Monday, February 20, 2017

Land Ownership in "Palestine"

It is historical and documented fact that most of those Arab inhabitants (the New Palestinians) of the area that composed the area of the "1922 Mandate For Palestine" -which includes ALL of today's Israel, Judaea and Shomron (aka the West Bank) and Jordan) do not have legal ownership / title to the land they claim is theirs. 

The Turks and later the Mandate Authority attempted to register land ownership -by census - but only those who paid taxes could get ownership (Taboo).

In 1858 the Ottoman Empire introduced The Ottoman Land Code of 1858, requiring land owners to register ownership. The reasons behind the law were twofold. (1) to increase tax revenue, and (2) to exercise greater state control over the area. Peasants, however, saw no need to register claims, for several reasons:
 Land owners were subject to military service in the Ottoman Army
  • General opposition to official regulations from the Ottoman Empire
  • Evasion of taxes and registration fees to the Ottoman Empire
  • The registration process itself was open to manipulation.
Therefore many Arab inhabitants hid or lied to not have to pay taxes and thereby did not admit to ownership.
Land collectively owned by village residents was registered in the name of a single landowner, with merchants and local Ottoman administrators registering large stretches of land in their own name. The result was land that became the legal property of people who may have never lived there, while peasants, even those who had lived on the land for generations, became tenants of absentee owners.
“Many -whole, primarily Moslem -villages were virtual "serfs" or indentured servants to wealthy absentee land owners residing in Beirut or Damascus, and this was well known to us.
"We have found that a large number of stateless Arabs migrated to the Mandatory Areas after the Liberation in 1918 and establishment of the Mandate in search of gainful employment. So in essence they are squatters and as in most civilized countries of the world you cannot stay on land that is not legally yours.” World War I left Palestine, especially the countryside, deeply impoverished. Palestine's fellahin, the country's tenant peasant farmers, who did not hold ownership of their land or homes but were servants of absentee landlords who resided in Beirut and Damascus, comprised over two-thirds of the indigenous Arab population.” Sir Ronald Henry Amherst Storrs, the first British military governor of Jerusalem.
The Ottoman land law classifies land under five kinds or categories. These, with suggested approximate counterparts in English, are as follows:
  • Mulk = private or allodial land (held in absolute ownership).
  • Miri = feudal or State land, but can also specifically refer to vacant State land, private usufruct State land. A sub-category of the same is mahlul, or what is defined as escheated State land.[8] Most Ottoman registrations of miri (usufruct) titles existing in Palestine are based on a presumed or lost grant.[9]
  • Waqf = allodial land in mortmain tenure, being land assured to pious foundations or revenue from land assured to pious foundations; also usufruct State land of which the State revenues are assured to pious foundations.
  • Matruka = communal profits-à-prendre land, being land subject to public easements in common, or servitude State land.
  • Mewat = dead and undeveloped land.
When the British assumed control over the Sanjak of Jerusalem at the end of 1917 under the OETA -Occupied Enemy Territory Administration with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, they applied the Ottoman laws of the Ottoman Land Code of 1858 to all inhabitants. Much of the agricultural land in Palestine (about one third of the whole territory) was still owned by the same landowners as under Ottoman rule, mostly powerful Arab clans and local Muslim sheikhs. Other lands had been held by foreign Christian organizations (most notably the Greek Orthodox Church), as well as Jewish private and Zionist organizations, and to lesser degree by small minorities of Bahai's, Samaritans and Circassians.

The amount of land owned by Jews was easier to calculate than that owned by Arabs because the Jews requested Land Title-Deeds or “Taboo”. It is difficult to reckon the total amount of land owned by Arabs (Muslim, Christian and Druze) in Mandatory Palestine since most were owned by absentee landlords who had received or claimed ownership from the Ottoman Empire.

It was widely known fact that throughout the pre-1947 "Mandated Areas" that Jewish buyers preferred land free of tenant farmers.These absentee Arab land owners"effendis" would go so far as to actively expel tenant farmers off the plot he wished to sell without paying their "Fellachim\serfs" any compensation beforehand as to make it a more attractive purchase.
Conversely, "The Jews ... have in many cases paid displaced cultivators generous pecuniary compensation ..."

"They [Jews] paid high prices for the land, and in addition they paid to certain of the occupants of those lands a considerable amount of money which they were not legally bound to pay." a quote from the "The Report on Immigration, Land Settlement and Development, commonly referred to as the Hope Simpson Enquiry or the Hope Simpson Report" dated October 1, 1930, but was released on October 21, 1930
"In those instances where as a result of such transactions Arab tenant-farmers were displaced (on one year's notice), compensation in cash or other land was paid, as required by the 1922 Protection of Cultivators Ordinance; the Jewish land-buying associations often paid more than the law required" (Pollack and Boehm, The Keren Kayemeth Le-Israel). Of 688 such tenants between 1920 and 1930, 526 remained in agricultural occupations, some 400 of them finding other land (Palestine Royal Commission Report, 1937, Chapter 9, para. 61).
The 1945 UN estimate shows that Arab ownership of arable land was on average 68% of a district, ranging from 15% ownership in the Beer-Sheba district to 99% ownership in the Ramallah district. This data cannot be fully understood without comparing them to those of neighboring countries: in Iraq, for instance, still in 1951 only 0.3 per cent of registered land (or 50 per cent of the total amount) was categorized as ‘private property’.

