In the Jewish settlement of Ariel, Perri Ben Senior can’t wait for Israel to annex this part of the occupied West Bank, hoping it will be a boom for her real estate

Do you have an example where Israeli settlement on the West Bank was built on a land that belongs to private Palestinians? Is it a rule or an exception?

It is a complicated subject in that each nation defines private property differently. Jews in what you would undoubtedly refer to as the “West Bank” are confined by law to live and work in Area C & Sector H2 in Hebron. The former is entirely rural.

Private property never existed there until 1858 under the Ottoman Tanzimat, a liberalisation that itself began in 1839. Even post-1858 actual private ownership virtually never occured for local rural Arabs. Those Arabs that did own rural land were from other parts of the Ottoman Empire, particularly Beirut & Damascus. Jews on the other hand did often own local rural land but in very isolated and unpopulated areas. My clan for example owned 119 properties, all in Hebron District, including the city.

Local rural Arabs engaged in a form of customary land tenure known as “Musha’a.” In this system a village sheikh (chief) or mukhtar (mayor) distributed parcels of land customarily exploited by a particular Arab village. When it ran as it should, heads of households were allotted land based primarily upon 2 factors: Numbers of sons and numbers and types of beasts of burden (oxen, horses, mules, donkeys & camels). More sons got you more land to work as did more beasts of burden. If a tract was left fallow for 3 consecutive growing seasons, the sheikh or mukhtar redistributed it. When customary lands were owned by absentee Arab landholders the sheikh or mukhtar was his point of contact as well as his manager, remitting profits after taxes, etc.

Fast forward to 1920. The creation of Mandatory Palestine by the League of Nations (Ratified 1922) brought a new legal regime and type of land tenure. Concurrently Arabs launched an organised campaign of terrorism against Jews that included genocidal Ethnic Cleansing. In my clan’s case, 22 Jews were murdered in my family home in 1929. There were 45 other Jews murdered in Hebron’s Jewish Quarterin in that same “incident.” 3-days later all Jews in Hebron were Ethnically Cleansed. At that point Arabs looted our homes & businesses and then, in short order, they stole all Jewish properties, ergo the 119 in my clan’s case.

The Ethnic Cleansing culminated with the 1948 War. When the dust settled Jordan Occupied Jerusalem’s Old City- which you probably call “East Jerusalem”- and Judaea and Samaria,” aka the “West Bank.” Shortly thereafter Jordan Annexed all of it though it was only Recognised by Pakistan. Less than 19-years later, in 1967, Israel Liberated that land from Jordan, and here we are.

During those less than 19-years (1948–1967) Jordan handed out “ownership” of land it did not legally rule. Often these tracts were used to build support amongst local Arabs, many of whom despised Jordan at the time. Others bought tracts which Jordan happily sold, despite never “owning” it. When Jews began returning to Judaea & Samaria in 1968 they merely returned to their stolen properties from 1948 and before: Gush Etzion Bloc- 14 towns & villages, Sector H2 in Hebron- the city’s Jewish Quarter until 1929, 8 villages in Hebron Districts, etc., etc.

So, first, the operative issue is the validity of real estate transactions by an invasive enemy, Jordan, selling land it knows it does not own.

Second, the legal rights of irefutably legal owners, Jews, whose properties were stolen during genocidal Erunic Cleansing.

There are other periphreal issues, such as Israel treating Jordanian Era transactions in a different manner depending upon each case.

Moreso is the issue of Jews post-1968 simply trying to throw money at such Arab claimants just so that they can go about their business. As an example, we ended up paying $7.5 million US in cash for one of our own properties just to wrest it from the heirs of the murderous thief who stole it. That property is “Beit HaShalom” on Worshipers Way in Sector H2 in Hebron. If anyone cares to look it up, it is very, very instructive on many levels.

This throwing of cash only creates umpteenth Arabs suddenly claiming to be the actual owners, that the sellers were scammers. This did not happen in my example but it is very common.

One needs to understand, under Palestinian Law, any Arab renting, leasing or selling as little as 1 square meter of space or property to any Jew is mandatorily subject to capital punishment. Dozens have been executed by the PA. This causes many Arabs to fight tooth and nail against Jewish claims should the transaction become public knowledge. We ourselves had to deal with this.