Inequality before the law

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People who are concerned about maintaining the rule of law in Israel have great reason for worry these days. The sine qua non of a society ruled by law is the principle of equality under the law. In a society governed by the rule of law, individual citizens can trust that the state's law enforcement arms will treat them in the same manner as their fellow citizens.

When instead, a society's law enforcement arms determine how a citizen will be treated on the basis of his or her political convictions, religious orientation or any other extraneous factor, then the rule of law is trampled. The principle of equality before the law is replaced by the tyranny of law enforcement arms.

Disturbingly, both recent events and empirical data indicate strongly that today Israel is not ruled by law. Instead, and to an alarming degree, Israel has become a society ruled by politicized law enforcement bodies that selectively enforce the law based on an individual's political affiliation and ethnic origin.

Last week, a government-appointed committee charged with assessing the phenomenon of massive illegal seizures of state lands in the Negev by Israeli Beduin submitted its recommendations to Housing Minister Zev Boim. The committee, chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, recommended "legalizing" 50,000 illegal buildings constructed on state-owned lands and giving legal recognition and state funding to 42 illegal settlements constructed over the past several years by Beduin on state-owned land.

Boim enthusiastically accepted the Goldberg Committee's recommendations and pledged to bring them before the government for a vote before the February 10 elections.

Both the Goldberg Committee's report and Boim's embrace of its findings are stunning. They represent a complete capitulation of state authorities to criminality of unprecedented dimensions. This lawless behavior, in which vast tracts of the Negev have been stolen from the state, has been actively abetted by the state itself – and particularly by its legal bodies.

The Supreme Court, in response to petitions on behalf of the Beduin lawbreakers submitted by far-Left organizations, has repeatedly prohibited the government from taking any action against the land thieves. And the state prosecution has refused consistently to open criminal investigations or file indictments against the Beduin, not only for their illegal seizure of land, but for their massive criminal activity which spans the spectrum from polygamy, to agricultural theft, extortion, racketeering, drug trafficking and treason.

Responding to the Goldberg Committee's report, right-wing members of Knesset called for the government to legalize all the Jewish Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria that were built without proper authorization over the past decade. Their reasoning is clear and sensible: If the state has decided to ignore the law with relation to the Beduin, then it must also ignore the law as it relates to Jews.

BUT THAT'S the thing of it. The non-enforcement of law towards Israeli Arabs and indeed towards Palestinian Arabs is one side of the coin of the politicization of law enforcement by Israeli legal officials. The other side of the coin is over-enforcement of the law against right-wing Israelis who reside in Judea and Samaria and their political supporters throughout the country.

At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak excoriated the lower courts for what he claimed is unjustified leniency in their treatment of Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. "We must be more severe in punishments meted out to lawbreakers in Judea and Samaria," he said to his colleagues. He then mapped out how the Defense Ministry, the IDF and the police are working together to clamp down on Jewish residents of the areas.

What apparently got Barak's goat was the decision by Jerusalem Magistrate Court Judge Malka Aviv last week to release Zeev Baroudah from jail. Baroudah was arrested in the wake of the legally questionable and violent expulsion of some 200 Israeli Jews from the Jewish-owned Peace House building in Hebron on December 4.

The police claimed that Baroudah shot two Palestinians without provocation. The police based their contention on a video of his purported crime that was filmed by the pro-Palestinian far-left B'tselem organization. The video, which was shown repeatedly by the local media in prime time news broadcasts, portrayed Baroudah as a cold-blooded, would-be killer. And on the basis of this interpretation of the video, he was remanded to custody for a week.

Yet Aviv noted that the video itself did not show what either the police or B'tselem claimed it showed. Rather, it showed that Baroudah was the victim of an attempted lynch by Palestinians. As she put it in her decision, "From the film I saw, it is clear that the attempt to lynch the suspect [Baroudah] took place while he was lying down helpless on the ground while in the film we see Palestinian residents coming and joining in the attack against him without provocation or justification, simply with the goal of kicking and hitting the suspect."

Aviv accused the police of negligence for not arresting any of the Palestinians filmed attacking Baroudah. Arguing that he shot off his gun in an attempt at self-defense, she released him to his home in Kiryat Arba.

