentence is a violation of the principle of equality is really not helping.
when israelis go to the US they need a visa and therefor have to attend a meeting in the american embassy in israel. US citizens just automatically get theirs at ben gurion. a violation of the human right of equality???!

zionist juice said...

@anonymous:
law works usually in the way that it takes the more specific law before the more general.
maybe you want to give it a try with the right of property.

Joe in Australia said...

Yes, I think that Arabs should also receive pre-1948 property back. As Yaakov said, there's a political problem with Jewish property in (e.g.) Hebron. I don't know if or how this would be resolved. But as far as ownership goes, everyone should be equal before the law.

Mind you, as I understand it the people fighting eviction in Sheikh Jarrah were evicted because they refused to pay rent - other people who did pay rent to the legal owners were legally entitled to remain. So the evicted residents may have been making a political statement that had unfortunate consequences for them.

Anonymous said...

To say that this situation is purely political and removed from any human rights violation is incorrect. The problem is that these families spent weeks in fear, awaiting their evictions which ultimately occured in the middle of the night when they were violently taken from their home. In addition, the family was offered no compensation for their losses and were simply left on the streets as outcasts, undeserving of any services from the Jerusalem municipality to which they pay taxes and theoretically equal residents of like you and me. This is the human rights violation. You cannot forcibly evict someone from his home without giving them a set date and without providing any compensation. For it is not as if these indiviudal families "stole" these homes, they were placed there by a refugee service after being expelled from their previous homes. If you cannot see the human suffering and the injustice in that, then I guess there is nothnig left to say.

Yaacov said...

Anon -

What you're describing didn't happen. I have no doubt you'll be able to find some media report that says it did, but it didn't. The evictions happened after a protracted legal process; the way these things work, in Israel as in any country ruled by law, is that as the process draws to its culmination, there are any numbers of warnings, stays of execution, appeals and so on; by the time the eviction itself comes around, everyone knows it's coming. How do you think so many media outlets were there in Sheikh Jarrah to report on the event, if not that everybody knew long in advance when it was scheduled to happen?

So if that's the only problem you've got with the process, we're fine, and you can rest assured that nothing untoward took place.

As for the rest of discussants on this interesting thread, I will do my best to respond in a separate post later today (if I find the time), or in the next day or two (if I don't).

Anonymous said...

I don't need to rely on media reports, because I was actually there at the house when the evictions occured. It was at 4 am, weeks after the army's deadline for the evictions had passed. When the court made its decision only a deadline was issued, spanning a period of several months, effectively leaving the family to wait in fear for the day without being able to prepare. Their son slept with his new shoes on every night fearing he would run out of time to grab them if the soldiers were to come that night. The eviction was violent and around 15 people were detained, and one of the family members was injured. I also don't just have a problem with the process of the eviction, but I have a problem with the concept that one family can be evicted from their home so that another family of a different ethnic or religious origin can live there. This goes for both sides.

Yaacov said...

In other words, the legal process was completed, and they lost. The court told them they had to leave, and there was no further recourse. So they didn't. Rather, both sides began a game of having the legal eviction order carried out in a way most convenient to them. The family portrayed it as a sudden act of harshness, the police hoped it could be done without a riot. Doesn't sound like the way the world's media reported it, does it?

I assure you Jews who refuse to pay their rent in spite of facing legal measures, eventually get evicted, too. It takes time, and no international media has any interest,but eventually it happens. Remember that strange murder last year, when a man who refused to pay rent murdered his landlady? If I remember correctly he was furious that she'd initiated legal proceedings.

zionist juice said...

@anonymous

"To say that this situation is purely political and removed from any human rights violation is incorrect."

1. you did not even come up with the right affected here. then saying it is a violation of a human right is like hanging somebody and then sentencing him to death.
2. yes, human rights like international law is purely political. it might seem strange, but international law is a brainchild of the 19th century european nationalism. the nation as one of many (actually nationalism in this sense is quite internationalistic) legal subjects. like civil law is dealing with the relations between human, international law dealt with the relation between nation(state)s (or today states). and i would say that the relation between states is quite political.
3. untill you come up with some positive legal norm that is affected here, we are not dealing with a legal issue.


"The problem is that these families spent weeks in fear, awaiting their evictions which ultimately occured in the middle of the night when they were violently taken from their home."

but that is a totally different issue and has nothing to do anymore with the first one (human rights, and so on). that is a case of how to put the law in action. (actually by complaining on that you acceot that they had no right to be there but complain about the way it was presented to them.)

"In addition, the family was offered no compensation for their losses"

they did not lose anything but their right to live in a place they did not own. what they effectively lost is the right of a tenant. and they did so because they refused to pay the rent. it is their own fault and nobody should be forced to compensate them for their own faults.


"You cannot forcibly evict someone from his home without giving them a set date and without providing any compensation. "

yes you can.

"If you cannot see the human suffering and the injustice in that, then I guess there is nothnig left to say."

you are mixing up morals and laws. that something seems to be injust (for you) does not imply that it is illegal (by law).


" It was at 4 am, weeks after the army's deadline for the evictions had passed. When the court made its decision only a deadline was issued"

so, after the court sentence they had enough time to look for a new place. they did not end preferred to deny reality. with the passing of the deadline they had not right to stay there. and hence had to predict that the authorities could come anytime to evict them!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

Earlier I suggested that you weren't arguing in seriousness; it's clear now that you really aren't.

