The crisis over the looming December 25 deadline to implement the Israeli Supreme Court’s order to evacuate the Jewish Amona outpost has provoked a bout of national soul searching with regards to how the government treats native population groups.
Yet, despite the chaos surrounding the status of Palestinian lands in Judea and Samaria, an overview of indigenous heritage legislation around the world should provide Palestinian human rights groups with much cause to cheer. After all, the relatively recent idea that places of cultural significance to indigenous people deserve protection is spreading. The legal foundations for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities have been codified in such documents as the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and American Convention on Human Rights.
But with the worm turning in the direction of greater rights for native populations, what explains the current state of pandemonium and uncertainty with regards to outstanding land issues in Judea and Samaria?
The failure to address this festering wound is the result of the Palestinian leadership’s chronic disinterest in compromising with the Israeli government, whether that government is right or left-leaning.
It should be noted that the contentious Regulation Bill has actually been watered down significantly. The Regulation Law in its original form would have retroactively legalized the Amona outpost as well as others in Judea and Samaria. However, a key clause that would have recognized the legality of Amona has been removed, in response to concerns that doing so would undermine the authority of Israel’s Supreme Court.
But while Israel has threaded a needle in formulating a law that simultaneously acknowledges Palestinian property rights and the Jewish people’s historic connection to Judea and Samaria, Palestinian leaders only added fuel to the flames by stating that “Israel is persistently and willfully legislating outside the realm of international law in order to legalize its criminal settlement agenda, considered a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
Never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity to compromise, the Palestinian Authority then proceeded to bypass Israel and called on the United States to unilaterally recognize the Palestinian state.
While Israel’s legislative, executive and judicial branches have ceaselessly debated the merits and contours of a finalized Regulation Law that simply seeks to clarify the disconcertingly murky legal status of over 400,000 Jewish Israelis living over the Green Line, the Palestinian Authority has transformed the issue into a Trojan horse for delegitimizing Israel’s very existence. The grotesque, Nazi-like portrayals in P.A.-sanctioned media outlets of Israelis as money-grubbing, land swindling interlopers highlight a stark truth: Israel’s best and brightest legal and political minds are, effectively, bringing a legal brief to a knife fight.
Until Palestinian leaders embrace the same spirit of compromise that has facilitated breakthroughs in Australia, Canada, the United States and dozens of other countries on the issue of indigenous land rights, the Palestinian people will be condemned to an existence in which they are denied the legal pluralism necessary to resolve their outstanding legal claims to lands in Judea and Samaria.
How unfortunate, since the international community has become increasingly aware of the vital importance of the legal recognition of indigenous land rights to the cultural survival, economic development and self-determination of indigenous peoples and their communities.
Except to the duly elected representatives of the Palestinian people, securing these rights is part of building a just and equitable world.
Check out other essays by Gidon Ben-Zvi that have been published on United with Israel.