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This isn't Israel's first 'land theft law,' it won't be the last

Israel has a long and rich history of using the law to dispossess Palestinians of their land. Anyone willing to see what’s taken place over the past 70 years shouldn’t feign outrage at the latest ‘land theft law.’

The Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which was seized under Israel’s Absentee Property Law, is demolished in order to build a Jewish apartment complex, January 9, 2011. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which was seized under Israel’s Absentee Property Law, is demolished in order to build a Jewish apartment complex, January 9, 2011. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Congrats to the Israeli Knesset for passing the settlement “regulation law” (also known as the “normalization law” and the “formalization law”) earlier this week. The law retroactively legalizes the theft by Israeli settlers of land privately owned by Palestinians, largely land on which those settlements Israel calls “illegal outposts” were constructed — because their existence is illegal even under Israeli law.

To be honest, I don’t really understand the outrage of the “Jewish and democratic” crowd at the legislation and its passage into law. The new law stays true to the long-standing Israeli tradition of “formalizing” or “regulating” the theft of Palestinian property by legal means; it doesn’t introduce any tricks we haven’t seen before.

The tradition began in the State of Israel’s earliest years with the Absentee Property Law of 1950, which “regulated” the expropriation of Palestinian property of any Palestinian who fled or was driven from his or her home during the 1948 war and who ended up in one of the surrounding Arab states “or in any part of Palestine outside the area of Israel” between November 29, 1947 and May 19, 1948.

What the Absentee Property Law did was to declare that as far as property and land was concerned, the books were wiped clean in 1948 — for property owned by Palestinians, that is. Palestinians have no legal avenue for reclaiming property left behind in 1948. Jews, on the other hand, are able regain property they owned prior to 1948, in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Shiekh Jarrah for example, and Israeli authorities are more than happy to help them by evicting the current Palestinian residents of those properties.

Israeli policemen enter the the Hayat family house in Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem after Israeli settlers took over an apartment in the building, September 30, 2014. Israeli settlers took over seven homes in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem Tuesday morning.

Israeli police enter a Palestinian home in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem that was taken over by Jewish settlers, September 30, 2014. Israeli settlers took over seven homes in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem the same day. (Activestills.org)

After 1967 the practice got even more complicated. When Israel annexed East Jerusalem, it also applied its system of laws to the newly occupied neighborhoods and villages, including the Absentee Property Law. That effectively turned all of the property belonging to East Jerusalem residents into absentee property because during the period defined by the law they were residents of an enemy state, Jordan, which controlled East Jerusalem at the time. That legal situation was too absurd even for Israeli authorities, however, and Palestinians living in areas later annexed by Israel were exempted from the law.

But what about Palestinian residents of the West Bank who weren’t living in East Jerusalem but who own property there? Numerous Israeli attorneys general have insisted that applying the Absentee Property Law to those people was fundamentally unacceptable, but Israeli authorities decided to ignore them. Instead, starting in the 1980s, authorities began using the law in a massive push to relieve Palestinians of their property and hand it over to Jewish settlers.

In other words, the Israeli position is: property that belonged to Jews prior to 1948 and is located in Israeli territory — ours; property that belongs to Palestinians who were expelled or fled in 1948 — ours; property belonging to Palestinians who never left their homes but which is on land that was later annexed to Israel — ours. And we haven’t even talked about all the land inside Israel that was declared “state land” in order to dispossess Palestinians or the shenanigans of the Jewish National Fund or the manipulative ways land was “acquired” prior to the establishment of the state.

The law passed earlier this week was only the next logical step in a decades-long legislative and legal effort to seize Palestinian land. As of this week, land belonging to Palestinians who never even left their homes, in territory that was never annexed to Israel and which is not inside the state of Israel – also ours. So to all those people who haven’t been paying attention until now, keep rolling your eyes and acting outraged and yanking out your hair at this perversion of Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” balancing act. Anyone who has been paying attention for the past 70 years, however, understands that this new law follows the one and only path along which Israeli Zionism has strolled since its earliest days.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Grandpa Frost

      You can’t steal something that belongs to you.

      Reply to Comment
      • betz55

        Palestine does not belong to Israel. The old testament is not a mortgage deed.
        Blame the victim then steal his land, God told me to do this in an 2000 year old comic book.

