Land confiscation by means of declaring land as state land – HRC 23rd session – NGO statement (Basil Resource Center)

Written statement* submitted by the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement, which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

[10 May 2013]


* This written statement is issued, unedited, in the language(s) received from the submitting non-governmental organization(s).

Land confiscation by means of declaring land as state land

Land confiscation is pursued through a manipulation of the relevant land laws in place in the occupied Palestinian territory. For example, the declaration of land as ‘state land’ is a prime method of land confiscation. As Abu Kishk writes: “during the Mandate, the British government suggested that all uncultivable land should be registered in the name of the High Commissioner of Palestine, under the provision that the said land be utilized for the good of the community.”1

After 1948, the State of Israel ‘inherited’ all the land that was registered in the High Commissioner’s name from the British government, which thus became Israeli state land.2 After 1967, Israel also claimed all the ‘state land’ that Jordan had designated as such under its rule in the West Bank. This was achieved through the application of a 1967-adopted military order, the Order Concerning Government Property (No. 59).3 This defines state land as property that, on the “relevant date” (7 June 1967, the day Israel occupied the West Bank), belonged to an enemy state and/or corporation of which an enemy state had control or rights or that was registered at that time in its name.4 Furthermore, the Order bestows administration of state land to the Custodian who is appointed by the Israeli Military Commander and empowered, “to take possession of government property and to take any measure he deems necessary to that end”.5 The Order also allows for the custodian to deem any lands as state lands, even if they are retroactively shown not to be state lands, provided he held “good faith” that they were state lands.6 This Order was since amended.

Parallel to that in 1968 the Israeli military commander passed the Order concerning Land and Water Settlement (Judea and Samaria) (No. 291) – an order which forbade any further land settlement/registration for Palestinians and put a halt to any settlements, or registrations which were at that time being processed. Historically, land registration in the West Bank has been low for a number of reasons: most importantly efforts to avoid taxation and traditionally the non-importance of registration to exercise land rights. Since Israel stopped almost any form of registration in 1968, only 33% of all West Bank land has been registered.7

Following the 11 November 1979 verdict of the Elon Moreh Case, the government issued a decision, “to expand the settlement in Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights by adding population to the existing communities and by establishing new communities on state-owned land”8 The term ‘state land’ was not defined therein, however, the settlement enterprise actually expanded following this measure, with approximately “ninety percent” of the settlements established on land declared as state land.9


1Abu Kishk, B., “Arab Lands and Israeli Policy”, Journal of Palestine Studies, 11, no. 1 (Autumn 1981), pp. 124-135, at 127


3Order Concerning Government Property (Judea and Samaria) (No. 59), 1967.

4Definitions article in the original version of the Order concerning Government Property, as published in Collections of Proclamations, Orders and Appointments No. 5, 15 November 1967, pp. 162 -165.

5Article 2 of the Original Version of Order No. 59.

6Ibid., Article 5.

7Land Registration Study for the Ministry of Planning – by Land Equity International, May 2007 p. 28.

8Government Decision No. 145 of 1 November 1979.

9Pliya Albeck, Lands in Judea and Samaria (in Hebrew) (lecture at Bet Hapraklit on 28 May 1985,

Israel Bar Association), p. 5.

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