Palestinians: Settlers Fraudulently Bought Land From Dead Man

Human rights lawyers want the police to launch a criminal probe on suspicion that various purchases have been forged.

The real estate purchasing arm of Amana, a cooperative that builds houses in West Bank settlements, bought parts of a disputed area in the Beit El settlement in 2013 from a man who has been dead for years, local Palestinians say.

The allegation is detailed in documents sent to the police in a request to investigate the purchasing arm, Al-Watan.

In the summer of 2012, five buildings in Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood were demolished following a petition to the High Court of Justice by Palestinians who owned the two lots at the site.

Last week Army Radio reported that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had given Al-Watan a permit to register parts of one of the lots under its name.

Al-Watan’s main owner is an Amana subsidiary, Binyanei Bar Amana. Al-Watan seeks to buy land in settlements where High Court petitions by Palestinians are pending; this would obviate the need to evacuate those lands.

Al-Watan’s directors are Ze’ev “ Zambish” Hever, a longtime leader of the settlement enterprise, Amana’s treasurer Moshe Yogev, and an Amana employee, Hananya Nahliel. Hever declined to comment for this article.

Al-Watan has claimed that it bought a Palestinian house on the outskirts of the settlement of Ofra, but the district court ruled that the deal was forged. Al-Watan also says it bought land at Giv’at Asaf, Amona and Migron. All of these transactions are being investigated by the police.

Regarding the Ulpana neighborhood, documents submitted by attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zacharia, who are representing the petitioners for human rights group Yesh Din, raise questions on the legitimacy of the Al-Watan purchases.

In January last year, a front man allegedly bought the land on which Ulpana sits from its Palestinians owners. A few months later the man allegedly passed the land on to Al-Watan. But according to the documents submitted by Sfard and Zacharia, the man stipulated had died years before.

In June, the man allegedly bought land in another part of Ulpana, from a different Palestinian. But according to the documents, this Palestinian lives in Jordan and says no one ever approached him about the land. Sfard and Zacharia want the police to launch a criminal probe on suspicion the purchases were forged.

This is not the first time Amana and its subsidiaries have claimed ownership of land in the Ulpana neighborhood. Amana has said that in 2000 it bought land at the site, but after the police determined that the purchase was fraudulent, the land was not transferred to Amana’s name.

In 2011, Amana claimed in district court that it owned a lot in Ulpana, in an effort to obstruct the evacuation of the neighborhood. The court rejected the claim.

Reuters / Haaretz Archive