Imagine, if you would, if the Israeli army had destroyed a mosque and an entire neighborhood after expelling two Arab families whom the IDF had determined to be squatters. There would be an international uproar.

It will now be instructive to see what will transpire following the Israeli army’s destruction of a synagogue, following eviction of two Jewish families whom the IDF had defined as “squatters”

The background is well known:. When the Jewish community of Hebron was renewed during the 1980’s, leaders of the Jewish community made an effort to return Jewish property to the Jewish community. The market place once again became a thriving Jewish community

Yet the newly renewed Hebron Jewish market place community was not without its tragedies. A two year old girl, Shalhevet Pass, was killed by a Palestinian sharpshooter from a nearby hill, and the community was named for Shalhevet. Their the synagogue and study hall were also named in her memory.

However, the Peace Now movement, acting with a legal team financed with funds received from the Norwegian, Finnish, British and German governments, brought a legal action to demand that the Jewish community of the renewed Shalhevet neighborhood be removed,. since this Jewish community had no direct connection with the Jewish community that had dwelled there before 1929*.

While the Israel Hgh Court of Justice deliberated on the PEACE NOW litigation, families in the Shalhevet community were asked to leave eighteen months ago, while court proceedings continued. The Israel army commander told the families that they would be permitted to return to their homes in “reasonable amount of time”

After eighteen months passed, some of the families became impatient.

Two families moved back into their homes in the Shalhevet neighborhood. On August 7th, 2007, when the two Jewish families would not leave, the Israel Ministry of Defense ordered the Israeli army to move in 3,000 troops to facilitate the forced evacuation of the two families.

After a four hour struggle, during which hundreds of Jewish demonstrators tried to block the Israeli army from moving out the two families, the IDF indeed removed the two families. Their removal was reported. What was not reported was that the IDF also dispatched a demolition squad to destroy the Shalhevet community and the Shalhevet synagogue. When this reporter visited the Shalhevet neighborhood in Hebron the day after the evacuation of these two families, all of the electricity wires and all the water pipes had been removed from all of the homes and from the synagogue. The synagogue was defiled completely and emptied of its tables, prayer stalls and holy ark.

For the past month, the Bulletin has been asking the Israeli army a simple question: Under what authority did the Israeli army destroy the Shalhevet neighborhood and the Shalhevet synagogue?. The answer that the Bulletin received from the Israeli army spokesperson’s office was the entire neighborhood was “occupied by squatters”, including the synagogue. However, that is not what the Israeli court had determined and that was not what had been written in the “order of the day” given to the Israeli army, which was only to remove two families who had been defined by the Israeli army as squatters, despite the fact that they had simply returned to the homes that they had lived in for three years. Each of these families had eight children.

Meanwhile, both Israeli law and international law protect the sanctity of places of worship, and that would prohibit the Israeli army from destroying a place of study and worship.

Meanwhile, defiling a place of worship is defined by the law in Israel as a felony, which carries a seven year jail sentence with it

An event was held on Monday night in honor of Israeli soldiers who would not take part in the destruction of the Shalhevet neighborhood and the Shalhevet synagogue.

Under Israeli military law, a soldier is allowed to refuse an order if his conscience has determined that the order given to the soldier is an illegal order.

According to Professor Nahum Rackover,. Israel’s former Deputy Attorney General, an individual has a legal obligation to disobey an obviously illegal order.

Conducting a taped interview with Prof. Rackover at his home two years ago, Rackover referred to a section of the Israeli Military Code (no.125, enacted in 1955) which states that ” IDF Soldiers have no obligation to fulfill a command that is obviously illegal”. Rackover noted that Israeli military courts have repeatedly placed individual responsibility on soldiers who failed to act accordingly (The most famous case was the 1957 incident in which IDF troops were convicted of following an illegal order to fire on a busload of workers from Cfar Kassam during a curfew at the time of the Suez campaign was cited as the most well known example in this regard. Every IDF soldier who participated in the incident was convicted of following what constituted an “illegal order”).

At the event in honor of Israeli soldiers who refused the orders to destroy the Shalhevet neighborhood and synagogue, an Israeli lawyer from Haifa, Attorney Aviad Visoli, announced that he had filed a suit against the Israeli army and Israel Ministry of Defense, to demand that the Israeli commanders who oversaw the destruction of the Shalhevet synagogue be prosecuted to the full extent of the law Visoli filed his case on Tuesday, the day before the Jewish New Year.

*The marketplace in the Old Jewish Quarter of Hebron was built in the ruins of vandalized Jewish homes that were destroyed during the 1929 Arab pogrom against the Hebron Jewish community – an attack which caused the entire Jewish community of Hebron to leave Hebron, until a Jewish community returned to the city of Hebron in 1970. The Jordanians, who assumed control over Hebron after the British left Palestine in 1948, treated the Jewish owned property, including the market place, as “confiscated enemy property” and allowed the ruins of the Jewish community of Hebron to be used as a market place, which also meant that animals were permitted to graze in the ruins of the ancient synagogues, Jewish seminaries and Jewish cemeteries that had also been vandalized

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.