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There are two subjects that I intend to touch upon here. It’s a bit difficult to decide which is horrendous and which more horrendous.
I will begin with what’s happening right here in Israel, and say that this is “simply” horrendous. Although actually, it’s not “simple” at all: it’s shameful.
I am referring to what is going on in Homesh. On Tuesday morning (January 4) Border Police entered Homesh for the second time in two weeks.
They disabled the electrical system used by the Yeshiva, which has stood at its current location for many years. They also destroyed the temporary homes of a handful of families who had come to give moral support to the students of the yeshiva.
I want to be very clear here about what’s happening. This is not “merely” about IDF/police insistence on disabling a yeshiva that sits on a site that was supposed to be vacated according to the 2005 Disengagement (expulsion). Yehuda Dimentman H’YD, a student at that yeshiva, was murdered by a terrorist just outside of Homesh on December 16, 2021.
The response of the Homesh Yeshiva community was a determination to strength the Yeshiva and the Homesh yishuv (settlement). This was for two reasons. First, as they have said repeatedly, because the goal of the terrorists was to frighten the Jews away. There is a determination not to reward the terrorists for their despicable act by withdrawing: A very reasonable and appropriate determination. To withdraw in the face of terrorism is to put out the message that terrorism works; it invites more.
But there is also the desire of the Homesh Yeshiva community to honor the memory of Yehuda Dimentman by strengthening the yeshiva he so loved. Many times have I written about this impulse, which we have seen time and again when someone is murdered by a terrorist. We Jews don’t rant and rave and call for the death of Arabs: we call for building, strengthening the Land. It is a beautiful thing.
Yet apparently Defense Minister Benny Gantz doesn’t find this beautiful. And apparently he didn’t have enough other things to tend to in order to protect the country. He couldn’t just leave it. He had to put out the order to weaken Homesh. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s smart enough, or sensitive enough, to know he should now hang his head in shame.
And Prime Minister Naftali Bennett? I seriously doubt that he can look in the mirror, this man who had declared himself to be “right-wing.”
Bennett could have called a halt, had he wished to.
A great many people in this country are deeply offended, pained by what is taking place. Many have been awakened by what is transpiring. It still seems that it is because of this that the Yeshiva has not been totally dismantled – although it may yet be.
Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Council, spoke harshly about the situation:
“The Israeli government has lost its compass. There’s never been such a thing. This is the first time that instead of fighting the terrorists, the government’s response on the ground is to fight the victims…
“What is burning for them to destroy family homes, a shelter from the rain for their children? What is this obsession to disconnect and destroy the electrical system of the yeshiva?”
And the Homesh Yeshiva put out a statement (emphasis added):
“…The tremendous support we have been receiving from tens of thousands of people who come to Homesh in the cold and the rain probably stands fast against this plot and does not allow it to be implemented. This is why police officers are sent in this hallucinatory manner in the morning to evict mothers and children from their temporary tent shelters.
“We call on the public to continue to come and support us, strengthen our hold on Homesh, and thus prevent the destruction of the yeshiva!”
Before leaving the issue of the Homesh Yeshiva, I want to set it into a broader context:
A law has just been passed in the Knesset. It is The Electric Law, introduced by Waleed Taha of the Ra’am party (United Arab List), which will allow tens of thousands of houses built illegally in the Negev by Bedouin to be hooked up to the electric grid. This doesn’t just give them electricity, it de facto provides recognition of these houses and allows them to be hooked up to other services – water and phone lines – as well.
The law says that the Interior Minister has two months to approve or forbid the connection of illegal homes to the national grid—or else they get connected automatically.
A law to provide for hooking illegal Bedouin houses to the electricity grid? Why? Because the Bedouin of the Negev constitute a significant portion of the constituency of Mansour Abbas (head of Ra’am, pictured) and he had made promises to them on which he had to deliver. Ra’am insisted that the bill had to pass by Wednesday (January 5).
If the government did not deliver on this, the threat was that Ra’am would pull out and the government would fall. And if the government fell, Bennett and the whole crew would lose their positions of power, likely never to secure them again.
And so — to ensure the speedy passage of the bill — the government ramrodded it through the Knesset in a procedure that the Knesset legal advisor spoke against: an “up or down” vote was called, denying the opposition the opportunity to debate the bill in a democratic process.
The lot of them in the government, including Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar (leader, New Hope), sat still for this, just as they sat still for harassing the religious Jews in the Homesh Yeshiva who are there studying religious texts.
We have not seen the end of this. The opposition is now boycotting all Knesset activities.
And still there is more. At the very end of December, Regavim weighed in on the Homesh issue, declaring with solid reason that (emphasis added):
“The only thing worse than lawlessness is selective law enforcement.”
“The Bennett government’s decision to enforce the law selectively, especially after the murder of yeshiva student Yehuda Dimantman, is shameful and unjust. It’s a political decision that has nothing to do with upholding the law, and a classic example of selective enforcement.”
Most important is this:
“We’d like to remind the decision-makers that, as of 2021, there are 72,274 illegal Arab structures throughout Judea and Samaria. According to Regavim’s satellite mapping project that we shared earlier this month, seven new illegal Palestinian structures were built every day (on average) between 2019-2021.”
