Illegal Arab building defies Supreme Court ruling

The illegal “building intifada” being waged by the Palestinian Authority on state lands in Area C of Judea and Samaria has become the latest battleground for the radical Left in conjunction with foreign-funded Israeli so-called human rights NGO’s such as B’tselem and Bimkom.

Construction worker in West Bank 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Construction worker in West Bank 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The illegal “building intifada” being waged by the Palestinian Authority on state lands in Area C of Judea and Samaria, (the West Bank), has become the latest battleground for the radical Left in conjunction with foreign-funded Israeli socalled human rights NGO’s such as B’tselem and Bimkom.
This unlawful land theft is being carried out with the full support of the EU, foreign aid organizations and the UN.
Under the Oslo Accords, Israel was allocated full administrative and security control over Area C. Allocation of final sovereignty in Area C was to be determined in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap of 2002.
Instead, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad has sought to unilaterally extend the PA’s control over undeveloped state lands within Area C in an attempt to pre-empt the outcome of any such negotiations, or in the more likely scenario, do away with the need for them completely.
Fayyad made his intentions very clear in an interview in the Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat on September 1, 2009: “Many think that zone ‘C’ areas have become disputed territories rather than occupied territories in the public consciousness. We assert that these are Palestinian National Authority territories where the state will be established.”
To achieve this objective, the construction of thousands of illegal Arab structures has gathered pace all over Area C as the PA pursues this policy of encouraging illegal land grabs, illegal outposts and building on state lands.
Such activity is very evident in the South Hebron Hills, in the area near the ancient Jewish town of Sussiya.
Arab shepherds from the nearby town of Yata, a Palestinian Arab city of 80,000 in Area A, have created a new village there called Khirbet Sussiya.
They claim that their families have lived on this land for decades, if not centuries. Their struggle has become the cause célèbre of the cadre of foreigners and locals wishing to harm Israel and its standing worldwide through misrepresentations and outright lies.
IN TRUTH, this is just a matter of squatters illegally trying to grab state lands. These illegal squatters will always be portrayed as helpless, weak and vulnerable, but they are nothing of the sort. They all have alternate, permanent homes in Yata and are encouraged by the PA to grab land.
The area occupied by the squatters has been state land since the days of the Ottoman Empire. It has only ever served as grazing land and the caves found there have only ever been used for temporary dwelling by the shepherds for two weeks to a month a year during the grazing season.
Aerial photo archives prove that the squatters have not lived there – or anywhere in the environs of Sussiya – for decades.
These squatters also falsely claim they have been forced to build illegally because of the limited number of building permits approved by the Civil Administration (CA). In fact, the CA has approved over 100 new town plans for Area C in the past 10 years. A good example of these new town plans is a village only five kilometers north of Sussiya, called Khirbet Tawani.
However, the Palestinian Arabs have no interest in applying for building permits anywhere in Area C, as this would be seen as accepting Israel’s authority.
Building applications to the CA are only lodged in areas where it is known that the CA will not approve them, thus skewing the number of building refusals and giving rise to the false claim that the Arabs cannot get building approvals in Area C, as in the much-bandied 94% statement used by Israel’s detractors.
Micro-comparisons are continuously being made in articles and letters in the media contrasting the Palestinians living in their tents and tin sheds in Khibet Sussiya with the red roofs and “European villas” the Jews have in Sussiya to support false claims of racism, discrimination and colonialism (as if using the term “European villa” some how proved this).
However anyone visiting the area (or for that matter any competent Google Earth user) can readily see the impressive Arab homes (some even with red roofs) in and around Hebron and throughout the South Hebron hills.
Alleged Discrimination with regard to the sharing of water in Area C is another issue constantly raised by Israel’s detractors and pro-Palestinian NGO’s.
First, the squatters complain that their illegal structures are not connected to the water system. They then bring in water tanks (supplied by the PA) at a cost of over NIS 30 shekels per cubic meter of water – compared to the NIS 5 per cubic meter paid by Israelis and legal residents of Area C.
Of course, they don’t care to raise the fact that the PA is buying this water from Israel at NIS 2.5 per cubic meter – so either someone is making a huge mark-up at the squatters’ expense, or someone is manipulating the figures to again make Israel look bad.
What you will never hear is that the village of Khirbet Sussiya has been the subject of many rulings by Israel’s High Court of Justice, including the latest one against the squatters on the June, 7, 2012, when the Court upheld Regavim’s claims that these Palestinian Arabs have been living and building illegally on state lands.
In this case, suddenly it seems it’s OK if Israel’s Supreme Court rulings are ignored.
So why are NGOs, foreign governments and aid donors pouring millions of dollars into Khirbet Sussiya? Why are they funding the illegal building of structures by transient shepherds who have been found to be squatters and ordered by the Supreme Court to move?
So-called Rabbis For Human Rights provides an answer very similar to that of Prime Minister Fayyad:
“At first blush, it may seem that this is ‘only’ about the threat to demolish the entire village of Sussiya, the homes of these simple cave dwellers of the South Hebron Hills. However, the truth is that the results will affect the fate of hundreds of Palestinian homes throughout the Occupied Territories, perhaps thousands. The outcome may well have an effect on our major appeal to return planning authority for Palestinian communities in Area C to Palestinian hands.”
SO THERE you have it: proof of a concerted effort to overturn the Oslo Accords, ignore Supreme Court rulings and force the Israeli government to passively cede authority of Area C, acre by acre, to the PA.
Of course such land theft has consequences – and the Courts are increasingly concurring with Regavim's submissions and ruling to have such activity declared illegal and the structures built without any approval demolished.
Those choosing to pit themselves against the law can hardly complain when the law acts to curb their conduct.
The writer works for Regavim, an independent professional research institute and private planning think tank.