Are Jewish Settlements Built on Arab Land?

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Is it really true, as much of the European and American press have been reporting for years, that Jewish “settlers” in the “West Bank” (more properly known as Judea and Samaria) are living on land that they have stolen from Palestinian Arabs?

This is in fact utterly impossible. Every time that the Israeli government has proposed or given tentative approval for the construction of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, it has first advertised its intentions in Arab newspapers, and invited any Arabs who have claims to the land to come forward with them. Only if no such claims were put forward for at least six months; or if, after such claims were made, the Israeli court system had ruled against them following a painstaking and thorough review of the facts, in which the courts bent over backwards to be fair to all Arab claimants, did the Israeli government actually authorize the construction of Jewish communities in this disputed area. Israeli courts have forbidden the Israel government from confiscating any Arab-owned land for Jewish settlement since 1980. And the Israel government has not authorized any new settlements since the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” began in 1993.

Not even the so-called “unauthorized” or “illegal” Jewish settlements, those that the Israeli government has not fully and expressly authorized, are built on Arab-owned land. Both the authorized and unauthorized Jewish communities were all built on what had been completely unoccupied, uncultivated and uninhabited “waste land.” No Arab homes were destroyed, no Arab residents were expelled, and no Arab farmland was seized in creating any of these Jewish communities—whether their construction was fully authorized by the Israeli government or not. And under the land ownership laws of Judea and Samaria — which date to when these territories were under Turkish rule, and which have been respected by all subsequent governments, including the Israeli administration — nearly all uninhabited and completely undeveloped “waste land” belongs to the state, not to any private owner. While such land could legally be purchased from the state, there were almost no instances in which Arabs actually did purchase such “waste land,” because they would have had to pay taxes on it while deriving no benefit for the foreseeable future. Whatever few purchases of such land were made, were made by Jewish philanthropists hoping to provide land for future Jewish refugees or immigrants.

Why, then, have the notions that all of the Jewish “settlements” are “illegal” and, what is more, built on Arab-owned land taken such a firm hold on the belief-systems of the world’s governments and news media? One major reason has been the activities of Israel-based “Human rights” NGOs (“non-governmental organizations”) such as Peace Now, B’tselem, Yesh Din, Yesh Gvul and many others. These soi-disant human rights organizations, which are committed to ending the Israeli “occupation” of all land outside the country’s June 3, 1967 cease-fire lines, and to forcing the expulsion of the 600,000 Israelis who live outside those cease-fire lines (which were never legal borders), have published a series “reports” claiming that up to 30 percent of the land on which Israeli-Jewish “settlements” on the “West Bank” are built exist on what these groups describe as “privately owned Arab land” (or is it 38%? Or 32%? or 24% ? or 16%? Each “report” gives a different percentage figure, and sometimes there are even two contradictory figures within one “report”). These figures, as well as many other claims by the soi-disant human rights groups, are then immediately published as facts—first by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which despite being published in Israel is actually a mouthpiece for the Palestinian Authority and its network of affiliated organizations—and then by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the The Washington TimesNPR, the BBC and a thousand other newspapers and electronic media services throughout the Western world.

However, when one actually reads in detail the lengthy reports on the web sites of these “human rights” groups that purport to document the supposed settler “land grabs,” one finds no credible evidence for these percentage claims, despite many footnotes and long statistical tables, charts, etc. Either these “reports” a) fail to give any original source at all for the statistics, or b) they claim that they are supported by thousands of Israeli government documents that these groups have received under Israel’s Freedom of Information law—but without quoting from a single specific document that supports their claims about Jewish settlements on “privately owned Arab land.”

A report issued by Peace Now titled “Breaking the Law in the  West Bank,” first published in November 2006, is a case in point. It is the one that claims that “nearly 40 per cent” (later, in the report’s fine print, specified down to  38.76” per cent”) of settlements are built on “privately owned Arab land.” The report is also filled with graphs and charts, much of them about irrelevancies such as the exact number of square kilometers in each settlement, maps of the settlements and of the entire “West Bank” showing the location of settlements, even photographs (some of them, ironically, showing the beauty of these communities), which give a semblance of verisimilitude and accuracy to the report. But whenever claims are made about the amount of land in the settlements that belongs to Arabs, no documentary source is given. Despite all the graphs, charts, tables and maps in the 21-page report, we are never told precisely how Peace Now reached its conclusions about the extent of land owned by Arabs in the Jewish settlements

