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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Legal Forum’

Arab–Israeli Scam Exposed in Court

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Over the past two years, Moshe Vidal, an Israeli lawyer, has represented 520 Arabs who worked as agricultural laborers in Gush Katif and were suing their former employers for labor rights violations.

The former employers were shocked to learn about these lawsuits, many of them from ex-employees who were more than just that, who had close relationships with their employers. The employers turned to the Gush Katif settlers’ committee for legal assistance. The committee approached the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, which introduced them to Sigalit Handsher-Farkash, a lawyer specializing in labor laws and a member of the Legal Forum.

Vidal submitted lawsuits against 150 former employers, former residents of Gush Katif. Serial claims were made against the State and the employers for violation of labor laws, with each worker claiming an average of 100,000 NIS. The plaintiffs demanded currency value differences, pay for extra hours, additional pay for work on holidays and severance pay.

Handsher-Farkash decided to inquire about the credibility of the claims and began preliminary procedures, asking to hear the workers’ testimony in court. This step completely overwhelmed the court system, stalling the process and buying time.

Handsher-Farkash and her team went through each claim and discovered that they were all exactly the same, all claiming the exact same work hours, severance pay etc., leading the team to believe that all the claims were organized. They then discovered that the power of attorney on the claims was signed by a Gazan lawyer, Yusuf Hijazi. Furthermore, the forms passed on to Vidal were partially or completely empty, and some even lacked the proper authorization and authentication signatures of the plaintiffs.

Handsher-Farkash was able to contact some of the former employees. The immensity of the scam was then uncovered. Some claimants admitted to being coerced by Hamas to submit the claims; many didn’t want to submit the lawsuit, knowing that their employers cared for their livelihood, which was cut off because of the Disengagement. Some explained that they were suing the State, not the employers, and asked to withdraw their claim when they learned it was being submitted against the employers. Handsher-Farkash even had a worker state in court, via the phone, that he wished to retract his claim. In another case, one of the workers sent a letter from Gaza stating that Vidal did not represent him.

Vidal claimed to have spoken to each of the plaintiffs; however Hendsher-Farkash proved that one of them was a deaf-mute, and therefore it would have been impossible for Vidal to talk to him on the phone.

Beyond procedural tactics, a basic deficiency in the basis of the claims was discovered. The calculation of claims was based on the assumption that each worker worked six days a week, even though there had been prolonged periods during which the workers did not come to work because of security issues. In addition, some did not have specific work hours, while others worked in certain seasons, not year round.

Handsher-Farkash proved in court that the claims were not lawfully submitted and succeeded in closing all the cases.

Not all the farmers chose this venue. Some sought legal counsel from other lawyers who advised them to settle in court. They paid their former employees, only to discover that the lawsuits were a scam.

It is important to note that the State took no responsibility in regards to the lawsuits, even though the case was a result of the Disengagement, which was a political decision. The State was included in the claims, but asked to have the lawsuits against it declared invalid because it was not the direct employer. As a result, these farmers, who had already suffered the loss of their homes, communities and livelihoods, were once again left by the State to fend for themselves. They were lucky to find assistance and resolution through the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel.

Protecting The Rights Of Settlers And Activists: An Interview With Moshe Eyal of the Legal Forum for the Land Of Israel

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

 

      In the aftermath of the forcible evacuation of thousands of Jewish settlers from Gush Katif in 2005, legal protection for settlers and right-wing activists in Israel was virtually non-existent. Meanwhile, legal organizations dedicated to the defense of basic rights for Arabs and left-wing Jews were thriving.

 

      Stepping in to fill the vacuum was the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, whose volunteer staff, comprised of Israel bar-certified attorneys and legal and financial experts, sought government accountability in cases involving the violation of settlers’ basic legal rights.

 

      The director of development of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, Moshe Eyal, recently discussed the accomplishments and objectives of his organization with The Jewish Press.

 

      The Jewish Press: What prompted the creation of the Legal Forum?