        Israel was born of the terrorism of the Irgun, Ledi, Stern Gang, Hagana… and it has chosen arrogance and terrorism to perpetuate its occupation of Arab territory

        Reply to Comment
        • Chris

          Don’t fall into the absurd Arabs/Jews language trap, Betz:

          “…its occupation of Arab territory”

          The organized gang of messianic foreign Zionist terrorists, land thieves and murderers who, having initially targeted Palestine for hostile invasion and takeover more than a century ago, are now belligerently occupying Palestine in order to perpetuate their violent ethnic cleansing and illegal colonization of Palestinian territory, not “Arab territory”.

          Since Arabs can be Jews, Jews can be Arabs, Palestinians can be all three at once and Palestine belongs neither to “the Arabs” nor “the Jews” because Palestine belongs solely to the Palestinians—each and every Palestinian regardless of his or her individual faith—the sooner more people realize this and refuse to play stupid word games with Zionists, the less time it will take for Zionism to die on its feet.

          Reply to Comment
          • betz55

            Thank you Chris, 100% correct.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “Since Arabs can be Jews, Jews can be Arabs”

            That is actually true. At least in theory.

            The problem is that most of the Jews of Israel don’t want to be Arabs. We have our own Jewish culture, language, customs, history and even religion. So we want to be Jews. Some of us want to be religious Jews, some of us want to be secular Jews and some of us are atheists. That means that we are Jews without a religion.

            Which overall means that we are an ethnic group. A different ethnic group than the Arabs who are another ethnic group.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            There were two kinds of Palestinians:

            1. Arab Palestinians.

            2. Jewish Palestinians.

            The Arab Palestinians claimed that ALL of Palestine HAD TO BE ARABIC.

            The Jews of Palestine accepted the UN partition which proposed to create two states, one Arab state and one Jewish state.

            So, tell me, Chris, which side planned to be thieves? The ones who wanted it all? Or the ones who were willing to share the land?

            And who started the rioting? The Arabs or the Jews?

            Hint: the Arabs were unhappy about the UN plan. The Jews accepted the UN plan.

            Reply to Comment
      • Chris

        “You can’t steal something that belongs to you.”

        …And Palestine belongs only to the Palestinians.

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          There were two kinds of Palestinians:

          1. Arab Palestinians.

          2. Jewish Palestinians.

          The Arab Palestinians claimed that ALL of Palestine HAD TO BE ARABIC.

          The Jews of Palestine accepted the UN partition which proposed to create two states, one Arab state and one Jewish state.

          So, tell me, Chris, which side planned to be thieves? The ones who wanted it all? Or the ones who were willing to share the land?

          And who started the rioting? The Arabs or the Jews?

          Hint: the Arabs were unhappy about the UN plan. The Jews accepted the UN plan.

          Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Grandpa, let me ask you a theology question. According to U.S. law the Grand Canyon belongs to me – it’s true! Alas, it doesn’t belong to me -exclusively-, I have to have share it with a couple of hundred million people.

        Now we all know that the Creator of the Universe said that Israel belongs to the Jews, but can you point to the place where He says it belongs to the Jews exclusively?

        Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        GF: “You can’t steal something that belongs to you.”

        You need to define your terms. Just what – exactly – are you claiming belongs to you? I ask because it appears that the concepts of “private property” and “land ownership” just fly right over your head.

        Regardless of if Israel annexes a territory – or not – property ownership remains unaffected. What changes is “sovereignty”, which is something entirely different.

        As in:
        “land” is subject to “ownership”, whereas
        “territory” is subject to “sovereignty”.

        You appear to be claiming that because the territory “belongs” to Israel then Israel is entitled to simply seize private property because… well… why, exactly, is the state entitled to confiscate private property?

        Reply to Comment
    2. Tony Riley

      I must have missed something: when did a Palestinian nation atate actually exist?

      Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        TR: “I must have missed something: when did a Palestinian nation atate actually exist?”

        I must have missed the relevance of arguing over Palestinian statehood when the issue in this article is Israel’s “right” to seize private property from that property’s rightful owner.

        Or are you going to claim that a Palestinian can’t own private property because There Is No Palestinian Nation State?

        I’m genuinely curious: is that your argument?

        Reply to Comment
    3. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      There has never been an Arab “Palestinian” State. Before the 60′ nobody heard about the “Palestinian” People.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Here’s the unexpurgated version:

        http://972mag.com/the-rights-new-spin-the-state-demolishes-only-jewish-homes/123183/
        ITSHAK GORDIN HALEVY
        THURSDAY
        NOVEMBER 17, 2016
        Baal, as you know there has never been any Palestinian State or “Palestinian people”. I come from a Levi family who served in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem thousands of years ago and my sons or grandsons will probably serve in the third Temple I am in my homeland and I will take no lessons from anybody.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Halevy, see Yeah Right’s question to TR. Your answer?

