Attorney Tawfik Jabareen explains what did [and did not] happen in the Supreme Court last midnight

Israeli Attorney Tawfik Jabareen, from Um al-Fahm in northern Israel, represents the Bab Al-Shams project and the 4 Palestinian families who own that precise bit of land [and who live on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, and are therefore permanent residents in Israel, carrying Israeli IDs] — who are the Abu Ghannam, Abu Sbitan, Abu-l-Hawa, and Al-Fayad families.

[Attorney Jabareen told me, in a phone conversation this [Sunday] morning, that land in E-1 is owned by Palestinians from Issawiya, just down the slope from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on  Mount Scopus, and from a-Tur, or the Mount of Olives ridge a bit south of Mount Scopus.  But the Bab Al-Shams tent village was sent up on land owned only by the families from the Mount of  Olives]

On Friday, immediately after the Israeli Army went to court to get an eviction order for the tent village that had just been set up, Attorney Jabareen went to the Israeli Supreme Court to get an injunction prohibiting, for six days, the destruction or eviction of the tents — EXCEPT in case of military or urgent security need [it must have been the Court which added this].

The Israeli Supreme Court injunction issued Friday against eviction of Bab Al-Shams is for six days…that is, until Wednesday.

On Saturday morning, the Police approached the Bab Al-Shams tents and told the Palestinians there that they would soon be evicted, because the Court order protected the tents, but not the people.

Attorney Jabareen told me in a phone interview on Saturday that when he was informed of this Police interpretation, he thought at first it was a joke.

Then, he faxed a letter to Police Commander in E-1/Maale Adumim saying that police interpretation of Supreme Court order is wrong.   “The order is very clear”,  #BabAlShams Atty Jabareen said. “It includes tents + people… and it is forbidden for military commander to evict and/or destroy”.

It’s impossible to understand from the Court order that people are excluded from the injunction’s ban on eviction, Jabareen said — though the wording may not have said “both tents and the people in them should not be evicted or destroyed”.

He was very clear — both in his astonished amazement at the reported Police interpretation and in his rejection of this interpretation.

[The Jerusalem Post later wrote: “But the court’s language spoke of the tents, not the people, and added that security factors could shift the decision, Jabareen said”.  The full JPost report is posted here.  But, the economy of language used in the newspaper report belies the meaning of Jabareen’s words.]

If the police or military commander have a different interpretation of Court injunction, he/they must go to the Court, Jabareen said.   And, if any police/military official acts against Supreme Court injunction, then “on his deed a black flag arises” — that means,  it’s illegal, Jabareen explained, translating directly from the original Hebrew wording.

Throughout the day, the Israeli Army + Police kept people from arriving [at least, by car, on the roads] at the Bab al-Shams area on the grounds that the area had been declared a Closed Military Zone.  Palestinians did manage to escape the roadblocks and reach Bab al-Shams Saturday by crossing through the hills and the back roads, on foot.

At 6 pm, just after the end of the Jewish Shabbat, the Prime Minister’s office announced that Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu “has ordered security forces to evacuate forthwith” Palestinians “who have gathered between Maale Adumim + Jerusalem”…

Israeli Attorney and expert on Jerusalem, Daniel Seidemann, said Sunday night on Twitter that one of the main issues here is: “Do the occupied have the right to protest, and is it legal for the PM, or the Military (the real sovereign) to prevent protest?”

      Also Sunday night, the British Consulate in Jerusalem sent out a series of Tweets about the developments in Bab al-Shams, including this one:

UK in Jerusalem @ukinjerusalem#Palestinian#BabAlShams has been declared by the #Israeli army a closed #military zone.

At midnight Israel’s Army gave declaration to Supreme Court about the urgent military need to remove people from #BabAlShams.  While waiting to see if Israeli Supreme Court will rescind the injunction “which is delaying the evacuation”, the Prime Minister’s office noted that the area is now a Closed Military Zone.

Soldiers began moving toward Bab Al-Shams on foot just before midnight, according to reports from those present [see our previous post].  By 2:oo am, those in the tent village knew what was about to happen.  The evacuation operation began at 3 am, and within an hour the 100+ Palestinians in Bab Al-Shams had all had their ID numbers noted down, and been put on police busses.  By 4 am they were driven off — into Jerusalem via the Mount Scopus tunnel, then taking a sharp right turn to Qalandia Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.  At 5 am, the busses let off at Qalandia Checkpoint all those who had been detained.

