Monday, June 29, 2009

The Top Ten Reasons that Havot Ma'on and Ma'on have Got to Go:
Reason Number Four: Havot Ma'on and Ma'on are on Palestinian Land

"Our family used to live in those trees," our partners in Tuba tell us. For some reason, very few people are willing to say this loudly and clearly, but Ma'on and Havot Ma'on are on land that belongs to Palestinians.

According to Israeli organization Peace Now, 16% of Ma'on and Havot Ma'on land is privately owned by Palestinians. 26% of the land is survey land - land seized by the state of Israel for "military purposes", on which it is illegal for anyone to build. (Apparently, that law doesn't apply, in practice, to settlers.) However, 0% of the land is actually privately-owned by Israelis.

Now, to best understand these statistics, you need to understand land registration for Palestinians. Excuse me while this becomes dense and nerdy. I promise it will be over soon: Peace Now defines Privately owned Palestinian land as "A. Land that was registered and recognized as private property before 1968, at a time when the process of land registration was still open and available to Palestinians, or B. Cultivated land which is recognized by Israel as private land according to the Ottoman law." Israel has exploited the fact that under Ottoman rule, only very small parts of the West Bank were actually registered to specific owners. Under British mandate, a process of land registration began. Then in 1968, Israel halted all registration claims , leaving thousands of square kilometers of agricultural land unregistered. Then, Israel claimed this land as state land. So, do these statistics accurately show how much of Ma'on and Havot Ma'on land is actually owned by Palestinians? No. But they do boslter the case of Palestinian families who have farmed and lived on that land for generations.

According to Peace Now, in the West Bank 130 settlements are constructed either entirely or partially on private Palestinian land. Around 51 thousand dunams (quarter acres) of the land used by the settlements is actually private Palestinian land. Privately owned Palestinian land accounts for nearly 40% of land used for settlements. Much of the rest of that land, however, is Palestinian land that has been claimed by the Israeli state. As with Ma'on and Havot Ma'on, the more telling statistic is the percentage of settlement land privately held by Israelis: 1.26%.

Whether it's appropriated by the state or just plain stolen, it's still Palestinian land.

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