Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Islamic Relief Worldwide is one of the funders of the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature. This is incorrect. We apologize for the error.
Israel’s security establishment is alive and kicking. It has destroyed missile-production facilities in Syria and Iraq, assassinated nuclear scientists, demolished dozens of terror tunnels and thwarted thousands of terrorist attacks.
It is therefore no surprise that the Palestinians have learned that in order to conquer Israeli territory, it is better not to go about it through armed resistance, but through “silent” land seizures.
Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad can attest to this, as he is the mastermind behind the large-scale European government-funded building across Area C in Judea and Samaria—land that is under Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords.
The watchdog organization Regavim revealed that in 2018 alone, the “Fayyad Plan” seized nearly 80,000 dunams of land in Area C, an area that spans a mere four million dunams in total.
In addition to illegal construction, another effective method used by Israel’s enemies to conquer state land is simply to plant trees; not one or two, but millions. Think of it as an initiative of the Jewish National Fund, only one that works against the State of Israel.
While we are all focused on COVID-19 and the political situation in Israel, a Jordanian NGO named APN—The Arab Group for the Protection of Nature—is working under the radar to “liberate Palestine from the river to the sea” (their words) by planting millions of trees in Israeli territory.
Employing this “green resistance” (again, their words), the APN’s Million Tree Campaign has planted nearly 2.5 million trees over the past two decades in Israeli territory, with a focus on Judea and Samaria. According to its website, APN has cultivated 126,307 dunams of land from 2001 to 2019.
The reason this is such an effective tool has to do with the antiquated Ottoman-era law governing Judea and Samaria, which allows for someone to claim ownership over state land if he has cultivated the land in question for several consecutive years. And APN is fully aware of this.
In addition to working hand in hand with the P.A., APN is funded by the Kingdom of Jordan, foreign foundations based in Kuwait, International Islamic Charity Organization, Turkish “human rights” organizations and others. The Jordanian government isn’t merely unaware of APN’s activities; it knowingly encourages the NGO’s efforts to seize Israeli land. In Aug. 2020, Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs Amjad Adaileh issued an official letter thanking APN for its efforts.
It’s also important to note that the plantings are not arbitrary. The organization publicly states that it chooses the spots for planting in order to curb “Jewish settlements expansion” and to combat “the danger of nationalizing land by the occupation.”
In the past few months alone, the organization has boasted planting thousands of trees in dozens of locations across Judea and Samaria, including near Jerusalem, Hebron, Ariel and throughout the Jordan Valley.
APN also documents its plantings, which can often be seen on its website or social media page, to use as evidence in its efforts to claim ownership of the land.
Earlier this month, Israeli Minister of Community Affairs Tzachi Hanegbi announced that the government will be allocating 21,000,000 shekels (approximately $67 million) in 2021 to establish vehicle and drone patrols aimed at combating this phenomenon of illegal land seizures.
While this is a very welcomed initiative, there is still much more work that needs to be done. If Israel’s security establishment doesn’t start diverting more resources and manpower to combating these illegal land grabs, one day we will wake up to find that our land has been stolen—without a single shot having been fired.
Matan Peleg is the CEO of Im Tirtzu.
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