Migron Israel Flag 311.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Despite extensive media coverage of Migron’s legal battles to survive, judicial
edicts by a few members of Israel’s Supreme Court, and misrepresentations by
those who oppose Migron’s presence, the facts concerning this Jewish community
have not been presented fully, or fairly.
A small community of 50
families a dozen kilometers north of Jerusalem, Migron is a test case for all
Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and its fate may affect many within
Israel’s “Green Line” as well.
The controversy revolves around two main
issues: (1) who owns the land, and (2) if there was government negligence, who
was responsible and who should be compensated. Despite the trauma of expelling
9,000 people from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, Israel seems on the verge
of repeating its mistakes.
Built more than a decade ago, Migron received
the active support of the prime minister, the defense minister, the IDF
commander, the civil administration, the housing and construction,
transportation and communications ministries, the electric, water and telephone
companies, as well as other government agencies. In other words, because of
Migron’s strategic location, it was established with de facto government
Part of the land on which Migron was built was registered to
Arabs who left the region and cannot be found; this land thus came under the
jurisdiction of the Custodian of Abandoned Property (apotropus) – a government
agency established to manage land and property that is uninhabited and
unclaimed. Another part of Migron was allegedly purchased by Jews, but
not registered as such for fear of exposing the Arabs who sold it to the PA’s
death penalty for such ‘crimes.’
The State Prosecutor’s Office and Civil
Administration did not object to building at Migron until several years later,
when Peace Now took the matter to the Supreme Court. Relying on the opinion of
the State Prosecutor’s Office and Civil Administration, the Supreme Court
accepted Arab claims that Migron was built illegally on “private Palestinian
The Supreme Court, however, did not investigate or examine the
issue, since it does not deal with such questions; only the District Court has
this authority. The State and Civil Administration never explained why
they did not object initially, or why they changed their position; there is
strong suspicion that the reason is political.
Although the area of
Migron is registered to Arabs, the district court has not authoritatively
decided this issue. Since the alleged original Arab owners are deceased
or unknown, there are serious questions of whether the Arab claimants really do
own the land. Moreover, despite the 64 plots in dispute, only four
petitioners have appeared. Why hasn’t the government accepted their petitions,
and where are the rest? These and other questions regarding ownership will be
considered when the case is heard in the Magistrate’s Court.
How the land
was acquired by the Arabs who now claim it is important. Under Turkish,
British and Jordan rule, large tracts of state land were given to individuals,
tribes and villages by the sovereign power on condition that they pay taxes and
use the land within a specified amount of time, usually 10 years. Land not used
within the given time reverts to the state.
The area of Migron was never
used or developed by its Arab claimants, then or now. But there is a more
In the hilltop community of Amona, near Ofra, there
are nine huge piles of rubble – the remains of Jewish homes destroyed by former
PM Olmert’s government in 2006. What did this destruction accomplish, and was
this true justice? The humanitarian solution
The Arab claimants have rejected
generous offers of compensation and alternative sites which more than match the
value of Migron’s land. Their refusal is understandable since, according to
Jordanian and PA law, selling land to Jews is a capital crime. Hundreds of Arabs
suspected of such transactions have been tortured, jailed or
Pushed by NGOs like Yesh Din and Peace Now, therefore, the Arab
claimants are used as political pawns.
The area of Migron has no
agricultural or commercial value, and is far from any Arab village. The Arabs
who claim it don’t want it and can’t use it. The Jews who live there have not
received final authorization from the Defense Minister – like many Jewish
communities on both sides of the “Green Line.”
If Arab claims are valid
and the government built illegally, then both Jews and Arabs are entitled to
compensation. Those responsible for this mistake should be held
accountable; the residents who moved there in good faith and with the
government’s blessing should not be punished.
The government has another
option: it can declare disputed areas like Migron legal under laws of eminent
domain. Compensating Arab claimants by government decree would be a
humanitarian win-win solution; it would protect the Arab claimants and allow the
residents of Migron to remain.
Pursuing a political agenda against Jews
benefits no one, and undermines any meaningful rule of law or true social
justice.The author is a historian, writer and journalist living in