        Reply to Comment
      • Duh

        Zionism would still be a racist political movement regardless if the targets were Arabs, Palestinians or Southern Syrians, because it started off placing colonial settlers in a place of supremacy over the natives, including Jewish Ottomans. It’s simply not relevant if a Palestinian country ever existed.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jack Morris

          This adherence to a world-view that the Zionist settlers, whose primary aim was to develop Palestine into a Jewish homeland as was ordained by the Balfour Declaration, is a colonial enterprise is the dim-witted thinking of those still under the spell of out-moded left-wing ideologies. The emergence of a Palestinian Arab identity was a knee-jerk, xenophobic reaction by people who are fundamentally Jew-haters and fundamentally unwilling to accept a Jewish sovereign presence in the Middle East. To defer to the Palestinian pretenders is to be appeasing an enemy that will take advantage of any opportunity to establish their ascendancy. The increasing support for Hamas amongst the ‘Palestinians’ shows that even a rotten compromise wouldn’t be possible right now.

          Reply to Comment
          • Duh

            Jack, I’d like you to meet an out-moded, dim-witted, left-wing ideologue named Theodore Herzl:

            “How, then, do I happen to turn to you, since this is an out-of-the-way matter for you? How indeed? Because it is something colonial, and because it presupposes understanding of a development which will take twenty or thirty years. There are visionaries who look past greater spaces of time, but they lack a practical sense.”
            (quoted in “Herzl: From Europe to Zion,” 102, Google books)

            So to put not too fine a point on it, Herzl was about to pitch his cause (the letter wasn’t sent) to the man who who founded the white-minority-ruled British colony of Rhodesia and said, “it is something colonial”. I’m not a fan of resorting to self-incriminating quotes, and anyone with a brain can see Zionism = colonialism even if Herzl had insisted otherwise, but it’s still a smoking gun indication that Zionism had the capacity for violent conquest from day one and that it was seeking imperialist allies.

            Of course to cite the authority of the Balfour Declaration while claiming Zionism was not colonial is flat out hypocritical. Not to rub it in or anything.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Margot Dunne

      I understand from a reading of history that at the ceasefire in January 1949 Jordan controlled the West Bank, the Old City & East Jerusalem, while the UN tacitly allowed the Israeli control of many areas deemed Arab in its partition plan. Periodic clashes between Israel & the Arab States culminated in 1967, with Israel occupying the legal Jordanian territories plus the Sinai & the Gaza strip (Egyptian land), & the Golan Heights (Syrian land). The Geneva Convention of 1949 forbids permanent annexation of conquered land, building on the Hague Regulations of 1907, & re-emphasized by the UN Resolution 242 in 1967 (plus other, later Resolutions).
      Fully understanding Jordan’s continuing entitlement to the West Bank & East Jerusalem, King Hussein of Jordan relinquished this entitlement in July 1988 to the Palestinian people, who wished to form their own State in what was previously Jordanian territory. Seems to me that’s a valid basis for a Palestinian State.

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        The “palestinian” nation of people NEVER existed. If you disagree, please tell me:
        Who was their 1st King?
        Where was their capital city?
        What was its formal religion, if any?

        Reply to Comment
        • John

          does a nation need a king or a ‘formal religion’ to be recognized?

          Reply to Comment
      • i_like_ike52

        Correction-No one except the UK and Pakistan recognized the Jordanian annexation of the West Bank. After Jordan conquered the areas in 1948, King Abdallah wanted to rename his country the Kingdom of Palestine. The British told him not to do it.
        Thus, the West Bank was never “legally” part of Jordan. The British mandate considered it territory for Jewish settlement as part of the Balfour Declaration, and parts of it were settled including Shechem (Nablus), Hevron, Beit Ha’aravah, Gush Etzion, Atarot, the old City of Jerusalem. Also there was Jewish settlement before 1948 in the area that came to be known as the Gaza Strip.
        There has never been an independent Arab geopoltical entity called “Palestine”.

