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New data show: EU policy on Israeli settlements basically flawed

By Missing Peace

On many occasions European politicians and media refer to the West Bank as ‘occupied Palestinian territory’. The EU even holds the opinion that all Jewish settlements in the area are illegal under international law.

Recently a group of 1000 legal experts sent an appeal to Catherine Ashton in which they proved the EU wrong, yet this doesn’t seem to make any Impression on the European political establishment.

Interview with Alan Baker who initiated the appeal of 1000 legal experts

Now Lyn Julius, who writes a blog for the Jerusalem Post, proves that large parts the territories occupied by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967 were in the possession of Jews or Jewish organizations prior to the wars in 1967 and 1948.

Here is what she writes about Jewish owned lands on the Golan Heights and in the West Bank:

Like the Palestinians, the EU assumes that the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are ‘Arab land.’ But nothing is ever that simple in the Middle East. Land ownership is a tangled web, although that’s a point not often made by the Israeli government.

The Golan Heights are almost universally considered ‘Syrian’ territory and yet the Jewish National Fund lays claim to 73,974 dunams in southern Syria. The earliest purchase was made in the 1880s.

Similarly, land ownership in Jerusalem and the ‘West Bank’ is far more complex than the EU thinks. The ‘Jewish settlements’ north of Jerusalem, Atarot and Neve Yaakov, were evacuated in 1948. Mount Scopus – technically in ‘Arab’ East Jerusalem – remained a Jewish enclave in Jordanian-controlled territory.

It is also little known that hundreds of thousands of Arab squatters in ‘Arab East Jerusalem’ live on land still owned by the Jewish National Fund. The JNF purchased hundreds of individual parcels of land in and around Jerusalem during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. In 1948, on one of these parcels the UN built the Kalandia refugee camp. The Deheishe refugee camp south of Bethlehem was also built on JNF land.

In the 1920s and 30s Iraqi and Iranian Jews queued up to buy parcels of JNF land; after the 1948 war, they were cut off from their purchases when these came under Jordanian rule, as Gil Zohar explained in his 2007 Jerusalem Post piece. In total 145,976 dunams (I dunam = 1,000 sq. m) of Jewish land is said to have come under Jordanian control. (Jewish property claims against Arab countries by Michael Fischbach, p 85).

In Abu Dis, the site of the putative Palestinian parliament, some 598 dunams of land are actually Jewish-owned as even Palestinian organisations acknowledge.
During the 1920s and 30s the ‘Agudat HaDayarim’ Jewish Cooperative Society was established in Jerusalem in order to create Jewish neighbourhoods outside the Old City. The Society had over 210 members, from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds – including Persian, Iraqi and Yemenite Jews. In 1928 the Aguda purchased 598 dunams of land on the city outskirts in Abu Dis in order to build a ‘Garden Community’ (homes with agricultural plots). Although it acquired a legal title to the area, the Arab revolts of 1929 and 1936-9 prevented the Aguda from establishing the new community. The War of Independence resulted in the Jewish-owned lands in Abu Dis coming under the control of the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property.

Another 16,684.421 dunams of Jewish land in the rural West Bank – including the Gush Etzion settlements, land between Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm, and in Bethlehem and Hebron – were seized by the Jordanians after 1948.

Even before 1948, riots and massacres caused Jews of the centuries-old Yishuv to evacuate their homes in Hebron and parts of Jerusalem.

Before it fell to the Arab Legion in 1948, Jerusalem had a Jewish majority. The first refugees from eastern Jerusalem were Jews from the Shimon Hatzaddik quarter – the site of the tomb of Simon the High Priest. The Old City of Jerusalem became ‘judenrein’ as thousands of Jews were expelled, leaving their property behind. The Old City was ransacked and some 58 synagogues were destroyed during the 19-year Jordanian occupation. Jews were banned from their holiest places.

There is a respectable body of opinion which argues that most Israeli settlements are legal. Even if Israel were to agree that the Jewish settlements stigmatized by the EU are illegal under international law, the proportion of land ‘built on Arab land’ in the West Bank represents a tiny fraction of the Jewish-owned land abandoned or seized as a matter of deliberate policy in Arab countries.

All this proves that the EU policy on Israeli settlements beyond the so called Green Line is not based on international law nor on international agreements. Furthermore the EU continues to ignore the basic facts about the Jewish presence on the Golan and in the West Bank.

Aside from this there is another compelling argument to make against the EU new guidelines dealing with the Israeli settlements.

Ha’aretz published this week an article in which the paper outlined the results of the new EU policy for the Palestinian population.
The lives of thousands of Palestinians will be impaired as a result of the EU policy. Already hundreds of Palestinians lost their jobs due to the closure of a Unilever factory and a branch of the Swedish company Mul-T-Lock in Ariel last year.
The expectation is that many others will loose their jobs as well if the EU guidelines come into effect in January 2014.