Land for new US embassy in Jerusalem was owned by Palestinians before 1948, files show

The fact is that the vast majority of the land in the state of Israel is land that is owned by Palestinians (TS)

Ahead of U.S. President Biden’s visit to Israel and the West Bank, Palestinian families in the U.S. and East Jerusalem present documents – including rental contracts going back decades – testifying that they owned the land before it was seized by Israel after the 1948 war

By Nir Hasson. Haaretz

(July 10) – Palestinian families from East Jerusalem and the United States are calling on Washington and Israel to cancel plans for building the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, saying that its planned location sits on land that was private Palestinian property confiscated by Israel after the 1948 war.

About a year and a half ago, the U.S. government, in coordination with Israel, drafted a plan for a large diplomatic complex in an area of Jerusalem known as the Allenby Complex in southern Jerusalem. According to the plan, the U.S. embassy would move into that complex; until then, it would remain in a temporary site in the Arnona neighbourhood.

On Sunday, two days before U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, several Palestinian families, in conjunction with Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, presented documents testifying that some of the land slated for the diplomatic compound project had belonged to them before 1948. The families, including Habib, Qleibo, El Khalidi, Razzaq, and El-Khalili, brought forward decades’ worth of rental contracts between them and the Mandatory government for the land.

Click here to view the documents presented by the Palestinian families.

At the onset of the mandate, the British established a major military base, known as Allenby Barracks, at the site. According to the documents, the British Mandatory government paid about 30 liras per dunam each year for the land, which was owned by the Palestinians. The land is located west of the Green Line, and like all other Palestinian property in west Jerusalem, it was transferred via the Absentee Property law into Israeli hands in 1950.

The first plan to build a U.S. embassy at the site was initiated in the 1990s by Israel, and since then the land was set aside for the building of a diplomatic compound. At the time, representatives of the Palestinian families had requested that the U.S. government cancel the plan. When the Biden administration made it clear, about a year and a half ago, that it supported establishing a permanent site for the embassy, the Americans – with Israeli coordination – began to advance the plan.

The Palestinian-American professor Rashid Khalidi, whose family had owned part of the land, said that “I’m not sure how much the Biden administration is aware of the information we passed on in the 1990s. What we want is for them not build on our property. It’s very simple; no matter what Israeli law says, there have been many unjust laws according to which property was taken, whether by colonial powers or in Europe.”

He added in the Adalah press release: “The fact that the U.S. government is now participating actively with the Israeli government in this project means that it is actively infringing on the property rights of the legitimate owners of these properties, including many U.S. citizens.”

According to the Absentee Property Law of 1950, any property whose owner was present in an enemy country during the temporary “state of emergency” – which is in effect to this day and is routinely renewed on a biannual and cross-party basis – was to be transferred to Israel. Through the law, the state has seized all the property left behind by Palestinian refugees in 1948. Recent reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International mention the law as a central tool of the Israeli state in the oppression and control of Palestinians.

After Prime Minister Yair Lapid took his post and decided to move to Jerusalem, he chose to temporarily move into in a building that had been seized using the law from a Palestinian family who had fled from it in 1948. In doing so, he broke a long-standing principle for Israeli premiers; the past two prime ministers have turned down proposals to move into absentee properties.

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Filed under Palestine, United States, West Asia (Middle East)

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