Back on this theme, some detractors (who probably didn’t read the report before detracting) have attacked the Levy Report for bringing an end to the two-state solution and taking away Palestinian land rights.
For a quick and easy, cut-and-paste style rebuttal, I figured I would take a post by Benedict Roth on the latest uproar in the West Bank, followed by an excerpt from the Levy Report’s conclusions, then some commentary.
To wit (my bold):
Susya is a tiny Arab village–more a shanty-town than a village–sandwiched between two Jewish settlements at the southern edge of the West Bank. It has been repeatedly demolished by the Israeli army since its creation in the 1980’s. It is about to be demolished again, by court order, because it is sited on agricultural land and its residents have not been granted permission to build.
The Arabs whose shacks are being demolished have documents attesting title to their land. Ironically, they also hold title to the site of one of the Jewish villages, a few hundred yards away. Indeed they lived there until the early 1980’s. But they were ordered to leave by the military government after archaeological remains were found. So they camped on their fields nearby.
… So, today, nearly every Palestinian construction site is “illegal” and is subject to demolition while the Jewish settlement programme proceeds apace, fuelled by a ready supply of building permits and funds. By controlling Area C through its civil administration, Israel obtains all the benefits of annexation without incurring any obligation to grant its Arab residents legal and political rights. Water, electricity, land, public services and votes are all reserved for Jews.
a. The area of municipal jurisdiction of each settlement, if not yet determined, must be determined by order, taking into due consideration future natural growth.
f. In the event of conflicting claimants to land, it would be appropriate to adopt a policy whereby prior to any determination by the state regarding petitions for eviction or demolition, a thorough examination of the conflicting claims be conducted by a judicial tribunal dealing with land issues. This is all the more necessary with respect to claims of prior purchase or prescription, or where the possessor acted in a bona fide manner. Pending such determination, state authorities should be instructed to avoid taking any position in land conflicts and carrying out irreversible measures, such as eviction or demolition of buildings on the property.
g. To this end and with a view to facilitate accessibility by local residents to judicial tribunals, we suggest the establishment of courts for the adjudication of land disputes in Judea and Samaria, or alternatively, extending the jurisdiction of district court judges in order to enable them to handle in their courts, land disputes in Judea and Samaria.
h. It is necessary to draft into the security legislation a right for the public to review data banks administered by the various official bodies, including the Civil Administration, concerning land rights in the area of Judea and Samaria.
j. The composition of the Appeals Committee should be changed. It is presently manned by uniformed reserve officers, jurists, who are, of necessity, perceived at the least to be subordinate to, and even under the command of the Head of the Civil Administration. We feel that this situation is not proper, and therefore recommend that the Appeals Committee be composed of non-uniformed jurists, a factor which would contribute to the general perception of the Appeals Committee as an independent body, acting according to its own discretion.
k) The “Procedure for Dealing with Private Land Disputes” must be revoked. Such disputes must only be considered and adjudicated by a judicial body.
So let’s recap. A huge part of the problem (which, by the way, is a huge problem — I completely agree that the way the people of Susya are being treated is a disgrace) is that the people of Susya have been arbitrarily moved around and denied the right to enjoy land over which they hold title. This has been made possible due to the current Israeli Civil Administration in Area C; which has an Appeals Committee that is not a proper court and is essentially made-up of Administration officials; and which is overly secretive, extremely bureaucratic and very difficult for Palestinians to work with — whether they seek information or building permits.
I will note that I have a lot of (completely anecdotal) reason to believe that the difficulty in attaining building permits is not all down to direct discrimination, there is a significant amount of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption that presents hurdles to people who can’t “work the system” like Israelis can.
So what does the Levy Report recommend? That the Appeals Committee is abolished and replaced by a proper independent judiciary; that no new construction or demolition may take place without prior approval of this judiciary; that the judiciary is given the power to examine the land ownership rights that are currently ignored; and new freedom of information laws to make the whole process more transparent.
That, to me, looks a lot better for the people of Susya than the opaque, corrupt system they currently face, in which their claims are adjudicated by the people that they are going up against.
Please correct me if I’m wrong.