Jerusalem Post – 27th August, 2012
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 so called “human rights” NGO’s such as B’tselem and Bimkom,
Such unlawful land theft is being made 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 Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has sought to unilaterally extend the Palestinian Authority’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 Palestinian Authority 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 Susiya. 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 Susiya. They claim, that their families have lived on such land for decades if not centuries. There struggle has become the cause célèbre of the cadre of foreigners and locals wishing to harm Israel and its standing worldwide through mistruths, 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 is state land since Ottoman days. 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 Susiya 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 last 10 years.
A good example of these new town plans is of a village only 5km north of Susiya called Khirbet Tawani.
However the Palestinian Arabs have no interest in applying for building permits anywhere in Area C, as this would be seen to be accepting Israel’s authority.
Building applications to the CA are only lodged in areas where it is known that the CA will not approve such requests, 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 Susiya compared to the red roofs of the "European villas" the Jews have in Susiya to support false claims of racism, discrimination and colonialism (as if using the term "European villa" some how proves this). However anyone visiting the area (or for that matter a 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 in the sharing of water in Area C is another issue constantly raised by Israel's detractors and pro-Palestinian NGO's.
Firstly the squatters complain that their illegal structures are not connected to the water system.
They then bring in water tanks (supplied by the PA) which cost over 30 shekels for a cube of water compared to the 5 shekels per cube of water Israelis and legal residents of Area C pay. Of course they don’t care to mention that the PA is buying from Israel the water it is supplying to the squatters at 2.5 shekels per cube – guess what, 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 Susiya has been the subject of many court cases before Israel’s High Court of Justice, including the latest ruling against the squatters on the 7th June, 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 OK for Israel’s Supreme Court rulings to be ignored.
So why are NGO’s, Foreign Governments and aid donors pouring millions of dollars into Khirbet Susiya funding the illegal building of structures by transient shepherds who have been found to be squatters and ordered by the Courts to move and have such structures demolished?
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 Susya, 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 dunam by dunam 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 & policy planning think tank and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org. The mission of the Institute is to ensure the responsible, legal & environmentally friendly use of Israel’s national lands and the return of the rule of law to all areas and aspects of the land and its preservation.