donderdag 22 maart 2007

Peace Now's report on Palestinian land seized for settlements

De grootste Israëlische vredesorganisatie Peace Now ligt momenteel onder vuur vanwege grove fouten in een rapport over de hoeveelheid Palestijns land die is geconfisceerd voor de bouw van Joodse nederzettingen. Het roept herinneringen op aan de fout van Greenpeace bij het meten van de hoeveelheid olie in het boorplatform de Brent Spar in 1995, waartegen het toen fel campagne voerde. Het leverde een flinke deuk in het doorgaans betrouwbare imago van Greenpeace op.

In het commentaar hieronder is ook de informatie over illegale huizenbouw door de Palestijnen interessant - niet om de Joodse nederzettingen goed te praten, maar wel om te laten zien dat zeker in Jeruzalem beide partijen een politiek spel spelen en de sloop van illegale huizen soms gerechtvaardigd is.

Onder het CAMERA commentaar staat een eerder bericht over de kwestie uit Haaretz.


Peace Now's margin of error

Wildly inaccurate report raises questions about organization's credibility

Tamar Sternthal
Ynet News - Published: 03.21.07, 14:04 / Israel Opinion,7340,L-3379237,00.html

"The media whirlwind surrounding this report has just begun," Americans for Peace Now boasted Nov. 21, 2006 with the release of a document charging that Palestinians privately own 40 percent of the lands upon which settlements are built.

The stunning case of Ma'aleh Adumim, 86.4 percent of which was reportedly private Palestinian land, was singled out in many international media outlets, the New York Times among them.

When the report again made headlines just last week, Peace Now was not so ecstatic. "Military database released to Peace Now shows little land seized from Palestinians to build largest West Bank settlement," was the headline in the International Herald Tribune March 14, prompting the organization to swing into damage-control mode. In the much publicized case of Ma'aleh Adumim, Peace Now was off by a factor of 15,900 percent; 0.5 percent - not 86.4 percent -- was built on private Palestinian land.

Peace Now "settlement expert" Dror Etkes is likewise careless with the facts in his Feb. 23 Op-Ed in Ynet, in which he egregiously downplayed and justified the widespread phenomenon of illegal Arab building.

For instance, he erroneously states that illegal Palestinian construction "is undertaken by private individuals in all cases." In fact, there is substantial evidence that for more than a decade, the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments have abetted the massive phenomenon of illegal Arab building.

On June 5, 2000, Ha'aretz quoted Feisal al-Husseini, the late Palestinian figure most associated with Jerusalem, speaking almost openly about the PA backing: "The most important Palestinian activity at this time is building, even without permits."

In his book Illegal Construction in Jerusalem: A Variation on an Alarming Global Phenomenon, Justus Reid Weiner documents numerous examples proving Palestinian Authority involvement in illegal construction.

They include letters from PA officials, like Ziad Abu Ziad, to Yasser Arafat, requesting infrastructure funding in neighborhoods such as Ras Hamis, which contains massive illegal building and which abuts the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev; an article in the PA's El Hiya El Jdida newspaper in which Jamil Othman Nasser, the PA governor of the Jerusalem District, calls for the establishment of a "development council" to aid Palestinians who skirt Israeli building laws; and requests from Nasser to Arafat that the PA pay the fines assessed against those who build illegally.

Blatant falsehood

Hence, Etkes' claim that illegal Palestinian building is meant mostly to shelter families in need and serves no political purpose is also nonsense. Why, then, do apartment buildings stand empty in Arab suburbs of Jerusalem like A'Zaiam or E'Ram?

Similarly, on what basis does Etkes assert that "Most of the Palestinian illegal construction is undertaken on their own private land?" Has Peace Now undertaken a comprehensive study of all illegal construction, including the vast Muslim theft of Christian lands in greater Bethlehem, as well as the theft of private land by Arab developers in Jerusalem neighborhoods, Beit Hanina, the Old City, Shuafat and Hod El Tabel, among them? And, would such a study have a better margin of error than 15,900 percent?

In another blatant falsehood, Etkes states that the Palestinian population in "east Jerusalem does not have the right to vote. As a result, it does not have the practical possibility of taking part in shaping the planning and construction policy in the areas where it has been living for generations." East Jerusalem Arabs unconditionally have the right to vote in municipal elections, a fact that even Peace Now has elsewhere recognized ("Settlements in Focus," Vol. 2, Issue 4.)

Dror Etkes and Peace Now may very well persevere in their promises to deliver up "the facts." News consumers need only think two thoughts - "Ma'aleh Adumim" and "15,900 percent error" - and not be fooled.

The writer serves as director of the Israel office of CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)


Last update - 11:16 14/03/2007
Peace Now: 32% of land held for settlements is private Palestinian property
By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent, and Agencies

A report issued Wednesday by Peace Now claims that 32 percent of land held for settlement and outpost use is private Palestinian property, as is 24 percent of the land on which the settlements are actually built.

The organization says the report is based on "official figures" from the Israel Defense Forces' Civil Administration.

Peace Now says that it had previously received data about West Bank land from the Civil Administration that did not reveal the ratio of privately owned Palestinian land to privately owned Jewish land.


The group says that the specific figures were withheld to cover up the fact that approximately one-third of land held by settlements was established on private Palestinian land.

The Civil Administration said in response that the Peace Now report contained several inconsistencies which "misrepresent reality."

"We were disappointed to see that despite the clarifications made by the Civil Administration ... the most recent report is still inaccurate in many places, thus misrepresenting the reality concerning the status of the settlements," the Administration said.

Ma'aleh Adumim built mostly on state land

The Peace Now report did indicate, however, that contrary to numbers released by the movement in November, little private land was seized from Palestinians to build Ma'aleh Adumim, the largest settlement in the West Bank.

The new numbers are vastly smaller than numbers Peace Now issued in an earlier report based on leaked information.

The group claimed in November that 86 percent of Ma'aleh Adumim, which has more than 30,000 residents, was built on private Palestinian land.

After successfully petitioning the court to see the database, the group reported Wednesday that data show only 0.5 percent of the settlement is built on private land.

"The first report they released had major mistakes," said Captain Zidki Maman, a spokesman for the Civil Administration.

Dror Etkes, Peace Now's settlement expert, said if the original information it published was inaccurate, then the military was to blame for refusing to release the database until the court ordered it to do so after the November report.

Asked whether the military might have altered its database after the original report was released, Etkes replied, "It's not impossible, but I can't prove that."

The new numbers on Ma'aleh Adumim were the major factor behind a revised Peace Now representation of how much private Palestinian land was seized for West Bank settlers. In November, Peace Now put that figure at 38.8 percent; on Wednesday, it the new numbers reduce that figure to 32.4 percent, the group said.

Israel has long maintained that settlements were built on "state lands," or areas not registered in anyone's name, and that no private property was being seized for settlement building.

Peace Now said last month that Israel was building more than 3,000 homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and that while the number of settlements did not grow in 2006, their population had increased over the year by 5 percent.

Last year, the Peace Now settlement monitoring team published a survey which indicated that nearly three-quarters of the 102 outposts in the West Bank - 74 percent - are at least partly built on private Palestinian land.

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