One of the most disturbing side effects of the five-year-old Palestinian terror war against Israel is the wave of global anti-Semitism that arose in its wake. The fact that the new anti-Semitic wave is rooted in the Left rather than the Right is shocking for the majority of Western Jewry, which for generations has been politically aligned with the Left.
The main manifestation to date of the institutionalization of leftist anti-Semitism has been on the international legalistic front at the UN and its protean chorus of international human rights organizations. But on January 2, the trial of Zionism and World Jewry will be enacted not in an international legal forum of questionable credibility but in a Federal District Court in Virginia. There, two former senior staffers from the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, will be tried on charges of "conspiracy to communicate national defense information to people not entitled to receive it," which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The two are suspected of having received classified information from former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin and of having passed this information to Naor Gillon of the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
As Eli Lake points out in the current issue of The New Republic, "prosecution of this kind is unprecedented." And yet, given the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic build-up it received since word of Franklin's investigation was leaked in August 2004, it would seem that this unprecedented case, which ascribes criminality to lobbyists engaged in work that Washington lobbyists and journalists engage in on a daily basis, is simply a step forward in the five-year assault on Israel and its advocates among World Jewry.
Almost as disturbing as the decision to prosecute Rosen and Weissman is the meek reaction that their indictment has elicited in the American Jewish community. Rather than launch a concerted and indignant public defense of these men, the organized Jewish leadership has remained mainly silent.
For its part, AIPAC fired both men and has disassociated itself from them. Pathetically, the pro-Israel lobby has sought to deal with the prosecution of its now former employees by symbolically separating itself from Israel. At its annual conference last April, for the first time since its founding, the group refrained from singing Hatikva at its dinner.
Sadly, no attempt to disassociate themselves from Rosen and Weissman will mitigate the damage that their prosecution has and will continue to cause for American Jews. Very simply, if these men are found guilty next winter then all Americans who seek to lobby the US government on behalf of Israel will be placed under scrutiny.
BUT PEOPLE in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and in Israel we have our own brand of anti-Semitism and our own anti-Zionist show trials. In Israel, the international Left's rejection of the Jewish state has caused an abandonment of Zionism by its Israeli fellow travelers. Israeli leftists – first at the fringe and subsequently in its mainstream establishment – have accepted the view propagated by the international Left that Israel has no right to exist or to assert its sovereign rights as a Jewish state.
Case in point is the trial of Avri Ran that is set to begin in the Kfar Saba Magistrate's Court next Tuesday. Ran, a rancher in Western Samaria, is accused of aggravated assault against two Arabs who infiltrated his cultivated clover field this past March with a tractor. Ran's case exposes two of the central pathologies of the Israeli Left – its activists' campaign to criminalize Jewish sovereignty and its establishment's acceptance of their right to do so. If these pathologies are not contended with, they have the potential to endanger the survival of Israel as the Jewish state.
Over the past decade, Ran has become a symbol of almost mythic proportions of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria. For his supporters Ran is a symbol of all that is good and right about Zionist settlement in the Land of Israel. For his detractors Ran is a symbol of the hated religious Jewish settler. Ran earned his position as a symbol legitimately.
Ran is the father of the settlement ideology that Jews must expand our settlement of the Land of Israel by squatting on strategic hilltops in Samaria and Judea that are classified as state land and cultivating them. Since he moved to Samaria 12 years ago, Ran and his family have built four hilltop settlements west of the community of Itamar. In each case, Ran financed his moves with his own money and protected his settlements without assistance but in full coordination with the IDF.
Seven years ago, Ran established the "Eternal Hills" ranch and has turned it into the largest organic farm in the country. The closest Arab settlement to "Eternal Hills" is Hirbat Yanoun, a tiny Arab community whose population had dwindled to two people by early 2003. Indeed, the entire region of Western Samaria is almost empty of Arabs.
The fact that Ran had apparently hit on a successful manner of settling the land caused a furor in the radical Left. Since the outbreak of the Palestinian terror war five years ago, extremist Israeli leftist organizations like Ta'ayush and Rabbis for Human Rights have taken an active role in inciting Arab violence against Israeli settlers and security forces. In the case of Hirbat Yanoun, Ta'ayush members along with foreign volunteers from the International Solidarity Movement moved into the all-but-abandoned village at the beginning of 2003 with the intent of convincing the residents who had left to return.
