Peace Now, the Israel-based advocacy group claimed in a controversial report, Breaking the Law – One Violation Leads to Another, that “a large proportion of the settlements built on the West Bank are built on privately owned Palestinian land,” including 86.4% of Ma’ale Adumim’s land and 35.1% of Ariel’s. Overall, the report claims, “Palestinians privately own nearly 40% of the land on which settlements have been built.” This is in direct contradiction to often repeated claims by numerous Israeli governments that settlements are built only on state (that is, public) land and not on private land.
CAMERA raised numerous factual and legal objections to Peace Now’s claims (see here and here), which the group never addressed. Peace Now, however, was eventually forced to admit that no more than 0.54% of Ma’ale Adumim’s land was privately owned by Palestinians. That is, Peace Now had erred by almost 16,000 percent!
Now comes word of another error – one with real consequences. Peace Now claimed in its original report that the community of Revava sat on land that was 71.15% privately owned by Palestinians. Revava did not agree that any of their land was privately owned by Palestinians. According to an article in Israel National News Revava therefore complained to Peace Now, which, without admitting any error, reduced the figure of 71.15% to 22%.
Peace Now, however, refused to accurately correct their original claim, and refused to issue an apology. The group that formally owns Revava’s land, The Fund for Redeeming the Land, then sued Peace Now and the report’s authors (Dror Etkes and Hagit Ofran) for libel in Jerusalem Magistrates Court.
The decision came on December 11th and it was a slam dunk for Revava and Fund attorney Doron Nir Tzvi. Justice Yehezkel Barclay convicted Peace Now and its staffers of libel, ordered them to pay the Fund 20,000 NIS plus tax, and to make a public apology which they must publish in the newspapers Ha’aretz and Maariv.
Will Peace Now finally come clean and admit that the rest of their report is also nonsense? Or will each community that it libeled have to file a similar lawsuit for the full truth to come out?