by Elad Benari
Two mosques in Judea and Samaria may soon be ordered to be torn down by Israel’s High Court. Ironically enough, this decision may actually come about as a result of many appeals by a left-wing organization dedicated to assisting Arabs.
The Yesh Din organization was established in March of 2005 and is comprised of volunteers who, as its website states, “have organized to oppose the continuing violation of Palestinian human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The organization’s mission, as stated on its website, is “to achieve a long-term structural improvement in the human rights situation in the OPT.”
Yesh Din is run by volunteers yet also receives guidance from a team of lawyers, human rights experts and media consultants. Among its board members are former MK Shulamit Aloni, former Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat, and former Deputy Attorney General Yehudit Karp.
One year ago, Yesh Din appealed to Israel’s High Court on behalf of two Arabs who opposed the building of a synagogue in Ma’ale Shomron. The same day the appeal was filed, the court issued an interim order which prevented the construction of the synagogue. The residents of Ma’ale Shomron, however, were unaware of the court order and continued to build the synagogue, only finding out about it after a Torah scroll had already been dedicated and the synagogue had begun to be regularly used. The residents honored the court decree and ceased all construction on the synagogue.
Despite the fact that the residents honored the court order once they became aware of it, Yesh Din pressured the State Attorney’s Office into deciding that the court order was violated and as such the synagogue must be sealed off within 60 days. Attorney Doron Nir-Tzvi, who represents the residents, argued on the other hand that no proof was brought forward showing that the court order was indeed violated, and that no such proof could exist, as the court order was not directed at the residents who were not a side in the appeal. Nir-Tzvi explained that the neighborhood is 10 years old and is located on state-owned land. The synagogue, said Nir-Tzvi, was built in an area designated for public buildings. About a month ago, a Supreme Court Judge ordered the state to hold back any tearing down or sealing off of the synagogue.
Meanwhile, the Regavim advocacy group has presented a counter-appeal to Yesh Din’s appeal, in which it requests that two mosques that have been illegally built on state-owned land and with no permit, be destroyed. One of the mosques is located in an Arab village north of Beit El, and the second one is located near Yitzhar.
According to Attorney Amir Fisher who represents Regavim, the two mosques were built adjacent to housing units in Jewish neighborhoods, making them both illegal as well as a threat to residents’ security. The appeal requests that the Supreme Court instruct the State of Israel to explain why the mosques should not be destroyed.
The Civil Administration ordered two months ago the destruction of the mosque near Beit El, yet the mosque has not been destroyed. Fisher said that the destruction of the mosque, as he was told in response to his appeal, “is in the hands of the decision makers according to the priorities determined by them periodically.”
He added that under the same “priorities”, the Civil Administration has refrained from destroying 30,000 Arab buildings which have been built without permits. He believes that citing priorities as the determining factor of when the mosque will be destroyed, means that there is no intention of ever destroying it. “The Civil Administration’s response indicates contempt towards the petitioners and a complete and unreasonable disregard for their claims of the danger hovering over the residents of the community of Beit El, when construction of the mosque is complete and it is populated,” said Fisher.
“How can one presume to enforce the law equally in the Judea and Samaria, when the Administration inspectors do not enforce the law against huge public buildings, which have been established next to Jewish villages in a location which endangers residents?” asked Fisher, and added that the Palestinian Authority’s plan to take over Israeli lands in Judea and Samaria is well-known, and has been publicly stated in the media by its Prime Minister Salam Fayad. Part of this plan, explained Fisher, is to establish large public buildings throughout Judea and Samaria, and to later use the buildings in future territorial arguments between Israel and the PA. The desire of the PA, explained Fisher, is to determine such arguments in a one-sided manner and present Israel with grounded facts.