Recommended reading: Amira Hass on forged documents used to transfer private Palestinian land to companies that built Israeli settlements in the West Bank

Today’s recommended reading is Amira Hass’ article in Haaretz, In West Bank, buying land isn’t always what it seems, with details about forged signatures on faked land sales of Palestinian lands that became Israeli settlements in the West Bank here.

In this report, Amira Hass writes: “This has been the settlements’ method ever since they were first established: a built-up nucleus on privately owned Palestinian land and around it a much larger ring bounded by broken-in tracks (in one process or another involving paving, fences, threatening dogs, armed Israeli civilians, guards and IDF patrols ). Thus it becomes impossible for Palestinian farmers to enter the perimeter of the ring in order to continue to cultivate their lands. ‘Going out to work in the field is always accompanied by fear’, admit the council heads of the four villages we visited in recent weeks: Silwad, Beitin, Burqa and Dura al Qar’a”…

Some of the privately-owned Palestinian land was “sold” — but not by its owners. Only two persons have been indicted so far, both apparently Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, who are now charged in an Israeli court [in a suit pursued by Yesh Din] by conspiring to sell West Bank land to an Israeli company after “falsely representing that the land had been purchased by the accused from the owners”.

One of the two [referred to as S.A.] was acquitted of conspiracy, if I understand the story correctly, but he was convicted of forgery — or, to be precise, “of forging the signatures of the six owners of the land on durable powers of attorney authorizing attorneys Moshe Glick and Nir-Tzvi to carry out the transfer of the rights to the land from its six owners to the defendants. Later he had attorney Zalman Segal of Karnei Shomron notarize authorizations confirming the signatures on the powers of attorney. In five cases the notarization was done at Atarot, an industrial zone between Jerusalem and Ramallah [emphasis added here — Atarot is very near the Qalandia Checkpoint, but has carefully been left on the Israeli/Jerusalem side of the checkpoint and Wall] , ‘with the submission of false evidence’ (which the indictment does not specify exactly) as though the signatories to the powers of attorney were present before Segal and had signed in his presence. In the sixth case – that of the late Aziz Hamed – the signature of notary Segal was forged, ‘though the truth of the matter is that at that time [November 2003] he was lying unconscious in the hospital in a vegetative state after having been injured in a serious traffic accident in July 2003’, as written in the indictment. Later S.A. signed a power of attorney that transferred all his rights on the land to the Keren Leyad Midreshet Yisrael”.

S.A. was convicted in October 2009 and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, Amira Hass reported, while the other defendant [referred to as G.G.] was acquitted. Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Shulamit Dotan wrote in her decision that: ‘The move was intended to transfer lands owned by Arab residents to the ownership of Jews. The success of the conspiracy by the accused and his colleagues was liable, with very great likelihood, to have aroused hostilities between population groups in this context that could have been considered land theft. And, for their trouble, the two accused Palestinians “were to have received payment of NIS 2,000 for every forged power of attorney they signed. The indictment, like the ruling, does not indicate who was supposed to have given them that paltry sum in return for land that is so dear to the settlers’ lobby”…

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