Fifth Hezbollah tunnel located and destroyed by IDF..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
One of the most powerful arguments used against Israel is that it is “stealing private Palestinian land.” Of course, this is not only illegal, it is immoral and contrary to Jewish law. The source for this accusation, moreover, is the Civil Administration (CA), a branch of COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), the IDF authority that operates the civil and judicial system in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”).
It was recently reported that Israel intended to approve thousands of homes for “settlers” in Judea and Samaria, and “retroactively authorize illegally built settler homes on private Palestinian property.”
The CA also decided that some parts of Givat Eitam, a new area of Efrat in Gush Etzion, belonged to “private Palestinians.” There were, however, no adverse claims. Last summer, nine fully built homes in Elazar in Gush Etzion were destroyed by the CA because tiny areas of the homes were thought to have been built on “private Palestinian land.” For the same reason, the IDF destroyed Amona, and nine homes in Ofra last year. It caused great suffering, with great losses, and no one benefited.
The CA did not offer proof or documentation for their claims. And the High Court approved.
A newly passed Settlement Regulation Law provides a legal mechanism for authorizing homes to be built in this area, while compensating Palestinian landowners who have a valid claim.
Although Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit opposes the law, he said that in some instances it might be possible to allow seizing private Palestinian land. According to the new law, special courts would be established to adjudicate land disputes. The CA, however, has exclusive control of the documents related to land own ership and has the sole right to determine what “private Palestinian land” is or not. The CA is both judge and jury, and there is no appeal.
The only way to know if land is owned by someone is through the Land Registry. In Israel that is straightforward. But in Judea and Samaria, it means going to the Jordanian Land Registry (taba) – which is not open to Jews/Israelis, with one exception. The only organization which has permission is the CA – which does not allow access to Jews.
Requests to the CA for information about the documentation and evidence that Jews are stealing and building on “private Palestinian land” were rebuffed.
According to the CA: “The land registries in the Judea and Samaria Region are covered under the confidentiality of the registry under the Order Concerning Land (Examination of Registries) (Judea and Samaria) (No. 1737), 5764-2014.”
Therefore, the transfer of information relating to these registries “may only be granted to the holder of a right as defined in the order, and to whomever holds the right under the conditions specified therein.”
This means that until or unless COGAT and the CA allow access to the documents, there is no way to evaluate if their determination that the land in question is owned “privately” is true. There is also no way of knowing if their decisions are valid. They are secret and cannot be examined or questioned. Who are they protecting and why?
This practice by COGAT and the CA has led to the destruction of thousands of Jewish homes backed by court orders without ever having to prove their contention. It has led to Jewish suffering and hardship. It has not benefited any Arabs, since the areas are usually inside or near Jewish communities. This practice has shattered Israel’s moral image and its international standing. What purpose does it serve?
For those who don’t get it, this is how COGAT and the CA contribute to the Palestinian narrative: “The Israeli occupation of Palestine (and Palestinians) means, you steal our land, our livelihood, and then you steal our identity and our souls.”
Lack of transparency by COGAT and the Civil Administration regarding the status of land in Judea and Samaria has led to confusion, tragedy and bitterness. It wastes taxpayer funds and human resources and it accomplishes nothing. It only serves Israel’s enemies. Why do the IDF, the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister’s Office support it?
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