Lawsuit brings murky West Bank land deals to light
By AMY TEIBEL – 21 June 2009 – An AP story
It reads like a standard real estate contract between a Zionist institution and an Israeli couple. But it offers a rare glimpse into the bureaucratic smoke screen that helps ensure a strong Jewish presence on lands claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.
The document, which surfaced in a case before Israel’s Supreme Court, shows that the World Zionist Organization, acting as an agent of the Israeli government, took private Palestinian land in the West Bank and gave it to Jewish settlers, even though the state itself had declared the property off-limits to settlement.
The affair points to a chaotic mix of a government at odds with itself and involved in murky real estate deals fronted by one of the Zionist movement’s most respected organizations.
The contract authorized Netzach and Esther Brodt, a couple in their early 20s, to lease land in the settlement of Ofra where their home and eight others are in contention.
When Israeli human rights groups and Palestinians who claim to own the land went to the Supreme Court to get the houses torn down, they went with the knowledge that demolition orders had been issued against construction at the site.
The court gave the state two weeks to explain itself, during which time the settlers hastily completed construction of the homes. Then, in another reversal, the Defense Ministry froze the demolition plan, and left the case no closer to resolution.
The affair also threw a spotlight on the World Zionist Organization, an international body founded more than 100 years ago that promotes Jewish education and immigration to Israel.
After Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the 1967 war, the government began settling Jews in the captured territories. To avoid complications stemming from international law, it turned to the WZO, setting up a special settlement division not technically part of the government but entirely funded by it.
The maneuver has served to cloud the issues and confuse the finger-pointing when uncomfortable questions arise…