Discriminatory Israeli Land Policies
by Stephen Lendman
On March 28, Haaretz
headlined “Just 0.7% of state land in the West Bank has been allocated to Palestinians, Israel admits.”
“Jewish settlements (are) allocated 28 percent of 1.3 million dunams of Israeli state land.”
More on that below.
Weeks after Israel’s War of Independence, laws were enacted to legitimize land seizures. Doing so was for exclusive Jewish use.
The June 1948 Abandoned Areas Ordinance referred to “any area or place conquered by or surrendered to armed forces or deserted by all or part of its inhabitants.”
It gave Israel exclusive jurisdiction rights. They include “expropriation and confiscation (authority over) movable and immovable property, within any abandoned area.”
Palestinians were prevented from returning. They’re unable to reclaim stolen property. Israeli law calls it no longer theirs. It does so lawlessly.
The September 1948 Area of Jurisdiction and Powers Ordinance said “Any law applying to the whole of the State of Israel” applies as well “to the whole of the area.”
It includes “any part of Palestine which the Minister of Defence has defined by proclamation as being held by the Defence Army of Israel.”
The March 1950 Absentees’ Property Law (ABL) defined them a “person(s) who, at any time during the period between (November 29, 1947) and (May 19, 1948) has ceased to exist (and no longer are) legal owner(s) of any property situated in the area of Israel….”
Subsequent laws shielded Israel from liability for confiscating “abandoned Palestinian land.” It included whatever was on it.
The Development Authority (DA) was established as an independent body. It was done to sell, lease, exchange, repair, build, develop and/or cultivate seized property.
Transactions between Jews or Jewish entities alone were allowed. “(U)nder no circumstances” were dispossessed Palestinians allowed to return.
In July 1960, the Israel Land Administration (ILA) was created. It overseas, manages, and distributes 93% of Israeli land.
It’s called the “public domain. It’s “either property of the state, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) or the Development Authority (DA).”
Israel’s Basic Law says “ownership of Israel Lands, being the lands in Israel of the State, the Development Authority or the Keren Kayemet Le-Israel (KKL – Jewish National Fund, JNF), shall not be transferred either by sale or in any other manner.”
Lands were defined to mean “land, houses, buildings and any thing permanently fixed to land.”
Ownership includes leasing rights. ILA functions include:
- protecting and supervising state lands;
- making them available for public use;
- planning, developing and managing state land reserves;
- initiating planning and development; doing so includes relocating existing occupants; it means removing Palestinians to make way for Jews;
- regulating and managing registration of state lands;
- authorizing contracts and agreements with other parties; and
- providing services to the general public.
Its policy objectives include:
- designating land areas for public and state requirements;
- assuring the availability of land reserves for future needs;
- preserving agricultural lands;
- administering land use in accordance with Israeli law; and
- safeguarding state lands.
Haaretz said Civil Administration officials “allocated less that one percent of state land in the West Bank to Palestinians.”
Their land was stolen. They were disproportionately cheated. Until 1967, a small amount of “state land” was registered with Jordanian authorities. After 1979, most “state land” was declared that way.
It followed a High Court ruling. It called seizing Palestinian land unconstitutional. Ostensibly it was done for “military needs.” In practice, it was for settlement construction.
After 1979, wholesale theft began. Laws enacted said any land with continuous cultivation for at least 10 years belongs to farmers doing so.
Civil Administration officials were supposed to determine cultivated lands through testimonies, aerial photos, and legitimate documents. In practice, decisions are political.
Ways were found to declare areas between cultivated and uncultivated portions state land.
CA officials claim 1.3 million dunams of West Bank land. It breaks down as follows:
- 671,000 belongs to the state;
- 400,000 were allocated to the World Zionist Organization (WZO);
- 103,000 went to mobile communications companies and local governments for public building construction;
- Mekorot water company, Bezek communications, and Israel Electric got 160,000 dunams;
- Palestinians received 8,600 dunams – 0.7% of West Bank declared state land.
One acre equals about four dunams.
Bimkom Planners for Planning Rights researcher Nir Shalev said:
“Israel has claimed for years that the settlements are built only on state land, a claim that is repeatedly shown to be inaccurate.”
“The data on allocations to the Palestinians, which the Civil Administration was forced to reveal, show the other side of coin: Israeli policy determines that state lands in the West Bank are for the use of Israelis only – mainly settlers.”
Haaretz learned that “even when the state claims that certain lands are state lands, the process of determining usage beforehand is careless, and land declared as state land also includes private Palestinian land and cultivated land.”
Numerous examples provide proof. For example, central 1970s Ma’aleh aerial photos show partially cultivated land.
“Yet in 2005, the entire area was declared state land and is now built on.”
“The findings….prove the claims that Palestinian landowners have been consistently presenting over the past few decades:”
“Under the aegis of the broad declaration of lands as state lands, which includes almost a million dunams, Israel has taken over extensive cultivated areas, which were stolen from their owners through administrative decisions over which public and legal oversight is minimal, because they were supposedly not cultivated.”
Yesh Din defends Palestinian human rights. Its director, Haim Erlich, said:
“Yossi Segal, who is in charge of abandoned property in the West Bank, reveals the painful and ugly fact that we have been aware of for some time:”
“The survey, which is supposed to be professional, has become a political tool.”
Haaretz said Israel’s Civil Administration failed to “respond to numerous requests for comment.” It doesn’t surprise.
A Final Comment
On March 26 and 27, Durban, South Africa hosted the fifth BRICS summit.
BRICS nations include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
South African Member of Parliament and National Secretary of the Young Communist League of South Africa, Buti Manamela, presented member countries with a Memorandum on Palestine-Israel.
It was done on behalf of South African civil society, Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU – South Africa’s largest trade union), South African Communist Party (SAC), Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL), and BDS South Africa.
In March 26, it was submitted to Marius Fransman, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.
It called on BRICS countries for “decisive action” on Palestine. It urged an immediate Israeli arms embargo and trade ban on illegal settlement products and services.
It stressed acting according to international law.
“The time has come for progressive countries that seek a peaceful and just world to take clear action in the interests of the oppressed Palestinians.”
Doing so “put(s) BRICS on the side of the developing countries, on the side of the peoples of the world, and on the right side of history.”
What better reasons than those. Doing the right thing is its own reward.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.