Saturday, March 19, 2011

Roi Klein

Last night I went to a Shabbat dinner.

You can tell already that this is not going to end well, can’t you. It never does.

Anyway, I was at this meal and we were talking about Japan and how selfless the guys trying to stop the nuclear crisis are. And how that is characteristic of Japanese society. And how we are not like that here. And then this guy—let’s call him E—at the table says: Roi Klein. The name rings a bell. Hey, I ask, isn’t that the war hero with the house that they want to tear down?

And…well…all hell breaks loose. You see, public opinion in respect to this case is that you cannot possibly tear down the house of a war hero. My hosts and fellow guests hold views in line with public opinion. I do not. My view—and I stated it— was that maybe, just maybe, there is something to be said for the rule of law in a society. And that no, the death of a soldier, even an extraordinarily selfless and heroic death, is not by definition reason to ignore the law. It may be. It may not be. It depends on the situation. But it is not a given. Suffice it to say that by the end of the meal I had been screamed at and branded as a demagogue by E.

Had I stayed a bit longer I suspect I could have collected a few other equally charming epithets. Instead, I made my escape and went home. I went to sleep. I woke up. And I was still pissed. But then I said, “Gila, what do you really know about this case apart from the sound bites you have heard on the news? Are you qualified to have an opinion? Go online and learn something”

So I did. And this is what I learned.
  1. Roi Klein’s house is located in Hayovel, an illegal settlement in the West Bank.
  2. In 2005, while a portion of the houses were still under construction, Peace Now filed suit claiming that the construction of 12 buildings on the site was illegal and the structures should be demolished.
  3. The government responded that there was already a demolition order. That is, from day one the government has agreed with Peace Now that the construction was illegal.
  4. In September 2005, Peace Now brought the case to the Supreme Court requesting that, if this if a demolition order exists, that the order be executed.
  5. Rather than actually responding to and dealing with the issue, since the date the case was initially filed the government has requested 30 extensions.
  6. In July 2006, Roi Klein was killed in action.
  7. The case, therefore, preceded Roi Klein's death. His death did not change any of the issues raised (ie. legality of outpost/ ownership of land/ existence of permits).
  8. Ergo, while what happened to him is indeed tragic, it is not relevant to the original suit. And that, contrary to public opinion, neither Peace Now nor the Supreme Court woke up one day and announced that it felt like persecuting widows and orphans, and by golly, the widow and orphans of Roi Klein would do just fine, thank you.
  9. In July 2009 the Supreme Court handed down its decision. The government was to give the residents of the outpost a chance to present any final arguments and—barring any new evidence coming to light—was to demolish the outpost.
Most of the above information is taken from the Peace Now website. The reason for this is that theirs is the only website that provided actual information: documents, copies of filings, the Supreme Court decision and so on. I tried to balance this out with information from the right but an hour of searching yielded nothing but the the requisite pictures of Roi Klein in Happier Times (with or without the widow and children) and verbiage to the effect that either the Supreme Court, the government, Peace Now or some combination thereof were a bunch of evil anti-Semites with no respect for the contributions of the fallen. What can I say…not so useful if the goal is to develop an understanding of the underlying issues in a lawsuit.

What conclusion did I come to? That this is not even an issue of whether or not a fallen soldier should be outside the law because this has very little to do with Roi Klein.

I believe that the members of the general population who decry the destruction of his house are sincere. But the politicians, the Right, the settlement movement? I do not. For them, Roi Klein has been turned into a useful tool for the drumming up of emotions and public fervor to support something they might not have supported otherwise. Lots of Israelis do not support the Right, the settlement enterprise and the whole Greater Israel movement, but what Israeli will not support a heroic and conveniently dead soldier? איזה יופי! Fantastic! Let’s latch an entire neighborhood to his back!

You see, that’s the rub—the other 11 houses. Had these same parties voiced reactions along the lines of “okay, the Supreme Court ruled against us and we accept it but please, leave Roi’s house standing” that would be one thing. I might disagree—again, just because he died it does not necessarily follow that we can ignore the law—but I would respect that the sentiment was sincere and was driven by a genuine desire to honor a man who made the ultimate sacrifice and to look after his family. (In fact, that is what Peace Now suggested.) Instead what is happening here is that the Right/ government/ settlement lost the case and have resorted to using a dead soldier’s sacrifice as a means of avoiding implementation of the ruling in respect to the entire settlement. Of getting what they want.

It is the lack of honesty and candor that gets to me. The deception. The concealment of one’s true goals behind a wall of propaganda. That and the hijacking of someone else’s sacrifice and suffering as a means of furthering their goals. Even if the wife agrees…. It is not their story. It is his. Even if he is dead, it belongs to him.