Wrap your heads around those shocking numbers; they are not typos.
Having looked at this horrendous situation, I turn now to an even more horrendous one. We here in Israel have to fight inside the nation for a correction of the current situation – and I am confident that in the end we will win.
But everyone who loves Israel must fight for our nation in the face of the overwhelming anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist actions that are taking place at an international level:
In May 2021, the notoriously anti-Israel Human Rights Council established an “ongoing independent, international commission of inquiry” with a mandate to investigate Israel with regard to “all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law leading up to and since April 13, 2021, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem…”
As explained by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “this attack on Israel is unprecedented in the history of the United Nations human rights system in terms of the ‘inquiry’s’ funding, staffing, and permanence.”
The purported impetus for the establishment of this commission was the Operation of the Guardian of the Walls of May 2021, a defensive action taken by Israel after Hamas began to bombard Israel with rockets. Over the course of 11 days, Hamas launched more than 4,000 rockets and mortars at Israel.
None of this was mentioned in the discussions that took place during the “special session” of the Council. It was called only days after the end of hostilities, at the behest of Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the “State of Palestine.”
The resolution that emerged from that special session represented an horrific UN assault on the State of Israel.
“The ‘Inquiry’s’ findings are intended to be used as evidence in criminal legal proceedings. Such criminal proceedings will have one overarching goal: to declare that the Jewish state is a criminal state. The Jews defending it are criminals. The Jews living, working, praying – or simply being – any place where Arabs say they cannot be, are criminals.”
The resolution is also seeking “boycotts, divestment, and sanctions be taken by third states against Israel. The intention is to lay waste to the Jewish state’s economic well-being.”
Chairing this commission is South African Navi Pillay, who served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008-2014. Her term in office was marked by virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
On September 22, 2021, the “Inquiry” formally issued a “call for submissions,” which lays out five topics upon which anyone can write.
The open-ended language it utilizes (e.g. “root causes”) “means this ‘Inquiry’ has been given carte blanche to go back to square one, back to 1948”… to grant a license to rewrite history and to question the wisdom of a modern Jewish state, or to redefine Israel such that it is indefensible and doomed to fail.”
The question before us, then, is how best to respond to this for Israel’s sake.
As we might expect, there is not unanimity regarding how to respond among activists, academics and attorneys eager to advance the best advice for Israel. Rather, there are varying opinions, all proffered with the most sincere intentions.
 There is thinking that the best way to respond is to deluge the commission with evidence of Israel’s propriety of actions – the extreme care taken to avoid civilian deaths, etc.
 Another approach suggests that while the minds of the commission of inquiry are obviously already made up, submissions can expose the commission’s anti-Semitism and make the case before a broader international audience.
 The position that speaks to me most cogently and powerfully is that of international jurist Dr. Avi Bell, professor of law at Bar Ilan University and a Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.
Dr. Bell says there should be no submissions to this UN Inquiry. None.
“One does not respond to bigotry by trying to convince the bigot to think otherwise.” To respond to the bigots is to legitimize them – to treat the situation as if is a normal legal procedure. Acting as if this is about the wheels of justice turning is to strengthen a process that is illegitimate.
The content of submissions intended to criticize the positions of the “Inquiry” will never make it to the attention of the international community, he says. Most likely in the end the Commission would simply publicize the names of all those who provided submissions; it will point to submissions from Jews and others supporting Israel as proof that the “Inquiry” was unbiased, and that Jews and organizations involved with Israel saw fit to participate.
“One blunts the power of the bigotry – that’s how one defeats it,” he says.
What Dr. Bell recommends is taking an active stand against what is happening at the UN from outside that UN procedure.
* Contact legislators who can register protests.
* Reach out to countries that are sympathetic to Israel to take a strong stand.
* Protest to the Secretary General of the UN.
* Call upon non-Jewish lawyers to challenge what is going on. The current process violates the UN charter, which speaks of the equality of states. Singling out of one state is inappropriate.
* Question the legitimacy of the “Inquiry” in public forums. This reduces the power of the Commission to do harm. Treat the “Inquiry” as propaganda.
Dr. Bell’s quotes and positions are drawn from an interview he did with Caroline Glick:
https://carolineglick.com/lawfare-domestic-and-foreign/Start at about minute 53 and following.
And from the notes of a briefing he had provided.
I would like to add something to this.
There is no question but that – in addition to all the other suggestions above – working to promote within the court of public opinion an understanding that this “Inquiry” is maliciously biased and illegitimate is a task of great importance. For the ordinary layperson this means speaking to others, writing letters to the editor, doing op-eds, promoting this position on Facebook, etc.
But I would like to carry this one step further. Even those who recognize the bias of the “Inquiry” may in some instances be affected – even subconsciously – by the negative picture of Israel it seeks to promote. Thus I suggest that, utilizing all of the platforms I’ve just listed, opportunities be utilized for presenting the case for Israel’s historical and legal legitimacy and for Israel’s exemplary humanitarian positions, equal treatment for non-Jewish citizens, contributions to the betterment of humanity, etc.
Please, visit my website for valuable information, and draw on material I present in these postings on a regular basis.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.