Earlier this month, the Israeli Supreme Court woke up from a deep slumber and issued an order to the government to evacuate the illegal outpost of Migron on the bypass road between Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements north of Ramallah. Migron, according to founder Itay Harel, was originally established on the hilltop in 1999. The settlers claim to have bought part of the land in 2004 from a Palestinian owner – but as Matti Friedman reported for AP in 2008,the claim rests on a document that the man purportedly signed and had notarized in California over 40 years after he died.
The Palestinian owners of the land on which Migron stands went to court in 2006, with the help of Peace Now, to demand that the government remove the squatters on their property. Before the Court, the state admitted that the outpost was an egregious violation of the law but said it wanted to build a new neighborhood in a different settlement for the lawbreakers to enable a peaceful evacuation. The outpost settlers rejected that deal. If the Migron ruling achieved only moderate headlines, it was partly because March is a long way off and no one really believes the state will carry out the orders, and partly because the top acreage on newspaper and website front pages had already been seized by the growing economic protests of the July 14 movement.
In this morning’s Ha’aretz, defense reporter Amir Oren has a story saying the police have run out of patience with the tent city on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv and elsewhere around the country, and are preparing to dismantle them – if need be, by force. The article is a classic example of what’s wrong with Israeli reporting on security issues, even though it’s hard to find the security issue here. The source is clearly a cop wearing much brass on his shoulder, but the story contains no attribution whatsoever, thereby making arguments into facts. “Another two or three complaints from passers-by about thefts or from women about sexual harassment, another melee, more demands from desperate neighbors to remove the nuisance,” says Oren, and the police will act. We are given no information on how many such complaints there have been, or how many fistfights have occurred. In the original Hebrew, all of that’s in a conditional dependent clause, asserted but not proven.
Previous posts on the Israeli economic revolt:
The tent cities began less than a month ago and are expressions of the right of the citizens to protest. But the patience of the authorities, infinite when it comes to outpost settlers, has already burned out. The government, we will note, has not offered to build the protesters new neighborhoods in order to encourage them to leave. There’s too high a risk they’d accept.
There are at least four reasons that the police and army have never acted against Migron, and have left nearly all the other outposts in place:
- While illegal, the outposts were backed by top officials with either the acceptance or support of elected leaders, as a means to continue to seize more West Bank land;
- The outpost settlers are known to use violence;
- So many of the army’s commanders and combat soldiers now come from the pro-settlement religious right that sending units into a major evacuation effort means risking mutiny;
- The outpost settlers have strong backing from Knesset members inside the coalition.
The July 14 movement, on the other hand, has only the justice of its cause and the legitimate right of protest.
In order to build a wide coalition, leaders of the movement have avoided raising one cause of economic equality: the state’s vast spending on settlements. I understand the political choice, although it involves ignoring the elephant in the tent. But if the government does order the cops into action against the tent cities, it will be even more difficult to avoid keeping the issues apart. The government’s policy is that an Israeli citizen may establish an encampment if he or she so pleases – as long as it’s over the Green Line and is part of the ethnic conflict over the land, not the economic conflict over the use of Israel’s wealth.