Op-Ed: Migron: Justice Undone, the Full Story
Moshe DannMoshe Dann is a writer and journalist with a Ph.d in history, who lives in Jerusalem.
Despite the extensive media coverage of Migron's legal battles to survive, judicial edicts by a few members of Israel's Supreme Court, and misrepresentations by lawyers and NGO's who oppose Migron's presence, the facts concerning this Jewish community have not been presented fully, or fairly.
A small community of 50 families a dozen kilometers north of Jerusalem, Migron is a test case for all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and may affect many within Israel's "Green Line" as well.
The controversy revolves around two main issues: (1) who owns the land, and (2) if there was government negligence, who was responsible and who should be compensated. Still in the trauma of the expulsion of 9,000 people from Gush Katif and Northern Shomron, the State of Israel seems on the verge of repeating its mistakes.
When Migron was built more than a decade ago, it received the active support of the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, the IDF Commander, the Civil Administration, various ministries, including Housing and Construction, Transportation, and Communications, the electric, water and telephone companies, as well as other government agencies. In other words, because of Migron's strategic location, it was established with de facto government approval.
Part of the land on which Migron was built was registered to Arabs who left the region and cannot be found; this land came under the jurisdiction of the Custodian of Abandoned Property (apotropus), a government agency established to manage land and property that was uninhabited and unclaimed. Another part of Migron was purchased by Jews, but not registered for fear of exposing the Arabs who sold it.
The State Prosecutor's Office and Civil Administration apparently did not object to building at Migron until several years later when Peace Now took the matter to the Supreme Court. Relying on the opinion of the State Prosecutor's Office and Civil Administration, the Supreme Court accepted Arab claims that Migron was built illegally on "private Palestinian land."
The Supreme Court, however, did not investigate or examine the issue of land ownership since it does not deal with such questions; only the Magistrate's Court has this mandate and authority.
The State and Civil Administration never explained why they did not object initially and why they changed their position; there is strong suspicion that the reason is political. Ronit Levin, for example, a legal advisor in the Civil Administration openly admits her leftist agenda. She is only the tip of the iceberg.
Although the area of Migron is registered to Arabs, the Magistrate's court has not authoritatively decided this critical issue. Since the original Arab owners are deceased, or unknown there are serious questions of whether the Arab claimants really do own the land. This and other questions regarding ownership will be considered next week, when Migron presents its case in the Magistrate's Court.
How the land was acquired by Arabs who claim it is important. During the Turkish, British and Jordan occupations, large tracts of State land were given and/or assigned to individuals, tribes, and villages by the sovereign power on condition that they pay taxes and use the land within a specific amount of time, usually ten years. Land that was not used within the given time period reverts by law to the state.
Since the area of Migron was never used or developed by its Arab claimants, then or now, this may affect the question of ownership. But there is a more important question.
In the hilltop community of Amona, near Ofra, there are nine huge piles of rubble, the remains of Jewish homes that were destroyed by former PM Olmert's government in 2006. What did this destruction accomplish? Was this true justice?
The Humanitarian solution
The Arab claimants have rejected generous offers of compensation and expanded alternative sites which more than fulfill the value of Migron's land. Their refusal is understandable, since, according to Jordanian and PA law, selling land to Jews is a capital crime. Hundreds of Arab land dealers and those suspected of such transactions have been tortured, jailed and lynched.
Pushed by NGOs, like Yesh Din and Peace Now, therefore, the Arab claimants are used as political pawns and targets of violence.
The area of Migron has no agricultural or commercial value and is far away from any Arab village. The Arabs who claim it don't want it and can't use it. The Jews who live there have not received final official authorization from the Defense Minister – like many Jewish communities on both sides of the "Green Line."
The government should first determine whether the Arab claims are valid; if they are and the government was negligent and built illegally, then both Jews and Arabs are entitled to compensation. Those responsible for this mistake should be held accountable; the residents who moved there in good faith and with the government's blessing are not to blame and should not be punished.
The government has another option: it can declare disputed areas, like Migron, legal under laws of eminent domain which are universally accepted. Compensating Arab claimants by government decree would be a humanitarian win-win solution; it would protect the Arab claimants while allowing the residents of Migron to remain, thus serving the interests of both sides.
Pursuing a political agenda against Jews benefits no one and undermines meaningful "rule of law" and true social justice.