"I don't need to rely on media reports, because I was actually there at the house when the evictions occured. It was at 4 am, weeks after the army's deadline for the evictions had passed. When the court made its decision only a deadline was issued, spanning a period of several months, effectively leaving the family to wait in fear for the day without being able to prepare. Their son slept with his new shoes on every night fearing he would run out of time to grab them if the soldiers were to come that night."

You had time to prepare: You and others like you evidently camped outside the house from the date of the deadline to the date of eviction. The son had time to prepare: He used it to make sure he had his most treasured possessions on hand (or rather, foot). Why didn't his parents prepare, by finding a new home, or by moving their belongings to storage somewhere else, or by sending their child to stay with a relative or friend, away from the scene of trauma and possible danger for him? Why didn't you use the time to help them with those necessities?

Under your theory of law no evictions would be possible for anyone, ever. All they would have to do is decline to make any preparations to leave and "human rights", as imagined by you, would ensure that they were left in peace. With eviction off the table, the concepts of "rent" and "mortgage" would immediately follow, since no-one could be forced to stand by their contractual agreements to pay. With no rent or mortgage, there would also be no houses and apartments. Is that a human rights outcome you're looking for?

Paul M.

Anonymous said...

Again, what about the lack of symmetry? Jews with pre-1948 property in East Jerusalem can sue under the normal laws in Israel governing private real estate; whereas Palestinians with property in Israel from before 1948 are barred by law (The Absentee Property Law) from seeking recompense. The question of what should be done with pre-1948 property is one that should be left to the politicians to decide; but meanwhile, we can't be having discriminatory, one-sided policies.

zionist juice said...

@ anonymous

"Again, what about the lack of symmetry? Jews with pre-1948 property in East Jerusalem can sue under the normal laws in Israel governing private real estate; whereas Palestinians with property in Israel from before 1948 are barred by law (The Absentee Property Law) from seeking recompense."

israelis can go to court in israel and get back their property back in israel, which includes east jerusalem. (they cannot get back property in yemen, or baghdad or so.)
for arabs it is the other way around (they have however the possibility to go to court in israel and they can even challenge the absentee law in the sc.)
there is no lack of symmetry.



"The question of what should be done with pre-1948 property is one that should be left to the politicians to decide; but meanwhile, we can't be having discriminatory, one-sided policies."

this decision by politicians has been made. hence the absentee law.

Anonymous said...

"Again, what about the lack of symmetry?"

I believe zionist juice gave you an accurate answer. If you are an Israeli, Israeli property rights are the same whatever flavour of Israeli you are. If you are a member of a nation that tried to erase Israel in war, the laws that apply are different — but you have a better chance of a fair hearing from an Israeli court than anyone punished for the crime of being a Jew in an Arab country has with a court in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen....

With your interest in justice and human rights, it surprises me that you don't seem to understand that some Arabs are Israelis or legal residents and some aren't; that Israel treats citizens and non-citizens differently under the law (as does every other country, without exception); and that the treatment of non-Israeli Arabs is a pale shadow of the treatment of Jews in Arab lands. I know it's an increasingly specialised world; you must be a specialist in the human rights of Arab non-rent payers in East Jerusalem.

Anonymous said...

Comment at 4:35 AM from Paul M.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you are absolutely mistaken. The Absentee Property Law in Israel applies not only to Palestinians who became refugees during the war and left properties behind, but also to not a small number of Palestinians who are today Israeli citizens, and who became "Present Absentees" under the law. They are legally *unable* to reclaim their property. Not because they are not full citizens, but because their property falls under the range of properties dealt with by this particular law. The Jewish property in Sheikh Jarrah became Absentee Property under *Jordanian* law until 1967, and when it came under Israeli jurisdiction it came to be governed by the regular Israeli land laws. Thus, the Jews who had been separated from their property before 1948 were able to achieve recognition of their ownership in the Israeli courts, while Palestinian property governed by the Israeli Absentee Property law continues to be administered by the Custodian of Absentee Property, and in many cases has already been sold to others. Selectively allowing some people to reclaim pre-1948 property, not only implicates the right to equality, it is also extremely anti-Zionist.
Take a look at Ben Dror Yemini's article in Yedioth Aharonot:
http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/042/015.html
I assume, of course, given how knowledgeable you are on the subject, that the fact that it is in Hebrew shouldn't be a problem...

Yaacov said...

Well, not really. Yemini, as always, is well informed and intelligent, and his column is far more complex than your synopsis.

Anonymous said...

Yaacov,
I never said the situation wasn't complex, and I wasn't trying to provide a synopsis of Yemini. I was answering the anon who said that there is no discrimination against Israeli Arabs as regards land rights. Just because a situation is complex doesn't mean there aren't human rights implicated.

Yaacov said...

Yes, but Yemini said more than you're attributing to him: indeed, the law isn't being applied evenly, but the politics should be overriding them anyway, and a couple of other things too.

I'm trying to write a post about this, so I'll leave off here and continue there.

Anonymous said...

Could someone translate the Yemini article for those of us who are hebraically challenged?

One issue I've seen mentioned, but I don't know how important it is in the court's decision:
While the Jordanians confiscated the land, in accordance with their laws,they didn't transfer the title to the Palestinian families. But I have to say,the English reporting on the whole subject is horrible.
t34zakat

Anonymous said...

Yaacov,
I totally agree that ultimately a political solution will have to be found. But it is absolutely unreasonable - until such a solution is found - to allow selective implementation. It totally undermines democratic principles...If we want to freeze the situation until political resolution that's fine; but it has to be across the board.