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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Focus: The Waning Hope (3-4)

The immediate problem with unregistered land in the West Bank is that Israel might decide to build Jewish settlements on it

. The state has long claimed Palestinian properties in the name of the Jewish people. Israel has already built settlements for 400,000 Jews in Area C, which is the 60 percent of the West Bank it rules directly. (Areas A and B have some degree of internal rule by the PA, which polices the Palestinians on behalf of the Israeli government. International law forbids a country to move population into territory occupied during a war.)
An article about Sabawi in Forbes Middle East explained the situation:
In theory, the land [in the West Bank] is untouchable. After Oslo [the 1990s accords that created the PA], the Palestinian territories were divided into three areas: A, B and C, with just the latter falling under direct Israeli control. Al Sabawi works only in Area A, a zone officially under PA administration, but leaves nothing to chance. “If Israel tries to circumvent the agreement[, he says,] they’ll go after land without title deed, because once you have proof of ownership of your land it’s very difficult for anyone to put their hands on it.”
And Al Sabawi is out to keep it that way, securing proud Palestinian land with the papers to prove it.
So his TABO project has the admirable objective of preventing more Israeli settlements on land that Palestinians legitimately own. He and his team work to track down the last owners of properties or their heirs and to plot the boundaries. Forbes reports that “after identifying land for sale from Palestinians who possess inheritance documents but no official papers, Al Sabawi sets about obtaining approval from relevant family members, before determining the borders in a manner more accurate than the ‘this olive tree to that one’ approach.”
“We have to walk every corner of the land with a GPS machine, the head of the village council and every single neighbor,” Al Sabawi said. His work has ruffled feathers, and that may seem unsurprising until you learn that “the challenge did not come from Israel; it came from the Palestinian Authority.”
As he says in his TED Talk:
For our outspokenness [that is, his criticism of the PA], however, we paid a heavy price, one that I never imagined. For our criticism of their leadership, individuals within the Palestinian Authority abused their power and suspended all of the title deed transactions of TABO. Think about this for a moment. To punish us for our freedom of expression, powerful individuals within the Palestinian Authority went out of their way to stop and suspend the registration of Palestinian land, thereby preventing the protection of Palestinian land from Israeli settlement expansion. Modified from S. Richman