Israel’s Supreme Court wants Amona demolished. Where are the Palestinian plaintiffs?

They should explain how they came into possession of the land on which the outpost was built, but they’re playing the role of phantom.

By Moshe Arens

There are many differences between the uprooting of the Jewish settlers from Gush Katif and the other settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria in 2005, and the impending destruction of the Amona settlement. In both cases we are facing a human tragedy. During the Gaza disengagement, over 10,000 people were torn from their homes; in Amona a few hundred face a similar fate. In both cases the Supreme Court has the final say.

To those who considered the uprooting by force of thousands of citizens a blatant violation of their civil rights, the court’s decision of June 9, 2005, declaring the Sharon government’s disengagement decision legal, came as a shock to many. They had seen the court as the last safeguard of Israelis’ civil rights. Judge Edmond Levy, a minority of one on the 11-judge panel, declared that the disengagement violated the settlers’ basic rights. But the majority’s decision carried the day.

The judges had declined a suggestion that they visit the settlers and gain an impression of the problem’s human aspect. It was as if they didn’t want to be confused by the human tragedy that was about to unfold and preferred to render their judgment isolated in their chambers based strictly on the legal aspects.

I don’t know if the judges who originally decreed that Amona must be dismantled bothered to visit the site and speak to the families, or if the judges who on November 14 ordered that Amona must be demolished next month have met the settlers. I think they should have. After all, it’s the settlers in Amona who are destined to suffer from the decision.

To legal experts, everything may seem crystal clear based on previous judgments and the legal briefs presented by the plaintiffs and the government. And yet, should the judges not look into the faces of those most affected before pronouncing their sentence? Is there not a slight possibility that this may temper their decision?

And what about the plaintiff? The appeal to the Supreme Court was lodged by Peace Now. They have a political agenda, but they are obviously not the injured party. Where are the Palestinians they represent who claim that Amona was built on land they own?

One would have expected these Palestinians to capture the headlines and be interviewed on television and radio, telling the world and Israelis about the injustice they have suffered. They would explain how they came into possession of the land on which Amona was built; they would explain the plans they had for this land before it was taken from them. But they seem nowhere to be seen.

And the judges ordering the demolition of Amona do they not feel the need to speak to those who claim ownership of the land and hear their side of the story? Or are these people just phantoms, somewhere in background, screened by a mountain of legal documents?

With all due respect to the legal arguments being put forward, and the wisdom of our Supreme Court judges, it doesn’t seem right that the human element – that of the plaintiff and the settlers – is being sidelined. It seems surreal.

“Not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done” is an aphorism well known in legal circles. Is justice really seen to be done in the case of Amona?

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