A few hours later, I asked Attorney Jabareen what had actually happened in Israel’s Supreme Court.   He told me that at midnight Israel’s Army gave declaration to Supreme Court about the urgent military and security need to remove people from Bab al-Shams [note: Israeli officials refuse to utter that name] because a lot of Palestinian and international activists had been gathering in this place, and the Army  said they were afraid of violent acts.  In addition, the Army said, it had information that Israeli right-wing extremists will gather there to protest against the Palestinian action — and this will cause violence and clashes.

The Army did not make any application to the Supreme Court, Attorney Jabareen said, they only submitted this declaration — and  they sent a copy to him.  “The Court did not have to say a word”, he said.  The Court was  not asked by the Army to do anything at all — “nothing!’.

The Israeli Army carried out PM Netanyahu’s Executive order without a word from Israel’s Supreme Court. They acted as if informing the Court of a security threat was enough, and had fulfilled the requirements of the Court’s injunction.  They assumed no approval was needed.

And the Army then acted in Bab Al-Shams.

Attorney Jabareen said that the Army also informed the Court that the tents would not be removed.  But, they said, some of the tents have been built on State land, and some have not.  The Army told the Court that they will, today or tomorrow, check exactly which tents are on State land [and not on the property privately owned by the 4 Palestinian families from the Mount of Olives] — and then the Army will apply to the Court to nullify its injunction concerning the tents on State land, so those tents can be removed…

Attorney Jabareen added that the Army also attached the order from the Military Commander of the West Bank  declaring the area a “Closed Military Zone”.

He said that they did not see any contradiction between their closure of the area and their claim that Israeli right-wing extremists  might arrive [provoking clashes].

The date of the closure order will expire on Monday at 00h30, Attorney Jabareen noted, “but they can prolong it”.

So, Israel’s Supreme Court has not yet said a word [neither YES, nor NO] about what was about to happen, which then did happen, overnight at #BabAlShams.

In an interview with Israel Army Radio on Sunday morning, Netanyahu stated that there will be construction on E-1, as he had announced just after the Palestinian upgrade in the United Nations General Assembly on November 29, become a non-member observer State.  Netanyahu said on the Army Radio  that “We will complete the planning, and there will be construction”,  though of course this “will take time”.

Haaretz’s Chaim Levenson reported that “Haaretz has determined that the tents were put up on private Palestinian land.  In preparing the plans for area E-1 in the West Bank, the state in 2005 examined the records for the lands on which the settlement is to be built. The plan shows an area of 1,500 dunams (375 acres) out of the total 12,000 dunams (3,000 acres?) allocated for construction that Civil Administration figures indicate is privately owned by Palestinians, although the land was not registered officially”.   This was posted here. [It is not clear what that means — “the land was not registered officially” — this requires a follow up…]

According to the Israeli Government Press Office [GPO] daily summary of translations of editorials from the Hebrew press, we were informed that Maariv wrote today: “After the High Court of Justice issued order against evacuation of tents set up by Palestinians and left-wing activists between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem, the Attorney General ruled: The move is required for security reasons. Significance: Evacuation will be possible without an additional discussion”.  This summary was sent in a GPO email. The role of the Attorney-General in this process is not clear, and this also requires further follow-up.

The Israeli Government Press Office [GPO] also informed us by email that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Sunday, 13 January 2013), made the following remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting:
“I would like to praise the Israel Police, with the support of the IDF, for its rapid and determined operation to evacuate the Palestinian gathering in the area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim. As soon as I was updated on the Palestinian gathering, I ordered its immediate evacuation [see here] and it was indeed carried out last night in the best possible manner. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, I would like to thank you and Israel Police Commissioner Inspector-General Yohanan Danino on the excellent operation; I am certain that to the degree that it will yet be necessary to watch over the area, you will do so as effectively as possible. We will not allow anyone to harm the contiguity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim”.

The Christian Science Monitor [CSM] reported here that: “Israel signaled that it was unwilling to tolerate nonviolent protest in E1, citing security concerns. But while E1 is among the most poignant and provocative locations Palestinian protesters could have chosen, critics of the Israeli government’s crackdown say it hardly amounted to a security threat. ‘Is this going to incite the local goat population to sedition?’ asks Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli attorney and founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, which tracks developments that could jeopardize a two-state solution. ‘It is transparent that this was a use of military authority in order to thwart a nonviolent and legitimate political protest’.”

