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Oct 13, 2007

Ongoing Palestinian Disposession

Last Friday's Haaretz newspaper in Israel had an interesting Op Ed by Danny Rubinstein who wrote in part:

" The deliberate settling of Jews in the heart of East Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods is an unacceptable act of incitement. Thirty years ago Mohammed Said Burkan wanted to buy a house in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and his request was denied. He turned to the High Court of Justice, and Justice Haim Cohen, who rejected his request, determined that there was no discrimination in the fact that the Jews would have a quarter of their own, as in the past. "Each quarter and its ethnic group," wrote the justice. After the state denied Burkan, why shouldn't the Arab neighborhoods remain Arab?

The settlers of Elad on the outskirts of the village of Silwan acquired mainly houses and land purchased at the time by Baron Rothschild. The same is being done by similar associations in East Jerusalem, which locate land and assets purchased before 1948 by Jews and demand ownership of them. The Arabs, on the other hand, cannot demand assets they owned in Jerusalem?s Katamon neighborhood, in Jaffa, in Haifa and all over Israel, because in the 1950s the Knesset passed a retroactive law that is far from being a credit to our law books, and that prevents Arabs from receiving their property."

And people in Israel wonder why we are considered a racist state! No other democracy has these types of laws on the books.

Unlike other laws that were designed to establish Israel’s ‘legal’ control over lands, the body of law referred to by Rubinstein focused on formulating a ‘legal’ definition for the people (mostly Arabs) who had left or been forced to flee from these lands. Specific laws in this category include:

* The Absentees’ Property Law,
* The Land Acquisition (Validation of Acts and Compensation) Law,
* Absentees’ Property (Eviction) Law,
* Absentees’ Property (Amendment No.3) (Release and Use of Endowment Property) Law,
* Absentees’ Property (Amendment No. 4) (Release and Use of Property of Evangelical Episcopal Church) Law,
* Absentees’ Property (Compensation) Law,

As a result, two million dunams were confiscated and given to a specially created Israeli government agency, the Custodian of Absentee Property, who later transferred the land to the development authority. In addition to dispossessing Palestinian Arabs who fled the war and were not allowed to return, this law created the novel citizenship category of "present absentees" (nifkadim nohahim), that is, Israeli Arabs who enjoyed all civil rights-including the right to vote in the Knesset elections-except one: the right to use and dispose of their property". About 30,000-35,000 Palestinians became "present absentees" - persons present at the time but considered absent. These people and their decendants today number about 150,000 souls, all citizens of Israel, who are still unable to exercise their property rights.