        Reply to Comment
        • carmen

          Israel’s efforts to erase Palestinian history reflect ‘incremental genocide,’ Ehrenreich says

          “The question about genocide–yes, it’s an incremental genocide. And I think that’s a word that gives a lot of people pause and it certainly should. We don’t see the absolutely mass slaughters, although in Gaza I think we’ve seen something very much like it that we usually associate with genocide. But– the attempts to erase a people, to just erase them, to erase their history, I think follow a logic that can only be called genocidal. I mean, every time someone says– and people say it all the time, I get it on twitter all the time– “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian,” or “There was nobody there when the Zionists arrived”– these are genocidal statements, these are attempts to erase a culture, erase a history, decimate a people and I think they should be recognized as that.” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/02/palestinian-incremental-ehrenreich/#sthash.tGNSv617.dpuf

          Just so you know what you sound like ‘Ike” and your pals ‘Lewis’,
          ‘Itshak’ and others – genocidaires.

          Reply to Comment
          • Duh

            This is a weak argument. Israel has made the Gaza strip so dependent on humanitarian aid and deliberately de-developed that in a few years it could pull the plug and quickly enact mass starvation and disease on the level of the Warsaw Ghetto. Already cancer patients have died because they couldn’t leave Gaza for treatment.

            Right now Gaza is a ghetto beset by the occasional pogrom like the Pale of Settlement in the Russian empire; but Israel can someday escalate the policy into genocide. Even without the UN warning that Gaza could be uninhabitable by 2020, this should be obvious.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      I see everyone is studiously ignoring Yeah Right’s question. Five so far, and counting, pretending that question just isn’t there, and monotonously chanting: “there has never been a Palestinian state….” It’s like a cult! Haggai Matar shows why this monotonous refrain is irrelevant, putting a lot of nonsense to rest in one stroke:

      Israel’s land theft law is just the tip of the settlement iceberg
      https://972mag.com/israels-land-theft-law-is-just-the-tip-of-the-settlement-iceberg/125071/

      (As, by the way, did Theodore Meron 49 years ago in a top secret memo to Levi Eshkol. Top secret memos have a way of dispensing with the bullshit.)

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        Private property?

        Since when did the Palestinian Arabs respect Jewish private property?

        In 1929 in Hebron and Tzefat when they massacred all the Jews and took over Jewish properties? In 1948 in East Jerusalem and Gush Etzion when they drove all the Jews out and massacred the captive Jewish POWs who had their hands tied behind their backs?

        Why do you people expect Israeli Jews to respect laws which the Arabs choose to routinely ignore? At the least, you should condemn both parties for ignoring private property laws. But to routinely single out Israel for condemnation while your side of politics literally allows Arabs to get away with murder is just sheer hypocrisy. And so long as you keep on doing that, we will just ignore your hypocritical sanctimony. Ok?

        As for Meron. He is a career minded wishy washy stooge who contradicts himself and just parrots the opinions of politically motivated others.

        Here is a thread in which he has been done to death:

        https://972mag.com/photos-palestinian-homes-come-down-as-settlements-expand/124924/

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          At least Israel compensates Arab private owners when it takes over their lands.

          What did the Arabs do when they took over privately owned Jewish lands in the past, whenever they could? They massacred the Jews.

          Enough of so called “progressive leftist hypocrisy”. Start conddmning your Arab clients and then some of us at least may be prepared to listen to you. In the meanwhile, we don’t listen to hypocrites who chastise only us either because you are bigots. Or for your own political motives.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ruud

            1. A few hundreds of years ago there was no America, no American people, no American culture, no American history, no American nothing. That was not a reason to refrain from establishing the United States of America either.

            Arguments that in the past there was no Palestine etc, are therefore not just nonsensical (check a good history book and go look for yourself in the West Bank), they are also totally irrelevant.

            2. If I buy a piece of land in France, the French government does not have the right to take it from me and give it to a Frenchman when it wants to, just because I’m not French myself.

            3. Evil on one side is never an excuse for evil on the other side and vice versa. If it were, then the opposite would also be true, in this case Arab countries who stole property from Jews would have been right in doing so, because Israel did and does the same with Palestinians, already from 1948.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            I am not a pacifist Ruud. If somebody hates me, I hate them back.

            If somebody hurts me, I hurt them back.

            If somebody robs from me I rob from them.

            But if somebody is fair to me I am fair to them. Of course the usual a…holes around here will choose to disbelieve me but frankly I don’t care because they are a….holes. And I don’t really care what they think.

            Reply to Comment
      • Itshak Gordin Halevy

        Ben, your forgot to mention that there has never been a “Palestinian” People too. Nobody< heard about the "Palestinian" People before the sixties. Even eminent PLO leaders admit it.