 

      Eyal: The Legal Forum was established in September 2004 in response to the changing policies of the Sharon government and the dangers such policies presented to the basic human rights of Jewish settlers in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

 

      My brother Nachie Eyal is the founder and director of the Legal Forum, and it was our view that a watchdog group of attorneys needed to be formed to challenge the laws of the Israeli government as it pertained to the rights of settlers.

 

      While Israel lacks a bill of rights, we still felt it was inherently unconstitutional to evict Jews from their homes as was done in Gush Katif in the summer of 2005. We now have a staff of 40 volunteer attorneys and more than 200 members – including economists, academics and other professionals.

 

      Before we arrived on the scene, the displaced settlers of Gush Katif had virtually no legal rights. We made it possible for them to sue for damages, both psychological and those relating to their property losses, in Israeli courts. Acting as legal counsel to those adversely affected by government policy, we took our cases to the Israeli Supreme Court and successfully sued for fair and equitable compensation for more than 600 families expelled from Gush Katif.

 

  We have also lobbied the High Court of Justice for one billion shekels in compensatory payments for Gaza expellees and have filed more than 25 motions in the High Court, 15 of which regard the unjust government action during the disengagement.

 

  What other issues does your organization consider of paramount importance from a legal perspective?

 

      We are seeking to create alliances with other human rights organizations to fight against rampant political corruption, to champion environmental issues, and to safeguard human rights.

 

      Subsequent to the recent evacuation of Jews from the Beit HaShalom building in Hebron, we filed a complaint against Avshalom Peled, the Hebron police commander, and the regional IDF spokesman for deliberately circulating a false rumor asserting that a Jewish activist had sprayed a police officer with acid and caused serious injuries.

 

      An investigation revealed that neither the ambulance drivers called to Hebron nor other medical officials had treated an officer for acid wounds. These false allegations made against Jewish activists were part of a government-orchestrated campaign of incitement against the settlers.

 

      In early December, before the launching of Operation Cast Lead, we entered an urgent appeal to the Supreme Court to stop the transfer of money to Gaza. The defense minister had approved the transfer of 100 million shekels to Gaza and we told the court that according to the law forbidding the financing of terrorism, this money transfer was neither legal nor ethical.

 

      In late October we stood up for the residents of Sderot by publicly condemning Attorney General Mazuz’s decision to suspend the move to limit the supply of electricity to Gaza. We felt the decision would help the residents of Gaza but ignore the suffering children of Sderot.

 

      You mentioned the plight of settlers in Hebron. What can be done to stop further police violence?

 

      Last August, our organization held a protest in which we sought unfettered access to Kever Rachel in Bethlehem. The demonstration was forcibly halted by the Border Police. During the scuffle that ensued, a correspondent for Israel National News was beaten, detained and questioned by police for filming a policeman hitting a young protestor. The correspondent’s camera was smashed as well.

 

      We sent an urgent letter to the chief of police, to the Judea and Samaria District commander, and to the head of the police internal affairs department demanding an immediate investigation. We stated emphatically that the arrest of and violence against a journalist crossed all red lines and represented a danger of descent into dark regimes.

 

      Is there a role for American Jews in the work of the Legal Forum?

 

      We want American Jews to know they can play a vital role in supporting a legal rights organization that is dedicated to crafting legislation to preserve Jewish land ownership in Israel. Those who support us should know that we work within the framework of the Israeli legal and political systems.

 

      We also lobby Knesset lawmakers on a regular basis with the aim of achieving social and political progress, and we’ve set up legal aid offices for the sole purpose of assisting Israeli citizens of the former Gaza and northern Samaria communities.

 

      Anyone interested in helping us can contact Avi Goldstein (avi_goldstein@netzero.net or 917-355-0199) or Daniel Tauber (Daniel.Tauber@gmail.com or 917-497-7358).

To Protect And Preserve

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

                      Jerusalem-born Nachi Eyal is an unassuming man with a big agenda. His pleasant and soft-spoken demeanor is accented by a focused determination he reveals when discussing his work and his vision as director general of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, a registered non-profit organization that acts to protect human rights in Israel, ensure sound government and preserve the national interests of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Dozens of attorneys volunteer with the forum to reach these goals.
 
