Thanks to Magnes Zionist for this alternately horrifying and fascinating post about the ways in which Occupation bureaucrats manipulate and exploit Israeli law to further the ends of subjugating the Palestinian people. He ends his post with an amazing Times of London obituary of Plia Albeck, who was Israel’s chief government lawyer dealing with settlements and land issues in the Territories. If Raul Hilberg were to have spent his life documenting the Occupation instead of the Holocaust, Plia Albeck is the type of person he would’ve studied. She in effect made the Occupation’s trains run on time. If there was a need for a new settlement she came up with ways to take Palestinian land and magically transform it into abandoned land and thereby, presto change-o into State land:
PLIA ALBECK, an ultra-Orthodox Jew and key legal adviser to the Israeli Government, was the self-styled “mother” of more than 100 settlements on the occupied West Bank.
A legendary figure among the settlers, she would tour the rocky region, captured by Israel in 1967, by helicopter or Jeep, identifying areas to be designated state property for conversion into Jewish settlements.
“When I visited them I always felt like they were my children,” she once said. “There were more than a hundred settlements that were built because of my legal opinion.”
…Albeck, as head of the Civil Department of the State Attorney’s Office, determined that 1.5 million dunums, or 26 per cent of the land in the region, was state land that could be used for building settlements.
She thus became the legal architect of Israel’s massive settlement programme under the prime ministers Menahem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir in the 1980s. At her peak Albeck, rather than the Attorney-General, signed the documents that determined whether land was privately owned or could be taken over by the Government.
…During the 24 years she ran her department, she bore responsibility for the legal handling of land in the West Bank and provided the legal justification for the creation of settlements.
Albeck never considered the Green Line to be a legitimate territorial boundary and always granted the State peremptory power to appropriate whatever land it deemed necessary:
She began with the premise that any land that Israel takes is state land, and that the burden of proof is on the Palestinians to prove that it is theirs. Asked in an interview last year whether she had personally agreed with the policy she had executed, she replied: “If I had disagreed I couldn’t have carried it out. I never considered the Green Line sacred. It does not appear in the Bible. For the Arabs Jaffa and Haifa are just as sacred as Nablus and Tulkarm.”
Albeck, who was considered a brilliant law student, was expert at ferreting out useful legal stratagems that advanced the State’s interests, while clinging to the fig leaf of the letter of the law:
Albeck, who served with the ministry for 35 years, became a leading expert on the problems of purchasing land in Judaea, Samaria and Gaza. She utilised a legal mechanism relying on land once held by the Ottoman Empire to define many areas of the territories as state land.
The civil administration, under her guidance, conducted a survey of all the land in the West Bank that was cultivated and land that was not. Any land that had not been cultivated for ten years, or had been abandoned for three, was considered to be ownerless and therefore belonged to the State. Albeck saw herself as protecting the rights of Palestinian farmers, while at the same time furthering the Zionist enterprise by allowing the Government to build Jewish settlements.
Albeck’s undoing came at the hands of a Labor Party justice minister who objected to her claim that an MK proposing a bill to aid Arab victims of Jewish terror was being disloyal to Israel:
In 1993 the Labour Party Justice Minister David Libai dismissed her after she gave her professional opinion regarding a Private Member’s Bill, submitted by Haim Oron, calling for compensation for Arab victims of Jewish terrorism. “It is hard to get the impression from Mr Oron’s letter,” she wrote, “that the state of Israel is not precious to him and that he does not understand that as a Knesset member he is obliged to be loyal to the state of Israel.”
This is the story that caught Jerry Haber’s attention and in truth it would’ve made the great satirist Jonathan Swift, author of A Modest Proposal, blush with its sheer satanic brilliance:
On another occasion moderate Israeli opinion was shocked when Albeck advised the Tel Aviv district attorney’s office on how to respond to a Palestinian who sued for damages in 1991 after his wife was shot dead by an Israeli border policeman. Albeck said: “The appellant only gained from his wife’s death. When she was alive, he had to support her, but now he is freed from this obligation, so he has no claim.”
This is monstrous nature of the Occupation. Someone like Albeck undoubtedly slept well at night knowing she’d done well by her fellow Israelis in furthering the interests of the Occupation. She no doubt passed into the Next Life certain she would be sitting among the Righteous. But to quote a Lyle Lovett song: “Maybe God will forgive you, but I won’t.”
Finally, Jerry quotes this equally shocking report by Meron Rapaport about an IDF officer testifying against a Palestinian civilian incapacitated in an IDF shooting:
…At a court hearing on the compensation due a Palestinian injured by [IDF] gunfire during the first intifada [an] “expert witness,”…Moshe Elad, colonel (res.) and a former senior official…in the territories…testify[ied] on whether it was necessary to authorize someone to help the wounded Palestinian, Azem Daher…with his daily needs. Attorney Aharon Landgerten, representing the state, invited Elad to testify although he isn’t an expert on the Middle East or social work, and the last time he visited Jenin [where the victim lives] was a decade ago.
After you read this statement from Elad, you’ll perhaps understand why the IDF fails so miserably in its efforts to “pacify” (or even understand) the Palestinian population:
Elad was vociferous in his opposition to allowing someone to assist Daher. Elad maintains that “on the basis of his many years working in the territories” he has learned that “the code of behavior forbids” allowing a stranger, who is not a family member into the house as a caregiver because this “contravenes the norms of Islam.” He also said that when Palestinian men and women work as caregivers in homes for the elderly or in rehabilitation centers, they do this without their communities knowing about it.
…”A strange man, who would be in the home of the Daher family, will be immediately suspected of contact with a woman who is not his wife,” Elad writes. On the other hand, a woman who works in the family’s home may lose her chance to marry and may even “endanger her life because she may be accused of violating family honor.”
…Though he admitted not have been in Jenin since 1998, he insisted that he has “never seen a woman wearing pants in Jenin.”
Admitting that he is not an expert on the Koran, Elad said that his statements on the ban on strange men in the house is based on “religious rulings of Muslim scholars as far back as the 16th century…”
Dr. Mahajna [the victim’s expert witness] challenged Elad’s conclusions, saying that in Palestinian society in the West Bank it is perfectly acceptable to have strangers as caregivers for the handicapped in private homes. For his part, Abu Hussein presented the court with statistics from the National Insurance Institute which shows that the law on nursing is applied within Muslim communities in Israel with nearly the same frequency as in Jewish communities.
Isn’t it interesting that Elad believes that current Palestinian social norms are governed by “religious rulings of Muslim scholars” going back as far as the 16th century. Did Elad bother to ask the victim whether his own beliefs and practices are governed by such rulings and how can he be sure that any caregiver who might be hired would be so constrained?
Jerry also notes that Elad apparently ignores the thousands of non-Muslims foreign workers perfectly willing to serve as nurses both in Israel or the Territories.
Is this the best that the Israeli government can do in attempting to abscond from its moral and legal obligations to the innocents it maims and kills in the Territories?
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