After the 2006 report aroused some criticism and questions in Israel, Peace Now issued a second report a year later, “clarifying” and “correcting” the one issued a year earlier. Peace Now claimed that this report was based on more than 3,500 documents received from the Israeli government since the original 2006 report was published. This of course raised the question as to how Peace Now had compiled the earlier report, complete with all those statistics and other detailed data without these documents. Be that as it may, the 2007 Peace Now report admits that the previous report had been wrong in claiming that 83.4% of the “settlement” of Maale Haadumim (actually a suburb of Jerusalem less than 5 miles outside the city limits) was owned by Arabs, and scaled down that claim to 0.5 percent—a 99.95 percent decrease in the amount of land in the community that Peace Now claimed was “privately owned” by Arabs. The total percentage of land in Jewish “settlements” alleged to be “privately owned” by Arabs was revised downward from 38 percent to 32 percent in the 2007 report. At the same time, the revised report stood by Peace Now’s earlier claims about Arab ownership of land in the other Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, and even increased the amount of land that it alleged was owned by Arabs in some of these communities. But even the “new” revised report, despite its claim to be based on Israeli government documents, fails to quote even one such document in support of these statistical claims, or even a specific document that states that any land at all in the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is owned by Arabs and illegally occupied by Jews.

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  • Larry

    The left have never let lack of facts get in the way of a good narrative, and often make them up out of thin air to support said narrative.

    Whenever a leftard "quotes" facts at you make sure you get an identifiable source………………

    I'm joking, it won't happen.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "I'm joking, it won't happen."

      Funny in a brutally sad way. This is what we have from Bill Clinton for promoting the reliability of the PA and Arafat along with all of the other creatures who gained from authentication of these lies. Once that happened, they found that spending enough money took care of the rest. Few would question the lies after the Oslo Accords trojan horse tactic succeeded.

      Carter = Iranian messianic Shia revolution
      Clinton = "Palestinians are legitimate"
      Obama = Arab Spring and "We don't want to fight over anything, but we'll keep sending drones to look tough for easily deceived swing voters."

      Destroy the Democratic Party and Islam.

  • Harvey High

    Actually many of the "settlements" sit on public lands that had once been Jordanian state-owned land, which then became Israeli state-owned land when the illegal Jordanian occupation of the West Bank was removed. SO these settlements are about as illegal as would be the US building a new town on federal lands.

  • Schlomotion

    End the illegal Arab occupation of Jewish lands.

    • Larry

      Continue the nakba for eternity.

      • FactsNotFictions


        "Nakba has become so false and distorted that there is no other way to describe it than by calling it by name: Rubbish – a collection of tall tales …" read here to learn the truth if you seek so:

  • Stern

    Perhaps it's time for the Shomrom council and other Judea and Samaria councils to get together and do what Revava did. Sue the b****ds! Take them to court for libel and publicize the decisions far and wide.

  • Schlomotion

    Ha! It's not Arab land. It's wasteland. It's not the West Bank, it's Judea and Samaria. Before that it was called Oonga Boonga and recent archeological discoveries prove that that prehistoric Jews discovered Oonga Boonga. This whole idea that Israel denies building permits to Palestinians who already own houses and then bulldozes them to build racially pure planned cities is just a lie ginned up by disgruntled self-hating Israelis.

    This is the Frank Luntz Global Language Dictionary being used slavishly. Watch what you say though. Rachel will sue you:

    If she loses, she'll get David Yerushalmi out of the back room to go after you for calling her a Kahanist and he'll call you a leftist idiot which is apparently legal if you have your own team of shysters to chase the ambulance of hurt feelings.


    Just remember if Rachel Neuwirth goes after you in court for your free speech, you can provide the list of times she has called people like Ilan Pappe a "Useful Idiot" and use her spurious argument that that is the same as calling someone a terrorist.

  • Omar

    How are Jewish settlements on "stolen land"? Jews have lived in the Holy Land continuously for over 3000 years. The Arabs started entering the area around the seventh century (when Islam was established), 600 years after the Roman conquest of 66 AD/CE (when the Romans renamed the Holy Land Palestine, a Latin name meaning the Philistines, who where Greek sailors with red hair. The Philistines were not Arabs). If the Arab states had accepted the 1947 UN partition, there would have been no settlement problem right now.

  • Bartimaeus

    It is interesting that words that were originally written some 3,000 years ago would most accurately describe the present situation between Israel and the Arabic speaking peoples.
    Psalm 83 (no doubt prophetic) speaks of a confederacy of peoples the descendents of which are now Arabic speaking peoples who are against the nation of Israel. The description of this confederacy as three main points. 1) They hate the God is Israel (Judeo-Christian) and are enemies of that God. Islam anyone. 2) They desire to destroy the nation of Israel. 3) They desire to take the land of Israel for there own possession. This is just a comment for those of you who might think the bible is irrelevant to present events. The conflict will continue until the prayer at the end of the Psalm is fulfilled.

  • aspacia

    Jews have resided in this area long before any Muslim lived there. Regardless of what Israel provides or trades for peace, the Muslims are sworn to destroy her. Give up. There will never be peace with your enemies.

  • PhillipGaley

    Why have the notions that all Jewish “settlements” are “illegal”, and have taken so firm a hold on the belief-systems of the world’s governments and news media?

