Fourteen out of fifteen recent purported purchases of Palestinian land by a pro-settlement group in the central West Bank were fraudulent, according to a Channel 10 TV investigation.
The areas in question include contested land in several flashpoint settlements, such as Migron, Amona and Givat Asaf, the TV report said Monday, where court-ordered evacuations and demolitions of buildings for which the settlers could not show ownership have drawn angry denunciations and protests by settler leaders and government ministers in recent years.
According to investigative journalist Raviv Drucker of the channel’s “Makor” program, which was to screen the report in full on Tuesday, police were asked by the High Court of Justice to look into settlers’ claims that the lands were purchased. In the 15 deals police examined, all were determined to be invalid, with 14 believed to have been instances of fraud.
Police have submitted the findings to the state prosecution.
According to a preview of the full report broadcast Monday, the deals were all carried out by Al-Watan, a company operating under Amana, a corporation founded by the Gush Emunim movement that has become one of the major builders of West Bank settlements.
The report names Amana’s head, Ze’ev Hever, known by the nickname “Zambish,” as one of the most influential personages in the settlement movement and a key figure in the deals in question. According to Haaretz, Hever responded to the preview of the report by saying he did not know what Channel 10 was talking about.
Among the allegedly fraudulent purchases cited by Channel 10 was one carried out in 1990 in Migron. Drucker shows Abd Al-Munaim Mu’atan, a Palestinian landowner in the area, remarking sarcastically that “God, praise his name, I don’t know how, does miracles and wonders for the settlers. Such miracles that my grandfather rose from his grave in 1990, after dying in 1960, only to sign these fake sale papers, as they claim.”
Settler groups have protested court-ordered evacuations and demolitions on the grounds that they had purchased the lands or homes in question from their Palestinian owners.
Drucker’s report calls these claims into question, showing one Palestinian “seller” signed on several such land deals, who is identified only as “Akram” out of fear of Palestinian reprisal, saying he had signed “five or six deals,” including for the sale of lands in Amona and Migron that he did not own.
“In Silwad [Amona], they told me ‘there’s this land, number so-and-so, and more land with a number so-and-so, and you sign.’ Several times I signed for a lot of land.”
After a deal is signed, “they’d give me a briefcase full of money, a million [shekels], half a million [shekels].” The sellers were filmed receiving the briefcase, but were not allowed to keep it, according to Channel 10. It was quickly taken away, and sellers were paid NIS 10,000 in cash for their efforts.
Akram added: “I told them I’m signing for all the Palestinians, but let me live in Israel, because my children are in Israel and I don’t see them. Every time I go into Israel I get jailed because I don’t have a permit.”
Al-Watan’s response to the report, as cited by Channel 10, rejected the allegations. “The police and prosecution have said that there are no suspicions against the company. No representative of the company has been investigated under warning. All the land was purchased lawfully and registered lawfully under the company’s name. This is racism and anti-Semitism of the most vile sort, and it’s a shame that Channel 10 contributed to it,” the company said.