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Resource: Fact-checking Israel's most stubborn illegal outpost

The state will ask the High Court to, once again, delay the demolition of Amona. Here are a few myths surrounding one of the most stubborn outposts in the West Bank.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

View of the West Bank settlement of Amona, June 5, 2012. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

View of the West Bank settlement of Amona, June 5, 2012. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

In recent months the residents of Amona and right-wing politicians have been waging a campaign designed to prevent the evacuation of this unauthorized outpost and to continue seizing the lands that belong to the residents of the Palestinian villages Silwad, Taybeh and Ein Yabrud. However, the High Court of Justice ordered the outpost be evacuated by the end of December 2016. It is crucial for the public to know the truth, especially in light of the vast misinformation on the subject. Here are a few of the most baseless arguments we’ve heard in the media recently (followed by our responses).

“There is no landowner who is a concrete petitioner claiming ownership of the lands of Amona.” (Chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Nissan Smolianski, August 3, 2016).

The land on which Amona stands on and the surrounding area is regulated private Palestinian lands, registered in the Tabu. Ten Palestinians petitioned the High Court of Justice (you can see their names listed in the petition) to demand the outpost be evacuated and to allow them to return to their land. Their names are displayed on the petition, they gave interviews to the media and the High Court ruled in their favor. Does it get any more concrete than that?

“Amona’s land was purchased from the Palestinian owners.”

Settlers first made this argument in the 1990s, but never provided evidence. The Civil Administration rejected the claim definitively in 2004 and issued demolition orders in Amona. Later on, residents of Amona presented the High Court with documents that claim they have proof of land purchase. The police determined that some of the documents were forged. The High Court determined that the illegal construction could not be authorized, even if small portions of the land were in fact purchased.

In addition to the purchase claim, the founders of the outpost tried to argue from the beginning that it was built on land that had a military seizure order on it. The High Court ruled in the past that a military seizure order could not be used to establish settlements. When Amona was first established, the Attorney General in the West Bank determined that a military seizure order was never implemented and is therefore nullified.

“Arabs never lived there, it was a bare rocky mountain.” (Sara Ziv, Amona resident, Makor Rishon, January 22, 2016).

The argument that the Amona settlers arrived to an abandoned piece of land is repeated over and over. This claim was already refuted when aerial photos were presented by the Civil Administration during a civil suit filed by the petitioners against the state. The photographs prove that the Palestinian landowners cultivated the land until the outpost was built, and that it was only after the army barred their access, and due to fear of the settlers, that they stopped working the land. It is important to remember that a civil proceeding forced the government to compensate the Palestinian landowners for the protracted infringement on their rights as a result of the fact that the outpost had not yet been evacuated.

“None of us thought or knew that this was private property.” (Avichai Boaron, head of the Amona public campaign, Yedioth Ahronoth July 15, 2016).

This is an odd argument, considering that the Civil Administration issued stop-work orders for every structure in Amona as of 1996, noting these structures were built on private property. The High Court also determined in its 2005 ruling that nine permanent structures in the outpost were built on private Palestinian land.

“When I got here 10 years ago, the understanding was that there was a problem only with nine homes, and after they were demolished, we thought the rest was legitimate. I am a rational person. I wouldn’t build a home and raise kids in a place classified as illegal.” (Uri Goldberg, Amona resident, Yedioth Ahronoth July 15, 2016).

All the homes in Amona were issued demolition orders and a decade earlier it was made clear this was construction on private land. Amona doesn’t meet any of the demands for the establishment of a settlement in the West Bank and its homes were never granted building permits. This, as a matter of fact, is the situation in all the outposts, such that it is clear to every rational person that Amona is illegal and the claim they didn’t know is disingenuous. In any event, this is irrelevant since the government undertook to evacuate the entire outpost by 2011 since the construction there is illegal, and the High Court ruled at the end of 2014 that it must be evacuated within two years.

An Israeli settler throws stones at armed forces in the illegal outpost of Amona, Jan. 1, 2006 (file photo). Clashes broke out shortly after the High Court gave the green light to dismantle half a dozen homes in the area. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

An Israeli settler throws stones at armed forces in the illegal outpost of Amona, Jan. 1, 2006 (file photo). Clashes broke out shortly after the High Court gave the green light to dismantle half a dozen homes in the area. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Even before the High Court ruling, two official state reports – the Spiegel Report and the Sasson Report – indicated that the outpost is located on private Palestinian land.