The CSM added that Mohammed Khatib, a protest leader from the town of Bilin and one of the protesters at Bab Al-Shams, “says he sees Bab Al-Shams – named after a Lebanese novel about the yearning of Palestinians for a state of their own – as a success. ‘The tents are still there’,  he says, adding that a powerful message has been conveyed to the international community. ‘This shows the reality of the occupation forces, how they deal with [protests], how they use violence’.”

UPDATE: It is interesting, a day later, to see the effect this event is having in Europe and in America, where the outrage is greater than it has been for other recent events.  One American blogger summed up the story as best he could from the media reports, then concluded by writing: “let me leave you with a general rule of thumb that will serve you in good stead when it comes to evaluating political crises. In any struggle, irrespective of all other circumstances, if you find yourself supporting a side that uses their military or law enforcement to forcibly remove civilian activists from engaging in acts of non-violent protest, then you’re supporting the side of injustice and censorship. Non-violent protest is the medium of the oppressed and the righteous. Suppression of those protests is the desperate resort of the despotic and tyrannical”.  This is posted here.

Meanwhile, Amira Hass reported in a piece published on Sunday in Haaretz that: “The plan to erect the tent village was kept secret; in fact, as a diversionary tactic, it was announced on Facebook, among other channels, that the activists were planning to set up a study and activity camp in Jericho on January 10-11. A few Palestinian businessmen who were in on the plan contributed funds to buy the tents and cover other expenses”. This is reported here.

Attorney Tawfik Jabareen told me that the four Palestinian families he represents, who own the land on which Bab Al-Shems was established, did indeed intend to construct a tent tourism facility on the site as he told the Supreme Court in his application for an injunction on Friday. This was not a ruse, as the State Attorney claimed — calling it a “political provocation”. He said that the Palestinian activists heard of the four families’ business plans, and then merged their aims with the families’ plans. [He said he did not know all the details, such as who bought the metal frame tents that the Palestinian activists put up on Friday — which are still being protected by the Supreme Court’s injunction…]

Karl Vick wrote in a piece published in Time Magazine on Sunday that “Netanyahu, who finds himself facing an unexpected challenge from his right in the campaign that concludes Jan. 22, ordered the police action despite a Supreme Court injunction against demolition of the camp (an order authorities finessed by removing only the people; the tents were left standing)”. Vick’s piece is posted here.

The Israeli Army’s solicitude for the tents is really quite intriguing.

The Israeli Supreme Court was also clearly persuaded by the commercial project of the four East Jerusalem Palestinian families — which in fact does not appear to collide with the Israeli government’s plans for E-1 development. As Prime Minister Netanyahu clarified in his statements on Sunday, and as the Israeli Army made clear in Supreme Court hours earlier, at midnight, it was the presence of the Palestinian activists that caused the most problem…

Oh, and also — as the Army wrote to the Supreme Court at midnight — any tents that might have been put up on what Israel defines as “State Land”, which will be pulled down by the Army on or after Wednesday, when the Supreme Court injunction expires — unless the Army makes an application sooner, and the Supreme Court gives its consent…]

UPDATE TWO: International law expert and academic, Tel Aviv University Professor Aeyal Gross wrote in Haaretz on Monday, here, that: “On Friday, as part of the petition against the eviction order of the ‘outpost’ established by Palestinians in the E-1 corridor between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, High Court Justice Neal Hendel granted a temporary order prohibiting the evacuation or destruction of tents erected by Palestinians on the lands of A-Tur, unless there was ‘an urgent security need’. On Saturday night, the state submitted a notice to the High Court informing it of a planned evacuation that was required due to ‘urgent security needs and the prevention of serious disruption of public order’. It was claimed that allowing the Palestinians to remain in the area would have created friction, and that according to past experience, activists from both the left and the right were expected to arrive in the area and cause severe, violent disturbances on a wide scale. In addition to these claims of ‘concern for significant disruption to public order’, the notice was accompanied by a secret opinion, which was sealed in an envelope, for the consideration of the court, if it sees fit to read it, in which it claims that what is written in that letter indicates an urgent security need to evacuate the area. In the absence of information about the contents of the envelope, there is no way to know what additional reasons were given for the existence of an ‘urgent security need’. However, one could wonder, in light of the nature of the outpost, whether in fact there was an ‘urgent security need’ that could not have waited until an additional discussion at the High Court had taken place, and whether the claims of concern for disruption to public order (and not an essential need for a combat operation) met the definition of an ‘urgent security need’ that occurred between Friday and Saturday – and couldn’t wait until Sunday morning”.

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