Israel Demolishes Three New Homes at Unauthorized Migron Outpost

First demolition of permanent residences in the outpost since its establishment in 1999; operation involved 1,300 to 1,400 soldiers and police, and a diversion in which settlers told that security presence in area for training in advance of possible recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN.

Early yesterday morning, the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police demolished three newly-built homes in the unauthorized Jewish outpost of Migron in the West Bank. This was the first demolition of permanent residences in the outpost since its establishment in 1999.

The state agreed to dismantle the residences by the end of September, following the filing of a petition by the Yesh Din human rights organization to the High Court of Justice over the construction of the new homes. In a separate legal proceeding, the High Court ordered the entire unauthorized Migron outpost demolished by the end of March 2012.

demolition homes in Migron - Emil Salman - September 5 2011
Emil Salman

Yesterday's operation involved 1,300 to 1,400 soldiers and police, and a diversion in which settlers in the area were told that the large security presence was connected to a training exercise in advance of the possible recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations later this month. Once the forces arrived at Migron, the residents of the homes slated for demolition petitioned the High Court for a temporary restraining order on the grounds that the land had been purchased by the residents.

At 2:30 A.M., Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel granted the temporary order, but the drama continued when Defense Minister Ehud Barak was woken up and asked to get involved in the matter. The IDF and the Defense Ministry argued that if the demolition did not proceed within an hour, it would pose a clear and present danger. At 4 A.M., Hendel relented and the demolition proceeded as planned.

Despite the delay, the demolition work went relatively smoothly. About 100 activists showed up in an attempt to stop the work, but they were greatly outnumbered by security forces. Residents of Migron have generally sought to vindicate their rights through legal and political action, and several of them implored activists not to throw stones at police. Seven activists were arrested and later released.

In other developments early yesterday, there was an arson attempt at a mosque in the village of Kusra near Nablus. Burning tires were thrown into the building but failed to cause significant damage. Hebrew slogans were spray-painted on the mosque's exterior. Police are investigating the incident, but the Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service have not managed to bring suspects of prior mosque vandalism cases to justice.

The leveling of the three homes at Migron is seen as a prelude to a wave of demolitions anticipated at the end of the year at unauthorized outposts - and the leveling of all of Migron, which is to be carried out by March of next year.

Last week, representatives of the Yesha Council of settlements met with Barak's adviser on settlement issues, Eitan Broshi, to discuss whether to allow the three homes demolished yesterday to remain intact until trailers could be provided to Migron residents, or until alternative permanent housing is provided elsewhere. When it became apparent, however, that the residents were opposed to the proposal, Barak decided that there was no reason to link the demolition of the three homes with the broader issue of the other homes at Migron, and he ordered yesterday's demolition to proceed as scheduled.

In the military establishment, yesterday's operation is viewed as a signal that the state will carry out commitments made to the court, meaning that a number of illegal outposts that are not vacated in coordination with the settlers will be vacated by force.

MK Danny Danon (Likud ) criticized Barak over yesterday's demolition, saying that hundreds of Likud activists will visit Migron during the upcoming fall holidays to convey the Likud's message "that we were elected to build and not to destroy." Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi ) called yesterday's operation "another high in selective enforcement."

"While the government is being presented with a report that legitimizes the pirate takeover by Bedouin of land in the Negev through tens of thousands of illegal structures, the enforcement system is enthusiastic about raising its hand against three structures in Judea and Samaria," he said.