    Well, in wishing to blink the facts—of the Balfour Declaration, the Conference as San Remo, and again, at the fictitious suggestion to the Palestinian Arabs, proffered by the Egyptian Arabs for abandonment of whatever claim to ownership which the Palestinian Arabs might have had, this, at the commencement of hostilities in 1947—the Lefties simply employ the puerile implementation of a rewrite of history, and offer it to the world.

    And so we see, it's not so much that, weak conceptualizations have "taken hold", as that, they are invented in knowing and wishful ignorance of historical facts of conquest—"To the victor belong the spoils."—then to maintain that set of inventions as a hopeful offering to generation after generation of the unlearned; the schools of elocution of the ancient Greeks taught: "Whatever is forcefully presented and plausibly maintained is history and law.". That is what we're up against—just keep on telling and retelling the truth of the matter, saying: "No.", the while; it's almost just that simple, . . . of course, there might have to be some more bullets and bombs. I'm not afraid of bullets and bombs—are you?

  • Salomon

    Neuwirth and Landau wrote an excellent summary about one –among thousands – concerted effort to disfigure reality. They should be highly commended for bringing this issue to light, even if it represents only the tip of a malfeasant iceberg of lies, false accusations, and slander aimed at Israel.

    The promoters of this overt campaign of delegitimation of Israel are well known and are not limited to Peace Now. They are often generously subsidized by foreign funds; they parrot Palestinian propaganda slavishly; and they do whatever they can to ignore or distort factual evidence.

    Regrettably, the Government of Israel has never taken this growing threat with the seriousness it deserves. The $5,000 fine levelled against Peace Now is just a slap on the wrist and is grossly inadequate.

  • Sunil Bajpai

    Please read the following article which may clarify many issues:

  • Wallace Brand

    This is quite an excellent article that should puts the lie to the biased claims of the NGO's such as Peace Now and BTselem. Of course that doesn't meant they won't continue to make their false claims. However I have found one minor change I would make. That is in the sentence "Israeli courts have forbidden the Israel government from confiscating any Arab-owned land for Jewish settlement since 1980" That implies there might have been confiscations prior to 1980. Instead of "confiscation" I think the author meant "expropriation" or "condemnation". Confiscation means a taking without compensation. I don't believe there have been any "confiscations" of land by the Israelis even before 1980. I asked one of the authors and she said a condemnation is what she meant. That is the term used when land is expropriated for a public use under the powers of eminent domain with full compensation to the owner.. "Confiscation" is used when no compensation is made — where the value goes into the public treasury. Under the Balfour Declaration adopted in the San Remo Agreement, and also under the cession of sovereignty under Article 95 of the Treaty of Sevres, there is a limitation on the political rights of the Jews. They are prohibited from impairing the civil or religious rights of non-Jews when they exercise sovereignty. Civil rights includes the right to own property. This article confirms my own research that the Israelis have scrupulously adhered to that limitation.

  • Jossi

    A good article, which could be expanded to an essay or book(s). The situation is complex and simple at the same time, it depends from where and how you look at it, and above all who is looking.
    Legally Judea & Samaria are by all means lands of Israel; the article doesn't mention even once, as some comments have bravely done, the Declaration Balfour, San Remo and Sevres and especially WW2. An historical outline should have been given as an introductory explanation. Not having done that, it fails to connect important legal dots.
    I would like to make another point; in 1967, Israel won very big, the famous 6 day War. Israel, could have continued another short 6 days and push the so called Pals out. This was a strategic mistake, which unfortunately Israel is paying dearly. Seen what is happening in the Middle East today, the Pals can consider themselves fortunate for the situation they are in……(for the time being), but one day their time of the Judea and Samaria (and Gaza) sojourn, I'm personally confident will end…(If anyone has doubts, if suffices to read the Prophets on one side, and to use rationality on the other). New Gingrich got it very right when he declared that the Pals are an invented people.

  • John

    Al Teqiyya or the Big Lie is used by Arabs to further their illegitimate cause. The International law of San Remo and Palestine Mandate gave land rights to the Jews alone. They also deny Arabs political rights. All of this was also protected in the UN charter article 80. The recent Levy commission confirmed this. The Arabs and their anti-semitic Useful Idiots are nothing but liars and chancers.

  • Guess

    You guys are full of it, first you say that the land was a wasteland that no Arab owns. When the Arab officials complain about your buildings, you would say they have no legal rights to complain. Meanwhile you forget one thing: where you are building used to recently belong to someone else, just because you can snatch it from them by onquest, does not make it right, quite simple, you're right!

  • mikefoxtrot

    "…. Haaretz, which despite being published in Israel is actually a mouthpiece for the Palestinian Authority and its network of affiliated organizations…'

    a rather despicable lying piece of dreck claim.

  • Gideon

    Has anyone heard of Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine? The facts come straight from Israeli archives.