Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) –Over 32% of the land on which Israeli settlements have been built is private property belonging to Palestinians: this is according to the latest report by Peace Now – the historic Israeli peace group – releases yesterday. Their findings are based on official civil administration data: confirming the non official data published by the group in their previous report released in November. The difference is minor: the previous report spoke of 123 settlements on private Palestinian land, this one of 131.
On 21 November 2006, the Peace Now Settlement Watch team published a report entitled “One offence begets another” which dealt with the phenomenon of the construction of settlements on. The process of procuring official data was not easy. In 2004 Peace Now unofficially obtained information from the database of the Civil Administration. In 2005, with the movement for the freedom of information the group appealed to the Israeli High Court, asking to receive the data.
The Court ruled that the Civil Administration must immediately transmit the database to Peace Now. The present report is based upon data received pursuant to that ruling, and it reinforces the original findings. In response to Peace Now's claim, the Civil Administration said, "We were disappointed to see that despite the clarifications made by the Civil Administration ... the most recent report is still inaccurate in many places, thus misrepresenting the reality concerning the status of the settlements”.
The new numbers are vastly smaller than numbers Peace Now issued in an earlier report based on leaked information. In November, Peace Now claimed that 86 percent of Ma'aleh Adumim, a Jerusalem suburb of more than 30,000 residents, was built on private Palestinian land. After successfully petitioning the court to see the database, the group reported yesterday that data show only 0.5 percent of the settlement is built on private land. The group said the new numbers on Ma'aleh Adumim were the major factor behind a revised Peace Now representation of how much private Palestinian land was seized for West Bank settlers. In November, Peace Now put that figure at 38.8 percent; yesterday, it the new numbers reduce that figure to 32.4 percent.
The new data shows that Israel has established and continues to establish new settlements on private Palestinian property. Israel has long maintained that settlements were built on "state lands," or areas not registered in anyone's name, and that no private property was being seized for settlement building.
In fact there are noted differences between the data published in the first and second report: most of the differences are very small, amounting to a few dunams in each settlement, and these are apparently the result of inaccuracies in the computerized system, or GIS (Geographic Information System), but the intrinsic differences are in data which shows areas marked as private land in the original report, which is based upon 2004 data, are not marked as such, but rather quite the opposite marked as State land.
Last month, the Peace Now settlement monitoring team published a survey which indicated that Israel was building more than 3000 dwellings in the west bank and while in 2006 the number of colonies did not increase the population did by over 5%.