Thursday, 25 September 2014

Back to the Land

Amidst the media brouhaha about talks about the Gaza blockade, or the killing - the extra-judicial execution, in fact - by the IDF of two men allegedly involved in the murder of three young yeshiva students near Hebron in June, one must always remember the fundamentals of the Israel-Palestine situation.   And nothing is more fundamental - practically but also symbolically and ideologically - to the situation than the land question.

The bottom line in this uneven struggle is and has always been the project of creating and enforcing Zionist-Jewish sovereignty in the territory of Palestine.  The creation, by ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and immigration of Jews, of a Jewish-majority polity is legitimated by the ideological project of the 'redemption' of the land of Eretz Israel.  The pragmatics of redemption is the shift of the land to Jewish ownership and cultivation, always conceived of as a renewal of an old ownership, and this was a feature of the Zionist project from the moment of the first aliyah, or Jewish immigration, in the 1880s.  It continues to this day, both inside and outside the borders of pre-1967 Israel. 

One of the bases for the charge of Israel becoming an 'apartheid state' is the way that, since its inception, the state has handed over certain of its functions to agencies which have always been concerned to serve Jewish persons, not citizens of the state.  One of the chief such agencies is the Jewish National Fund, which was set up in 1901 by the World Zionist Organisation with the sole purpose of land redemption.  Lands were purchased in Ottoman Palestine, later Mandate Palestine, by and for the JNF, and when Israel declared its independence in 1948, the role of administering 'state lands' was handed over to the JNF and its successor organisation, the Israel Land Administration.  In other words, 'state lands', which in fact amount to some 93% of the land surface of Israel were to be and are run solely for the benefit of Jews (conceived globally) and not for the benefit of the citizens of the state.

Consequently, land politics, land administration, the market in land (for agriculture, building, industrial development, leisure and amenity) and land law are crucial elements in the struggle in Palestine.   Here are several articles which go some way towards explaining this extraordinary situation.

First, a piece on the history of the Israeli land law regime, by Gerry Liston on Mondoweiss:

The historical context of the Israeli land and planning law regime:

Second, an article from Jewish Virtual Library giving some of this history from an overtly Zionist point of view - from the horse's mouth, so to speak:

"The Redeemers of the Land"

Third, an article also on Mondoweiss about the current iteration of this problematic:

Israeli Supreme Court upholds law allowing housing discrimination against Palestinians


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