(photo credit: AP)
For the first time in the history of illegal takeovers of privately owned Palestinian land, five Palestinians are suing the State of Israel for allegedly doing nothing to restore their land, now occupied by the illegal Migron outpost.
The NIS 1.5 million lawsuit was filed in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Sunday by attorney Michael Sfard on behalf of five Palestinians from the villages of Burka and Dir Dibwan.
In the introduction to the lawsuit, Sfard wrote that it was not "aimed at the ideological thieves and land-robbers, but at the state, which is betraying its legal and moral obligations and refraining from protecting the plaintiffs and their property and, instead, is helping the thieves by its actions and lack of action."
Sfard charged that this was a case of the "cops and robbers joining forces, a situation characteristic of countries that are controlled by organized crime or the Mafia."
Migron was established in 1999 on the pretext of building an antenna near the settlement of Ofra. In 2001, during the second intifada, the founders of the outpost brought in mobile homes. In 2003, they started building permanent structures.
Today, there are about 60 mobile homes and two permanent structures, according to Sfard. Forty-three families live there.
The government was allegedly deeply involved in the development of Migron. Sfard quoted from a study on the illegal outposts conducted by Talia Sasson, who found that the Construction and Housing Ministry had allocated NIS 4.325 million for the infrastructure in Migron.
Furthermore, Israel Electric linked Migron to the electricity grid on the basis of a false claim that electricity was needed to maintain an antenna that did not exist.
Sfard charged that in addition to the professional, law-enforcement considerations regarding Migron, "political considerations, which are extraneous and even dangerous, got mixed in and the actions and lack of [state] action stemmed from interests and pressure from political elements."
Sfard said the government, in response to a petition that he filed on behalf of the Palestinian landowners on January 30, 2006, had confirmed that the land upon which the Migron housing was built was recorded in the land registry as Palestinian-owned land; that the outpost was illegal; that the government had issued demolition orders on all the building; that no one was authorized to build Migron; and that the only question at issue was when to evacuate it.
Instead of forcibly evacuating the outpost, the government this summer, with the authorization of the High Court of Justice, opted instead to reach a deal with the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip to relocate the outpost to an adjacent site.
The council has until November 6 to choose that site. To date, however, the council has yet to secure the agreement of the families in Migron to relocate. The families will not be required to leave until new homes are built for them at that alternative site. Only at that point will the outpost be evacuated.
According to Migron spokesman Gideon Rosenfeld, the families do not intend to leave. They believe their presence in the outpost is legal and the money invested by the government for the community's infrastructure is proof that the government planned at one point to formally authorize the outpost.
They have always contended that they purchased a portion of the property, a claim which has been disputed by the courts.
Dror Etkes, an activist in Yesh Din, the organization which has sponsored the lawsuit, said the two legal actions - the High Court petition and the lawsuit - are part of a combined effort to deal with the problem.
"The petition tells the state it must evacuate Migron," he told The Jerusalem Post. "The lawsuit tells the state that if it prevaricates, it will cost it money."
Aside from the political aspect, Etkes added, the Migron issue also involved human beings who have lost a great deal of money and whose pride has been trampled.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report
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