January 25, 2007

Yesha Council Slams Peace Now's "Lies Now" Report

By Hillel Fendel
A7 News
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
4 Shevat 5767
The Yesha Council highlights the deceptions in a recent study by the ultra-left wing Peace Now group purporting to show that 40% of Yesha communities are built on private Arab land.

"The so-called facts in the Peace Now report are from the true reality," the Yesha Council says.

The Yesha Council has named its report, currently underway, "The Protocols of Peace Now - the Great Deception." It includes maps, documents, quotations - and an itemized list of "simple, ridiculous mistakes, as well as the lack of sincerity, that typify the criminal negligence that characterizes this hate-motivated report."

Praised by Arabs

The Peace Now report received lavished praise from Palestinian Authority Arabs. The PA news agency Ma'an recently wrote that it "shows part of the true face of the Hebrew State... It shows that private Arab-owned lands were simply stolen by the Hebrew state to build settlements - disproving the claim of four decades... The report was not publicized by me or by a Palestinian organization, but by an Israeli organization - and Israel cannot deny it... Where are all the Israeli mottos about justice, democracy and civil rights?... This is now a 'ready-to-go' case for the International Court... Now that Peace Now has given this gift to the land-owners, we must thank this organization, and see what the land-owners and the PA will do; for this is much to do..."

"The Peace Now members are running around the world with this report," a Yesha Council source said, "in order to malign the State of Israel - but it is filled with distorted data and lies. All is apparently fair and acceptable in their war against the Jewish communities."

Peace Now members are currently lobbying U.S. Congressmen against Israel based on their report. Nationalist camp activists say that Peace Now's objective is to make the approval of U.S. aid to Israel contingent upon the withdrawal of Israeli financial support for all Yesha communities allegedly on private Arab land, as well as the destruction of all hilltop outposts.

No State-Owned Lands in Yesha?

The point of departure of the Peace Now report, the Yesha Council says, is that "all of Judea and Samaria is private Arab-owned land unless proven otherwise." The entire concept of state-owned lands essentially does not exist for Peace Now, says Council leader Pinchas Wallerstein.

Only a small percentage of Judea and Samaria is actually privately-owned, however. A legal expert familiar with the area told Arutz-7 that "perhaps 5%" of the uninhabited land there is privately-owned. "Vast areas in Judea and Samaria lay totally desolate in 1967 when Israel liberated them in the Six Day War," he said. Most of these areas were then designated as state-owned, in the absence of other documentation.

For instance, most of Maaleh Adumim - one of the largest cities in Judea and Samaria, just east of Jerusalem - appears on the Peace Now report as if built on private land, when in fact it was built on state-owned lands.

The Yesha report also shows that Peace Now falsely "expanded" the borders of Jewish communities into Arab-owned land. "Additional area around the communities was simply added to the Jewish towns," a Yesha source said, "as if to prove that the Jews had stolen the land - when in fact the communities don't claim these areas at all."

Peace Now even ignores a ruling by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak, Wallerstein states. Barak ruled in the past that the community of Etz Ephraim, near Elkanah, is built on Jewish-owned land - yet Peace Now has it on Arab land.

Neither does Peace Now recognize the sale of land, apparently. The Modiin-area community of Kfar Oranim, for instance, whose land was duly purchased from Arabs, appears in the Peace Now report as "mostly Arab-owned."

The Essential Goal: An End to Jewish Presence in Judea and Samaria

Peace Now's activities center largely on making life difficult, if not impossible, for Jews living in Judea and Samaria. One of its major campaigns in recent months has been waged against the construction of 33 high-rise buildings in a section of Modi'in Illit, some of which were built on land belonging to the nearby Arab village of Bil'in. A Peace Now spokesperson speaking with Arutz-7 at the time did not rule out the possibility that it would seek a court order to demolish the buildings - though Jewish families had already purchased and moved into many of the apartments.

This past December, the nearly 200 people of Migron, south of Beit El, learned that Defense Minister Peretz plans to forcibly expel them in several months if no "voluntary evacuation" agreement is reached. Though some of the land on which Migron was founded is officially listed as Arab-owned, these Arabs had never come forward to make their claim, nor had they ever cultivated or laid any claim to it - until Peace Now sought them out and encouraged them to do so.

Peace Now has also targeted new construction in Maaleh Adumim, Maaleh Rechavam, a neighborhood in Eli, and many more locations, and has demanded the destruction of some 120 hilltop outposts throughout Judea and Samaria. It frequently files suit in the Supreme Court against what it feels is the government's slow pace in demolishing areas of Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. Last month, a petition by Peace Now has prompted Attorney General Mazuz to open a limited criminal investigation against government officials who arranged funding for Yesha outposts.

MK Uri Ariel said that the "deceptive Peace Now report is another attempt to foster conflict and ignite a war... Peace Now does not promote peace amongst the Jews, nor between us and the Arabs." Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz of Beit El, a veteran leader of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, said about Peace Now's latest report, "They merely want to weaken us and the State of Israel." Gush Etzion settlement leader Nadia Matar has said that "members of Peace Now are spying and informing on behalf of the Arab enemy."

International Funding

Notably, Peace Now's costly expenses in detailing every new Israeli structure in Judea and Samaria are largely funded by foreign governments. Investigative reporter David Bedein says the organization is or has been effectively on the payroll of at least three European governments - Britain, Norway, and Finland - and has also been funded by the Economic Cooperation Foundation, a group funded directly by the European Union.

Britain and Norway are fundamentally opposed to the existence of Israeli communities in Yesha, thus that the money they give Peace Now invariably serves those governments' foreign policy interests. Despite this, the organization is not required under Israeli law to register as a foreign agent. In contrast, Bedein explained, if the organization were operating in the United States, it would have to register as a foreign agent with the U.S. Justice Department.

Bedein said Peace Now "was in effect spying on Israel for foreign governments," and engages in surveillance activities relating not only to Israeli communities, but also on military installations belonging to the IDF.

Outposts Have a Purpose

The Yesha Council report opens with a strong criticism of the type of work Peace Now does:

"The very decision to evacuate outposts, to the cheers of the Palestinians, as if we were disciplining third-graders along the style of, 'Get out, stand in the corner, show us your papers and then return,' without checking seriously even one time what the real objective of these outposts is and how they will contribute to less friction and a better atmosphere - for this alone the Knesset should vote no-confidence in the government." These words were uttered in the Knesset by then-MK Ariel Sharon on October 18, 1999.

Sharon explained at the time that one of the justifications for the outposts is to guarantee Israeli access to various routes in the area. "For instance," he said, " Elon Moreh, Itamar and the Shilo bloc must be connected to the Alon route in the Jordan Valley to their east. If we don't sit on important points along these routes, who will defend them?"