Blood libel: The myth of ‘private Palestinian land’

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s assertion that Jews would not be allowed to build on private Palestinian land is a long-standing policy endorsed by Israeli governments and the judicial system.

The question, however, is 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, politicians, academics, media and anti-Israel NGOs, this theory has also been adopted by Israelis, including prominent judicial figures who give it legitimacy. 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?

Land that Arabs claim as their private property was not purchased; it was state-owned land that was either given away by the sovereign power during the Ottoman, British and Jordanian occupations or was encroached and developed. Arab claims based on gifts and alleged agricultural use are not property deeds. How, then, did this confusion about “private Palestinian land” come about?

Using ownerless, uninhabited land is a universally recognized method for claiming it, unless contested. Until the modern period, land registration, especially in sparsely populated areas like the Middle East, Africa and North Africa was not widely practiced.

With the rise of nation-states and the development of bureaucracies this changed....

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