Protecting Palestinian Land for Future Generations

July 5, 2017

If someone does not take charge, embrace the responsibility, and bear the economic burden of salvaging Palestinian land from the progressive threat of Israeli settlements and occupation, tomorrow’s generations of Palestinians will be landless. Having less land – a tangible asset - will hurt the Palestinian people’s economic strength and undermine their struggle for human rights. Not only is owning land a fundamental right, for Palestinian’s it’s also an important heritage, a passionate tradition, and a dear inheritance that is owed to them. Illegal Israeli settlements are gradually robbing Palestinians and their children that right, and unjustly so. Although according to international law, Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian land is illegal, it important to understand the nuances of Israel settlement policy and how they exploited the situation starting in 1967. The present article, briefly ventures above the political and religious debate, gigantic as that already is, and highlights the reality about Palestinian land.

70% of the West Bank had No Title Deed

Shortly after Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the Israeli government created the “Allon Plan” and ventured into an intentional programming of appropriation and illegal annexation of Palestinian land. The Israeli government completed a comprehensive survey of land in the West Bank and learned that 70% of land had no title deed. This did not mean that Palestinian land wasn’t inhabited, it just means that Palestinians did not register their lands when they were part of the Ottoman Empire as registering one’s land was expensive for most and would also require paying taxes to the ruling state regardless of the services it offered.

In an attempt to further its Allon Plan, the Israeli government took advantage of an old Ottoman Law that essentially states that if your land has no title deed and is not put to use, then the state can appropriate your land and declare it as state land. The Israeli government purposely ignored the fact that Palestinians used their lands and cultivated their olive groves for its objective of acquiring as much land as possible with as little Palestinians as possible.

With 70% of the West Bank having no title deed, Palestinian land was and still is at a great risk. As of today, Israeli settlements have been built on approximately 10% of the entire West Bank, encompassing a total area of over half a million dunums. Israel has been able to do this because the majority of the West Bank has no title deed.

Was There More That Could’ve Been Done?

Ideally, Palestinians should have registered their lands in the past. As the saying goes however, hindsight is 20/20, you can’t blame the Palestinian people. No one could have predicted the occupation of the West Bank and exploitations of the Israeli government. That being said, until today 70% of the West Bank remains without title deed. One cannot help but ponder the question, why did the Palestinian Authority, who has administered large area of the West Bank from 1994 until today, do very little to encourage title deed expansion. After all, registering land and producing title deeds is a direct way to protect Palestinian land as it solidifies its ownership and deters Israeli settlement expansion. 

The future generations of the Palestinians will surely look back and ask “was there more that could’ve been done?”

Hope for the Future

Today, through a project called TABO, Palestinians have taken their fate in their hands and have taken monumental steps towards protecting their land. TABO undergoes the challenging, laborious, and bureaucratic process of creating title deeds in the West Bank, extending infrastructure services, and offering affordable parcelized titled deed plots to Palestinians worldwide. Local Palestinians have flocked to TABO as the only source of affordable land in the West Bank. Furthermore, many Palestinians in the Diaspora now travel from foreign nations, to invest their time and money to possess a title deed for a piece of their homeland. With TABO, new owners can easily sail through the otherwise complicated process of registering Palestinian land, and acquiring a title deed. By pure economic logic, here are the chosen few, taking charge, embracing the responsibility, and bearing the economic burden of salvaging Palestinian land. 

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