The High Court of Justice had some sharp words for one settler who invaded private Palestinian lands and then perverted the law to prove they were his. So why did the prosecution close the case for ‘lack of public of interest?’
By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz
Several years ago – the precise date is disputed – a settler by the name of Michael Lessens began invading private Palestinian lands in the village of Qaddum (near his settlement of Kedumim), and fenced them for his private needs. As Lessens would later explain, he wasn’t acting on his own initiative; he received directions from the council of Kedumim to seize and till the lands, so that the settlement may later expand onto them. In documents which would come before the High Court of Justice, and which were originally presented to the Civil Administration’s appeals committee at the Ofer Military Court, Lessens stated that he had council officials sign documents allowing the land grab.
In 2007, Lessens began fencing the lands, that is, he attempted to stake his claim and prevent the legal owners from accessing them. The result was a legal process in which the owners of the lands were represented by Yesh Din’s legal team. At the same time, the police began an investigation against Lessens and others on suspicion of criminal trespassing. At first, Yesh Din turned to the chief of the Civil Administration, who ordered Lessens to stop using the lands. Lessens appealed, showing the appeals committee statements saying he was instructed to take over the lands. The committee accepted the appeal in a majority vote. However, the chief of the Civil Administration rejected the decision, ruling that the eviction order against Lessens is valid. Lessens, in response, appealed to the High Court, which was also dealing with an appeal by the residents of Qaddum, represented by Yesh Din, who demanded Lessens’s eviction.
Lessens had the nerve to claim that since he held the lands for more than a decade, that according to Ottoman land law – or Lessens’s perverted version of it – the lands belong to him by virtue of possession and tilling. The High Court rejected Lessens’s appeal on March 30, 2012, and accepted the petition of the residents of Qaddum. The court had some choice words for Lessens:
One part of the case ended well: Lessens was evicted from the lands he occupied in...Read More