        Reply to Comment
        • carmen

          “Today is history. Today will be remembered. Years from now the young will ask with wonder about this day. Today is history and you are part of it. Six hundred years ago when elsewhere they were footing the blame for the Black Death, Casimir the Great – so called – told the Jews they could come to Krakow. They came. They trundled their belongings into the city. They settled. They took hold. They prospered in business, science, education, the arts. They came with nothing. Nothing. And they flourished. For six centuries there has been a Jewish Krakow. Think about that. By this evening those six centuries are a rumor. They never happened. Today is history.”
          Amon Goeth’s character from Schindler’s list. A genocidaire like yourself.

          Reply to Comment
    6. Ben

      Please have a look at AJew’s Feb. 10 response to the true and well thought out statement of Ruud, and at Halevy’s Feb. 10 response to Ben. What do they have in common?

      They have in common a complete and exact missing of the point, a miss so complete and exact that you have to wonder if the writers are satirizing themselves.

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        Benny is always speaking in riddles.

        Soooooo, genius, please reveal to me what point have I missed?

        It could not have possibly been that I made my own point, Benny-leh which you missed?

        Unlike you, I won’t be cryptic and mysterious. My point was that I treat people the way they treat me. And by extension, I think Israel too should relate to the Palestinian Arabs the way they relate to us. And deal with them the way they deal with us. And talk to them the way they talk to and about us. Get the picture Benny-leh?

        Of course you don’t it just wouldn’t be you if you would. Every post of yours is just full of whining about how badly we treat them while you make it exceedingly obvious that as far as you are concerned, the Palestinian Arabs have a free pass. They can do anything they want to us, no matter how bad, because we are an occupying force and they are just defending themselves.

        But of course you continually ignore what caused the occupation in the first place. And why the occupation continues.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          I feel you are genius at missing the point. We should start collecting examples. You did it with Rohland here.

          https://972mag.com/compare-and-contrast-israels-evacuation-of-jews-vs-arabs/124920/

          You’re doing it with Ruud now.

          What I don’t feel is obligated to laboriously spell this out and have you go full nudnik on me in response, as you surely will. (As you did with Meron’s memo.) It is obvious to most people how you missed the point with Ruud. Missed it with a precision and thoroughness that is striking, as if you worked extra hard to craft the perfect missing of the point. It’s a kind of genius.

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Yes Benny-leh, I/we who are for Israel miss your collective points. Your’s, Ruud’s and Rohland’s.

            Your definition of missing points is if someone disagrees with you about how to react to those who are sworn enemies of ours and who would love nothing more than to preside over our total destruction.

            But you know, Benny-leh? It works both ways. If you disagree with US, then you are missing our point.

            Oh and the nudnik bit. How does it feel? I suppose you’ll claim that you are not a nudnik, huh? That is the difference between you and me. I know myself. You don’t even know YOURSELF, let alone the reality of the Middle East. Yet you are here seven days a week, trying to preach to us who live here, and try to tell us how to handle the situation. I don’t know what is worse, your ignorance? Or your arrogance?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “trying to preach to us who live here, and try to tell us how to handle the situation”

            You get ZERO points for living there. +972 Magazine was started by Noam Scheizaf precisely because he understood the argument has to be in English and directed to those outside, because at this point Israelis inside refuse to listen and cannot change. They are too brainwashed and self-serving and complacent. So, the whole point of +972 Magazine, sister site to Hebrew-language Local Call, is that it is not trying to tell you how to handle the situation, it is trying to tell others how you are not handling the situation except to perpetuate and deepen the occupation. We shall add to our collection this third example of you precisely missing the point. Genius.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Fancy that. The whole point is to turn outsiders against Israel. To tell the world how eeeeeeeevil Israel is and how innocent the Arabs are.

            A supposed Israeli doing that to fellow Israelis and you laud that Benny? That just tells us who you are too.

            As for missing points. Again you missed MY point as to why I am here. I am here to make sure that just a teeny weeny portion of how we ordinary Israelis feel seeps through. I know that most people who read this magazine are similar to you Benny and that nothing we say moves you because you are full of hatred towards us. But there are others. Also, I must admit, I do get some satisfaction for making you work hard and earn your keep rather than just leave you a smooth road and a world in which the only accepted “truth” would be yours without someone challenging your constant one sided diatribe.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            It seeps through all right. You just have never realized how it backfires.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “It seeps through all right. You just have never realized how it backfires.”

            With one eyed HATERS like YOU, yes, no doubt! I am under no illusions.

            But the whole world is not like you Benny. It isn’t all like you, Benny, thank goodness 😊

            Reply to Comment
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