Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Michael Sfard: In his father’s name

8 August 2011

By Michael Sfard, Haaretz – 8 Aug 2011

Israel Harel defends the crime, not the criminal, and in his effort to help his son, he justified an immoral, illegal and un-Jewish act.

Michael Sfard

Michael Sfard

Israel Harel would like to defend his son, Itai, one of the founders of the Migron outpost (“My son is not a lawbreaker,” Haaretz English Edition, August 4 ). Harel is furious at the High Court of Justice, headed by its President Dorit Beinisch – which ordered the state in an unprecedented ruling to evacuate the outpost by March of next year – for calling his son and his friends “lawbreakers.”

Harel, Sr.’s defense brief contains three arguments: first, that the state was involved in the building of Migron; second, that inhabitants of the outpost were not allowed to make their case before the High Court; and third, “The issue of Migron’s lands is still being examined by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, and this court – which, unlike the High Court, examines documents and hears witnesses – has not completed its work.”

There is one argument missing from the father’s defense brief: Nowhere does he argue that his son bought the land on which he and his family are living, or that his son received permission from its owners to live there.

Apparently, a situation that nearly every Israeli family knows did not occur in the Harel household: the family dinner, perhaps on Friday night, at which the son and his wife, or the daughter and her husband, delicately ask the parents for help in buying a home of their own. Perhaps this is also why Harel is finding it difficult to understand the tens of thousands of tent-dwellers around the country, whom he scornfully dismisses.

Israel Harel does not deal with the simple fact that the land on which his son and his friends are living is private land, registered properly in the name of Palestinians, who have submitted to the High Court the deeds that prove their family’s ownership of the land. The petitioners’ documents are unequivocal, and the State of Israel is not denying their ownership.

With regard to the petition submitted to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court by the inhabitants of Migron, as mentioned in his article, Harel, Sr. apparently has no compunctions about seriously deceiving readers when it comes to the facts: Indeed, the Magistrate’s Court “has not completed” its examination of the suit filed by the Migron residents – for the simple reason that after they realized it was going to be rejected, the Migron people decided to stop it. It was they who decided to stop the “clarification” process, it was they who chose not to appear before the High Court and not to state their arguments, due to the childish idea that maybe afterward they would be able to reverse the evil decree against them on the technical grounds that their voice had not been heard.

Nor does Harel’s argument as to the involvement of the state in the crime absolve it of responsibility. In fact, the participation of government authorities in an act of robbery makes the matter even more serious. It is also not clear how Harel’s son could be saved by an argument of this sort.

There is nothing more respectable than a father defending his son. I too am a father, I too have sons, I too would want to protect them from any harm to themselves or their reputation. But Harel the Father chose a line of defense that defends the crime, not the criminal, and in his effort to help Harel the Son, he justified an immoral, illegal and un-Jewish act. And he did so even though he had an alternative line of defense, which could have proven that his son operated under extenuating circumstances.

Harel, Sr. – one of the founders of the Jewish settlement in Hebron and Kiryat Arba, a founder of the Yesha Council and the editor for many years of the settler journal Nekuda – could and should have said: “It is not my son who is guilty: I am the one who is guilty. My son did what he was brought up to do. I and the members of my generation in Gush Emunim sowed the seeds of the values that led our sons and daughters to establish Migron and Amona, and many more outposts on privately owned Palestinian land, thus disinheriting the owners of their property.”

Itai Harel and his friends in Migron are the product of an ideology that ignores the rights of the Palestinians around them, and encourages actions to take over, and to prevent their access to their lands throughout the West Bank. This is an ideology that sees another person who isn’t a Jew as an inferior person. Itai Harel did what he has done in the name of his father, and judging by the struggle the son is waging to make his act of theft “kosher” – it seems he is giving his own children a similar lesson.

This is no longer just the Harel family’s tragedy, this is the Jewish people’s tragedy.

Attorney Michael Sfard represented the petitioners on behalf of Peace Now in the Migron case both at the High Court of Justice and at the Magistrate’s Court.

IOA Editor: Michael Sfard has devoted his life to defending the rights of Palestinians under Israeli occupation and other victims of the Israeli state. He undoubtedly knows that the true victims of this tragedy are the Palestinian people.

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