A letter to the editor in the Oct. 16, 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer wrongly claimed that Israeli law permits only Jews, and not Arabs, to own land. To its credit, the newspaper quickly cleared the record with a correction.
Error (Philadelphia Inquirer letter by Robert G. Draper of Mickleton, NJ, 10/16/07): When the state of Israel was formed, there were tens of thousand of indigenous Palestinian Arabs living within the borders of this Jewish State. The laws of Israel declared that only Jews had the right to own land, thus depriving these Arabs of land ownership.
Correction (10/18/07): A letter on the Oct. 16 Editorial Page misleadingly stated the case regarding the right of Arab Israelis to own land in Israel. Arab Israelis may own land, but there is not much to own: Only about 6.5 percent of the land in Israel is privately owned (some by Arab Israelis). Of the rest, almost 80 percent is owned by the governmental agency called the Israel Land Administration. ILA land is not sold but leased; by law, it is available to be leased by all Israelis, whether Jewish, Arab or other. About 13 percent is owned by the Jewish National Fund. In September an Israeli high court ruled that the JNF must allow non-Jews to buy its land.
The Inquirer failed to mention, however, that Arab Israelis, who make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population, possess roughly half of the 6.5 percent of land that is privately owned. (As of 2002, Arabs owned 713,000 dunams — or 48 percent — of the total 1,480,000 dunams of privately-owned land, according to Arab Israeli geographer Rassem Khamaisi (Arab Studies Quarterly, Jan. 1, 2006, “Environmental policies and spatial control: the case of the Arab localities development in Israel”).