IDF Issued 119 Orders to Seize Palestinian Property in 2013, Up From One in 2011

Army officials in Israel cite ‘rise in public disturbances and power of terror organizations.’

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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People at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.
People at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.Credit: David Bachar
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

The Israel Defense Forces issued 119 orders to confiscate property from Palestinians in the West Bank in 2013, compared to just one such order in 2011. In a response to the civil rights organization Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, the IDF did not specify the items that were seized or what was done with them. The state has until the end of this month to reply to a High Court of Justice petition against an injunction issued last December that prohibits Palestinians from appealing property confiscations through the military court system.

Israel’s Defense (Emergency) Regulations, laws that were introduced during the British Mandate and remain in effect in the West Bank, authorize the military commander to confiscate any property he believes to be linked to an act of violence that was committed or might be committed in the future. This regulation was rarely used in the past, but recently the army has been using it extensively.

According to the IDF’s response to Hamoked’s request for specifics under the Freedom of Information Law, the order was used only once in 2011. In 2012 the army used it 25 times, and in 2013 that number soared to 119. Military officials explained the higher incidence in the law’s use by saying that the army is “dealing with an increase in rioting and the strengthening of the terrorism infrastructure in the Judea and Samaria region.”

During a hearing on a Palestinian’s request for the return of a hammer that had been confiscated from him, the military court of appeals ruled that the courts had the power to hear appeals of the injunction, so army officials decided to take away the option of appealing. As Haaretz reported, GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon signed an order in December 2013 prohibiting Palestinians from appealing to the military court, evidently because of the increase in property confiscations.

Hamoked submitted, in the name of two Palestinians, a petition to the High Court against the injunction prohibiting appeals. The appellant, Dr. Tahani Sarawy, a physician from Nablus, was arrested at the Allenby Bridge border crossing with 1,000 Jordanian dinars in her possession. Although she claimed that the money came from her savings and was intended as assistance for her elderly parents, the cash was confiscated from her at the crossing on the claim that it belonged to Hamas. Sarawy appealed to the military court in Ofer, but the new injunction against appeals was issued during the appeal hearings. For this reason, the military judge, Amir Dahan, suspended the hearing to allow Sawary to fight the injunction in the High Court.

The second appellant, Ayman Hur, an X-ray technician from Hebron, went to Jordan to look for a job and when he returned, 2,200 dinars were taken from him. He claimed that the money was all he had left from the trip, but army officials said that the cash belonged to Hamas.

In addition, the Yesh Din non-profit organization submitted a petition to the High Court in the name of two sisters, Elham and Sayal a-Shtayyeh, whose father was shot to death by a settler. Five thousand shekels were confiscated from them on their entry into Israel from Jordan.