Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
How the Israeli Occupation Government Transfers
Land from Palestinians to Illegal Jewish Settlers
By Kamel Hawwash
PIC, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, May 23, 2016
The cricket season is in full swing in England and this was
possibly playing on my mind when I read this headline in Haaretz: “Israel
seized Palestinian family's East Jerusalem land behind Its back, gave it to
My immediate reaction was this is simply not cricket, a
British term used to describe an act that is unfair, not honest, or immoral.
Israel should know all about this as it has a cricket team and one that is a
member of the European Cricket Council. In fact, Israel expropriated the
land from the Abu Ta’ah family in East Jerusalem without a tender and
against the rules, then handed it over to Amana, an organisation that works
to establish settlements and outposts for Jews.
A double whammy! Not
only was the land taken from the family, it was given to an organisation
that exists to take over as much Palestinian land as possible through any
means, especially in occupied East Jerusalem, but worse was that - it will
use it to establish its headquarters in the heart of Palestinian East
Amana was formed as an offshoot of the messianic Zionist
movement Gush Emunim and is run by Ze'ev Hever, a convicted terrorist. It
has a long and chequered history of fabricating documents to take
Palestinian land and property under the pretence that it once belonged to
Jews or that it had been bought legally from previous owners. It was formed
in 1976 with the goal of "establishing communities" only for Jews in the
An investigation into its subsidiary Al-Watan
(Arabic name for homeland), a company run by Hever, revealed that 14 out of
15 supposed real estate acquisitions it made were forged. That isn’t
Elad is another group that works to take over Palestinian
property and land in East Jerusalem and settle it with Jews. It received
$115 million in donations between 2006 and 2013, which, according to a
Haaretz investigation, came mostly from companies registered in global tax
shelters such as the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands and the Seychelles, and it
is unclear who controls them.
Another group that benefits from these
donations is Ateret Cohanim, an Israeli Jewish organisation which works for
the creation of a Jewish majority in the Old City and Arab neighbourhoods in
Two of its main funders are American Jewish
businessman Irving Moskowitz and his wife Cherna Moskowitz. In around 2000,
Ateret Cohanim and Elad began to acquire land in Palestinian neighbourhoods
of East Jerusalem outside the Old City and particularly around what they
call the "City of David" area, which is part of the Palestinian
neighbourhood of Silwan. Stories abound of Palestinian families in Silwan
waking up to find Jewish settlers, protected by Israeli security forces,
moving into homes in Silwan.
The methods used to take over land or
property belonging to, or rented for decades by, Palestinians are many. One
is to claim that Jews owned them prior to the establishment of the state of
Israel and that they should revert to the state. The Palestinian families
are evicted and the property turned over to settler organisations that move
Jewish settlers into them, despite the settlers not being descendants of the
supposed original Jewish owners. Appeals to the Israeli courts usually fail
to reverse the takeover, and the "transfer" stands.
only see this as a deliberate policy to replace them with Jews with no
connection to the properties, but as a form of incitement. That isn’t
Another hotspot and focus for settler takeover of
Palestinian homes is the Palestinian city of Alkhalil (Hebron). Ever since
the first settlement was created there shortly after the Six Day War, and
the planting of settlers in the centre of the city, settler groups and
organisations have been working to occupy buildings to gently change the
"demographics" in its centre.
An example of this was the takeover by
dozens of settlers of parts of a Palestinian property on the sensitive
Shuhada street, which they claimed they had bought legally. Protected by the
Israeli army, the settlers are known to terrorise the local population of
200,000 inhabitants in order to push as many of them as possible to leave.
Israel has also divided the Ibrahimi mosque, which it claims as the Cave of
the Patriarch, against the will of the almost wholly Muslim population of
the city. That isn’t cricket.
The practice of enticing Palestinians
with substantial amounts of money to sell their properties to settler
organisations is well established, and where the direct approach fails
attempts to achieve this through devious and backhanded means are well known
to Palestinians. This normally involves using Palestinians as front men to a
sale to gain trust, but in reality the sale was always to settler
organisations or individuals. Palestinians deal harshly with those who sell
their property to settlers and, when found, the rogues who facilitate these
shady deals are also targeted.
Another means of taking over
Palestinian property and transferring it to Jewish settlers is the use of
what is called the absentee property law. This framework allows Israel to
confiscate Palestinian property where the owners left or were forced to flee
as a result of the establishment of the state of Israel and were not able to
(that is not allowed) to return.
Initially, Israel had not applied
this to East Jerusalem, but this changed in 2015 when the Supreme Court
ruled that it could be applied to East Jerusalem, thus making it "legal" for
homes to be taken and essentially handed over to settlers by the state. This
is in defiance of international law, which is clear that East Jerusalem is
Estimates of how much of Israel’s territory is
confiscated under the absentee law is uncertain. However, the Independent’s
Robert Fisk reported that when he interviewed the Israeli Custodian of
Absentee Property, he estimated this to be up to 70 percent of the territory
of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
What the above
demonstrates is that Israel as a state and those organisations set up to
increase the population of Jews living in the occupied Palestinian
territories together use a combination of laws, forgeries, deceptions and
outright brute force to take over Palestinian property to increase the
presence of Jews, especially in East Jerusalem and Hebron.
of the Abu Ta’ah land in Sheikh Jarrah takes this a step further. The state
itself was alleged to have used every trick in the book to complete this
transfer, which the Palestinians see as blatant fabrication and theft.
As the French work to convene an international peace conference to
restart another round of futile talks between Palestinians and Israelis,
there will be talk of confidence- and trust-building measures to create an
atmosphere that helps both sides make the "necessary concessions". Israel
could start with ending its determined effort to replace Palestinians with
settlers, suspend the absentee property law, and return the Abu Ta’ah land
to its rightful owners. That would be cricket.
- Kamel Hawwash is a British/Palestinian engineering professor
based at the University of Birmingham and a long-standing campaigner for
justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is vice chair of the
Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and appears regularly in the media as
commentator on Middle East issues.
- This article was published in the
Middle East Eye website.
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