Palestine Papers: Jews legally own land in the territories

April 5, 2011

In another bombshell document that the Guardian and Al Jazeera did not believe is newsworthy, in 2008 the PLO wrote a paper describing the legal rights of Jews to lands that they owned prior to 1948.
The intent was to have a position ready in case Israel brought the issue up in negotiations. It was not presented to Israel.
It is astonishing to read paragraphs like these from the PLO:

Jews who owned land have the right to have their land restored to them or to be compensated, if restitution is not materially possible. Jews are entitled to compensation for other material and non-material losses, including lost profits, lost income, etc. caused by their displacement and dispossession.

Of course, they hold this position because they do not want to appear hypocritical with their demands from Israel. (The PLO also includes an annex to list legal arguments that Jews do not have any rights to the land anymore, in case they need to use those arguments publicly.)

Some of the parts are fascinating. For example, it describes (and implicitly supports) the bigoted British policy of severely restricting the rights of Jews – and only Jews – to buy land before 1948:

In 1940, in response to Arab concerns regarding Jewish land ownership in Palestine, the British introduced restrictions on land transfers to Jews. Pursuant to the Palestine (Amendment) Order-in-Council of 25 May 1939, the High Commissioner was authorized to prohibit and regulate land transfers.23 Acting on these powers, the High Commissioner adopted the Land Transfer Regulations, 1940, which established three zones: Zone A (16,680 km2), where land could generally not be transferred except to Palestinian Arabs; Zone B (8,348 km2), where land transfers from Arabs to Jews required permission that was generally withheld; and land outside Zones A and B (1,292 km2), which could be freely transferred.24 According to the hand-drawn map annexed to the Regulations, what became Gaza and the West Bank was entirely Zone A, meaning that land transfers to Jews were, with few exceptions, prohibited.25 Britain apparently repealed these Regulations upon the termination of its Mandate (12 May 1948).26

Between 1948 and 1967, Jordan and Egypt essentially confiscated Jewish-owned land, against international humanitarian law:

The Custodian [of Enemy Property] held and administered Jewish-owned in the West Bank until 1967 according to the Trading with the Enemy Ordinance (as opposed to administering the land like absentee property according to the powers and rules of IHL).38 Some of these assets were used by the Custodian for public purposes, such as the establishment of refugee camps, the rehabilitation of refugees, and the setting up of army camps and marketplaces. In other cases, the property was leased to private individuals, who used the land for agricultural, commercial or residential purposes, depending on its characteristics.

By the Order Providing Regulations for the Administration of Jews’ Property in the Areas Subject to the Control of the Egyptian Forces in Palestine, No. 25 (issued in 1948, published in 1950), Egypt appointed a Director General to administer property owned by Jews who fled in 1948. The Director General used the parcels for public projects, including refugee camps for Palestine Arabs, or leased them for private uses.41

Finally, the document describes some specific lands indisputably owned by Jews – even according to the Palestinian Arabs.