Both the police and the state prosecution immediately tried to force Aviv to cancel her decision. According to a statement she released later that day, both representatives of the State Attorney's office and police commanders paid unsolicited visits to her chambers and demanded that she revise her decision. They argued that her decision contradicted media reports alleging Baroudah's guilt that were published in both Israel and abroad and that as a consequence, she was likely to cause grave damage to Israel's international image if she did not send Baroudah back to jail. In explaining her refusal to back down, Aviv noted that her job is to adjudicate on the basis of facts and not on the basis of media reports.

Later that day, the District Court bowed to massive pressure by the police and the State Attorney office. While agreeing with the Magistrates Court's assertion that Baroudah was the victim of an attempted Palestinian lynch, Judge Orit Efal-Gabbai allowed that he might be a danger to Arabs and so remanded Baroudah to house arrest. Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein upheld the District Court's decision, after the State Attorney again appealed the decision not to send him to prison on Sunday.

On the face of it, it seems strange that the police and the State Attorney's office would go to such lengths to remand a suspect to custody in the face of documentary evidence, pointed out by Aviv, showing that there is significant doubt as to both his guilt and the danger he manifests to society. But unfortunately, this is routine practice.

LAST WEEK the right-leaning Organization for Human Rights in Judea and Samaria published a report which demonstrated that Israeli Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria are discriminated against by law enforcement agencies including the police and the state prosecution as a matter of general policy. This is true in comparison to the general population of the country and even more blatant in comparison to the state's treatment of both Palestinian and leftist Israeli lawbreakers in Judea and Samaria.

The report was based entirely on data published by the police and the state prosecution, court records, official state prosecution regulations, and official statements by police commanders and representatives of the State Attorney's office. Among other things, it shows that the number of policemen per Israeli citizen is four times larger in Judea and Samaria than in crime-infested Acre, and five times larger than in equally crime-infested Netanya.

The tendency of police to open criminal investigations against right-wing
Israeli Jewish suspects in Judea and Samaria when no complaint has been filed against them is 80 percent greater than the tendency of police to open such investigations in the rest of the country.

In Judea and Samaria, 38 percent of criminal investigations against right-wing Israeli Jews end in indictments. The national average is 14 percent. On the other hand, the conviction rate for indictments against right-wing Israeli Jews in Judea and Samaria is a mere 54 percent, while the national conviction rate is 97 percent. As the report's authors point out, this finding is particularly devastating as it shows that the first instance where Israeli Jewish suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty is in the courts themselves.

EVERY FRIDAY, leftist activists descend on Judea and Samaria where they conduct violent riots against IDF forces and border guards involved in the construction of the security fence. Yet, of the 400 criminal investigations opened for disturbance of the peace in 2008, only 38, or nine percent, were opened against leftists. And none have led to indictments.

Even more disturbingly, the State Attorney's office operates a special forum, the "Follow-up and Coordination Team," chaired by Deputy State Attorney Shai Nitzan. Team members include representatives of other departments in the state prosecution, the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Civil Administration. Its purpose is to oversee the collection of intelligence against Israeli Jewish residents of the areas, to prepare investigations, open investigations following media reports critical of Israeli residents of the areas, and reopen investigations that were closed.

The team convenes every month in spite of the fact that it was officially disbanded by then attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein in 1998. Rubinstein disbanded the forum following Knesset and government orders declaring the forum, whose existence had been kept secret, a serious abrogation of the principle of equality under the law.

According to the left-leaning Israel Democracy Institute's annual Democracy Index, between 2004 and 2008 the public's trust in the state prosecution has nearly halved descending from 66 percent in 2004 to a mere 35 percent in 2008. Public trust in the Supreme Court has similarly plunged from 79 percent in 2004 to 49 percent in 2008.

In light of all of this, it is disturbing that whenever politicians speak of the necessity of upholding the rule of law in Israel, they state in the same breath that it is vital to uphold the extraordinary powers of the Supreme Court and the state prosecution. Whether these statements – by politicians across the political spectrum – stem from agreement with the legal fraternity's radical political agenda, or fear of its unbridled power and its willingness to undertake politically motivated prosecutions, the fact of the matter is that these statements exacerbate the current, unacceptable situation.

