Court to debate sealing mosque in West Bank village Burin

The village has refuted the claim of illegality on the ground that it believes the mosque is located in Area B.

By
February 21, 2011 06:57
3 minute read.
A West Bank road.

west bank road 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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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 constructed.

Such a move could inflame tensions in the already volatile part of the West Bank, near Nablus, where Burin is located.

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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.

The 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.

Burin’s attorney 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.

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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 illegally constructed.

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 Palestinian construction.

Regavim has argued that the state acts against unauthorized Jewish West Bank construction while ignoring illegal Palestinian building.

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 administration.

It added that Jewish property owners had destroyed 63 unauthorized structures and that the civil administration had destroyed 104 unauthorized settlement buildings.

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