west bank road 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court of Justice is set to debate Tuesday the state’s request that the
village council of Burin seal a mosque that the state believes was illegally
Such a move could inflame tensions in the already volatile
part of the West Bank, near Nablus, where Burin is located.
The issue of
the mosque’s legality has yet to be adjudicated, but already on Sunday, in a
response it submitted to the High Court of Justice in advance of a Tuesday
hearing in Jerusalem, the state said the mosque should be sealed.
village has refuted the claim of illegality on the grounds that it believes the
mosque is located in Area B, which is outside the Civil Administration of Judea
and Samaria’s jurisdiction.
The state, in turn, has claimed that the
mosque is located within its jurisdiction, in Area C.
Tawfiq Jabareen told The Jerusalem Post that initially Burin had not filed for a
construction permit because Area B construction was not under Israeli
jurisdiction. It only became aware that the civil administration considered the
mosque part of Area C when one of its inspectors visited the site and issued a
stop-work order, Jabareen said.
The state told the court that the
administration had not enforced the order because at the time it considered
doing so a security risk to its staff in light of tensions related to other
security events in the area. It did not specify which ones.
In an attempt
to broker a compromise, the village of Burin notified the state on February 7
that it had sealed the mosque’s turret. It acknowledged that it had continued to
build the turret even though the administration had issued a stop-work order.
The Israel Police is now investigating the local council’s refusal to comply
with the order.
On Sunday, the state rejected Burin’s compromise gesture
of sealing the turret, and insisted, in a response that it filed to the court on
the matter, that the entire mosque be sealed.
It noted that the mosque
was not on its priority list, given its location next to Area B and the fact
that it did not pose a security risk.
The court addressed the issue of
the mosque after it received a petition from Regavim, a non-governmental group
that monitors illegal Palestinian construction in Area C. With its petition,
Regavim sought to force the state to ensure Palestinians’ compliance with West
Bank building regulations.
Regavim asked the court to enforce compliance
with the stop-work order and to demolish the mosque, which it claimed was
It filed the petition after the state forced
settlers in the El Matan outpost in Samaria to seal their unauthorized synagogue
in the fall. The state acted against the synagogue only after it received a
petition from nonprofit organization Yesh Din.
On Sunday, Regavim
responded that it hoped the court would equitably execute enforcement against
the mosque with the same speed that it acted against the synagogue, and that it
would not allow the state to evade its responsibility to enforce the law against
Regavim has argued that the state acts against
unauthorized Jewish West Bank construction while ignoring illegal Palestinian
In its response to the court on Sunday, the state said that 172
unauthorized Palestinian buildings had been destroyed in Area C in 2010, of
which 62 were torn down by the property owners and 110 by the civil
It added that Jewish property owners had destroyed 63
unauthorized structures and that the civil administration had destroyed 104
unauthorized settlement buildings.