Yesh DinVolunteers for Human Rights
A key issue affecting Palestinians' ability to develop economically and maintain livelihood is Israeli settlers' expansion on Palestinian privately-owned and public lands.
In expanding settlements and outposts on West Bank lands, settlers exploit in some cases the complicated system of land laws in the West Bank. In other cases These settlemnts and outposts expand on Palestinians' lands in direct violation of the local law.
Various means are used to undermine Palestinians' individual and communaaccess and use of their lands. These include:
Baring access by Palestinians to their privately owned lands until the lands can be legally named ‘abandoned’ and then claimed.
Violence and intimation tactics ensure landowners feel threatened if they approach their property.
Illegal construction and fencing by Israeli settlers on private Palestinian lands are used to extend the boundaries of settlements by asserting control over adjoining lands.
Cultivation of private agricultural lands is also used to assert power over territory.
Yesh Din engages in systematic investigations and legal procedures in order to combat the violation of Palestinian rights to private and State Land as a result of settlement and outpost construction and expansion. The principal goal is to force institutional changes within Israel’s planning and law enforcement authorities. Investigative activities involve identifying relevant land parcels, settlement activities, and true land owners; finding the necessary land ownership documents; and obtaining affidavit and powers of attorney in order to fight for land on behalf of land owners.
One way Yesh Din uses its legal resources is to help safeguard Palestinian property rights by targeting planning procedures. Yesh Din works in cooperation with Bimkom – an Israeli human rights organization specializing in planning rights – to move this agenda forward. Yesh Din provides legal representation to Palestinian individuals and communities who are in danger of losing property rights due to planning decisions made by the relevant IDF Civil Administration bodies. Yesh Din's legal team also appeals against declarations of Palestinian private lands to State Lands, where they will then be allocated for settlement use.
Yesh Din also uses its legal expertise and knowledge-base to represent Palestinians in planning enforcement cases filed against them. The organization has recently witnessed a new trend of settler-initiated petitions to the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) demanding the implementation of demolition orders against illegal construction by Palestinians. Their strategy is to show that a lack of law enforcement exists equally in the Palestinian and Israeli sectors in the West Bank.
Yesh Din provides these Palestinians with legal representation, along public campaigns in order to prove that this alleged symmetry is non-existent, showing that:
- unlike settlers, Palestinians usually build on their own lands;
- the Civil Administration is leading a policy of "planning suffocation" preventing Palestinians from securing proper permits;
- in reality actual enforcement in the Palestinian sector is tenfold that in the Israeli sector;
- and that illegal construction in Israeli sector is in many cases aided and financed by the authorities.