Israel’s High Court of Justice has handed down a decision which blocks a first-of-its-kind private prosecution brought by Shurat HaDin against the Islamic Waqf (“Trust”) in Jerusalem.
The Waqf is the radical anti-Israel authority which the government allows to oversee Muslim holy places including the mosques on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Following months of reports that the Waqf was utilizing bulldozers on the Temple Mount to carry out unauthorized construction that was obliterating ancient Jewish artifacts and the refusal of the Israeli police to act to safeguard these relics, we decided to go to Court against the Muslims.
On October 11, 2007, Shurat HaDin filed a private criminal action against the Islamic Waqf on behalf of more than 150 Israeli citizens, indicting the Waqf members for the illegal bulldozing and destruction of Jewish artifacts. Many of these relics being destroyed date back to the First Temple Period! We accused the Islamic Waqf of seeking to eradicate all evidence of Israel’s ancient connection to this holy site and trying to rewrite Jerusalem’s history. We argued that it is nothing less than a religious, cultural and archaeological crime against the entire world Jewish community. We were seeking to imprison the Waqf’s leaders.
We turned to the High Court (BAGATZ) after the Attorney General (AG) moved in May 2008, to have our indictment dismissed. At that time we were notified by the AG, that his office was attempting to halt our private prosecution on the grounds that an issue with such broad public implications and interest cannot be prosecuted by private citizens. In essence, the AG refused, out of fear of the international response, to prosecute these Islamic extremists and he moved to obstruct Shurat HaDin from undertaking the litigation ourselves.
In response, Shurat HaDin argued that the AG’s motives in this case were not of a pure legal nature and, thus, his office should step aside completely and not involve itself in the proceedings. We demanded that the AG be compelled by the High Court to either prosecute the case himself or allow us to continue with our legal action independently as provided for by the law.
At the oral arguments before the High Court in February 2009, we argued that the AG has a political agenda and was voicing his political considerations, rather than purely legal ones as he was mandated to do. We insisted that the AG is simply too afraid of the Arab states, the European Union, the UN and US State Department to legally defend Jerusalem. Just to note the absurdity of the BAGATZ deliberations, at one point one of the justices urged that we withdraw the petition because status of “the Temple Mount is very emotionally charged.”
We replied we know, and that is why we brought the indictment and the petition in the first place – it is Judaism’s holiest site. This week the BAGATZ rejected our petition and gave the Islamic Waqf a free pass to continue its destruction of Israel’s sacred heritage sites. The justices held that our efforts to safeguard the ancient First Temple artifacts on behalf of world Jewry could not be done by means of a private prosecution. Alternatively, it refused to order the AG to take action against the Waqf.
It is absurd that while the Israeli government is mounting an international campaign against UNESCO to protest its labeling Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Macpelah in Hebron as Muslim mosques and denying their Jewish origins, it obstructs Shurat HaDin from acting to safeguard the status of the Jewish people’s holiest site.
For the decision in Hebrew click here.