Their provocations of Ran began almost immediately afterwards. In February 2003, Ta'ayush member David Nir and two foreign volunteers came to the ranch. They were met there by an IDF detachment that they had secured by claiming that they needed to enter the ranch in order to reclaim a video camera and cellular phone they claimed they abandoned the day before. Alerted to the infiltration of the radical Leftists, Ran and his employees ran to throw the trespassers off their property. In the event, Nir claimed that Ran attacked him and bludgeoned him with the butt of his rifle. Ran was arrested and charged with aggravated assault.
In March 2004, Ran, supported by the testimony of three of the soldiers, was acquitted of the charges against him. In her ruling, the judge claimed that Nir's allegations were contradictory and lacked credibility. The judge further stated that Nir "was very passionate in his testimony and I fear that his testimony was stained by a lack of objectivity towards the defendant and that he would not hesitate to point an accusatory finger at him even if the defendant was not involved in the incident."
More disturbingly, the judge noted that the state prosecution had called for the three soldiers' testimonies to be discounted "because their behavior at the event is testimony 'to the sympathies of their hearts' and therefore are not worthy of trust." The notion that Israel's state prosecution can argue that a citizen's political sympathies should in any way discount his credibility as a witness is simply shocking to anyone who believes that justice should be meted out in courts of law without prejudice.
But the fact of the matter is that the view of the prosecution, like the actions of Ta'ayush generally and Nir specifically, has not been influenced by the 2004 judgment. On March 20, 2005, immediately after Ran was alerted that two Arabs had entered his clover field with a tractor and were poised to destroy a year's crop two months before the harvest, he went down to deal with the trespassers with three of his workers. According to his indictment, Ran immobilized the tractor by pulling out its electrical cables and punched the tractor's operator. The other thre
e men are accused of hitting the other infiltrator with a rifle butt.
Before Ran could say Jack Robinson, out popped Nir with Arik Asherman from Rabbis for Human Rights with a video camera (they now claim that their film mysteriously disappeared), and a detachment of police immediately arrived on the scene and proceeded to arrest Ran for aggravated assault.
Although no one disputed that the land in question was cultivated by Ran, and that he owns the farm, the police never questioned the two Arabs as to what they were doing on his field with a tractor. They claimed that the owner of the field asked them to work it, but they never produced this mysterious owner or named him. Israeli law says that a property owner or leaser may use reasonable force to protect his property, and yet, the question of trespass was never raised by anyone except Ran. Instead, the police, the state prosecution and the Supreme Court have repeatedly stated that pending the conclusion of his trial, which is only set to begin next Tuesday – seven months after the altercation – Ran must be prohibited from entering Judea and Samaria lest he repeat his assaults against Arabs and radical leftists who maliciously trespass his property.
FOR THE past seven months, the question of whether Ran can or cannot be released, and under what conditions, pending his trial has been heard in no less than eight separate tribunals. In the latest ruling last week, Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut decided in favor of the state prosecution that insists that Ran manifests a danger to the public and must be jailed pending the completion of his trial. In her ruling, Hayut noted Ran's "ideological zealotry" as one of the reasons for her decision to incarcerate him. In this, Hayut shows that from her perspective, there is a legal significance to a person's ideological motivations for his supposedly criminal actions.
In many respects, Ran's trial, like Rosen and Weissman's trial, is supposed to be a forum for determining whether he is guilty of criminal activity. However, given the ideological basis for the prosecution's pursuit of Ran, both in this case and in the case brought against him by David Nir two years ago, and in light of the prosecution's refusal to even look into Ran's complaint of trespass, his trial, like that of Weissman and Rosen, has become much greater than the sum of its parts.
The question that will be raised before the magistrate's court next Tuesday will quite simply be whether a Jew in the Land of Israel has a right to defend his land against those who seek to maliciously trespass his property. That is, the entire idea of Zionism is about to be put on trial.
As Ran himself put it in a television interview last July, "In the Supreme Court I understood that the legal system is willing to take views and a political situation and to manipulate them to advance processes that suit its own interests. I understand that what I am saying is terrible. There is a civil war going on here. But it isn't a war between brothers and it isn't being fought by both sides."
No, as in the case of the prosecution of Rosen and Weissman so in the case of Avri Ran, this war is being fought against the Jews by those who have internalized the anti-Semitic view that Jews have no right to defend themselves.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.