CAMERA’s Israel office last week prompted correction of Times of Israel articles which stated as fact unverified Palestinian claims of ownership of land where the illegal outpost of Evyatar, south of Nablus, sits.
The land on which Evyatar was reestablished in April historically belonged to the adjacent Palestinian villages of Beita, Kablan and Yitma, though residents have been barred access to it for decades for what the IDF has said are security reasons.
While there is no doubt the outpost was established illegally, the ownership of the land seems to be less clear. Haaretz reported:
The ground under Evyatar is defined by Israel as “survey land” – land that the army’s Civil Administration has not yet determined as privately owned or owned the state.In the 1980s, a military camp was built there. In recent weeks, West Bank researcher Dror Etkes from the group Kerem Navot has presented aerial photographs from before the construction of the military camp; he says it’s clear that the land there before the outpost was put up had been cultivated.But Evyatar’s residents say they have aerial photographs showing that the land had not been farmed. This question is critical because, according to the property laws in the West Bank, land that was worked for a number of years continuously is considered private land. The outpost is surrounded by olive trees cultivated by Palestinians from nearby villages.
Likewise,The Jerusalem Post reported:
In his final days in office former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of his intention to authorize the outpost,which he said was located on survey land.
If the Civil Administration still has not determined the historical ownership of the land, on what basis does Times of Israel know that the land historically belonged to the adjacent Palestinian villages? Isn’t the land’s status as survey land, meaning the Civil Administration has not yet determined if it is state or private land, relevant to Evyatar coverage?
Times of Israel editors commendably agreed with CAMERA’s concerns and promptly amended the articles to accurately report:
Local Palestinian residents say they historically worked the land on which the outpost was built, but that the Israeli army has recently prevented them from reaching the area. The Civil Administration, an Israeli military body that manages Palestinian civilian affairs — including West Bank land registration — says it has not determined to whom the land belongs. According to West Bank property laws, uncultivated land can revert back to public ownership.
Contrary to common journalistic practice, a note was not appended to the bottom of the article notifying readers of the change.