If Israel is to become again an open democracy ruled by law, ahead of the elections, it behooves all citizens to demand that our political leadership rein in our law enforcement arms and require them treat all citizens equally before the law.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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10 Comments

  • Marcel Cousineau 12/16/2008 at 2:57

    While reading your article John Loftus’ book The Secret War against the Jews came to mind ,only today the battle has spread into the heart of Israel with Jew’s doing the dirty work for their goy masters against fellow Jews under the lies of enforcing the law and bringing peace.
    You did a great job of exposing their evil hypocrisy.
    The hellenized Jews whose only raison d’etre is to grovel at the feet of the goyim abuse the last holdout Jews of Israel with the same spirit and hate that drove the Nazi’s.
    I read many of Israels media talkbacks and the hatred of the secular Israeli against the so called settlers is just as evil as the hatred of Iran’s Amadinejad and Germany’s Hitler.
    The leadership of Israel from Barak to Netanyahu instill this hate and incite the majority against the settlers.
    They are following orders to kill the Zionist spirit of building up the land of Israel.
    Everyone from Gordon Brown to George Bush see settlments as an obstacle to the end goal of the master they serve, Satan.
    The bloody Palestinian killers do not garner this much hate so it’s easy to see that the spirit of hell has risen up to war against the last remaining faithful Zionist settlers.
    We saw the zealous black boots of the State of Israel in Amona brutally crushing skulls and shedding Jewish blood for the cause of their fellow devils and their Road Map to what Abba Eban called Aushwitz borders.
    I am not surprised that there are so many secular Israseli’s who throw their lot in with the evil forces of our day and turn on the faithful Jews whose only crime is building on their land in obedience to God.It’s always a small remnant who stand up against the majority who choose to follow after evil.Young David had to go alone against the giant Goliath.
    One thing I am sure of is they have made their bed in hell and will shortly be joining their fellow travlers there soon.The present worthless government of Israel has been impotent to make null and void the threat from Hizbollah and Hamas but they have great success in their war against fellow Jews.God’s justice is nothing like the injustice of the corrupt political whores of Israel who love to please their evil masters by showing extreme brutality to fellow Jews as they show extreme mercy towards the Palestinian terrorists.
    Even though there is no justice from the evil courts against the Peres,Barak,Olmert,Livni traitors who have sold out the nation to it’s enemies divine justice will come to each of them sooner than later because God is with the small and faithful remnant of Israel and He is against this evil hellenized government. The Hannukah spirit lives on ,the hellenized Jews didn’t and won’t.

    Reply
  • Ron Grandinetti, USA 12/16/2008 at 3:00

    Caroline, good grief. Not only is Israel besieged by neighboring terrorist, it must contend with the left wing in their own country.
    The law should apply to all citizens alike, regardless of race, creed, color or religious affiliation.
    There is a definite need for the citizens of Israel this election to cast their vote and let their voices be heard.
    I trust it will be for a right wing conservative who will see to it that equal justice will prevail.
    What is unique in Israel, both young men and women serve their country willingly in spite of the obligation. They play a very important role in safeguarding their country. The citizens of this Jewish Nation should be proud of them.
    I am sure you saw the nut that threw his shoes at President Bush while in Iraq. More disturbing was the news cast of Arabs protesting in the streets. God, this is the likes of which the Israelis have to put up with. Trust me, they don’t act civil. These are mob scenes. Can you imagine what good could be accomplished if they were to channel all this hate and energy into helping themselves.
    Now I know why the wall was erected. Unlike East Germany to keep the folks locked in, but rather to keep the likes of these folks outside.

    Reply
  • Marc Handelsman, USA 12/16/2008 at 4:21

    Israel’s left-wing judiciary won’t change until Likud regains the premiership. Liberal jurists will continue “meshuguna” jurisprudence, and undermine the rule of law. Kadima and likeminded neo-libs want to appease Arabs, and have peace at any price. The media portrays Zionists as lawbreakers who are against the so-called peace process. The current government believes that Jewish cities in Yesha are an obstacle to peace. The biggest obstacle to peace is that Arabs will not genuinely recognize Israel’s right to exist. And neo-liberals are in denial about Radical Islam’s desire to wipeout Israel.

