For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is surely complicated enough without the British government injecting ambiguity into the situation via statements which appear to contradict Britain’s commitment to the rule of law.
Responding to Israel’s decision to evict nine Palestinian families from two houses in east Jerusalem, the British Consulate in Jerusalem has issued an extraordinarily aggressive press statement condemning the move. The evictions followed long and complicated court cases in which it was established that Jewish families held the title to the properties while documents produced by the Palestinian residents were found to be forgeries. On Sunday, the police moved in to enforce the court decision.
The British consulate’s statement says:
“We are appalled by the evictions in East Jerusalem. Israel’s claim that the imposition of extremist Jewish settlers into this ancient Arab neighbourhood is a matter for the courts or the municipality is unacceptable. Their actions are incompatible with Israel’s desire for peace. We urge Israel not to allow extremists to set the Agenda.”
I’m struggling with this. In countries governed by the rule of law, it would seem clear that matters of such complexity can only be decided by the courts. Could the British embassy explain who else should have been called upon to adjudicate? And whilst we’re at it, I wonder if they could issue clarifications on a couple of other matters?
For one thing, the area concerned is referred to as an “ancient Arab neighbourhood”. Is it? In the latest blog entry by Melanie Phillips on the Spectator website (see below) she provides evidence that it is in fact an ancient Jewish neighbourhood and that the homes in question belonged to Jews as far back as the late 19th century. Jews were forced out due to Arab attacks in the 1920s and 1930s. Is the embassy confident it has got its history right? Did it bother to check?
Another matter for clarification is the use of the word “extremists” to describe the people who have now reclaimed their property. Perhaps they are “extremists”. I honestly do not know. But it would seem to be an unusual departure from standard diplomatic practice to describe people in such terms without providing even a modicum of evidence.
Yet another matter for clarification is the use of the word “settlers”. If, as the courts found, the people in question are in fact the rightful owners of the properties then the term “settler” as it is used in the Israeli context is obviously inappropriate. So why was such loaded terminology employed?
Now, let me say in conclusion that I have no opinion on whether the Israeli move was a good idea or a bad one. In addition, if the Foreign Office believes that, regardless of the legal niceties, it was likely to enflame the kind of tensions which would make peace-making more difficult it is perfectly entitled to say so. The Americans, who also condemned the move, appeared to be motivated by precisely such considerations calling it “totally unacceptable”.
The problem is that the British statement is so riddled with ambiguities and so obviously shrouded in the red mists of anger that it serves no other purpose than to slate Israel yet again while leaving us none the wiser as to what we should really make of this.
For a fascinating review of the case, see Melanie Phillips here. .
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"