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      Jewish Activists: 'Arabs Gaining Control of Gush Etzion'

      The Committee for a Jewish Shdema warns of European-funded Arab land grabs, facilitated by planting olive trees and then claiming ownership.
      By Hana Levi Julian
      First Publish: 3/11/2010, 12:54 PM / Last Update: 3/11/2010, 1:44 PM

      Israel news photo

      Jewish activists are warning of a European-funded initiative to help Palestinian Authority Arabs with land grabs in Gush Etzion, facilitated by planting olive trees and then claiming ownership.

      Yehudit Katzover of the Committee for Jewish Shdema told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew newsmagazine this week that her group has been working against the trend for the past five years.

      “You can see it everywhere in Judea and Samaria... you can see it along the entire length of the road along Highway 60, especially in the area between [the Jewish communities of] Alon Shvut and Elazar," Katzover said. "There are no private plots of land there at all, but they continue to plant trees there, in order to close around us.”

      “We must wake up,” Katzover declared. "We want to catch the hilltops before the Palestinians do. We have appealed to all the authorities with any relevance to the problem, but they have to operate in accordance with the law – and as you know, the wheels of the law turn slowly.”

      Katzover claims the Arabs are planting olive trees, and then, after seven years, claim ownership. “That is how they work,” she said. “The Defense Minister is really closing his eyes. When we tried to build houses [in these areas], they destroyed them eight times. When we tried to plant trees, we received orders to cease and desist. To the Arabs, no orders are given – only to Jews. Therefore we call upon everyone to come and join us in the fight to take these hills,” she said.

      The Gush Etzion activists note that there is a catch to their struggle, in that if they do nothing in response to Arab plantings, the Arabs take over, while if they (the Jews) initiate a planting of their own, the army comes and throws them off, essentially reserving the land for Arabs.

      Shdema, Too
      Katzover said that in order to continue the fight for Shdema, “we must strengthen the fight in the Gush; [PA Arabs] are making points under the sponsorship of GIE, a European anti-Jewish group which is funding their struggle. 

      Shdema, an abandoned IDF army camp, is located on Israeli land close to Har Homa on the Jerusalem-Gush Etzion Highway. Activists have been waging a determined struggle for nearly two years to keep it Jewish.

      This Friday, the Committee for Shdema will be going up to Givat Netzer to demonstrate and help establish the Jewish presence at the hilltop outpost.