Eminent Domain, Israel and Palestine
March 3, 2009
by William P. Meyers

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A couple of years ago Americans were in an uproar about eminent domain. In the state of Connecticut a town had taken (forcibly bought) residences from citizens in order to sell them to a project developer. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that is okay. More typically eminent domain is used to take private land for something like a new road, so it becomes public property. In the U.S. Constitution the power of eminent domain, and the requirement of paying compensation, is recognized in the Fifth Amendment: "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." [See also eminent domain at Wikipedia and eminent domain at ExpertLaw.]

Arguments about, and discontent with, eminent domain in the U.S. are more typically about the amount of compensation given for the land the government takes.

Most Americans are big believers in private property. Eminent domain seems to be the exception that proves the rule. We are usually okay with losing our homes to eminent domain when we can walk away with the cash to buy an equivalent or better property. We would be totally up in arms if the government just took our houses without paying for them, whether or not the government kept the property or handed it over to some corporation for development. But we understand that sometimes a road has to be built, and a straight line of a road usually makes a lot of sense.

Most Americans would also agree that everyone in the world should have private property rights, that they are one of the most important human rights. If someone has freedom of speech, but can have their land or personal possessions taken away by government whim, what do they really have?

But there is one big loophole in our world view. We don't give a rat's exit hole about the private property of Palestinians. We don't care if the government of Israel took land in Palestine by eminent domain, paid or unpaid.

Before 1946, when Jewish settlers obtained land in Palestine, Zionists obtained land by buying it. This sometimes created an upset because Arab land title holders would sell land that peasants could have sworn was communal land. Still, the British were still in charge and deemed these transfers to be legal.

Then the terror began, but it began as Zionists killing British officials [See Irgun]. After the United Nations (with no authority beyond its own arrogance) decreed that there should be a semi-autonomous Jewish government of part of Palestine, the ethnic cleansing began. In 1948 large numbers of Palestinians were killed or scared off their lands during what became an war to create the state of Israel. When the war was over the new government of Israel allowed only extremely limited numbers of exiled Palestinians to return to their land inside the new state. A variety of subterfuges were used to confiscate the land. The theft was sometimes cloaked with legitimacy by seizing the land in lieu of taxes. Sometimes private sales were faked and duly recorded by the Israel land office. But mostly the land was just declare to belong to the State of Israel, then sold or parceled out to Jewish immigrants.

If you, as an American, are upset by eminent domain, should you not be upset when a government steals land from people, giving no compensation at all?

The takings have gone on and on, decade after decade. Acre by acre the land of Israel has been stolen. Wouldn't you be mad if you owned land and some government, any government, stole it from you?

It would be nice to see one of the zealous private-property rights organizations in the United States take up the cause of the Palestinians. Where's that Hoover Institute, or the Cato Foundation, when they are needed? Oh, all too busy helping corporate lawyers rape and pillage the world. Too busy to demand that the U.S. government recognize the private property rights of Palestinians.

One of the problems, in getting the United States government to support rights for Palestine, has been the leftist orientation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Had they named themselves the Palestinian Private Property Defense Organization, they might have gotten more sympathy in the U.S.

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