“A community is situated under its grapes and figs for years and suddenly someone undermines ownership of the land.” (Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, Arutz Sheva July 20, 2016).

Another mistake articulated by those who object to the evacuation of Amona is that the Palestinian landowners “suddenly remembered” 20 years later that they own the land. The truth is of course different. A short time after the first caravans were positioned in Amona the Palestinian landowners demanded they be evacuated. The Israeli DCO promised them then that the homes were being treated as illegal but that the evacuation process takes time. In 1998, when the residents of Silwad requested to hold prayers on the hilltop ridge on which the outpost was built, they were told that “any illegal activity will be handled by authorized entities.”

“Behind every petition is a left-wing organization with an agenda.” (Avichai Boaron, head of the Amona public campaign and a resident, Arutz Sheva, July 17, 2016).

Behind every High Court petition are Palestinian landowners who employ the help of human rights organizations to safeguard their rights. Behind the unauthorized construction of outposts is an entire mechanism dedicated to expelling Palestinians from their land, with the help if local councils, the Amana organization, the IDF, the Yesha Council, the Settlement Division, politicians and government ministries. Did someone say agenda?

Israeli policemen clash with Jewish settlers in the illegal outpost of Amona, January 1, 2006. Clashes broke out shortly after the Israeli High Court gave the green light to dismantle half a dozen homes in the outpost. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israeli policemen clash with Jewish settlers in the illegal outpost of Amona, January 1, 2006. Clashes broke out shortly after the Israeli High Court gave the green light to dismantle half a dozen homes in the outpost. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“This is destruction for destruction’s sake. After they destroy this place this Arab will go back to the land?” (head of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva, Rabbi Haim Drukman, Arutz Sheva May 18, 2016).

Ibrahim Ja’ama, a resident of Ein Yabrud and one of the landowners who petitioned for the evacuation of Amona, said recently in an interview to Walla News!: “First of all, I want to take my children to see our land. They were young when it happened, and they have forgotten. If you are not in touch with something you love, you may forget it. I want to renew their love and connection to our land.” Since Amona was established, its landowners have not been able to return, as the IDF prohibits them. We hope that with the evacuation of the outpost, they will be able to return to their land and use it as they see fit.

The State funded Amona.

No argument here. The Ministry of Housing, as reported in the Sasson Report (p. 152), transferred funds to the Binyamin Regional Council in order to finance the construction of Amona’s infrastructure, while fully aware that this is illegal. At the same time, the Civil Administration operated to evacuate the outpost. It is worth examining whether there is a way to take steps against the government entities that transferred funds illegally to those who invaded private land. However this should have no bearing on the decision to evacuate the outpost.

“The vast majority of Amona’s land is defined as absentee property, in other words, land without an identifiable owners. Furthermore, the names listed on most of the plots were not recognized after the Six-Day War.” (Yehuda Yifrach, legal correspondent, Makor Rishon, and a former resident of Amona, Makor Rishon July 4, 2016).

As aforementioned, all the land on which the Amona outpost is built is regulated private land, registered in Tabu. Another attempt by the Amona settlers to instruct the Civil Administration to declare the land absentee property and hand them over to their children was rejected by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in 2016.

To put it simply: This is not absentee property. Some of the actual landowners petitioned the High Court to demand the outpost be removed from their land. The intention to declare plots of land adjacent to the outpost’s structures as abandoned property also turned out to be baseless, since these lands have flesh and blood landowners.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Baladi Akka 1948

      “I am a rational person. I wouldn’t build a home and raise kids in a place classified as illegal.” (Uri Goldberg, Amona resident, Yedioth Ahronoth July 15, 2016).
      What a f****** joke. All settler homes built in the occupied West Bank are illegal, whether the land was private Palestinian land or not.
      ‘Rational person’, as if any rational person would squat other people’s land, Ziocaine is really bad for the brain.

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        UNESCO just passed a resolution which states that Judaism has no connection to the Temple Mount.

        That says a lot about the bodies who pass resolutions about what is legal or illegal in Judea and Samaria.

        If these bodies would formulate a resolution saying that the earth is flat, or that the Vatican has no connection to Catholicism, the Muslim and non aligned bloc of nations would pass such a resolution. What a joke. A sad joke.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          “bodies who pass resolutions about what is legal or illegal in Judea and Samaria”

          You must mean the Civil Administration, the police and the High Court of Justice. You want to argue that these institutions are flat earthers?

          Please show us one single point made by Yossi Gurvitz that you find is in error. Be specific. Where precisely is Gurvitz wrong? Go through it sentence by sentence. Go ahead. Tell us. Tell us how the High Court errs too. Please. We’ll wait. And while you’re at it please also tell us why brazen defiance of the High Court of Justice by these groups and their chicanery is not mere gangsterism, organized crime? And if it is not in your eyes organized crime, then how do you defend the proposition that Israel is a country governed by the rule of law? Inquiring minds want to know.

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “Please show us one single point made by Yossi Gurvitz that you find is in error”

            I did not comment on what Yossi Gurwitz wrote, period. I commented on those who point to the UN and use the UN to claim that ALL Israeli settlements “are ILLEGAL”. My post demonstrates the (lack of) credibility that UN bodies have.

            But since Ben asks me to comment on rulings by the Israeli high court, I will comment on that. In one word, I accept their rulings. But Ben will find that nowhere did the Israeli high court say that ALL the settlements are illegal.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            I didn’t point to the UN, anyway, according to the Geneva Convention the settlements are illegal too, they even constitute a war crime.
            And contrary to what hasbara claims the resolution doesn’t state “Judaism has no connection to the Temple Mount’ (maybe you should actually read the resolution, I did so, twice) because this is simply not the issue at all. Try to understand that the world doesn’t turn around your navel, everything is NOT about the Jews

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “deplores the continuous storming” of the mosque compound by Israeli right-wing extremists”

            Yea? And why are those “right wing extremists storming” (let’s go along with the description). The Temple Mount?

            Because they object to the existing restriction by the Waqf police on Jews saying their prayers while in Judaism’s holiest site, the temple mount.

            The status quo is that the Waqf police have the right to eject Jewish worshipers from the Temple mount if they suspect that they are not just visiting but are praying at the site. And the Arabs are claiming that lately there has been an increase of Jewish visitors doing this. Get it? Jews praying at the Temple Mount.

            Then along comes the UNESCO resolution which was drafted by Arabs and which only mentions the Muslim connection to the Temple Mount. No mention of the Jewish connection. It only mentions pesky Jews who are making trouble by storming the sacred Muslim holy site.

            How is such a resolution NOT an outright denial of the Connection between Judaism and the Temple Mount?!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            That’s the point, AJew. You did not comment on what Yossi Gurwitz wrote, period. You instead engaged in whataboutery. The High Court is of course correct on Amona but it is a strange kind of deliberate ‘seeing the tree but not the forest’ correctness. The whole absurdity of “some settlements are ‘retroactively’ legal and some are not” is a charade of the strangest kind. They are all illegal. This whole business of the Court posing as an arbiter and saying “well this settlement is legal but this one is not” is a distraction, a charade. This is the same rubber stamping High Court that has a West Bank settler sitting on it who refuses to recuse himself on settler matters wherein non-settlers are deprived of their land and their homes! It is obvious no one takes it very seriously, not the government, certainly, and least of all the settlers. It has nothing like the authority, respect and esteem accorded the SCOTUS. The High Court operates in glaring defiance of international law and its nation’s own long ago Foreign Ministry counsel’s top secret memo to the Israeli government. Theodore Meron, distinguished jurist.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Tom Pessah today answers your complaint about Unesco. I was about to make many of the same points he made but he said all that needs to be said. And the first paragraph has Israelis like you pegged:

            ‘Anti-Semitism, for Netanyahu and much of the Israeli and Jewish press, is clickbait. Mention it and you can all but guarantee almost automatic outrage. Just like advertisers can avoid talking about why a car is expensive by using sexual imagery or even the word “sex” to sell it, the Israeli government can dodge difficult questions about its policy by “anti-Semitizing” those who raise these questions.’

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “‘Anti-Semitism, for Netanyahu and much of the Israeli and Jewish press, is clickbait”

            Everytime people like Ben want to distract the discussion they accuse us of calling them antisemites unfairly.

