In a very important article on Commentary’s online site, legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich takes on those who immediately began bloviating about Israel’s “land appropriation” or “land grab” when rumors spread that Israel was about to make some change in the status of a certain tract of land in the Gush Etzion region.
The United States and the United Nations, of course, both condemned Israel for “appropriating” the land, as did untold numbers of commentators, journalists and anti-Israel activists.
There were even some who place themselves on the pro-Israel side of the ledger who condemned the move. None of these critics bothered to determine whether Israel had done anything approaching what it was for which the Jewish state was being blasted.
As Kontorovich explains, what Israel did was declare specific open, uncultivated areas near what is known as the “Green Line” as state land. Doing so did not constitute an “appropriation” of land that belongs to Palestinian Arabs, and it would not result in an expansion of those dreaded Israeli “settlements.”
Because, as the legal scholar explains, Israel’s determination that the land in question is state land is simply a “factual, administrative finding that does not change the ownership of land.”
Much of the land in the region southeast of Jerusalem has no private owners. Defining that land as state land requires the determination, “based on extensive investigation,” that the land does not have a private owner.
An “appropriation,” on the other hand, involves taking something that is someone else’s.
A determination that land is “state land” is a factual finding made by administrators and it does not change the ownership of land.
Perhaps even more importantly, “Israel’s designation of the land as state land can be challenged administratively and judicially, as Palestinian claimants often do, and sometimes prevail,” Kontorovich explains further.
In other words, nothing has been taken from anyone, or given to anyone. The “state land” determination does not create any new facts on the ground or change ownership. So back off Obama, Tzipi Livni, the New York Times and all the others who jumped on the bandwagon without bothering to find out if what they were complaining about is true.
So, the next time you hear that Israel is “appropriating” “Palestinian land,” please check out the legal determination made and make sure you know what are the accurate terms for the action (if any) taking place.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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