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  • Family and Society
  • Settling the Land of Israel

"Private Palestinian Land"

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Rabbi Ari Shvat

Sivan 29, 5772
Question
Dear Rabbi: The news media talks a lot these days about "Private Palestinian Land" in Yehuda and Shomron. Assuming that an Arab has an Ottoman document or one from the British times or received land from King Hussein of Jordan (maybe the answer the changes based on what he has), what does the halacha say about his land ownership? Obviously, we cannot say that any particular Jew or Jewish family owns that land. While it might be forbidden to sell land to Arabs, and we might be encouraged halachikally to buy/redeem the land, what does the halakha say about an Arab who refuses to sell? These Arabs also of course claim to be the true owners of all the land and do not recognize God’s having granted Am Israel Eretz Yisrael. Any halachic clarification you can provide in these troubled times is greatly appreciated.
Answer
Shalom. Like you inferred, it really depends on what kind of deed the Arab may have. If indeed it is a bona fide legal document, than he is the owner of that particular piece of land, and we are not allowed to steal grapes or even enter his land without his permission. Only the State of Israel can halachically confiscate any land that they want (from Jew or gentile!), as a nation, but the individual Jew or organization, can only buy the land from Arabs. Being that the State unfortunately isn't interested in confiscation from Arabs, than the most practical suggestion at present is to acquire it from them. Rav Kook suggested to buy “dunam after dunam” and that way we can redeem the Land promised to us by G-d, without international confrontation, and without casualties. The problem is that the Arabs inhumanely threaten a penalty of death to any Arab selling land to Jews. I’m still waiting for the United Nations and the liberals of the world, in their hypocritical “selective humanism”, to censure such racist and immoral threats. That is regarding individuals, but the Arab claim as a nation over the Land of Israel, it’s simply untrue, for never in history was there ever an Arab national entity here. In addition, if two men fight over one woman, we should ask her whom she prefers. For 1300 years of the Islamic Empire in the Middle East, Israel remained barren like a faithful wife, waiting for her husband’s return. Only when Jews began returning about 130 years ago, did this fruitful part of the fertile crescent, once again produce, just like the Torah (Vayikra 26, 32) and prophets (Yechezkel 36, 8) said she would. Accordingly, the Land herself chooses us as her beloved, as does G-d’s Torah, history, and the self-defense military victory of the Six-Day War, all of which give us the undisputable national rights over the Land of Israel. If you talk ancient history, we were here before the Arabs. If you talk modern history, we are here and ruling, today. What logic is there in selectively quoting only the “middle” part of history (and even that, as I mentioned, was not as a national entity)? With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat
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