An Israeli advocacy group, using maps and figures leaked from inside the government, says that 39 percent of the land held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians.
Israel has long asserted that it fully respects Palestinian private property in the West Bank and only takes land there legally or, for security reasons, temporarily.
If big sections of those settlements are indeed privately held Palestinian land, that is bound to create embarrassment for Israel and further complicate the already distant prospect of a negotiated peace. The data indicate that 40 percent of the land that Israel plans to keep in any future deal with the Palestinians is private.
The new claims regarding Palestinian property are said to come from the 2004 database of the Civil Administration, which controls the civilian aspects of Israel’s presence in the West Bank. Peace Now, an Israeli group that advocates Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, plans to publish the information on Tuesday. An advance copy was made available to The New York Times.
The data — maps that show the government’s registry of the land by category — was given to Peace Now by someone who obtained it from an official inside the Civil Administration. The Times spoke to the person who received it from the Civil Administration official and agreed not to identify him because of the delicate nature of the material.
That person, who has frequent contact with the Civil Administration, said he and the official wanted to expose what they consider to be wide-scale violations of private Palestinian property rights by the government and settlers. The government has refused to give the material directly to Peace Now, which requested it under Israel’s freedom of information law.
While it's a bit depressing to think that anyone would be surprised by this, as Israeli landgrabs have been documented by Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups almost as exhaustively as they've been assiduously ignored by mainstream U.S. news media, it is a good thing to see it in print.
As I've said repeatedly, it's preposterous to insist that Palestinians curb their resistance to the occupation while this sort of blatant theft is ongoing. This isn't just empty land that's being taken, much of it is farmland which Palestinian families have tended for generations, and upon which thousands of people depend for food and income.
Just to clarify, all of the settlements in the Occupied Territories are on Palestinian land, but the Peace Now report indicates that 39% of them are on land known to be owned by specific Palestinian people.