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April 03, 2005

What is "Palestinian Land"?

In an editorial today, the Los Angeles Times twice refers to settlements built on "Palestinian land" ("A Time to Move, and Move On"). While Los Angeles Times editors might believe West Bank and Gaza land where Jewish settlements are located should become Palestinian, it cannot now be accurately described as such. The territory is disputed. It has not been annexed by Israel, nor has it been allotted to the Palestinians in any agreement between the two sides. It never belonged to any Palestinian state, and had previously (1948 to 1967) been illegally occupied by Jordan and Egypt, respectively.

The last legal sovereignty over the territories was that of the League of Nations Palestine Mandate, which stipulated the right of the Jewish people to settle in the whole of the Mandated territory. According to Article 6 of the Mandate, "close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands not required for public use" was to be encouraged. (Article 25 allowed the League Council to temporarily postpone the Jewish right to settle in what is now Jordan, if conditions were not amenable.) Article 80 of the U.N. Charter preserved this Jewish right to settlement by specifying that: "nothing in the [U.N. Charter's chapter on the administration of Mandate territory] shall be construed ... to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or peoples or the terms of existing international instruments." (This updated version of the quote corrects an earlier typographical error.)

The editorial writer goes on to posit: "Most outside Israel consider it unlawful to hold land seized in war." Really? Presumably, Texans and Floridians, both residents of states conquered by war, would disagree.

Posted by TS at April 3, 2005 03:59 PM