Saturday, August 4, 2007

This Just In: Israeli Land Policy Breaks God's Law

This morning I happened to be reading the Hebrew Bible, looking out for passages on the treatment of foreigners (for the conclusion of the book I'm finishing) and I came upon this tidbit from Ezekiel that I hadn't expected.

God is setting out the boundaries for the land of Israel and explaining to Ezekiel where within these each of the 12 tribes should reside. In the process he tells Ezekiel to tell the Israelites that aliens should be able to remain where they are and that their inheritances must be protected. Let's listen in (as told by the Revised Standard Edition):
Thus says the Lord GOD: "These are the boundaries by which you shall divide the land for inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions.
[14] And you shall divide it equally; I swore to give it to your fathers, and this land shall fall to you as your inheritance.
[15] "This shall be the boundary of the land: On the north side, from the Great Sea by way of Hethlon to the entrance of Hamath, and on to Zedad,
[16] Bero'thah, Sib'raim (which lies on the border between Damascus and Hamath), as far as Hazer-hatticon, which is on the border of Hauran.
[17] So the boundary shall run from the sea to Hazar-e'non, which is on the northern border of Damascus, with the border of Hamath to the north. This shall be the north side.
[18] "On the east side, the boundary shall run from Hazar-e'non between Hauran and Damascus; along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel; to the eastern sea and as far as Tamar. This shall be the east side.
[19] "On the south side, it shall run from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribath-ka'desh, thence along the Brook of Egypt to the Great Sea. This shall be the south side.
[20] "On the west side, the Great Sea shall be the boundary to a point opposite the entrance of Hamath. This shall be the west side.
[21] "So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel.

And here's the kicker:

[22] You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who reside among you and have begotten children among you. They shall be to you as native-born sons of Israel; with you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.
[23] In whatever tribe the alien resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, says the Lord GOD.

So that's what God says. What did today's Israelis actually do? Some land they bought from absentee Arab landlords in the early twentieth century and then used the land title to evict farmers whose families had lived in Palestine for hundreds of years. Some land they traded. And most of the land, they stole during various wars. About 93% of all land in Israel is owned by the government.
As a secret report of the Israeli government indicates, despite all these efforts 39% of the land Israel claims to own is actually still titled to Arabs whose inheritance rights, which along with God's dictum, are being violated. Here's what the New York Times published about this last year in a front-page article by Steven Erlanger (November 21, 2006):

An Israeli advocacy group, using maps and figures leaked from inside the government, says that 39 percent of the land held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians....
One case in a settlement Israel intends to keep is in Givat Zeev, barely five miles north of Jerusalem. At the southern edge is the Ayelet Hashachar synagogue. Rabah Abdellatif, a Palestinian who lives in the nearby village of Al Jib, says the land belongs to him.

Papers he has filed with the Israeli military court, which runs the West Bank, seem to favor Mr. Abdellatif. In 1999, Israeli officials confirmed, he was even granted a judgment ordering the demolition of the synagogue because it had been built without permits. But for the last seven years, the Israeli system has done little to enforce its legal judgments. The synagogue stands, and Mr. Abdellatif has no access to his land.

Ram Kovarsky, the town council secretary, said the synagogue was outside the boundaries of Givat Zeev, although there is no obvious separation. Israeli officials confirm that the land is privately owned, though they refuse to say by whom.

Mr. Abdellatif, 65, said: ''I feel stuck, angry. Why would they do that? I don't know who to go to anymore.''

He pointed to his corduroy trousers and said, in the English he learned in Paterson, N.J., where his son is a police detective: ''These are my pants. And those are your pants. And you should not take my pants. This is mine, and that is yours! I never took anyone's land.''

According to the Peace Now figures, 44.3 percent of Givat Zeev is on private Palestinian land....

[I]n the Palestinian village of Burqa, Youssef Moussa Abdel Raziq Nabboud, 85, says that some of the land of Migron, and the land on which Israel built a road for settlers, belongs to him and his family, who once grew wheat and beans there. He said he had tax documents from the pre-1967 authorities.

''They have the power to put the settlement there and we can do nothing,'' he said. ''They have a fence around the settlement and dogs there.''

Mr. Nabboud went to the Israeli authorities with the mayor, Abu Maher, but they were told he needed an Israeli lawyer and surveyor. ''I have no money for that,'' he said. What began as an outpost taking 5 acres has now taken 125, the mayor said.

Mr. Nabboud wears a traditional head covering; his grandson, Khaled, 27, wears a Yankees cap. ''The land is my inheritance,'' he said. ''I feel sad I can't go there. And angry. The army protects them.''
The words of God on this matter deserve one last mention:
[22] You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who reside among you and have begotten children among you. They shall be to you as native-born sons of Israel; with you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.
[23] In whatever tribe the alien resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, says the Lord GOD.
This morning's paper mentioned yet another atrocity Israel committed. Today it was the death of a Palestinian denied entry at the border so he could go to the hospital. Buried in a New York Times story about Holocaust benefits titled "Olmert Will Rework Aid Plan for Survivors of the Holocaust" we learn about Israel's own annihilation policies:
In Gaza, a Palestinian man seeking treatment in Israel for kidney failure died while waiting at the Erez border crossing. Israel had agreed to allow the man, Wael Abu Warda, 27, to travel to an Israeli hospital for treatment. He arrived Thursday night but was not allowed through; an Israeli Army spokeswoman said that Palestinian officials had withdrawn the request for him earlier on Thursday. He was told to return Friday morning. A second request was made on Friday and approved, the army said, but another patient was sent through instead. In the meantime, Mr. Warda died.
Image is from 2006 commemoration of the 1948 War that led to Arab expulsion and expropriation; it is in southern Bethlehem in protest of a wall being erected.

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