Friday, May 8, 1998

Shedding Darkness

Yesterday evening a meeting between the Attorney General's
staff and the Jewish Community of Hebron leadership took place
in Jerusalem. Among those present were Attorney General
Elyakim Rubinstein, chief prosecutor Edna Arbel, and
prosecutors Talia Sasson and Navah ben Oor. Those attending
on behalf of Hebron included MK Hanan Porat (NRP), Chairman of
the Knesset Committee for Law and Justice, Noam Arnon, Rabbi
Hillel Horowitz, Avraham ben Yosef and Mrs. Orit Struck.

The truth is that is was very difficult to sit through the
duration of the meeting. Elyakim Rubinstein's office is
adorned with pictures of people he has worked with. One of the
most prominent pictures is that of former US Secretary of
State Warren Christopher. Opposite Rubinstein's desk, on the
wall facing him, is a huge photograph of the White House Lawn:
Bill Clinton in the middle, Yitzhak Rabin on one side, and Abu
Mazzen on the other. Clinton is smiling. Rabin is signing.
Rubinstein is showing him where to sign.

Elyakim Rubinstein, aged 51, a religious man, has held many
important and prestigious posts during his public career He
worked for the Shamir administration, but for some reason
continued in office during the Rabin-Peres tenure. He
participated in negotiating Oslo, and most specifically, the
accords with Jordan. Before his appointment as Attorney
General he served as a judge.

The meeting was called as a result of the revelation of the
'special law enforcement regulations' which define
discriminatory law enforcement rules aimed at residents of
Judea, Samaria and Gazza, and most specifically, Hebron.

One of the specific instructions in the 'special regulations'
requires the prosecutor's office to give priority to court
cases against 'settlers.' At the outset of the meeting a
letter written by Supreme Court President Aharon Barak was
presented to the Attorney General. Written in 1995, the letter
is in response to a question posed by court secretary, Judge
Ravivi. Barak writes, "Priority may not be given to any court
case because of the location of accused's home, be it Judea,
Samaria, Gazza, or anywhere else." None of the prosecutors
were familiar with this ruling. They received a copy of the
letter and promised to examine it.

The meeting had a number of specific goals:
1. A demand that the 'special regulations' be voided, or, at
the very least, suspended.

2. A demand that an impartial committee, totally unrelated to
the AG's office review and revise the 'special regulations.'

3. A demand that all cases, indictments, and allegations
caused as a result of these regulations be suspended and
reviewed by an impartial committee.

4. A demand that the 'special regulations' be made public, for
all to read.

5. A demand that law enforcement in Hebron be applied equally
to Arabs as well as Jews.

Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein categorically rejected
all of these demands.

Time after time Rubinstein said, "you have to remember the
background around which these rules were written. This was the
'era of the stormy demonstrations.' " Our reply - we remember
this time period as the 'era of murders - rocks - firebombs,

In reply to MK Hanan Porat's request that the 'regulations' be
suspended, Rubinstein answered, "These regulations are an
established framework .. what can you do but realize that in
Israel law enforcement has been placed in the hands of the
Attorney General and the prosecutor's office and not in the
hands of politicians." Porat, Chairman of the Knesset Law and
Justice Committee responded: "It is my job to guarantee that
those involved in law enforcement do so honestly and justly."

Why should these 'regulations' remain secret? Following a
careful reading of the entire document, Hebron leaders were
unable to find any 'security secrets' that should prevent its
publication, for all to read and judge. Chief prosecutor Edna
Arbel agreed. AG Rubinstein: "I have instructed that these
'regulations' be reviewed and changed where we decide
necessary. I think it preferable to publish the 'new edition'
of the 'regulations' after they have been modified."

Concerning the request to suspend all cases initiated as a
result of these 'regulations,' Rubinstein answered that he
cannot give 'blanket orders' concerning any one segment of the
population, (in spite of the fact that these 'regulations' are
enforced AGAINST one specific segment of the population). He
suggested writing individual letters requesting an injunction
to suspend hearings in specific cases. Our reply - we have
been doing this for over a year - all of the responses we
receive are negative.

Perhaps the most important and significant demand deals with
equality under the law. This pertains to two aspects of law
enforcement: Jew vs. Jew and Jew vs. Arab. For example, why
should a Jewish child in Hebron be indicted for throwing a
snowball when, in Jerusalem, or anywhere else in the country,
this would never, ever, be considered a 'crime?.' Or, why are
Jews in Hebron brutally beaten and arrested for demonstrating
against continued Arab violence against them, when Jewish
demonstrators in other parts of the country burn tires, block
roads, close factories, etc, and nothing is done to them?.

