Shlomo Dror, spokesman for Israel’s Civil Administration, has told CAMERA that the leaked map Peace Now relied upon to charge that Israeli settlements were built largely on private Palestinian land, was itself “based only on Palestinian claims.” That a claim appeared on the map did not at all mean that it was valid, and in fact many of the claims have already been investigated and rejected. Dror also added that “Peace Now had never contacted” the Civil Administration to ask about the meaning or interpretation of the leaked map.
That is, as argued in CAMERA’s first article on the Peace Now report, the group’s interpretation of the leaked map data is erroneous and tendentious.
The Example of Ma’ale Adumim
Peace Now, for example, claimed that 86.4% of Ma’ale Adumim was built on private Palestinian land. But according to Dror most of the Palestinian claims to this land were filed by the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, and were rejected by the Israeli courts after a thorough investigation.
The Jahalin have been making claims about the land of Ma’ale Adumim, and squatting on state land assigned to the community, since the 1980’s. They have been warned many times by successive Israeli governments that eventually they would have to move. Most of the Jahalin eventually agreed that they did not have rights to the land. For example, according to a January 29th, 1994 Los Angeles Times article, “no one, not even Hairsh (Mohammed Hairsh, a Jahalin leader) claims that his tribe has a legal right” to the land they have been occupying.
Nevertheless, out of sympathy for the plight of the Jahalin tribe, the Israeli government offered them title to a plot of land if they would agree to leave their encampment near Ma’ale Adumim. This new site is about one kilometer from and more than five times larger than the Jahalin’s previous encampment. In addition, under the proposed agreement with the Jahalin, the Israeli government agreed to provide, at no charge, electricity and water hookups, cement building platforms and building materials.
Not surprisingly, the leaders of the Jahalin tribe accepted Israel’s offer and most of the tribe moved to the new site. The electricity and water hookups were provided, and the platforms were built. However, when a lawyer representing some of the Jahalin returned from a trip abroad and heard of the agreement, she convinced several of the Jahalin families who had not yet moved to stay where they were.
(Click here for more details on the Jahalin issue from a 1999 CAMERA report.)
The bottom line is that, as indicated in CAMERA’s earlier article on the Peace Now report, the group’s interpretation of the map data is wrong and tendentious. The leaked map says nothing about rights to the land in question, only about claims to such rights. And many of these claims, such as the Jahalin claims on Ma’ale Adumim, were debunked long ago.
In its rush to judgement, and its eagerness to reap a “media whirlwind” of publicity, to use Peace Now’s own words, the group failed to do even elementary checks, such as asking the Civil Administration what the map was meant to show. If Peace Now wants to have any credibility in the future, it should publicly admit its errors and withdraw its faulty, misleading report. And it should ensure that the media whirlwind it created is followed by a whirlwind of corrections, including at the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, NPR, and the BBC.