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HCJ 9669/10

High Court orders settlers


to stop illegal building on
Palestinian-owned land

A The incident: five houses are under construction


on land belonging to a Palestinian resident of Dura
al-Qara to expand the settlement of Beit El
Abd al-Rahman Qasem, a resident of the village of Dura al-Qara near the settlement
of Beit El, is the owner of a plot of land that he inherited from his late father in 1983.
The family owned and cultivated the land for generations. In the 1970s the plot was
seized for military needs (seizure that is by definition temporary) but was never used
for those needs and remained empty; however, it was never returned to its owners.
Since then, Qasem has been barred from accessing his land and cultivating it. In
early October 2010 Qasem noticed that large residential buildings were being erected
on one side of his plot, and on the other side the ground was being leveled to build
additional homes to expand the settlement of Beit El.

The plot is located next to the headquarters of the Civil Administration (which is in
charge of enforcing the planning and building laws in the West Bank). The illegal
construction – conducted without building permits or a valid outline plan, and on a
private plot of land seized for military purposes – did not go unnoticed by the Civil
Administration’s inspectors, who issued stop work and demolition orders for the
buildings. However, as in many other cases, the Civil Administration did nothing to
enforce the orders, and the construction on Qasem’s land continued undisturbed.

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Yesh Din Volunteers for Human Rights

©photos by Yesh Din

The construction on Qasem’s land continued undisturbed, despite the stop work and demolition
orders issued against the buildings. Right: the construction on December 5, 2010; Left: the
construction on January 23, 2011.

B Yesh Din’s intervention: helping the land owners


petition the High Court of Justice demanding that
the authorities enforce their own orders
It had become clear that the Israeli authorities were not enforcing the orders they
had issued themselves to stop the construction work and demolish the buildings that
had been built, and requests to the Civil Administration and even a complaint to the
Israel Police had not stopped the illegal activity. Therefore, on December 29, 2010,
Abd al-Rahman Qasem, with the assistance of Yesh Din’s legal team, petitioned the
High Court of Justice (HCJ) against the Minister of Defense, the Commander of the
IDF Forces in the West Bank, the Head of the Civil Administration, the Commander
of the Israel Police Samaria and Judea [West Bank] District and the Beit El local
Council. The petition describes a grave case of the authorities turning a blind eye
over a long period of time and tacitly approving extensive construction designed to
expand the settlement, while stealing the private land of a Palestinian civilian. The
petitioner demanded that the court order the authorities to act to enforce the eviction
and stop work orders that they had issued. The petition also demanded revocation
of the military seizure order and the return of Qasem’s land to his possession, in the
absence of any military need for the seized land, which can be deduced from the
illegal construction taking place on it.

Following the petition and a hearing that took place in court, on January 24, 2011,
the HCJ issued a temporary injunction ordering the respondents to prevent the
inhabitation of the empty apartments in the buildings and preventing their continued
construction and attachment to infrastructure. The order imposes a positive obligation
on the State to enforce the stop work orders that it has issued against the illegal

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Yesh Din Volunteers for Human Rights

buildings. The court also issued an order nisi ordering the law enforcement agencies
to explain why the final demolition orders it issued against those buildings were not
executed.

C Yesh Din’s activity: helping Palestinians


defend their rights to their land
By exploiting the complex legal system that applies to land in the West Bank, and in
many cases in blatant violation of the law, Israeli civilians take control of land in the
West Bank in order to expand settlements and build outposts, sometimes with the
help of official parties. The methods of land takeover are diverse and include illegal
construction and fencing off areas; blocking Palestinian access to plots of land they
own with the intention of forcing them to neglect the land for the period required to
declare it abandoned and claim rights to it; committing acts of violence and intimidation
so that the landowners are afraid to approach their land; and agricultural cultivation as
a means of taking over large areas.

This petition was submitted as part of an ongoing project by Yesh Din in which the
organization aims to promote the effective and practical enforcement of the law
required to defend Palestinian rights to land that is stolen by Israeli settlers. As part
of this project Yesh Din assists Palestinian residents in a variety of legal actions to
defend their rights to land stolen to build settlements and outposts without an effective
response by the Israeli authorities on the ground.

Dozens of cases are currently pending in various stages of legal proceedings as part
of Yesh Din’s activity, most of which consist of petitions to the High Court of Justice
and, as in Qasem’s case, concern illegal construction not adequately addressed by
law enforcement agencies and sometimes even assisted by state agencies on the
ground.

Even though the courts so far have avoided rendering explicit and binding rulings as
to the state’s duty to execute demolition orders, petitioners have made considerable
gains with Yesh Din’s assistance as part of its activity on land issues. Among those
gains are numerous petitions in which the court issued temporary injunctions
forbidding the continuation of the illegal activity. This was the case, for example, in
a petition against the continued construction and inhabitation of nine houses in the
settlement of Ofra on the private land of residents of the Village of Ein Yabrud (HCJ
5023/08); a petition against the construction of houses north of the settlement of Beit
El on the private land of residents of the village Dura al-Qara, in Jabel Artis (9060/08);
and a petition against paving a road connecting the settlement of Eli and the outpost
of Hayovel, part of which was being paved on private Palestinian land (HCJ 2759/09).

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Yesh Din Volunteers for Human Rights

The organization attained other important achievements when the HCJ issued orders
nisi ordering state agencies to explain why they were not fulfilling their obligations.
Examples of cases in which these orders were issued include: a petition demanding
the evacuation of the illegal outpost of Amona, built on privately-owned Palestinian
land, and the removal of a fence erected on the land and preventing its owners’ access
to it (HCJ 9949/08); a petition by residents of the Village of Ni’ilin to execute demolition
orders against a park built on the villager’s land for the settlement of Modi’in Illit (HCJ
3402/09); and a petition by the residents of Ein Yabrud concerning a waste treatment
facility for the settlement of Ofra, built illegally on their land (HCJ 4457/09).

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