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The entire occupation in 140 characters

Professor Aeyal Gross (who occasionally writes op-eds for this site) posted on his Facebook page a quote I found worth sharing.

First, some context: In 1978, Taufic Ayoub, a Palestinian who had his land near Ramallah confiscated by the IDF “for security reasons,” learned of the intention to establish on his property not a military camp, but a civilian settlement for Jews.

These were the early days of the settlement project, and it wasn’t that clear where things were heading. So Ayoub (and other land owners) filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court, claiming that land that was taken for temporary military purpose by the occupation authorities could not be used for permanent civilian projects.

The court ruled against the Palestinians. Justice Miriam Ben-Porat, later Israel’s State Comptroller, wrote (art. D):

“I was troubled by the question whether the term ‘permanent’ settlement indicates an intention to deny the land forever, but I have reached the conclusion that the adjective ‘permanent’ should be seen as a relative concept.”

“Ben-Porat sums up the entire legal pretext for the occupation in 141 Hebrew characters,” wrote Prof. Gross. “I guess that today she would have agreed to settle for 140, for Twitter.”


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    1. louis

      And now Bibi has guaranteed that permanency is the objective, as if we did not know, of the Occupation…

      Reply to Comment
    2. max

      The dear professor and Noam disingenuously extract a legal statement to make a political one. Thanks, Noam, for providing the link to prove how out of context the claim is.
      I wonder how Professor Gross would react to a similar exercise in his class 😀
      Incidentally, Justice Miriam Ben-Porat is considered as one of the judges most active for human rights issues.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Koshiro

      1978? Six years early, I guess.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Max,
      Can you translate for us?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Noam W

      Nothing out of context. Ben-Porat asks whether the settlement is permanent or not, and decides that because a later political decision may remove them they are only relatively permanent.

      That is about as much good as telling the Hebrews in 1AD that the Roman occupation of Judea was not permanent. After all, the empire did eventually collapse.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Noam W

      PS – that Ben-Porat who wrote this opinion is considered a protector of human rights just shows how thin the human rights veneer of the Israeli justice system is once you cross that thin green line…

      Reply to Comment
    7. max

      Sorry, it’s too long for me to translate, but here’s the relevant summary.
      1. A court can only deal with the info it was given by either side, not declarations and decisions that haven’t been substantiated, unless agreed on both sides
      2. The undisputed facts are that the land belongs to the Petitioners and was requisitioned (not confiscated) by the Respondents for security reasons.
      3. Replacement lands were proposed and some accepted
      The land is adjacent to a military base that already existed as such in Jordanian time, proving the importance of its placement
      4. Some of the text deals with the question of applicability of international conventions to state legislature. It explains the difference between International treaty law (needs to be embedded within municipal law) and customary international law (merely declaratory, binding at best at state level)
      5. Framing the legal context as that of the state of Belligerency between Israel and its Arab neighbors, where the Respondent is the Occupying Power
      6. The sides agree that there’s no question about the legality of the requisition as such; the question is whether having a civil use to the land proves that the requisition wasn’t made for security reasons in the first place. [This is an important point: if it was made for security reasons, it may also be used for other reasons without disqualifying the original reason. So legally, the Petitioner has to prove that the original reason wasn’t – or is no longer – valid]
      7. Usage for security reasons doesn’t only mean an army base. In fact, in Israel civilians participate in the overall security concept
      8. The document makes many references to precedence cases and books interpreting international law
      9. The conclusion is that the Petitioners didn’t prove that the use by civilians of the land adjacent to a military base in a position that’s security relevant disqualifies the original reason for the requisitioning, as long as the current situation of Belligerency hasn’t changed
      10. In this context – state of Belligerency and the expected change in position once it’s not anymore effective – that Justice Ben-Porat comments that the reference to the settlement as Permanent may seem to contradict the position that the situation should change once the relationships are normalized by political means.
      She says, however, that she understands the term in the context of normal – relative – language use, contrasting permanent buildings with, say, tents; people who come to live vs. guests. In short, the term doesn’t imply that the permanency will supersede the peace agreement when they come.
      In other words: the legality of the settlement on requisitioned land is only in the context of its security relevancy during the state of belligerency; within a context of peace, it won’t be relevant anymore.
      The reason behind Justice Ben-Porat’s comment was exactly the opposite of what Gross & Sheizaf pretend it to be.

      Reply to Comment
    8. @Max: You actually proved my/our point: the court is stating that the situation is temporary, while it is clear that it is not (as Netanyahu’s recent demands have proved).

      Reply to Comment
    9. max

      Noam Sh., I’m quite happy to read your feedback. Unfortunately, that’s not the message I got from your original post (see comments from others).
      As for Netanyahu: he set up some parameters, some emotional and some relating to security. What do they mean in practice? Let the negotiation reveal.
      To be more specific – though it’s anecdotal and means nothing to the principle: do you know that Ayoub’s land is within the land Netanyahu plans to keep no mater what?

      Reply to Comment
    10. directrob

      So the point the judge is making is that the transfer of these civilians it is not a violation of the 4th Geneva convention or of the 4th the Hague convention because the place they are going is a strategic place and the civilians (because of Israels special situation) are part of a long term temporary security operation.
      I guess you must be Israeli to buy that argument.

      Reply to Comment
    11. max

      directrob, I’m afraid that my legal understanding doesn’t hold a candle to yours

      Reply to Comment
    12. Piotr Berman

      DIRECTROB: this is called “uniquely Jewish perspective”.

      Reply to Comment