Israel’s declaration of certain open, uncultivated areas near the 1949 Armistice Line as “state land” has been widely mischaracterized as an “appropriation” of private Palestinian land, and a promotion of settlement activity. It is neither.
A determination that land is “state land” is a factual, administrative finding that does not change the ownership of land. In the West Bank–like in the American West–massive amounts of land have no private owners. There is nothing unusual about this; indeed, it is even truer inside the Green Line. Moreover, if Israel is indeed an occupying power, it has a duty to administer and maintain the rule of law, and oversee public resources, both of which require the authorities to know what land has private owners and what does not.
An “appropriation” involves taking something that is someone’s. A designation of land as “state land” requires a determination, based on extensive investigation, that it does not have a private owner. The determination can be challenged administratively and judicially, as Palestinian claimants often do, and sometimes prevail.
In other words, nothing has been taken from anyone, or given to anyone. Thus a “state land” determination does not create any new facts or change ownership.
CAMERA’s Israel office prompts correction of a headline at i24 News which erroneously referred to the “annexation” of West Bank land. The Sept. 2 headline had read:
The government decision to declare 988 acres of West Bank land as “state land” does not involve annexation. Indeed, the accompanying i24 News article does not support the headline’s claim about the “annexation” of land. Rather, it relates to “expropriation.” Not once does the word “annex,” or any derivative of it, appear in the accompanying article.
While Israel annexed eastern Jerusalem following the 1967 war, no additional West Bank land has since been annexed to Israel.
Following communication from CAMERA staff, editors commendably amended the headline and subheadline. As of this writing, they are:
Sept. 9 Clarification
Professor Eugene Kontorovich of the Northwestern University School of Law points out that the term “expropriate” is also inaccurate and misleading. As he wrote last week in Commentary: