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(en) Palestine-Israel, Media: State turns blind eye to illegal construction at ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement on Bil'in lands

Date Wed, 14 Dec 2005 18:33:29 +0200


Because of international and internal conciderations, Israel state colonial settler
projects are often done "unofficially" and often in an "illagal means" - by state
officials of all levels. Most of these steps are usually out of the focus of the
media or out of the media at all. The case of Bil'in is different. It is so because
the joint struggle of the local comity for nonviolent struggle against the fence with
the Israeli activists of the Anarchists Against The Wall initiative. The insistance
on at least a joint Friday demonstration against the fence in Bil'in every week, with
lot of creativity and publicity work did a difference. Just do a google search on
Bil'in - and you will get "about 252,000 English pages for Bil'in" and a google search on
"Bil'in or Bilin" + "Anarchists Against The Wall" will show about 46,300 English pages
for "Anarchists Against The Wall" -Bil'in -Bilin.
I.S.

State turns blind eye to illegal construction at ultra-Orthodox West
Bank settlement By Akiva Eldar

In the past year, the Palestinian village of Bil'in has gained
worldwide publicity due to the resolute protest mounted by village
residents and Israeli and international peace activists against the
separation fence, which is tearing the village away from its lands.

Every Friday, Border Policemen face off against the demonstrators.
The policemen violently disperse the gathering. But the
demonstrators and policemen do not know that a few meters away,
on the western side of the fence route in a new section of the
settlement of Upper Modi'in, building violations on a colossal scale
are being committed in broad daylight. This description is not an
excerpt from a Peace Now press release. Rather, it is a verbatim
quote from a letter by attorney Gilad Rogel, the legal counselor of
the Upper Modi'in Local Council, in reference to the new
neighborhood called Matityahu East.
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This quote comes from an exchange of letters that tells the story of
the largest settlement outpost established in recent years in the
territories. The letters expose an affair of "hast thou stolen and also
inherited" that is being played out in the shadow of the fence, behind
the smokescreen of the security of Israeli citizens and under the nose
of enforcement authorities. Even the severe report on settlement
outposts drafted by attorney Talia Sasson contains nothing that
could compare with a case in which the state constructs a fence
along a route that is intended to annex an entire settlement built
without permits. If that were not enough, the
settlement/neighborhood is located in disregard of an explicit
commitment by Israel to the United States to avoid construction
outside the jurisdiction of existing settlements.

This time, representatives of the legal authorities themselves
revealed their nakedness, on official stationary. However, they did
not take into account that the damning evidence would find its way
to the neighbors in Bil'in. The State Prosecutor's Office was
certainly surprised to find the Upper Modi'in legal counselor's
document appended to a letter that it received last week from
attorney Michael Sfard, the Bil'in residents' attorney. Sfard began the
letter he sent to attorney Aner Helman, who is representing the state
in the Bil'in case (High Court of Justice 8614/05) with a quote from
the state's response to the Bil'in residents' petition: "Based on
developers' reports, which the Civil Administration are incapable of
verifying (the words `which the Civil Administration are incapable of
verifying' are boldfaced), in the western tract of Plan 210/8, which
has already been developed, there are about 750 housing units, of
which some 520 have been sold." Further down, it is stated that
since the construction is being carried out in accordance with an
invalid plan, "this is partly unlawful construction." Straight and
straightforward.

One has to read it a few times to believe it. A representative of the
attorney general, the supreme law enforcement authority in Israel, is
informing the Supreme Court that the Civil Administration, the body
that is by law responsible for the construction of every porch in the
territories, "cannot verify" the construction of 750 housing units, of
which about 520 have already been sold. "Do I understand from
what you say that the State of Israel officially admits that it has lost
not only its ability to enforce the law on the settlers," asks Sfard, but
also "the ability to reach the construction sites and gather data?" If
the prosecution were to ask this of the policemen who are sent each
Friday to the site, they would have no problem verifying that the
construction is continuing apace. They could even disclose that the
developers have uprooted hundreds of olive trees in an area that was
not even supposed to be part of the neighborhood/settlement
outpost.

In the same letter about the violation on a colossal scale, which
began in March of this year, relating to a building site of the Green
Park construction firm, Upper Modi'in legal counselor Rogel wrote
to the local council's engineer, Aryeh Pe'er, that he was astonished
to learn that additional developers were also building "entire
buildings without a permit, and all of this with your full knowledge
and with planning and legal lawlessness with which I do not have
the words to describe." Rogel announced that since he cannot
contend alone with "lawlessness in such dimensions," he had
decided to transfer the handling of this "sore evil" to the highest
levels.

Pe'er does not deny the facts. He confirms that the construction is
not lawful, and puts the blame on "the bureaucracy." He contends
that Rogel took part in meetings of the planning committee that
issued a warning to the construction firm, and that now he is
pretending that he didn't know a thing about it.

The local council's comptroller, Shmuel Heisler, was expecting this
response from the engineer. In a letter that he sent to members of
the local council, Heisler wrote that it could be assumed that Pe'er
would suggest to the legal counselor and to the council head Yaakov
Guterman that they "wipe the cobwebs from their eyes" - for after
all, everyone was a partner throughout the entire period of
construction in the settlement. "On December 31, 2004, I wrote a
detailed report in which I reiterated my comments about how the
council's planning committee was being run, about the unlawful
construction and the granting of construction permits by the head of
the council and the council's engineer in violation of the law," writes
Heisler.

In a report on the operation of the council, drafted earlier this year at
the request of the management of the Interior Ministry's municipal
division, Heisler wrote, "Most serious of all the projects approved by
the authorization authority [the head of the council and the engineer
of the council] was the Matityahu East project, in contravention of
the approved Taba urban construction plan. The deviations are
significant." Heisler quotes from a letter by the head of the Planning
Authority in the Judea and Samaria Civil Administration, who
supported his comments. He relates that in the wake of the report,
the head of the council halted the activity of the council's oversight
committee.

In response, the Justice Ministry stated: "In the case of the handling
of the petition on fence construction in the area, the State
Prosecutor's Office learned that unlawful construction had evidently
been carried out in the settlement of Upper Modi'in. The Civil
Administration, through the office of the Judea and Samaria district
attorney general, was asked by the prosecutor handling the case to
render his opinion of the matter. This opinion has not yet been
received by the prosecution, and the Justice Ministry will continue to
track developments. Since the information has not yet been
submitted to the Justice Ministry, it is obvious that the information
has not been brought to the attention of the attorney general, either.
In any event, the attorney general has not yet taken up the matter."
<snip>
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