Friday, April 10, 2009

There is a Law

The Forward has an interesting follow-up report on the Palestinian response to an Israeli database showing the extent to which settlements were built from seized Palestinian property. An Israeli anti-settlement NGO, Yesh Din, is offering free legal counsel to bring cases to court, but few Palestinians are taking them up on it. Their reasons are varied:

- They don't want to legitimize the courts of the "occupier"

- They don't trust why a Israeli organization would want to help them in the first place

- They are worried that they'll lose the case and thus legitimize the loss of their land

- They reject the premise of the database, which distinguishes between land seized from Palestinian owners and public or purchased land (Palestinians believe that all settlements are per se illegal)

- They doubt whether, even if they win, the judgment will actually be enforced.

Via Kung Fu Jew, who writes: "[T]here are two sides to the conflict: those who want more war, and those who want an end to violence."


PG said...

- They reject the premise of the database, which distinguishes between land seized from Palestinian owners and public or purchased land (Palestinians believe that all settlements are per se illegal)

That's the only reason that strikes me as bad or illogical. I have a problem with the idea that land duly purchased from its owner of record in good faith and with a title search is still somehow not really the property of the purchaser. That's an indication of people who simply don't believe in the rule of law.

The rest of the reasons seem pretty reasonable, though.

chingona said...

I would agree about the purchased land, but I'm under the impression there may be some question about the "public" land and how it came to be public, that is, in the hands of the state. I also know there are plenty of illegal settlements - in the sense of not having proper permits, etc. - on public land. I don't really know much about the public lands system in Israel - this is more something I've gathered reading between the lines of some news reports - but I think there is some legitimate or rational reason that Palestinians would not see the distinction between illegal settlements on stolen land and illegal settlements on public land as an especially meaningful distinction.

If anyone knows more about this, I'd welcome some clarification.

David Schraub said...

I think that one can recognize that a particular strategy is useful for realizing some political objectives and pursue it without necessarily committing to some large-scale position. Particularly when so many Palestinain advocates buy into BAMN logic, it seems odd that they'd be hesitant to promote this strategy on the grounds that it indirectly might affirm some values or positions they find wrongful.

I'm reminded of the joke about the student who comes to a professor to "negotiate" a higher grade.

"I'll do anything to pass tomorrow's test."

"Anything?" He asks.

"Anything." She breathes.

He leans in "even ... study?"

chingona said...

Don't get me wrong. I would love to see a big old lawsuit against these settlements. It's just that when presented with these reasons, I can see where they're coming from, less so with the "recognize the validity of the occupier's courts" and more so with the "what if we lose?" and "why are these Israelis offering to help us?"

Do you know what the track record of the Israeli courts is wrt to land disputes? I feel like I've heard of cases where clearly illegal land grabs were essentially upheld but I don't have any cites and I have no idea what the cumulative record amounts to.

David Schraub said...

I know Palestinian litigants have done reasonably well in suits against the security barrier, which would seem to be a tougher case because the government can claim necessity. I don't know that much about suits against settlements in general though -- the article indicates that enforcement may be the bigger problem rather than winning the case.