The Battle for Strategic Ground
In the course of regular monitoring activities, our Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria discovered illegal work on a strategic Palestinian Authority project in Gush Etzion: The PA was pulling out all the stops, laying out a road on the outskirts of the Har Gilo community, running through the Heletz Valley and connecting the illegal northern extension of the Arab village Batir to Husan, an Arab town to the south. The new road, cutting through Area C (under full Israeli jurisdiction) is strategically placed in the corridor that connects Gush Etzion to Jerusalem. Our repeated attempts to spur the Civil Administration to action were unanswered, so we took the matter to court. Read more here.
Roadworks – a key annexation tactic:
Over the last several months we’ve been tracking the illegal expansion of the Arab village a-Sawwiya in the context of the battle for Area C and the takeover of the open spaces in Judea and Samaria. Several years ago, with the help of European funding for Palestinian Authority agricultural projects, villagers began carving out “agricultural access roads” connecting the village to the surrounding fields – crisscrossing Israeli “survey land” (public property for which final registration as state land was never completed). Although we presented documentation of dozens of illegal permanent structures that had cropped up along these roads to the Civil Administration, no enforcement action was taken, and we decided to petition the court. Click here for a short video clip offering a birds-eye view of the problem.
Changing the discourse:
The Israel Police detained the ‘Imam of Incitement’ of Lod after a series of complaints lodged by Regavim’s Legal Division following the May 2021 riots and the massive media pressure we generated. Our police complaint detailed a long list of Sheikh Yousef Elbaz’s racist and violent statements before and during the anti-Jewish riots in Lod. Elbaz, the spiritual leader of the mixed city’s central mosque, had a key role in fanning the flames of hatred and violence directed against the Jews of Lod and beyond. This month, as a result of our campaign, the Israel Police detained and eventually indicted him for hate speech and incitement.
Regavim’s petition leads the state to consider amendment of the discriminatory Jordanian land law that prevents Jews from purchasing land in Judea and Samaria.
At the end of last year, we petitioned for the repeal of the racially discriminatory Jordanian legislation that prohibits Jews from making personal land acquisitions in Judea and Samaria. This legal relic is still in force in Judea and Samaria, forcing all Jews to purchase land through corporations. Although the government did its best to have the case dismissed, causing numerous postponements and delays, the State’s Attorney finally responded to our petition, notifying the court that it was studying options for amending the law. The court instructed the state’s representatives to submit a progress report on the correction of this racist legislation within four months.
No more traffic jams:
The government notified the court that as a result of a Regavim petition, extensive enforcement action would be taken at the northern entrance to Jerusalem near Hizma, an Arab village adjacent to the security fence. For years, the northern entrance to Jerusalem has been a traffic nightmare at all hours of the day, due to the illegal roadside commercial center built by residents of Hizma. The Binyamin Regional Council’s plan to expand, improve and modernize the road has been stalled for years by the illegal shops located precisely on the spot slated for the road-improvement project. We petitioned the court almost a year ago in an attempt to force the authorities to enforce the law and remove the illegal businesses that are endangering motorists and derailing the roadworks. Read more here.
Living the good life (illegally):
Our intensive activity in the southern region resulted in extensive law enforcement activity near the Bedouin town of Kuseifa. A resident of Kuseifa took advantage of the Passover recess and the inspectors’ vacation, and built a massive compound, complete with two large residences, in the nearby Al Fura’a squatters’ camp – all without permits of any kind, of course. As soon as the construction began, we understood the potential impact such a large-scale project could have on the entire area and we sent an urgent alert to the authorities, demanding the immediate demolition of the compound and restoration of the status quo. At the beginning of this past month, the individual who had built the compound tore it down, following very strong warnings from the National Enforcement Unit.
Success! A large illegal structure built near Ariel was demolished.
While construction criminals were hard at work laying new roads, developing and taking over state land, planting trees and building huge structures on state land near the Ariel Commercial Center – and after six rounds of correspondence with the Civil Administration that took no serious action against any of it – Regavim petitioned the High Court of Justice in order to compel the Civil Administration to issue a “Removal of New Illegal Structures Order” and take immediate steps to halt further progress on these projects and demolish the structures that were popping up in the area. As a result of our petition and the accompanying media campaign, the structure – which was encroaching on an archaeological site! – was demolished, and the Court slapped the Civil Administration with legal costs. If only they had done their job, it could all have been prevented…
We pulled the plug on the illegal scrapyard:
In an expose’ aired on Channed 12 TV News, Regavim revealed the illegal, highly polluting “chop shop” operating in the heart of an IDF training ground. The illegal junkyard, dedicated to scrapping Egged buses, was wreaking havoc on the environment and flooding the market with dangerous, sub-standard “reclaimed” spare parts. The expose’ resulted in the Civil Administration clearing out the scrapyard and impounding the machinery and tools.
Fighting for Freedom of Information:
Freedom of information is an integral part of Regavim’s work, and a core belief is that transparency is a vital principle for good government. In the past several months we have submitted a number of crucial Freedom of Information requests to the Civil Administration, which has repeatedly denied our request, pushing us off for as long as the law permits – and sometimes even longer. In some cases, we received no response at all; in others, the responses contained no data. We refused to take this sitting down, and this past month we submitted three Freedom of Information petitions to the court, demanding that the Civil Administration be instructed to provide all the information we requested, as required by law.
Freedom of Information petition: “Area C Situation Room”
The Civil Administration’s “Area C Situation Room” was established in order to coordinate the flow of information and enforcement activity in the battle against Palestinian annexation of Area C – but the project has proven to be a farce that has actually achieved the opposite of its stated mandate. We submitted a Freedom of Information petition when the Civil Administration refused to provide data on the situation room’s record of enforcement activity since its inception.
Freedom of Information petition: “East Jerusalem Electric Corporation”
Regavim petitioned the court when the Civil Administration refused to provide data on the extent of electrical grid connections carried out by the East Jerusalem Electric Corporation for thousands of illegal Arab structures in Area C.
Freedom of Information petition: “Suspension of Proceedings” Directive
The Civil Administration suspends enforcement procedures against illegal Arab construction projects whenever a permit request or plans are submitted (after the facts on the ground have been established). Regavim’s petition was submitted after the Civil Administration refused to provide information on its directives and standard operating procedures in these cases, refused to confirm or deny the existence of guidelines, and refused to provide data on the number of enforcement procedures that have been suspended in cases of this kind.
The start of a new year gives us a unique opportunity to thank you for your support, encouragement and partnership. This past year presented a new set of challenges. Lockdowns and social distancing, along with a volatile and exceptionally challenging political environment, forced us to find new, creative solutions in order to continue our important […]
Here’s a story that didn’t start off well, but ended with a good deed and a huge smile. Around two weeks ago, an Arab from East Jerusalem broke into the car of our field coordinator Eitan Melet. The thief smashed the window with a massive rock, and stole the drone and other expensive equipment that […]