General, Legal Work

Exposing the Manipulation of Ayelet Shaked: Indirect aiding of Palestinian land theft

0 Comments 28 February 2018

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s move to refer Palestinian petitions to the Jerusalem District Courts is an evasion of responsibility for those harmed by the failure of the Israeli authorities.

Ayalet Shaked. Photo: Government Press Office (Israel) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

What is so problematic about referring an individual to a district court in order to prove land ownership? It is a disingenous move designed to provide the cover of a fair legal process under which the authorities can evade responsibility for Palestinian property, which is under the control and supervision of the Israeli military.

The army prevents many Palestinians from entering their agricultural lands. A significant portion of these farmers find that when they are finally permitted access, the lands have been taken over by extremist settlers. As the body responsible for this land, the army should have prevented this unlawful take-over. Now the Palestinians are sent to prove their ownership in court as if this were a “land dispute” that occurs within any normal civilian administration.

Moreover, proof of ownership of land according to the standard required in Israel is almost impossible in the West Bank since there is no central registry of land ownership for most of the territory (and Israel has not bothered to establish one during all the years it has occupied the West Bank). Additionally, agricultural cultivation of land can be used at times to establish ownership.

With that as the case, the army, which barrs Palestinians from entering their agricultural land, is therefore obligated to ensure other elements do not take control of these lands and begin to cultivate them. The High Court of Justice is the appropriate place to challenge any misconduct by the authorities. Therefore, sending Palestinians to the District Court and not to the High Court of Justice, as Shaked suggests, may result in transforming responsibility for the crime to its victims: The Palestinians are forced to prove ownership of land they cultivated for years while the settlers, who took over the land (and were not allocated it by the authorities), do not. Furthermore, it is actually the army who must be held accountable for why it was possible in the first place for the settlers to seize control of land in an area barred to Palestinians.

Thus, a situation worthy of Kafka novel arises: An individual may be removed from their property by the Israeli authorities despite the fact that they have not been provided with any genuine means or paths to prove ownership of the land. Meanwhile, the authorities charged with supervising the land are not held accountable for what occurs on it while the owner is barred – by them – from it. All this ultimately harms one specific group: the Palestinians. How is this behavior compatible with the Jewish obligation to treat the non-citizen equally? If there is Judaism in the “Jewish home” party, they must make it clear to Shaked that every legal route must provide real, not imaginary, protection to the property rights of the Palestinians.

For years Rabbis for Human Rights has helped Palestinians who have suffered from land grabs by extremist settlers.

Further reading:

Haaretz: Ministers back bill barring Palestinians from petitioning High Court in some cases

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