Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to Sell Arab Property in East Jerusalem

Following the mild self-rebuke of the previous post about using too many words on this blog while presenting long-winded documents, here's a short post about a very slim file (גל-13922/11, if you insist on its name). It contains all of five brief letters, and yet it underlines an entire field of bureaucratic practice which has never been fully clarified: who decided who owned which property in the territories Israel took control of in 1967. If you think about it for a moment, it's an extremely important issue, and it underlies much of the settlement project. Of course, this particular file shines a light at the issue, it doesn't resolve it.

On April 7, 1971, S. Shapira, a lawyer at the Land Authority, wrote a two-paragraph note to the Attorney General: we're seeing a growing number of Arabs living in other countries who are sending us their representatives so as to sell their East-Jerusalem real estate to Israelis. How are we supposed to deal with such transactions? (p.2)

On April 19, Michal Bodenkin, an assistant to the AG, replied even more tersely: We'll need to deal with each separate case (p.3); she then sent a copy of her letter to the Advisor on Arab Affairs (p.4). Marking turf, apparently.

Why was there an upswing of such transactions? It wouldn't reflect the very large construction projects getting underway in East Jerusalem, as those were administered centrally, while Shapira's query seems to refer to individual transactions. The file offers no explanation; when we find one we'll tell.

The final document in the file is pure turf-wars, but its subject is interesting: Zvi Terlow, the executive director of the Ministry of Justice, announces to lots of important folks in lots of ministries, that all cases of claims by Jews on land plots in the territories must go through his ministry. It was February 1974, and I assume someone was seeing a rise in Jews purchasing land on the West Bank; the Gush Emunim settler movement was to break onto the public scene within weeks.

1 comment:

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