Israeli Court Passes Absentee Property Law in Jerusalem

TEL AVIV, April 16, 2015 (WAFA) – The Supreme Court of Israel has approved the Absentee Property Law, which allows the state to take over property that belongs to Palestinians who were forced out or displaced in 1948, mainly targeting Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, according to media sources.

The law was first enacted in 1950 after the great population transfer that Israel experienced in its early days, as thousands of Palestinian Arabs were forced to flee the city of fear of being killed.

High Court Chief Justice Emeritus Grunis said the judges were reluctant to approve the law, since it preceded Israel’s Basic Laws, some of which might contradict the tenets of the Absentee Property Law, according to Israel National News website.

With that, he said, the law should be enacted; Israel should confiscate land in Jerusalem belonging to Palestinians living in the Palestinian Authority-run West Bank – only under “extreme” conditions, and only with the permission of the State Comptroller.

Commenting on this controversial law, senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Ahmad Queri described the law as “racial”, and that it targets the removal of Arab and Palestinian presence in Jerusalem. This would also finally end up with an exclusively Jewish Jerusalem, he added.

Queri also said the decision constitutes a blatant defiance of the international community and an illegal confiscation of Palestinians’ property in the city.

Secretary General of the Islamic-Christian Committee to Support Occupied Jerusalem and Holy Sites, Hanna Issa, also denounced the court’s decision, and said such property belongs to thousands of indigenous Arab and Palestinian residents who were forced out of their homeland, following the 1948 and 1967 wars.

“By classifying every citizen or persons present in an “enemy” territory or country as an “absentee” vis-à-vis property in Israel, the law has served to confiscate the land and real estate left behind by the Palestinians who were forcibly displaced 1948,” reports Palestinian Grassrouts Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign. “It is still in effect and used to confiscate Palestinian properties more than six decades later.”

In 1967, most Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) theoretically became “absentees” vis-à-vis their property in East Jerusalem which had become “Israel” as a result of the illegal annexation.

Israel’s annexation and extension of the Absentees’ Property Law to occupied East Jerusalem is in violation of international law and has been strongly condemned by the United Nations.