CAMERA on Peace Now's "corrected" report:
March 15, 2007
by Alex Safian, PhD
Peace Now’s Blunder: Erred on Ma'ale Adumim Land by 15,900 Percent
Peace Now, the Israel-based advocacy group, claimed in an October 2006 report that Israeli settlements are situated mostly on “private Palestinian land,” and in particular that the territory of the largest settlement, Ma’ale Adumim, is 86.4 percent “private Palestinian land.” CAMERA raised a number of serious objections (here and here) to Peace Now’s claims, which the group has failed to address.
The original report, Breaking the Law – One Violation Leads to Another, was based on information described as leaked government data, and now, through Israel’s Freedom of Information laws, Peace Now has gained access to updated information which it portrays as confirming its original claims. However Peace Now has had to admit that it made a massive error regarding Ma’ale Adumim, a 15,900 percent mistake. Rather than 86.4% Palestinian land, the new data shows just 0.54% of Ma’ale Adumim’s land as supposedly Palestinian. In addition, Peace Now deceptively omits any mention of this extremely serious error both in its press release posted on its US website, and in the announcement posted on its Israeli website. Only in the middle of its updated report, strangely enough entitled Guilty, does Peace Now get around to its updated claims regarding Ma’ale Adumim’s land.
Such a massive error – acknowledged in such a grudging and deceptive way – raises serious questions about Peace Now’s credibility, and the reliability of the rest of their claims. If they could make such a transparently absurd allegation about Ma’ale Adumim – and it was transparently absurd – then how can one trust their assertions about the land situation in other communities?
In addition, nowhere in its updated report does Peace Now deal with the broader problems that also afflicted its earlier report:
1. Peace Now is relying upon government maps that are based not on Palestinian ownership of land, but on Palestinian claims to ownership of land. With Ma’ale Adumim, for example, there were indeed Palestinian (more accurately Bedouin) claims over the land, but they were investigated and found to be baseless, as even the claimants eventually admitted. That would perhaps explain why there was a huge change in the map in this case.
2. Peace Now continues to misleadingly ignore crucial details of land law in the West Bank, in particular that: (A) Under the Ottoman Land code which Israel inherited largely intact from previous sovereigns, most of the West Bank land used by Israeli settlements, being quite far from other built up areas, is mewat or waste land, which is always owned by the state and cannot legally be owned by private individuals.
(B) Any land used by the settlements which was not mewat land was almost certainly miri land, which means land of the Emir, or the sovereign. Miri land is state land over which a private individual can gain certain rights of use by the fact of cultivation, something like squatters’ rights. Those rights expire, however, once the land is no longer being cultivated, but the fact that someone once had rights to use the land (as long as hundreds of years ago) may still be recorded in the land registry, even long after the rights have expired. Peace Now apparently is counting as “private Palestinian land” any land over which any Palestinian ever gained such rights via cultivation. Which renders their term “private Palestinian land” meaningless.
In their original report Peace Now charged that Israel “deprived thousands of Palestinians of the basic human right of possession.” We challenged them then, and we repeat that challenge now – If they claim the land is “private Palestinian land,” let them name the owners. Which persons owned this land, what are their names, what were the boundaries and where are the deeds? If they can’t answer such obvious and basic questions, their original and updated claims are nothing short of reckless.
[Of course, the Israeli branch of the PA Propaganda Ministry ignores most of this. (Meanwhile, the Haaretz report has disappeared from their website.)]