Photo Credit: Courtesy B’Tselem
Israel’s Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, is cooperating with the biggest real estate scam this country has ever seen. He does this in two ways: first, by taking advantage of the current make-up of the coalition government and making moves to legalize a number of illegal Arab outposts in Judea-Samaria, the heartland of the ancient Land of Israel. And secondly, by continuing his policy of ignoring illegal Palestinian construction and agricultural activity in Area C that he began as Defence Minister in the previous government.
Only last week, we were made privy to the effrontery of the PA and their apologists. On 10 February, MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) published a Tweet in which he accused Israel of stealing Arab land by destroying an agricultural field, saying this is the face of the “occupation”. However, a deeper examination shows that Israeli state land has been illegally cultivated by residents of the nearby Palestinian town. In other words, Tibi spread the lie that Israel stole land when it is the reverse that is the truth.
The Context of the Scam
To understand the context of the scam, one must understand recent history: Judea-Samaria was called the “West Bank” by the Jordanians who occupied it from 1948 to 1967, a name that has stuck until today, just like the old Roman Empire’s occupation name of “Palestine” has stuck until today. Renaming occupied territories is a way to wrest them away from indigenous peoples, something that has happened around the world and not just to the Jewish People.
In addition to the renaming of indigenous sites, there is the replacement of populations by the occupational power. Contrary to accusations that Israel is taking over so-called Palestinian land by the resettlement of Jewish communities in Judea-Samaria, it is the Palestinian Authority (PA) with the help of European funds that is eating away at Area C, land recognized as under complete Israeli control in a contract signed with great international fanfare — the Oslo Accords (exclusive PA control and PA civil and Israeli military control in Areas A and B, respectively).
The scam is set up
First brought to our attention by the NGO, Regavim, the vehicle for accomplishing this deed is the Fayyad Plan. It is endorsed openly and unabashedly by the PA and surreptitiously by the European Union and individual European countries which provide enormous funds for illegal Arab construction in Area C.
The Fayyad Plan seeks to establish contiguity of Arab population centers across Area C. By building hamlets and roads on Israeli state land, these outposts surround and choke off Jewish communities and prevent access of Jewish farmers to their cultivated fields and grazing lands. At the same time, they become part of Area B, under PA civil authority, thus de facto decreasing the size of Area C.
If permits for this construction are sought from Israel’s Civil Administration as the law demands, it is only after a demolition order has been served. Demolitions are delayed for months and years as the cases make their way through court and appeals — and the illegal hamlets grow.
Some of the illegal Arab outposts draw international attention as anti-Israel “human rights” (but actually political) organizations use the supposed plight of the Arabs as ammunition against the brutal Israeli “occupation”. Israel is accused of denying them access to water, electricity and access roads. These propagandists do not mention that if these hamlets were legal, they would have been hooked up to national infrastructure and would have all the basic amenities provided to all legitimate residential sites.
Perhaps one of the most infamous of these illegal outposts is el-Mufaqara in the South Hebron Hills. It was the site of intense violence blamed on the Jews but closer examination reveals an alternative explanation for it. Shortly after this incident, a group of anti-Israel Israeli NGOs (comprised of Jews and Palestinian Arabs) made a show of bringing a water container to el-Mufaqara as if the people had no access to water otherwise.
The scam is exposed
In fact, it is a two-pronged scam: first, the residents of el-Mufaqara do have water. They bring in enough water containers for their own use along access roads that they themselves built.
Secondly, their “homes” in el-Mufaqara are actually not their only homes. A reliable source who requested remaining anonymous revealed that they also have homes in the legal town of Yatta, just on the other side of the adjacent highway.
From a historical perspective, this makes sense: shepherds would set up a shelter called a shomera near grazing land in summer as they sometimes moved great distances to find feed for their sheep and goats and it was inconvenient to return home each day. The caves or rudimentary rock structures they would build then formed the basis for the illegal outpost they called el-Mufaqara.
If the residents of el-Mufaqara want water from taps and electricity from the national grid, they have only to go to their homes in Yatta, a short drive away. There are about 40 homes in el-Mufaqara and they are usually empty. Only a small contingency of residents can be found at any time at the site, the others are back home in Yatta, according to the source.
They come out in full force when there is an important event, such as the water caravan last October or the January 25th’ visit to the site by Meretz MK Esawi Freij, organized by anti-Israel NGOs Breaking the Silence and Taayush. One must wonder if Freij and the Jewish members of these two organizations are ignorant of the fact that all so-called residents of el-Mufaqara have permanent homes in Yatta or if they even went to one of these homes for refreshment after the photo op.
The anti-Israeli campaign is constant and unrelenting. For example, Combatants for Peace held another of a series of “water campaign” webinars on 8 February. The panel ignored questions I asked about the fact that el-Mufaqara residents have permanent homes in Yatta and if they knew that, contrary to their contention, unrecognized Jewish communities are not connected to the Israeli grids.
Mohammad Hamamdi, resident-anti-Israel-activist of el-Mufaqara admitted on camera that he gets paid for staying in the outpost. The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies also reports that “Arab residents from Areas A and B are bused in after having been encouraged by incentives to relocate or start a second home in the new [illegal] settlements.”
When outposts such as el-Mufaqara are legalized, that will mean that the residents will be in possession of two legal properties, either of which can then be sold.
And this is what makes this a wonderful real estate scam both at the individual level for people like Hamamdi and others fortunate and foresighted enough to take part in the ruse, and on the societal level for the PA that is relentlessly stealing Israeli land.
All with the blessing of Israel’s own Defence Minister, Benny Gantz.
Is that all?
Perhaps there’s more than one scam being played out in el-Mufaqara and other places like it: On one hand, the PA is scamming world opinion, whipping up a froth of antisemitic demonization that portrays the Jewish State as cruel colonizers while at the same time making key territorial conquests and milking huge sums out of humanitarian aid budgets of European countries. Perhaps Benny Gantz and leftist leaders, as well as Israeli “human rights” organizations, are scamming the Israeli public, hiding their de facto creation of a Palestinian state in the heart of the Land of Israel from an electorate that has clearly and consistently rejected this naive and dangerous notion.
The Arabs and Bedouin who are participating in the el-Mufaqara-style passion plays might be best described as small-time con artists playing bit parts. The real criminal masterminds are using them to carry out the truly big scam – the stealthy creation of a Palestinian state “From the River to the Sea.”