Controversy Sparked by Move to Seize Land in the Nablus Area

A preliminary move by the Military Government to seize some 4000 acres of unregistered land in the Nablus area of the West Bank to expand Jewish settlements has stirred an angry controversy and is almost certain to be challenged in the courts by the Arab villagers affected.

The parcels were declared “State land” by the authorities, a precondition for their formal seizure inasmuch as government policy is to avoid seizing Arab-owned land for settlement purposes. Legal notice of the changed status of the land was sent to the local leaders of Salfit village near Nablus. They were instructed to inform the villagers of the government’s intention so that they could file appeals. They have only 21 days to do so, however

The land around Salfit is intended for the expansion of the settlement of Ariel. Similar notices were received by the elders of Tubas village. Military sources said that land would serve the expansion of Tirza settlement. The lands affected were selected by a special ministerial committee several months ago as suitable for Jewish settlement. The committee was formed to solve the problems of six Jewish settlements on the West Bank which claim they do not have sufficient land to expand.

West Bank Arabs contend that even unregistered land is by long established custom recognized as pasturage for the nearby villages and as possible areas for the expansion of Arab towns. The villagers plan to take their case to court.

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