ISRAELI JUDGE DISMISSES EXPULSION LAW AS OUTDATED
KFAR SABA, Israel -- In what could set a precedent, an Israeli judge has invalidated a 2005 law that facilitated the expulsion of 16,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.
Judge David Gadol of the Kfar Saba Juvenile Court said there was no legal basis for detaining five teenagers charged with illegal entry into a Jewish community destroyed as part of the Israeli unilateral withdrawal in August 2005. The girls were captured by Israeli police during a night trek to Homesh, one of four Jewish communities dismantled in the northern West Bank. Jewish residents were also expelled from 20 communities in the Gaza Strip.
"The chapter dealing with punishment under the Disengagement Law is no longer in effect," Gadol said. "Today, it is impossible to bring suspects to court on the basis of the Disengagement Law."
The judge said the Disengagement Law does not prevent the return of Jews to the former communities. Gadol said the law merely banned the civilian presence ahead of the Israeli destruction of the 24 communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2005.
The teenage defendants had been arrested near Homesh along with six boys. The boys agreed to police terms to post a 500 shekel [$115] bond, but
the girls refused.
Since April 2007, thousands of Jews, most of them youngsters, have sought to revive Homesh, a hilltop community that overlooks central Israel. Despite army threats, the legal aid group Honeinu reported only 40 arrests and three indictments of those who entered the site.
On Aug. 26, police and army troops returned to Homesh to evict the returning Jews. About 100 people, some of whom brought tents, were removed from Homesh, which still contains the rubble of destroyed homes and other buildings.
Gadol released the teenage girls after he dismissed the charges. He also rejected the prosecution argument that the teenagers had violated a military order against entering a closed zone.
Instead, the judge said the legal status of Homesh -- which unlike the Gaza communities was not transferred to the Palestinian Authority -- remains unclear. He said a military rather than a civil court should prosecute those charged with illegally entering a closed military zone.
"The defendant should be heard in a military court since a civil court has nothing to do with the apparent violation of an order by a military commander," Gadol wrote in the decision for one of the five teenagers. "Under these circumstances, there is apparently no evidence that she was in violation of the law. The suspect was wrongfully detained, and detaining her in custody is also problematic as she apparently hasn't committed any crime."
The leaders of the grassroots effort to resettle Homesh hailed the decision. They cited the Gadol rejection that returning to the dismantled community violated Israeli law.
"The court's decision proves that those returning to Homesh are not breaking the law, not even the Sodom-like law of the Disengagement," the Homesh First organization said. "But it is the government that wants to stop them for political reasons."
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