                        What began two years ago as a grassroots organization that sought to alleviate the woes of Gush Katif evacuees through the courts has become a full-fledged institution. Over the last two years, the Legal Forum has established itself as one of the most active and influential organizations in Israel’s political milieu. The forum’s activities are carried out by volunteer attorneys and legal and financial experts, who view it as a vehicle for social and political change.
 
                        The Jewish Press interviewed Eyal in Jerusalem last month.
 
 
                        The Jewish Press: How has your background influenced the direction of your life?
 
                        My inspiration comes from Hashem, but there have been many factors in leading me to the position I have now. I grew up in the Old City of Jerusalem, where my mother lived before the War of Independence in 1948. My mother used to tell us about the times she sat on the stone walls observing the interaction between Jews and Arabs. After the 1948 war she was forced to flee, but she returned after the 1967 war and the reunification of Jerusalem.
 
                        After graduating from a yeshiva high school and fighting in the first Lebanon War, I settled in Moshav Sdemot Mehola in the Jordan Valley. There I farmed the land, growing citrus trees, dates, and grapes. Today, I live in Psagot together with my wife, Rachel, and our seven children. The oldest, Amotz, is currently serving in the IDF. After moving to Psagot, I left farming and joined then-Knesset member and National Religious Party head Chanan Porat as his parliamentary aide. At the same time, I worked on various projects backed by Porat such as setting up a yeshiva in Rachel’s Tomb, revitalizing a bankrupt newspaper for religious children, and establishing a yeshiva in Yericho’s Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue.
 
                        How was the Legal Forum originally established?
 
                        In November 2004, when the Israeli government announced its intention to evict the Jews from Gush Katif, newspaper ads appeared inviting people to comment on the decree. I approached Yesha Council leaders and asked whether they would object to the Disengagement through this means. They declined, saying it was pointless. I wasn’t satisfied with this answer, because to me, the idea of the Disengagement spelled disaster, nor only for the Gush Katif inhabitants but for all of Israel. At the time I was involved with a very popular weekly newsletter, Me’at Min HaOr. I decided to place an ad in the newsletter looking for lawyers who would volunteer to oppose the Disengagement. Within a few weeks, forty lawyers responded and the Legal Forum was born.
 
                        How did the Legal Forum help the Gush Katif evacuees?
 
                        The Forum’s lawyers took part in the proceedings of Knesset committees, which were drafting the law. Though they failed to implement any change to the law, they did succeed in minimizing the financial damages that the government intended to inflict on the evacuees, in addition to the suffering of the Disengagement itself.
 
                        We filed several suits with the Supreme Court which somewhat alleviated the damage caused to Gush Katif residents. For example, the government originally wanted to pay the Gush Katif residents strictly according to their years of residency and property ownership. We objected to this narrow criteria and the case went to the Supreme Court. The judge ruled that everyone can sue for his or her rights. Because of this victory, Gush Katif evacuees are now able to sue to gain more compensation, many due to psychological damage and long-term loss. The cost of this victory to the government has been estimated at NIS 2 billion.
 
                        What kind of evidence and data did you present to the Supreme Court to advance your case?
 
                        Our lawyers did research on the results of the eviction of Jews from the Jewish settlements in the Sinai in 1982. They predicted that the damage that would result from the Disengagement in Gush Katif would be far worse because the Gaza residents had lived there much longer and had more invested there. In an effort to preserve the community structure of Gush Katif villages, both from a psychological and economic perspective, the Legal Forum suggested to the government and SELA (the Disengagement Authority) that these communities be resettled together.
 
                        What has the Legal Forum been focusing on lately?
 
                        We considered disbanding after the Disengagement but then realized that the work we started had really only begun. In addition to ongoing help for the Gush Katif deportees, the Legal Forum is now concentrating on protecting civil rights, fighting against government corruption and pursuing national projects. One of the lessons we learned from the Disengagement was how essential it was not only to safeguard the Jewish presence in Judah and Samaria but to build a religious presence in Israel proper.
 