            Now that he brings it up (I didn’t on this thread), I agree with him. Ben and people like him are true antisemites. The link below explains exactly why.

            http://www.rabbisacks.org/mutating-virus-understanding-antisemitism/

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            is there *anything* Israel could do, criticism of which you would not dismiss as anti-Semitic? Is there anything you won’t anti-Semitize, Gustav? I haven’t seen it. By extension of Sack’s argument you are equating Tom Pessah, every other +972 writer, and me, with Isis terrorist bombers. By dismissing +972’s clearly and genuinely articulated concern for human rights as a mere cover for anti-Semitism you come across as deeply racist in the opposite direction: an anti-Arab, anti-Palestinianist direction, so uniformly dismissive are you of the horrors +972 documents with the utmost on-the-ground integrity and verisimilitude. You make Pessah’s case for him–you are an illustration of exactly the Israeli phenomenon he articulates. And Sacks himself would be a lot more credible if he acknowledged even a tiny part of the things Israel is legitimately criticized for instead of coming across as a member of the same “Israel can do no wrong” crowd you belong to. If you want to wield the “human rights is a mere excuse” cudgel against us, we can with more than equal justification wield the “monstrous dismissal of human rights” cudgel against you. But that’s what you seem to want: a distracting cudgel fight while Tom Pessah’s argument gets lost in the ensuing mêlée.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “is there *anything* Israel could do, criticism of which you would not dismiss as anti-Semitic?”

            From the undistorted version of what Rabbi Sack said in my reference link (as opposed to Ben’s customary distortions about what any pro Israeli person says).

            “First let me define antisemitism. Not liking Jews is not antisemitism. We all have people we don’t like. That’s OK; that’s human; it isn’t dangerous. Second, criticizing Israel is not antisemitism. I was recently talking to some schoolchildren and they asked me: is criticizing Israel antisemitism? I said No and I explained the difference. I asked them: Do you believe you have a right to criticize the British government? They all put up their hands. Then I asked, Which of you believes that Britain has no right to exist? No one put up their hands. Now you know the difference, I said, and they all did.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Is Yossi Gurvitz, Tom Pessah, or Hagai El-Ad saying Israel has no right to exist?

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Maybe maybe not but we were not talking about them. We were talking about you, Ben.

            Reply to Comment
      • sk

        This.

        Reply to Comment
    2. AJew

      “some settlements are ‘retroactively’ legal and some are not” is a charade of the strangest kind. They are all illegal.”

      What a strange notion. It’s a bit like saying that ALL who are accused in a court of law are either ALL guilty or ALL innocent.

      Such absurd thinking is in line with Ben’s reputation on these pages whereby he deems Israel at fault for ALL bad things that happen and absolves Arabs of ALL fault for those bad things.

      Ben is well known for his Black and white thinking about the I-P conflict. All one has to do is read his prolific posts on these pages.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Nonsense. Theodore Meron ruled on this 48 years ago and reaffirmed in 2001 that he would make the same decision today. He, distinguished jurist, is a former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Presiding Judge of the Appeals Chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the ICTY.

        Israel knew all along that settlements, home demolitions were illegal
        Gershom Gorenberg
        http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.657167

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          “Nonsense”?

          Whatever. I can dismiss Ben’s arguments too by resorting to such fruitless tactics, but I won’t.

          Here is just one example of what the UN types call illegal Jewish settlement but which does not stand up to even an iota of scrutiny and common sense.

          THE JEWISH QUARTER of East Jerusalem. It was known by that name for 2000 years in which Jews continually lived there. But in 1948, the Arabs kicked out ALL the Jews from the Jewish quarter of East Jerusalem.

          By what mad act of bias can then anyone turn around and then claim that by allowing Jews to return to live there after the 1967 war that such an act constitutes an illegal settlement by Israel?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            And 6000 Arab residents were evicted from the Jewish Quarter after 1967, and Palestinians systematically excluded. No one can undo history or right all the wrongs. Neither side is eligible for sainthood. I am not excusing the Jordanians. Make a fair peace agreement at long last and share Jerusalem and all this, including the holy sites business, can be worked out. “Eternal undivided Jerusalem,” and Hebron under siege, and the theft of the West Bank will get no one anywhere. Except to fuel your eternal, undivided self-righteousness, and grievance-collecting. As if the other side had no grievances that match yours and more.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “Grievance collecting”

            Yes, we are grievance collecting but Ben is not grievance collecting on behalf of himself and his Arabs. Lovely isn’t it?

            Reply to Comment
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