November 22, 2011
A flawed and inaccurate Israel media report, picked up worldwide, claims Israel, for the first time, has given supposed Palestinian Authority land to a kibbutz whose land was within Israel before the Six-Day War in 1967.
Haaretz (who else) reported last week that the land in question was given by Israeli authorities to Kibbutz Meirav, located southwest of Beit She’an in the Jordan Valley. The newspaper reported, “Israel has previously built roads on and given Palestinian land in the West Bank to Jewish settlements, but this is thought to be the first instance of Palestinian-owned land being transferred to a community on sovereign Israeli territory.”
True to form, the Associated Press then reported, ”The land — about 365 acres (148 hectares) from the West Bank Palestinian village of Bardaleh — was seized by the nearby agricultural community of Kibbutz Meirav, which lies inside Israel proper, said Dror Etkes, a prominent researcher and activist against Jewish settlement in the West Bank.” The news agency did not quote any other official.
Meirav spokeswoman Judy Singer told Arutz Sheva the land in question has a long-term lease and actually belonged to neighboring Kibbutz Maaleh Gilboa for 25 years
“The status quo has not changed.”
Not only is the alleged transfer of Palestinian Authority land to a kibbutz “for the first time” untrue, the claims that the land is “Palestinian” also is highly questionable.
Sources at Maaleh Gilboa confirmed that none of its land is in what is defined as “beyond the Green Line” -- the temporary Armistice Line of 1949. The original article quoted a resident of the village of Bardeleh, which is located beyond the 1949 border, as stating that the land in question belonged to him.
A former official of Maaleh Gilboa said no Arab ever claimed ownership of any of the farmland. This reporter worked in the kibbutz’s fields 25 years ago and confirms that there never was any Arab claim over land, long before anyone ever thought of building a security fence.
The parcel in question is located east of the highway that separates Bardeleh from the Jordanian border. Moreover, a farmer at Maaleh Gilboa stated that the land never was farmed by Arabs even though the kibbutz left the land fallow because it had more acreage than it could work.
He added that he thinks the Haaretz journalist misread the maps.
Kibbutz Meirav confirmed the newspaper’s claim that it refused to show the newspaper the lease for the land, explaining it was a matter of principle that it does not have to prove its right to farm the land.
The newspaper said that the Bardaleh resident claiming ownership of the land showed it a deed. However, most “deeds” under the Jordanian government were simply documents of Jordanian rulers divvying out land to a select circle of friends.
Even if there is an official deed, the newspaper said the plot on it concerns a grand total of nine acres, far from the 375 acres allegedly to have been “seized” by Israel.
As for Israel confiscating Arab farmland for the security fence, the same action is taken against Jews. Maaleh Gilboa lost large plots of farmland for the fence.
The article had stated that the route of the security fence, which Haaretz described as the “separation barrier,” was changed in order to keep the land under Israeli sovereignty.
Kibbutz veterans denied the charge and said that on the contrary, Kibbutz Maaleh Gilboa tried and failed to convince the government to move the security fence further south so that it would be built on Arab land and not Jewish land.