E. has claimed that I expressed a view that one cannot compare Roi’s act to that of the Japanese who are risking their lives to solve the crisis in the nuclear reactors. Not at all. You certainly can compare them. The question is whether you can compare how society treats such acts in the two societies. If, G-d forbid, one of the Japanese workers were to die from radiation poisoning, will Japanese society then be treated to an episode in which a large group of people demand to be exempted from the law because he died?

Somehow, I doubt it.


ProphetJoe said...

Shalom Gila,

Thanks for the email. You said you didn't think I'd like what you wrote, but you would be mistaken.

"E" is clearly a passionate person with a near-sighted view of the situation. I'm particularly puzzled why he would label you a demagogue (was that his word?) in this situation. says a demagogue is (paraphrasing)
"a speaker who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people."

It seems to me that you were in the minority at this dinner and that "E" was the one using Roi Klein's memory to invoke an emotional response to the situation. Perhaps he was the one acting like a demagogue!

I agree with you that each incident needs to be looked at and judged by its own merits.

As to the Right, don't be too harsh on them. Most patriotic supporters stir up emotional issues with the best of intentions. Israel, more than any other country I can think of, must fight for its survival every day. You are surrounded by neighbors who are actively trying to erase your nation (Hell, some of them would gladly kill every Jew on earth if they had the opportunity).

It's an old cliche, but if the Arabs/Palestinians/Muslims would put down their weapons, there would be peace tomorrow. If the Israelis put down their weapons, there would be no Israel tomorrow.

It sounds trite, but I think it IS true. I don't foresee Israel invading Saudi Arabia for their oil, nor Egypt for the Suez Canal, nor Lebanon for... whatever. You get my point.

As for Peace Now, it sounds like an idealistic organization (and there is a place for idealism in the world), but based on the history of Israel, I don't foresee a future where diplomatic agreements will result in a lasting peace with your neighbors. Sad, but true (I fear).

In closing, I will add 2 finals points:

1) kudos to you for deciding you didn't know enough about the case and doing the research -- good job!

2) a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: "Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people." You were discussing the idea (or policy) while "E" was dicussing the event. Enough said! :-)

Hope you have a Happy Purim and I hope your next Shabbat dinner is more palatable!


Unknown said...

I was at the meal. Even in retrospect, I think the argument is not as clear cut as you present. Of course, rarely is any argument on either side of a discussion. Using Peace Now as a source of absolute truth also concerns me. I voiced my opinion at the meal and I stand by it. I guess that makes me part of the "right" who are insincere. Wow.

e.e. said...

The reason that the government has requested 30 extensions is that nobody wants to touch the case with a barge-pole.
If I was a judge, I wouldn't want to either.
My advice is not to talk about politics at a Shabbat meal. It works for me every time...
It's a day of rest that I take completely literally.

Gila said...


Nahum--I honestly did not mean to give you the impression that I see you as insincere. I apologize for giving you that impression. I think I would class you (and many other right wingers) as the general public, who are sincere and the "Right" more as leadership? (AKA, the people who would make sure Klein's name hit the papers the moment the ruling came down).

Language is imprecise....

In respect to using Peace Now as a source, I spent a good hour looking for right wing sources to balance it out. What I describe in my blog is accurate: I found nothing apart from "Roi gave his life therefore we cannot tear down his house". And for all that you, and many others, do not entirely trust Peace Now's motives...they have documents. Online. Submitted by both sides. Send me a link representing the other side of the story and I will read it and if it changes my view, I will post it.

Going back to sincerity.... When I was in high school my father gave me to read his copy of Clarence Darrow to the Defense, a biography of Clarence Darrow. Ever since then, Darrow has been one of my heroes. There is a line of his--from the Skopes Monkey Trial--that I ask myself every so often: do you think about the things you do think about?

So--think about this. If the government were to announce tomorrow that it was complying with the Supreme Court ruling and tearing down the illegal structures but leaving Roi Klein's house standing, would you be okay with it? And if not, does any of the "not okay-ness" have any connection to the fact that Roi Klein gave his life for his country.

And if so, why is that okay? (Genuine question--not asked and answered).

BTW--I made E the same offer--if you want to guest post with the other side, you are welcome.

ee--you would think I would learn....

J.P. said...

A house is just a heap of stones.

Anonymous said...

Note that the writer DID voice concern that the only sources found online were from Peace Now, so at least she IS thinking rather than merely reacting.

Frankly, I think her point is well taken: that at least in this case, it would appear that Roi's sacrifice is being used as an emotional appeal for something that it was not connected in any way other than it was somewhere he lived.

There were other sacrifices made in Sinai and Gush Katif, and we don't have access to those locations either, due to a government decision. Am I happy about it? Not at all, nor do I like a number of other things our government does, but the way to deal with it is to get involved and DO something, regardless of which side of the issue you hold, not sit around and assign blame.

