Friday, December 30, 2011

Private - or Putative - Land?

As my friend Moshe Dann writes in the JPost

Accusing Israeli Jews of “stealing private Palestinian land,” condemning “settlements” as “illegal,” “violations of international law” and “the occupation” are powerful weapons in the war to demonize and delegitimize Israel...[However,] Because land on which most settlements are built is not agriculturally useful, Arabs did not claim ownership until recently.

He has done a good job in his recent op-ed, "Blood libel: The myth of ‘private Palestinian land’" [and covers more than my 2006 op-ed there but doesn't mention the land that Jews owned in Judea & Samaria] and I bring you some highlights:

...what constitutes “private Palestinian land” and who decides what is and what is not private Palestinian land? If it is true that Jews are stealing land, this violates Jewish and Israeli laws and values and justifies calls for boycotts, sanctions and even the elimination of the state, since it applies to areas acquired after 1948 as well as in 1967. A devastating moral and legal indictment, it would undermine Israel’s moral foundation, its raison d’etre...Promoted by Arab propagandists and their supporters...[it is] A poisoned narrative based on ignorance and/or misunderstanding, it is a lie.

Based on titles and deeds, land that is registered becomes private property. But what if there are no documents to prove ownership?

...Until the modern period, land registration, especially in sparsely populated areas like the Middle East, Africa and North Africa was not widely practiced.

According to international agreements such as the San Remo Accord (1920) and the League of Nations (1922), the Mandate for Palestine was intended as a “Jewish National Home.” This anchors the rights of the Jewish people and Israeli sovereignty in law...[{I would have added that Article 6 of the Mandate permits the use of "state and waste lands" for "close Jewish settlement" which only strengthens our claim}]

...According to Dr. Dov Gavish, who wrote the only extensive study of this topic, Survey of Palestine, 1920-1948 (2005)(*), [during the Mandate period] maps were drawn based on where inhabitants were found and on verbal claims, usually by local mukhtars (chiefs) and sheikhs, not on documents or land registration. [here is some more important background information] Based on aerial photos and evidence of cultivation, villages were arbitrarily divided into 60-hectare (about 148-acre) blocks, which were then sub-divided among local peasants. Highly inaccurate, these fiscal maps nevertheless became the basis for taxation. They did not and do not reflect legal ownership...the registration process lacked legal procedures for determining proper (actual) ownership...Most of what is called “private Palestinian land” is claimed – and some registered – based on policies that legitimized squatting after the fact and by counting land as “owned” when in fact it had been leased, or simply used.

...Because land on which most settlements are built is not agriculturally useful, Arabs did not claim ownership until recently, when anti-settlement NGOs asserted that these lands belonged to Arabs, individually and/or collectively based on hearsay, maps and documents that are grossly inaccurate and often false.

Assertions by NGOs and Arabs that land is privately owned, however, even when approved by politically motivated government and judicial officials, including the State Prosecutor’s Office and Civil Administration, are not necessarily true...


Actually, this book is also quite excellent:

The Claim of Dispossession: Jewish Land Settlement and the Arabs, 1878-1948 by Aryieh L Avneri.

This study sheds new light on the historic background of the contemporary Palestinian problem. Avneri traces the spread of Jewish settlements over the seventy-year period before the establishment of the State of Israel, in order to see how it affected the existing Arab community's economy and social and cultural institutions. He demonstrates that there is no historical evidence for the eviction of the Palestinians from Israel previous to the founding of the state. Most of those who left afterwards did so on their own volition.

And back in 1985, Eyal Zamir, now at Hebrew U. and Harvard, authored "STATE LAND IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA – THE LEGAL STATUS" (The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, Jerusalem, 1985) 75 pp., including Summary in English, which also affords an understanding of the issue.

Did you know the IDF has a site dealing with some of the issues of land?


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