Is the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, about to pass a law that would legalize stealing land from Arabs who live in the Land of Israel? Of course not! So what is the law about?

Ottoman Empire law classified that any "dead lands" – that is, land where there are no houses or cultivation, and is at least a "rooster's call distance" from the last house of the nearest village – are "state lands", land owned by the state. With the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations took over the Land of Israel and entrusted Great Britain with a mandate over the land. The Mandatory Power then became the owner of all state land.

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Remember: the mandate was established with the express intent of establishing a Jewish Homeland – a state – in our ancient land. The mandatory power was entrusted with settling closely the returning Jews on the land – but the British Empire didn't keep the trust. It closed everything east of the Jordan River to Jewish immigration and land purchases, giving the land to a British imperial client, and thus creating the client Kingdom of Trans-Jordan.

The UN proposed dividing the leftover land between a Jewish state and an Arab state. The local Arabs rejected the proposal and went to war against their Jewish neighbors, with the Arab states supporting and even joining in a few months later. The Arabs lost their bid to annihilate the Jewish community and strangle the Jewish state at birth. Judea and Samaria were occupied by Trans-Jordan that proceeded to illegally occupy and annex the areas. During the 19 years of illegal occupation, the Jordanians illegally parceled out land to whomever the king wished to benefit, an illegal gift that should give no property rights to the recipients.

In the wake of Arab aggression against Israel in general, and Jordanian aggression against Israel in particular, Israel went to fight a defensive war for its survival – the Six-Day War in 1967 – and miraculously won the war. The lands of Judea and Samaria were returned to Jewish sovereignty, as was intended in the original internationally agreed upon mandate of the Holy Land.

Privately owned land of Arabs, whether it be a home, an orchard or a field, are theirs to own. However – state lands came into the possession of Israel. The Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are built almost exclusively on state land. That means: where I live there was no Arab village, not a house, not a cultivated field or an orchard. There are olive-tree groves dotting the area around my town – but they are not ours; they are Arab-owned and are not touched by us at all. Why? Because it is forbidden to steal, very simply.

However, while building the houses, here and there the tractors working may inadvertently have torn down a single fig tree or a small plot that may have been cultivated. Although such cultivation is not proof of legal title – it could have been someone taking advantage of nobody noticing or caring about someone using public land as if it was their own – still, it isn't state land.

When such mistakes innocently happen inside pre-67 Israel, the law is that if someone can prove ownership – the owner is reimbursed, either with money or land. The structures built on the land are not usually torn down, since usually the owners prefer a generous compensation. Since Arabs in Judea and Samaria face a death sentence by the Palestinian Authority if they sell land to Jews, it is dangerous to them to take money for land that may or may not have been theirs. Just the appearance of selling land to Jews can get them killed or tortured.

The proposed new law would make the law in Judea and Samaria the same as in, say, Tel Aviv. If an Arab can prove that a piece of his land was taken, by mistake, he will be compensated.

So in short: no Arab was dragged from their orchard in order to make room for a Jewish town. Certain lands were illegally given to private individuals by the Jordanian occupier and certain lands show cultivation, which although doesn't prove ownership, still it may not be state land. In those two cases: when houses were built through an innocent mistake on land that may have been privately owned, the state wishes to buy the land in order not to penalize the homeowner who has innocently living there, perhaps twenty years.

That's what the law comes to do: stop frivolous, unfounded lawsuits, based on the illegal Jordanian land grants; lawsuits brought in order to destroy Jewish homes. Instead the law will compensate actual, proven owners whose land was mistakenly used. 
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