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Saturday, January 22, 2005

old apartheid law used in massive land grab

thought race-based thievery by states was a thing of the past? then you're not giving israeli enough credit for its audacity.

a correpondent for ha'aretz reports that last july, israel quietly applied the absentee property law to palestinians living in east jerusalem - a fact that only emerged in the last few days. this "law" had been used following the conquest of israel in 1948 to transfer the land, which had mostly been owned by individual palestinians, to the state of israel. this was one of the key race-based "laws" that facilitated the conversion of a palestinian country into a jewish one. (i use scare quotes around words like "law" because it's questionable whether such apartheid policies are legal, even when enacted by states.)

the haaretz article misleads by leaving out the racial character of the "law". it's bad enough that it lets the state steal people's land, but what makes it worse is that it applies to palestinians but not to jews. in this way it is a key plank of the apartheid system, as described by uri davis in two books: israel: an apartheid state, and apartheid israel: possibilities for the struggle within.

one ironic bit of this is that the "law", as its name suggests, was originally promulgated to strip property away from actual absentees - people who, due to being expelled, were not able to be on their land. some of the "absentees" were eventually able to return to israel in one way or another, but were still classified as absentees in order to deprive them of their property - in fact, they are classified with the oxymoron "present absentees". with the application of the "law" to east jerusalem, all of the "absentees" are actually present, and in fact had no idea that it had been stolen from them until the state routed the apartheid wall between their homes and their erstwhile fields. when they went to complain, they were informed that the fields were no longer theirs, as they are "absentees".

the best part of the haaretz article is the candidness of an israeli official, nailing the reality of the israeli "legal" system:

"It's not fair that a man becomes an absentee because his tie to his land has been cut without his doing. But morality is one thing, and what is written in our laws another."


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