    Reply
  • Ron Grandinetti, USA 12/16/2008 at 13:50

    What Israel doesn’t need is divisions among themselves. Pardon my ignorance and I try to understand from reading the Post. I find it hard to imagine why Jewish settlers are not permitted to build up in Judea and Samaria. This land belongs to the Jewish people and they have a right to be there.
    Most disturbing is when I read about secular-Jews. How is that? Again, this is the secular-progressive movement we see in America. If anything Israel must not be driven away from their religious heritage.
    I didn’t invent it “Together we stand, divided we fall”. Israel has enough to deal with from outsiders who want to destroy her, least they need is division from within.
    What is needed is the solidarity of the Jewish people to insist that they have not only the right to exist but to exist in all of Israel. That includes the section of Israel on the map that looks like a kidney bean. The West Bank if I am correct.
    This election is very important for the people of Israel. Be sure to get out and vote and above all, please remember you Jewish heritage. God led you to this land; for God’s sake keep it.

    Reply
  • PhilS 12/17/2008 at 0:21

    Caroline and Marc, do you really think Nethanyahu will make a difference in this issue? Will he stare down the courts or change them? Quite unlikely.

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  • NormanF 12/17/2008 at 1:02

    I don’t see any change in the offing. The Left is thoroughly entrenched in the Israeli prosecution, judiciary, police, security services and the intelligence community. It would take nothing short of a revolution to remove their destructive presence from Israeli life. The best that can be expected is public respect for the law and the state will continue to plummet, seeing that it is used as ideological instrument to impose the will of a small section of Israel’s population upon the rest of the country.

    Reply
  • Scott 12/17/2008 at 9:40

    Why do you wonder,Caroline?Israel is part of the West,which has decided to dedicate itself to pornography,multiculturalism,etc.,and to pander to its enemies.My God,we toppled Bolshevism less than a generation ago,and yet we cower before Islam…

    Reply
  • Ron Grandinetti, USA 12/17/2008 at 16:15

    For Scott
    I don’t believe that Israel is part of the West. What I do believe is that the secular-progressive movement is alive and well in both the U.S. and Israel.
    Direct people away from their faith and gain control of the young minds. George Soros is a big promoter of this.
    This is why it is very important for the Israelis to stay close to their religious heritage and practice the faith. The good nuns in Catholic school would say if you are a good Jew or Christian you will no doubt be a good citizen. One goes along with the other.
    If you get an opportunity pick up the book (a best seller) “Culture Warrior” by Bill O’Reilly. He exposes the secular-progressive movement.

    Reply
  • Marcel Cousineau 12/18/2008 at 14:51

    Caroline ,did anyone else make the connection with this training and the soon coming ethnic cleansing of Jews from their homesin Judea and Samaria ?
    54 police officers hurt during drill
    The drill involved 6,000 police and Border Guard officers. The injuries occurred after “rioters” apparently used excessive force on “peacekeeping” officers during a mock disturbance .
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3640883,00.html
    —————————————-
    We can see that this has nothing to do with Hamas in Gaza but that they are preparing to remove fellow Jews from Judea and Samaria for President Bush’s vision of an other Islamic state in the heart of Israel.
    The treacherous leadership are driven to religiously follow and obey the agenda of the nations in dividing up Israel to the Islamic hordes for no peace.
    It would be wise not to participate in this cursed plan.
    We saw what it accomplished in Gaza.
    How can Israels leaders be so stupid to continue on with this failed agenda unless it is evil which they follow after.
    A curse will fall upon this evil agenda and those involved with it .
    Remember Sharon’s end and the crook Olmert’s disgrace and fall from power for their actions against fellow Jews .

    Reply
  • Marvin 12/20/2008 at 8:23

    At least get the kids out of the self immolating country called the only ‘democracy’ in the Middle East.
    Time for a “KINDERTRANSPORT” to America…

    Reply

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