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Israeli High Court Approves Theft of Bil’in Land

by the ISM media team

In a laconic verdict, the High Court of Justice yesterday rejected a petition filed by the residents of Bil’in and Peace Now, against declarations made in the early 90s where 900 dunams of the village lands were declared government property. Most of these lands were subsequently allocated for the construction of the Matityahu East neighborhood in the settlement Modi’in Illit.

The basis for the petition were documents recently exposed from which it was evident that the declarations were made in an attempt to conceal alleged purchases made by the Fund for the Redemption of Lands, a settlers company that claimed to have bought lands in Bil’in. The State declared the lands government property and immediately thereafter allocated the lands to the Fund, while bypassing the orders of the local law pertaining to land registration.

Despite the fact that documents submitted to the Court proved clearly that this happened, Judge Rivlin wrote in the verdict that the plaintiffs didn’t prove that “the declarations were done in an attempt to bypass the” law dealing with such purchases. Judge Rivlin adds that the State admitted that one of the declarations was made following the request of Israelis who claimed to have bought lands in Bil’in. However, the Court upheld the State’s claim that the decision to declare the land as government property was taken not due to the request of the settlers, but due to the fact the land was indeed government property, i.e., agricultural land that has not been cultivated for some time. And yet, Judge Rivlin added that “the material in front of us is not
unequivocal on this. There is evidence in both directions”. Despite this, the Court refrained from issuing an order nisi which would have involved further investigation of the issues to resolve them completely.

Two other petitions regarding Bil’in are still pending in Court: petition 8414/05 against the route of the barrier and petition 143/06 against the illegal construction in Matityahu East. In the latter, a temporary injunction issued about 10 months ago prohibits any further building and moving in of settlers.