Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

Israeli Advocacy Group Begins Campaign to Help Palestinians Sue Over Settlements

Posted by gaetanoditommaso su 30 gennaio, 2009

JERUSALEM — An Israeli leftist advocacy group said Friday that it was starting a campaign to help Palestinians sue the state of Israel for its use of their privately owned lands for Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

The campaign by the advocacy group, Yesh Din, which fights for the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories, follows the publication on Friday in the newspaper Haaretz of classified government data regarding the extent of construction in officially recognized settlements that is illegal by Israeli standards.

The violations include private and public building carried out without the appropriate permits or outside of approved plans, as well as the construction of whole neighborhoods on private Palestinian lands in blatant contravention of Israeli policy and law.

The information was published as President Obama’s special Middle East envoy, George J. Mitchell, wound up his maiden visit to Israel and the West Bank, though individuals involved in the campaign said the publication was not timed to coincide with Mr. Mitchell’s trip.

As chairman of an international fact-finding commission after the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, Mr. Mitchell was the first foreign official to equate Israeli security and settlement building, calling on Israel to freeze all settlement construction in return for Palestinian efforts to rein in violence.

The leaked government data and any subsequent lawsuits could prove embarrassing and costly for Israel. Yesh Din estimates that the extent of the claims against Israel could amount to tens of millions of dollars or more.

Michael Sfard, Yesh Din’s legal counsel, told reporters here on Friday, “Many Palestinian households now have a valid legal claim against the state of Israel” and can go to court to demand the removal of buildings from their property and reparations for the years the lands could not be used. And if Israel does not compensate them, Mr. Sfard said, they will eventually turn to foreign courts.

Much of the world views all Israeli construction in the territories that were conquered in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war as a violation of international law. Israel argues that the settlement enterprise does not violate the law against transferring populations into occupied territories, but that it represents a voluntary return of individuals to places where they or their ancestors used to live.

Some 285,000 Israelis now live in about 120 recognized settlements in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem. Israel says their fate will eventually be decided through negotiations with the Palestinians. Settler leaders routinely say that the settlements are built on areas defined as state land. Israel says it carries out exhaustive checks to ensure that there is no building on private Palestinian land.

But the official data published Friday showed numerous examples where Israel had not enforced its own laws.

The information gathering on the construction began in 2004 as Israel came under increasing international pressure to carry out a settlement freeze. The defense minister at the time, Shaul Mofaz, asked a retired brigadier general, Baruch Spiegel, to compile a detailed database that would give the government an accurate picture of settlement construction.

What emerged was a pattern of building violations, not only in the unauthorized outposts that have sprung up in recent years, but also in many of the established towns and villages deemed “official” by Israel that make up the cream of the settlement building.

In Elon Moreh, which is a pioneer settlement set up in the 1970s near Nablus, the database shows that most of the construction has been carried out without properly approved plans, and that a northern neighborhood was built on private land. In Ofra, a flagship settlement near Ramallah that is home to members of the settler movement elite, “most of the construction” is on registered private land, according to the database.

In Kfar Adumim, near the largest Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, new construction is said to trespass onto private land.

Despite numerous requests by Peace Now, another leftist advocacy group, the Defense Ministry has refused to make the database compiled by the retired brigadier general public on the grounds that the release of the information could harm Israeli security and foreign relations. A petition to require the state to publish all the information has been pending for two years in the Tel Aviv District Court.

In the meantime, some of the data has been obtained by nongovernmental groups and has already been published, including in The New York Times in 2006.

But with the leak of all the official information to Haaretz, the details are now “uncontested,” Mr. Sfard said.

An Israeli defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, dismissed the Haaretz report as “political” and “nothing new.” He noted that, in total, the settlements are built on 6 percent of the West Bank land, and that the issue of private land ownership is “complicated,” given the different administrations of the West Bank going back to the Ottoman Empire, the British mandate, Jordan and now Israel.

Israeli officials add that some Palestinians sold their land to Jews but cannot admit it for fear of being labeled collaborators, while others have no papers to prove ownership of the land they claim.

Another challenge Yesh Din is likely to face is the longstanding Palestinian reluctance to claim compensation from Israel for seized land, so as not to legitimize the loss.

“It is a sensitive issue,” said Dror Etkes of the Settlement Policy Judicial Advocacy Project of Yesh Din. “Many Palestinians till today refuse to consider such a process. It takes time to explain.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/31/world/middleeast/31mideast.html?_r=1&ref=middleeast

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