                        The Legal Forum has been working to promote religious Zionism in areas of Israel that have been taken over by Israeli Arabs, such as in Jaffa, Acco, and Hadar in Haifa. We recently sponsored a Shabbat program in Jaffa with over 400 religious youth participating. We have also encouraged Jews not to put up “for sale” signs in these areas in order to dissuade Arabs from buying up these properties, many of which have been sold for above the value price.
 
                        Together with the Movement for the Preservation of National Land, we are mapping Israel’s land resources, investigating illegal Arab building sites and filing suits against such building with the Supreme Court and other relevant government agencies. Following the attorney general’s directive to the JNF to allow Arabs to purchase land belonging to the Jewish people, we are currently developing legislation that will ensure Jewish ownership of these landed resources.
 
                        We’ve also been pressing for public awareness of police violence and corruption, which has risen significantly. We’ve prepared a special report on police brutality in Israel, which marked the first anniversary of the violent clashes in Amona. I take special interest in the brute force the police exhibited at Amona because my own son was injured there. He was knocked unconscious and resuscitated in the ambulance. He miraculously survived, thanks to the prayers of Jews all over the world.
 
                        The report prepared by the Legal Forum has been distributed to ministers, Knesset members and public figures in an effort to push for legislation against police brutality.
 
                        We’ve also been active on behalf of Jewish farmers in the Galilee and the Negev, who have been battling to protect their land and livelihood from neighboring Arabs and Bedouin. We’ve provided them with the necessary resources and have drafted legislation that would define their status and their right to protect themselves and their property.
 
                        How has the Legal Forum been portrayed by the Israeli media?
 
                        In Israel we have a media dominated by the Left. And so we’ve created a department called in Hebrew Tadmit – Enhancing Democracy in Israel’s Media – to monitor media coverage in order to create more balanced reporting. In certain cases, the Forum has approached the Israel Press Council requesting an inquiry into unbalanced reporting. We have been trying to change the workings of the regulation bodies by lobbying for the reestablishment and amendment of the Broadcasting Authority Act and petitioning the Second Broadcasting Authority to publish complete protocols of its meeting. We are also trying to establish an independent watchdog to combat the injustices of the Israeli media without bias or fear.
 
                        The Winograd Commission recently published its report on the Lebanon War fiasco. Did the Legal Forum have any involvement with this issue?
 
                        At the start of the proceedings, we approached Justice Eliyahu Winograd, who headed the inquiry into the events of the Israel-Lebanon conflict, requesting that he publicize the commission’s findings and open up the proceedings for media coverage. We were also the first group to press State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to investigate government failings in the war and its poor handling of the residents in the North. During the war, we founded Orot Chessed, a department that gave food to needy Northern residents and arranged for them to be hosted in the South. Today, Orot Chessed is trying to ease the predicament of the residents of Sderot and the outlying communities.
 
                        How would you describe the current climate in Israel, and what direction would you like to see the country moving in?
 
                        Unfortunately, I see the State of Israel in a state of decline. Look at the examples of the last two years – far-reaching political corruption, the destruction of Gush Katif, the defeat in Lebanon and the loss of the IDF’s deterrence capabilities. I blame this squarely on the Israeli Left’s extensive social, legal and media activities. The youth of today are not the youth of yesterday. The vast majority lack any sense of religion or Zionist ideals. They are straying morally and socially, and the country is collapsing because of it.
 
                        We must establish organizations to counter the Left mainly in politics, media, and the legislature. For many years we overlooked these issues, choosing instead to focus on settling Yesha. To a large degree this has enabled the Left to gain control. The faster we act, the greater our chances to minimize the damage caused to Israel by the Left. We have to culturally infiltrate the social make-up of the population with religious Zionist ideals and conduct our activities with the aim of attracting those non-religious and unaffiliated people to our side.
 

                        With Hashem’s help and the assistance of people who support the Legal Forum, we hope to achieve this goal.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/to-protect-and-preserve/2007/07/04/

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