[L]and located on Mount Scopus…was purchased from a British national in 1916. Boris Goldberg, a member of Lovers of Zion, paid for the land and took title in his name.51 He gifted the land to the JNF, which gave a 999-year lease to Hebrew University.52 Additional land was purchased on Mount Scopus from Raghib al-Nashashibi, Mayor of Jerusalem, and was used for the Hebrew University. Hadassah Hospital was also built on land purchased on Mount Scopus.53
…By 1946, the JNF acquired 72,300 dunums in the Gaza district, which encompassed more than present-day Gaza.
In 1930, a Jewish farmer from Rehovot, Tuvia Miller, bought 262 dunums of land in Dayr al-Balah in the Gaza sub-district. Miller eventually sold his land to the JNF in the early 1940s. The JNF then allowed settlers from the religious Ha-Poel ha-Mizrahi movement to build the kibbutz of Kfar Darom on the land in October 1946. They abandoned the kibbutz in June 1948.59
Stein reports a purchase of 4,048 dunums in Huj (Gaza sub-district) in 1935 but does not indicate the identity of the Jewish purchaser.60 Note, however, that the Palestine Partition Commission reported that, by 1938, only 3,300 dunums in Gaza were owned by Jews.61
In 1941, 6,373 dunums were purchased by the JNF around Gaza City, though it is unknown whether the purchase was permissible under the Land Transfer Regulations 1940.
The government of Palestine estimated a population of 3,540 Jews in the Gaza sub-district at the end of 1946. Information has not been found on the circumstances under which these Jews departed from Gaza in 1948.
There were Jewish settlements north of Jerusalem called Atarot and Neve Yaakov, which were evacuated in 1948.65
A settlement called Bet Haarava, and Palestine Potash, Ltd., both located at the northern end of the Dead Sea, were situated on miri land leased by the government of Palestine and were evacuated in 1948.66
During the 1920s and 1930s, individual Jews and two Jewish-owned realty companies, Zikhron David and El Hahar, bought land in the hills around Hebron.67 Notwithstanding (and, actually, because of) the Land Transfer Regulations, 1940, which placed nearly all of the West Bank in Zone A, the JNF began purchasing land around Hebron in 1940. It acquired about 8,400 dunums by 1947, some of which was purchased from individual Jews and from Zikhron David and El Hahar. The settlements established on this land were called Kfar Etzion, Masuot Yitzhak, Ein Tzurim and Revadim. The JNF circumvented the prohibition on acquisition of land by Jews by creating front companies. Most of the Jewish-owned land around Hebron was held, as of 1948, by the JNF rather than by individual Jewish owners.68
Some 16,000 dunums of land were purchased by Jews before 1948 in the Etzion Bloc and Beit Hadassah.69
Himnuta bought land near Jericho and present-day Ma’ale Adumim. The funding in urban areas usually came from state coffers, while the purchase of agricultural land was paid for by the JNF.70
During the British mandate, the government of Palestine leased miri land on a long-term basis (50 or 100 years) to Jewish settlement organisations.71
By 1948, the concentrations of lands owned by Jews were in the old Jewish quarters of Jerusalem and Hebron, on the periphery of Jerusalem, and in the Tul-Karem region and the Gaza Strip.72
* Apparently, 80% of Har Homa’s [Jabal Abu Ghneim’s] land is Jewish land purchased in the forties and before.73
The JNF lost land in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the West Bank as well, and this matter has been postponed for the eventual [peace] talks for over a decade.

Now, why wouldn’t The Guardian or its partner Al Jazeera want to write about a paper that details Jewish legal rights to lands in the territories?
Could it be that these “news” organizations are more interested in manipulating the news rather than reporting it?
This paper doesn’t merely hurt the PLO, as most of the papers that made The Guardian’s pages were intended to do, but the entire Palestinian Arab national movement – and that’s a big taboo in the newsroom of The Guardian. (Not to mention the inconvenient fact that Great Britain made laws specifically banning land sales to people based merely on their religion. Slightly embarrassing, no?)
This is one of the Palestine Papers stories they wanted to remain buried.

From The New Universal Gazetteer; or, Geographical Dictionary. [With] Atlas,  By Clement Cruttwell, 1792, under the entry for Palestine:

The population of this country is also greatly diminished; but at present no certain calculation can be given of it, as the number of inhabitants continually varies, on account of the Bedouin Arabs, who always come hither at certain periods from Arabia, and the country beyond the Jordan, in. order to feed their flocks.

If this country has lost its ancient splendour by the destruction of its cities, and the decrease of its population, it still retains its natural advantages, being beautifully variegated with mountains, hills, and delightful plains.

Its climate is exceedingly good. It seldom rains here ; but this deficiency is supplied by most abundant dews. The cold is never excessive; and if the summer heats are great, they are, however, mitigated by a periodical breeze, which renders them supportable.

Palestine abounds with every thing almost that is useful or necessary for the life of man. It produces wheat, barley, pulse of all kinds, fruits, wine, and oil, in such plenty, that though a part only of the country is cultivated, great quantities of these articles are distributed in the neighbouring provinces of Syria, and even transported to Europe, particularly wheat, barley, and pulse.

With regard to domestic and wild animals, it produces various kinds, many of which are not known in Europe. Cotton grows bere in great perfection, particularly in Samaria and Galilee. Among its productions may be reckoned also silk, tobacco, drugs, and aromatic herbs. The fields and woods, m the proper seasons, abound with flowers of every species ; but notwithstanding those advantages which it enjoys, all Palestine is not cultivated with the fame care as the vast plains of Galilee and Samaria. I observed that the mountainous country towards Jerusalem was more barren than any other part; but there is no reason to suppose; that it has always been in the same condition. The cause of its being at present neglected is, the want of population; for the inhabitants have abandoned the mountains, and retired to the plains, where agriculture is attended with less labour, and where they find mor econveniencies for their cattle.

Even in Galilee and Samaria there are many parts still uncultivated; but, as they abound with grass, they afford pasture to the cattle, which form the whole riches of the Arabs. These people, therefore, would quarrel much sooner for a sheep-fold than for a large tract of country; and, indeed, the only wars which they carry on are undertaken in order that they may rob each other of their oxen, camels, sheep, horses, or goats.