Tzipporah said...

"Using Peace Now as a source of absolute truth also concerns me."

It sounds more like they were the the only source of actual evidence. Big difference.

aliyah06 said...

Well, Peace Now isn't the only source...I Googled for about 5 minutes and found other sources also.

I recall that at the time, (and this seems to be borne out by one story at, that the outrage over the demolition of Klein's home is not because he is "special" but because the neighborhood itself, BUT FOR part of one home, was built entirely on state land, not Palestinian land; the neighborhood received government services for a decade; there was no inkling by government authorities that the neighborhood was illegally built; the past practice of the Israeli government has been to allow neighborhoods built on state land to proceed and then to issue final approvals "legalizing" them after the fact; and that Barak, playing Labor politics, decided to withhold this customary and expected approval, despite lower-echelon assurances it would be forthcoming.

In other words, the government played these homeowners for suckers.

Apparently the reason Peace Now petitioned to have the homes destroyed [inexplicably exempting Klein's and the other war hero, Peretz's--c'mon, illegal is illegal, no exemptions, which simply shows Peace Now's hypocrisy and desire to avoid public opprobrium] is because they had not been "legalized" by the usual permit process -- NOT because they're built on Palestinian-owned land.

Keep in mind that to PN, the whole West Bank is "Palestinian land" and they use that phrase with careless disregard of the legal niceties -- all land NOT owned, registered and taxed to the individual is "state land" under the Ottoman real estate rules still governing this region. Settlements are built on state lands, not Palestinian private property. Where they are built on private property, they are routinely and properly ordered destroyed by the Israel Supreme Court.

Notably, no Palestinian has filed suit---or claimed ownership of the land. The suit was brought solely by Peace Now on the basis of alleged "illegality" due to lack of permits.

All this aside, "E" owes you an apology for ruining dinner with his rant. Poltical questions do not excuse sheer bad manners.

tafka pp said...

You did good.

I've been the branded demagogue at a meal before. Heck, I was one this morning.

westbankmama said...

Gila - the problem with the question of the legality of settlements is that it is not cut and dried. If you read the following you will see that in some cases the only thing keeping a specific outpost from becoming a legal settlement is the signature of the Defense Minister on a final permit. Therefore the "heroic status" of one of the residents of a place can, and does, influence the opinion of the person who decides whether or not the place is considered legal. The decision is political and/or emotional in the extreme.

In Talia Sason's report on what is knows as outposts, she puts forth the conditions in which a settlement is considered legal:

The Necessary Conditions for Establishing a Settlement in the Judea, Samaria and Gaza Territories

The local law requires the fulfillment of a number of basic conditions before establishing a settlement in the Judea, Samaria and Gaza territories.

First, the decision to establish a settlement must be made by the authoritative political echelon. Government resolutions have always declared that the establishment of a new settlement, either inside Israel or in the territories, requires a government resolution. Such an establishment requires various considerations - economic, social, geographical, political, public and others.

The establishment of an Israeli settlement in the Judea, Samaria and Gaza territories requires additional considerations, including international and national policy and security considerations. The authoritative political echelon is the only one qualified to consider such considerations, and the only one who bares responsibility for such a decision.

The Second Condition concerns the interests (title) in the land to be settled.. After the High Court of Justice ruling in the case of Elon More, a 1979 Israeli government resolution states that Israeli settlements shall be established only on State land.

The Third Condition is that a settlement shall be established only according to a lawful designed building scheme. This means that a settlement in the Judea, Samaria and Gaza territories may be established only according to a detailed scheme, which has the power to produce a building permit. It must be clarified that according to the law in force in the territories, the approval of the political echelon is needed not only for establishing a settlement, but also in some of the steps in the plan approval. Meaning - as long as there is no approval for the plan for the settlement, or a part thereof - there is no political echelon approval for its establishment.

The Fourth Condition is that the bounds of jurisdiction of such a settlement was determined in an order by the Commander of the area. The Commander of the area may determine the bounds of jurisdiction only after receiving the approval of the political echelon.

These four conditions are accumulative. The lack of fulfillment of one of them makes the settlement illegitimate.

In short, an illegal outpost could be a place that has every permit except for the final signature of the commander of the area, which is usually the Defense Minister. Therefore his decision on whether to sign or not is the only criteria keeping an outpost from being legal. THIS IS WHY PUBLIC OPINION IS IMPORTANT, and an "emotional reaction" to the fact that a war hero once lived there is significant.

aparatchik said...

Sorry if I missed it but why is the home village of Roi Klein z''l an illegal settlement?

Tzipporah said...

I want to hear about your Pesach trip! Are you on it? Are you packing for it? Nu!