On the other side of the coin - why are Jews who react to Arab
violence prosecuted, when the Arabs who initiate the violence
are never arrested? How is it possible that thousands of
rocks, firebombs, and explosive devices are hurled at Jews,
and none of the perpetrators are apprehended? Two specific
examples: A Hebron family had, over the period of one month,
12 firebombs thrown at their house. None of the Arab
perpetrators was caught, in spite of the fact that the
firebombs were thrown from within the Israeli controlled part
of Hebron. The twelfth firebomb struck their porch.
It burned the laundry hanging outside - it had been placed
there only moments before. It barely missed hitting a Hebron woman. Her
husband, Shalom, saw the Arab terrorist, ran after him and
caught him. Accordingly, he didn't handle him with kid gloves.
Both Shalom and the Arab were indicted: the Arab for throwing
the firebomb, and Shalom, for hitting him. When Hebron Jewish
residents arrived at the Arab's trial as witnesses, they were
told that they were no longer needed. The Arab agreed to plea
bargain - his sentence was minimal. When Shalom requested an
injunction to temporarily suspend the hearing against him, it
was refused.

In another case, several months ago an Arab jumped from an
adjoining house into the Avraham Avinu neighborhood courtyard
with a knife. He was apprehended and imprisoned. A few weeks
ago he was released into the custody of the palestinian
authority, which has absolutely no jurisdiction in the case,
as it occurred in Israeli controlled Hebron. Why wasn't he
tried by Israel?

Rubinstein had two answers: 1) "Security" is in the
responsibility of the IDF - the Israeli army, not the police
or the DA's office." 2) The 'accords' have created a situation
whereby it is very difficult to deal properly with Arab law
offenders." In other words, if two people stand next to each
other - one a Jew and the other an Arab, and they both throw
rocks, the Jew is arrested, indicted, tried, and convicted.
The Arab is ignored.

The Hebron representatives attempted to show, as of yet
unsuccessfully, the absurdity of this situation. Why are
Hebron's police only allowed to arrest Jewish lawbreakers and
not Arab offenders? Why should Jews in Hebron be held
accountable for actions that any Israeli citizen in any other
part of the country is not held accountable for?

AG Rubinstein claimed that these 'special regulations' were
unknown to almost everyone, including himself and his chief
prosecutor, Edna Arbel. This, in spite of the fact that at
least one of the authors of the 'regulations' was present in
the room with us. This, in spite of the fact that one of the
prosecutors heads a special 'black list' committee which meets
once a month, to coordinate positions of the army, police,
intelligence forces and prosecutors, in regard to 'offenders,'
as is written in the 'regulations.'

Chief prosecutor Edna Arbel claimed that the AG's office is
nothing more than a conduit - they receive cases from the
police and decide whether their is enough proof to warrant a

One of the more humorous moments took place when one of the
senior prosecutors, read a 'random list' of offenses,
committed by Hebron residents. She started by saying that an
overwhelming majority of crimes committed by Jews in Judea and
Samaria were perpetrated by Hebron residents. She must have
read 20 or 30 offences. About 95% of them, if not all of them,
involved one of the following crimes: Bothering a police
officer, insulting a police officer or public servant,
attempting to cause a police officer to fail in his attempt to
uphold the law, attacking a police officer.

"Where are the attacks against Arabs," we asked her. Her
response: "Hebron's Jewish residents commit very specific
kinds of crimes."

Just for the record: If you look cross-eyed at a policeman,
you are charged with insulting him. If he tells you to move
during a demonstration and you don't, you are charged with
bothering him. If you ask him why he arrested someone else,
you are charged with attempting to cause a police officer to
fail in his attempt to uphold the law. A Hebron woman was
charged with attacking a police officer because she filmed
Hebron police arresting her husband.

The 'special regulations' shed much light on Israeli democracy and
Israeli justice. Or perhaps I should say, they shed darkness,
because they remind me of stories told about persecution in
Russia and other former Iron Curtain countries. This certainly
is not the kind of justice that anyone would expect in
'democratic' Israel, fifty years after creation of the State.

It is our hope that following this meeting the AG's office
will seriously consider the points made and conclude, as we
have, that in the name of true justice, these 'regulations'
must be expunged, now and forever.

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