JERUSALEM, Israel - B'Tselem, which bills itself as a human rights group, published a report accusing Israel of expropriating Palestinian land in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
The report, entitled "By Hook and by Crook: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank," asserts that 21 percent of Jewish homes are built on private Palestinian land. It also claims that Jewish communities control 42 percent of all the land in Judea and Samaria allegedly because municipal boundaries are 10 times larger than built-up areas.
The group purports to have cross-referenced aerial photographs with information from Israel's Civil Administration for the West Bank.
"The report is misleading, biased and intended to delegitimize Israel," Gush Etzion Mayor Shaul Goldstein told CBN News.
"I'm morally against taking private land for private use, but appropriating some land for public use, such as roads and infrastructure, is done in every country in the world," Goldstein said.
"In the late 60s and 70s, the government built some infrastructure in the area, but this stopped in the 80s. No private land has been appropriated in nearly 30 years," he said.
Goldstein also noted that a B'Tselem report he personally investigated three years ago proved to be a total fabrication.
Yesha Council chairman Dani Dayan said the report is both inaccurate and distorted, including the percentage of land controlled by Jewish regional councils, which, he said, is 9 not 42 percent.
The Yesha Council is an umbrella organization representing the interests of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, the areas where many of the events recorded in the Bible took place.
"The organization has been taken over by a group of anti-Israeli supporters of the most extreme Palestinian groups and [those who support] the Palestinian right of return," Dayan said.
Some believe the group timed the release of its latest report on the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Tuesday meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, a claim B'Tselem denied.
"The fact that B'Tselem decided to publish it on the day of Netanyahu's meeting with Obama to try to make it go badly reveals the organization's face as a systemic harmer of Israeli interests," Dayan said.
The report accuses Israel of "continuing cumulative infringement of the Palestinians' human rights, including the right of property, the right of equality and due process, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to freedom of movement and the right to self-determination."
It also states that government officials involved in the settlement enterprise have "treated international law, local legislation, Israeli military orders, and Israeli law in an instrumental, cynical and even criminal manner."
Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said claims of manipulating the law are vacuous because "land ownership is so complicated that any decision is [open to being] interpreted.
"It can just as easily be that B'Tselem manipulated the law to score political points. In this report, there is no historical context of decades of Arab hostility, the 1967 war and unreciprocated Israeli peace efforts. Instead, it artificially blames everything on Israel," he said.
"B'Tselem claims to be a human rights organization, but they write blatantly political reports that are timed to have the most negative impact, such as when Netanyahu is visiting Washington," Steinberg said.
The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.