[News] Israeli land seizures has made 2 states impossible

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 11 08:59:23 EDT 2005

Important COHRE-BADIL Study

Wednesday 11 May 2005


Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)
fwd by: BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights 

Israeli Seizure of Land and Housing Has Made a Two-State Solution 
Impossible Says New Study

An international human rights group warns that a two-state solution to the 
57 year Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been made a practical 
impossibility due to Israel's continuing expropriation of Palestinian 
property and denying Palestinian refugees the right to recover their 
original homes and lands.

This is one of the main conclusions of "Ruling Palestine: A History of the 
Legally Sanctioned Jewish-Israeli Seizure of Land and Housing in 
Palestine", a new report released by the independent Geneva-based Center on 
Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) and BADIL Resource Center for 
Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. It reveals in stark detail how 
Zionist leaders, and later successive Israeli Governments, manipulated key 
Ottoman and British laws and the Israeli legal system to dispossess 
Palestinians of their land and property. The report clearly documents how 
Israel has built a domestic legal framework which seeks to legitimize what 
are clearly discriminatory land and housing policies.

If land confiscations continue and if what Israel refers to as its 
"security barrier" is completed as planned, Palestinian land within the 
occupied West Bank and Gaza will be reduced to less than eight percent of 
the territory comprising Mandate Palestine.

At the time of Israel's establishment in 1948, the Jewish population owned 
less than ten percent of the land. Today, these figures are almost 
precisely reversed, with Israel asserting effective military control 
throughout the entire territory of Mandate Palestine, and owning, using or 
controlling nearly 90% of the land within both Israel and the Occupied 

COHRE's Executive Director, Scott Leckie said: "Our research reveals that 
Israeli law, far from providing impartial protection and equal treatment to 
all those that it affects, has been fundamental to the expropriation of 
Palestinian land and property since the State of Israel was unilaterally 
declared in 1948. Israeli laws designed to lay legal claim to the lands and 
property of 'absentees' - the Israeli euphemism for forcibly displaced 
Palestinian refugees - have permitted the confiscation of Palestinian 
lands, and their transfer to Israeli control, on a massive scale."

"In the period 1948-49, the formation of Israel was followed by more than 
30 separate military operations by Jewish-Israeli forces, which led to the 
flight or expulsion of over 800,000 Palestinians and the destruction of 531 
Palestinian towns and villages. The calculated theft of Palestinian lands 
through both legal means and military aggression, as well as widespread 
housing demolitions and the imposition of apartheid-like laws by Israel, 
are difficult to see as anything other than a cruel form of ethnic 
cleansing", Leckie said.

Today, more than five million Palestinian refugees continue to be prevented 
from returning to their homes and recovering their land and properties. 
Although millions of refugees throughout the world have returned to their 
original homes in recent years, as the cases of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 
Afghanistan, South Africa, Mozambique and Kosovo demonstrate, Israel 
remains steadfastly opposed to Palestinian refugees asserting their 
recognized rights to land, housing and property restitution.

"Paradoxically, if Israel were willing to return confiscated land to 
refugees this could be a comparatively simple process contrasted with 
restitution programs elsewhere. Most of these lands remain under the public 
control of the Israeli State and have not been transferred to private 
hands, large portions of the land confiscated since 1948 remain empty and 
virtually all Palestinian refugee families retain their original land and 
property titles and records proving their ownership rights", Leckie said.

Ruling Palestine shows that by 1949 Israel had seized some 20,500 sq km of 
lands in Mandate Palestine using laws designed to legitimize the 
progressive 'nationalization of land and property. Of these lands, 
Palestinians had individually or collectively owned some 90% (nearly 18,850 
sq km) of which about 85% (some 16,000 sq km) had belonged to the 
depopulated Palestinian villages.

"Although the United States routinely supports the rights of refugees 
throughout the world to recover their former lands, homes and properties, 
it refuses to recognize that Palestinian refugees should also enjoy their 
legitimate property rights. The hypocrisy of the US stance which explicitly 
denies the property rights of Palestinian refugees is blatant and 
unjustifiable if terms such as human rights and the rule of law are to have 
universal application", Leckie added.

The study shows how Israel used the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration 
(Offences and Jurisdiction) Law to expel 'internal refugees' (Palestinians 
who were declared absent from their villages at the time of Israel's 
creation but remained in Palestine). These 'absentees' were effectively 
defined as infiltrators, and when caught were barred both from their 
villages and from their own country. More recently, confiscations of 
Palestinian land between September 2000 and May 2003 are estimated to total 
more than 848 sq km. Currently, the 1.2 million Palestinians who have 
Israeli citizenship (so-called 'Arab Israelis') and constitute about 
one-fifth of Israel's population own less than three percent of the land.

The report also reveals that the Israeli Government enacted land and 
property laws in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip which enabled it to 
take control of an additional 4,700 sq km of land in these areas. Israel's 
construction of a security wall (planned to encircle the entire West Bank) 
has severely affected towns such as Qalqilya, Tulkarm, Jenin and 
surrounding villages. Once completed, the land confiscated due to the 
construction of the wall will reduce the area of the West Bank by 15%.

"In the last few years, Israel has again used its domestic law - backed 
with military might - to illegally expropriate large amounts of remaining 
Palestinian lands and property. In so doing, it has violated numerous 
international standards. Despite almost universal condemnation by the 
international community, Israel continues to carry out discriminatory land, 
housing and property policies and practices which make a sustainable and 
just peace a practical impossibility", Leckie added.

The report illustrates that, even if a final settlement could be 
negotiated, a viable Palestinian state would hardly be feasible, given the 
shortage of available land and infrastructure and the lack of territorial 
contiguity. These problems are compounded by the ubiquitous and disruptive 
presence of hundreds of strategically located Jewish settlements, 
especially in the West Bank, the territorial stranglehold on annexed East 
Jerusalem and the splitting of the West Bank into unconnected northern and 
southern enclaves. Under the controversial E-1 Plan, the huge Ma'ale Adumim 
settlement is to be expanded and integrated into 'Metropolitan Jerusalem'. 
This will set the seal on Israel's isolation and control of East Jerusalem 
and drive a wedge into the Palestinian heartland, creating an uninterrupted 
Israeli corridor from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea.

Leckie warned, "This new study concludes that what little remains of the 
Palestinian homeland is disappearing in front of our eyes - it's as if 
Israel is deliberately erasing it from the map".

"COHRE and BADIL proudly work with a range of Israelis who have begun the 
painful task of acknowledging the history of land rights abuses by Israel 
and resultant Palestinian dispossession. As with the end of all enduring 
conflicts, lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians will only be 
possible when ordinary Israelis acknowledge past wrongs, embrace the 
process of reconciliation and overcome their fear of their historic 
neighbors. We look forward to the day when both sides move beyond the 
current impasse of 'us vs. them' towards a mutual and equitable future 
where the rights of both peoples are respected in full", Leckie said. (ends)

For interviews and additional information contact COHRE's Media Officer, 
Radhika Satkunanathan at tel: +41.22.733.4641, +61.400.899.474 or 
<mailto:radhika at cohre.org>radhika at cohre.org.

Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)
83 Rue de Montbrillant, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland.
Tel No: +41-22-733-4641
Web: <http://www.cohre.org/>http://www.cohre.org
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
PO Box 728, Bethlehem, Palestine
Telefax: 00972-2-2747346
<mailto:info at badil.org>info at badil.org - http://www.badil.org

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