The Art of Confiscating Land

Confiscate:  To confiscate means to take away for security or legal reasons.  It implies an act by an authority upon one of less power.

The art of land confiscation by the Israeli government from the Palestinians cannot possibly be described in a short blog.  The legal system created to support this confiscation is a collection of various systems – Israeli, Jordanian and Ottoman.  The particular system cited to defend a particular confiscation is generally the system that best supports the government’s case.  The legal system in place allows for the confiscation of land primarily for the creation of settlements which, in recent years, have become to be known as “facts on the ground”.  It is these settlements that are quickly making a two-state solution to the occupation less and less possible.  It is this system that displaces farmers whose families have made a living off of their small plots of land for generations.  (For an example of the Israeli government’s taking of land for “security and legal” reasons, have a look at Uprooted: A Tale of Palestinian Farmers.

Dean-Olive Tree Al Miniya-11.11.2014

The Olive Tree – a symbol of peace and a way of life being lost

An equitable partition of the land between Israel and Palestine is one option available to end the current occupation and hopefully result in peace in this part of the world. Various partition plans have been proposed since 1948, all of which have been unsuccessful to date.  Israel will offer that the Palestinians will not recognize the state of Israel (notwithstanding that Israel will not recognize the state of Palestine either).  Palestine can rightly respond that the negotiating table is not level and that they are being asked to accept a “peace” agreement instead of an agreement for a “just peace”. In the absence of an agreement, the Palestinians have been steadily losing land since 1967 by an on-going shifting  of the pre-1967 partition (Green Line) line eastward into the West Bank.  In addition to a partition line that is slowly shifting eastward, there has been a significant loss of land fully within the West Bank. This land is being confiscated by Israel with no compensation and is primarily for the construction of new hilltop settlements.

Loss of Palestinian Land over Time

Loss of Palestinian Land over Time

Some of the tactics utilized to justify or defend this confiscation are as follows: Requisition Order – used for the establishment of military facilities. (The owner is reportedly compensated for their land in this situation. Expropriation of Absentees Land –  Land which has not cultivated for a period of three years can also be confiscated.  This tactic is often against refugees who have been driven from their property/home during previous conflicts and who are prohibited by the Israeli government from re-entering the West Bank (ie. it is difficult to cultivate your land when you are not allowed to be there).  In such cases, and in accordance with international law, the government is to “hold” this land in trust for its owners and neither rent or sell it to settlers – another law that is not being respected. Closed Zones – lands that the military can designate for military training purposes at their will,  These designated lands are deemed “special security zones” which are typically  400 – 1000 meter additional strips around the outside of the  developed area of the settlements.  So, we have settlements on confiscated lands as well as additional illegal “safety” zone around the illegal settlements. Declaratiom of State Land  – this tactic allows for confiscation of land not registered prior to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in 1967 and lands viewed as “government property” based on the previous Jordanian land taxation system. The declaration of hundreds of dunums as state land facilitated Israel’s establishment of the vast majority of illegal settlements in the West Bank.


Threatened Palestinian farmland in the foreground and a Zionist settlement in the background – on confiscated land

The above tactics have been a total success to date in the  confiscation of land – for the purposes of constructing the settlements and making the lives of the Palestinians as miserable as possible.

Omar Hajajla – the battle to keep his land continues….

I had an opportunity recently to visit and interview Omar Hajajla, whose house and plot of land are located in the village of Al Walaja.  The government Israel has been after his land (for the expansion of the Har Gilo Settlement) for years. In late October, Omar just received his second demolition order for his house but due to very complete land ownership documentation, he remains hopeful that demolition won’t happen.  Omar asks, “Why should I have to pay for what Hitler did?” and, states defiantly, ” I will not leave”.  All the power to you Omar! An August 24, 2014, notice for a massive 4000 dunum confiscation (approximately 1000 acres) to the west of Bethlehem was announced.  This has left hundreds of affected landowners fearful and distraught about their future. As I stand on a hillside looking westward to the Greenline and the 4000 dunams to be confiscated (located directly on the east side of the Green Line, I have to question “Why couldn’t this land be provided by the empty forest land on the west side of the Green Line and in Israel?”

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