The extent of mulk or allodial lands (privately owned property) in the area was limited, and was usually only found in the old cities or in garden areas. Rural land in this category was rare. In nearly all cases (excluding only “Waqf” lands, and communal profits-à-prendre land, or dead and undeveloped land), lands were either mulk or miri tenures.

From the 1920s onwards many Arab peasants left the land in increasingly large numbers into urban environments where they often encountered only poverty and social marginalization. Many were crowded into shanty towns in Jaffa and Haifa where they found succor and encouragement in the teachings of the charismatic preacher Izz ad-Din al-Qassam who worked among the poor in Haifa.
The Ottoman and then the Mandate authorities levied high taxes on farming and agricultural produce and during the 1920s and 1930s this together with a fall in prices, cheap imports, natural disasters and paltry harvests all contributed to the increasing indebtedness of the fellahin. The rents paid by tenant fellah increased sharply, owing to increased population density, increased the number of fellahin evicted. The problem of 'landless' Arabs grew particularly grave after 1931, causing High Commissioner Wauchope to warn that this 'social peril ... would serve as a focus of discontent and might even result in serious disorders." The ongoing disruption of agrarian life in Palestine, which had been continuing since Ottoman times, thus created a large population of landless peasant farmers who subsequently became mobile wage workers who were increasingly marginalized and impoverished; these became willing participants in nationalist rebellion.
"The total area of land in Jewish possession at the end of June 1947, amounted to 1,850,000Dunams, of these 181,100 Dunams had been obtained through concessions from the Palestinian Government, and about 120,000 Dunams had been acquired from Churches, from foreign companies, from the Government otherwise than by concessions, and so-forth. It was estimated that 1,000,000 Dunams and more, or 57 per cent, had been acquired from large Arab landowners, and if to this we add the lands acquired from the Government, Churches, and foreign companies, the percentage will amount to seventy-three. From the “Fellachim” (peasants\serfs) there had been purchased about 500,000 Dunams, or 27 per cent, of the total acquired. The result of Jewish land acquisitions, at least to a considerable part, was that properties which had been in the hands of large and medium owners were converted into holding of small peasants."  A. Granott in The Land System in Palestine (Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1952, p. 278),
When Palestinians claim we "stole lands" I say,”Okay let me see your "Taboo" / the Ottoman Turkish pre-Mandate land license. And you know what? Surprise, surprise they bring out a rusted key. Okay what did the key go to? “My family home!” “Yes, but where are your Land title papers?” In some 70 to 85% of the cases they either do not have one or they are forgeries.
The Israeli lands Authority were passed down ALL the British Mandatory licenses - thanks to the efforts of hundreds of Pre Mandate British bureaucrats who with “Kafkaistic” Austria thoroughness made copious notes of forgeries that abounded under the Mandate.

Many Arab inhabitants during the Ottoman Turkish Empire and Mandate hid or lied to not have to pay taxes and thereby did not admit to ownership. Many -whole, primarily Moslem -villages were virtual "serfs" or indentured servants to wealthy absentee land owners residing in Beirut or Damascus. And even during British Rule there were countess court cases and arguments of "Land Confiscation" by the Mandatory Government. Read more here:

Since much of the collectively owned Jewish land; Kibbutzim and Moshavim, was purchased through the Keren Kayemt Fund from the Turkish Government, or the absentee land lords.  And privately owned lands –like in Hebron, the Jewish Quarters of Safed and Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Rishon L’Zion, Gush Etzion , Zichron Yakov, Gedera, Rosh Pnina, Natanyah, Nahariyah ALL Jewish land purchases from 1865 until know were all Legally purchased with entitlement –“Taboo”  (As also mentioned by Sir Ronald Henry Amherst Storrs)

Regarding the area of Judaea and Shomron (aka the "West Bank) it most be noted that this area  was illegally occupied by the Kingdom of TransJordan (later shortened to the Hashmite kingdom of Jordan) after the 1947 Israeli War of Independence. During his illegal OCCUPATION King Abdullah attempted to illegally annex the area and to acquire the "Good wishes" of the "Arabs of the Mandated Area"(today's Palestinians) from whom he had taken the land he offered to give land ownership to those who resided in the territory. The majority of the wealthy and educated realized a "good thing" when they saw it and grabbed the "Taboo or Land Deeds" while many villagers and peasants ("Fellachim") who were poor and saw no reason for it.

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