Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Jim Shipley
Shipley Speaks 

A matter of perspective


In 1950, my family moved to Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. It was a lovely, leafy area with stately homes and a storied history. Once my parents bought their home we were shocked to find that just shortly before we moved, a law was struck down that prevented Jews from owning homes in that lovely, leafy suburb. They actually had a LAW that prevented Jews and African Americans from buying a home in their town.

We’ve come a long way, baby. Restrictive covenants have practically disappeared in the United States. You have the wherewithal? You can buy a home, build one to standard, live in an apartment—do anything that anyone else does, regardless of the color of your skin, the religion you follow, where you or your parents were born.

We also have laws covering Public Domain. Basically, if the city, the state or even the federal government decides that they need a particular piece of land, they may buy it from the owner at a price based on an appraisal from a non-partisan group familiar with property values. Usually this land is needed for a road expansion, a new municipal building or any project that does not have a commercial interest. If the home or business owner is not happy with the price they can appeal through the courts.

There have been exceptions of course. Politicians are politicians, after all. In most of these “exceptional” cases, old storied businesses are torn down to allow newer, larger, tax-paying businesses to take their place. This smells to high heaven. Let the new businesses buy the old ones, pay for tearing them down and building their own.

Which brings us to the new “Settlement Law” just passed by the government of Israel. I have not read the law. I only know what I read in the New York Times, a small snippit in our local paper and a lengthy article in the Jerusalem Post. From what I can gather, it allows the government of Israel, to confiscate privately owned Palestinian property for the building of housing for Israeli citizens—Jewish Israeli citizens.

Now, the ancient and holy land of Israel is the historical home of the Jewish People and the one place where Jews from all over the world are welcomed without quotas or restrictions. To repeat: The first Jewish Commonwealth was established when King David built the city of Jerusalem and King Solomon built the First Temple. The Babylonians destroyed the Temple. We came back and founded the second Jewish Commonwealth. As we know, the Romans put an end to that. The Muslim Caliphate put an end to the Romans. The wars that followed never identified a nation in the area where Israel was and is located. It was, from the seventh century on, Arabia.

In the area that became known as Palestine—a linguistic take off on the ancient name for the tribal inhabitants of the area known as Philistines; the Turkish sultans ruled until the British aided by, yes, Lawrence of Arabia and a unified Arab army threw them out and created a British Mandate in the area.

When the Turks ruled the area, they sold portions of land to Turkish citizens, basically wealthy members of the landed gentry. In the late nineteenth century the Jewish National Fund began to buy land from the Turkish landowners. So, the Fund and therefore the Jews had property rights in what was to become the Third Jewish Commonwealth—Israel.

The trouble started when Jews showed up on the land they had legally purchased and told the residents, basically tenant farmers, that they, the Jews, now owned the land on which the farmers were living. And they were now going to farm and/or develop it themselves. Well, the law is the law and the Jews moved in—the Arabs decided to kill them and take the land back. They did not succeed.

A percentage of the land of Israel is still owned by the Jewish National Fund. A portion of the so-called West Bank is privately owned by Arabs. Most of these folks are farmers, usually of olive trees. Very few of them are politically active. Even fewer are inclined to violent acts of terror.

In some cases, specifically in the areas of the Negev adjacent to Jordan, Israeli and Arab farmers cooperate on soil and crop improvement. On the so-called West Bank, the attitude is different. The “settlers” there are much more militant and nationalistic. They are overwhelmingly Orthodox and take their mandate not from the courts or the Israeli Government—but directly from God.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government just passed a law stating that Israelis may confiscate privately owned Arab land. The land would then probably become “State Land.” The big questions then become: Will the Arabs be adequately compensated for their land? Will private citizens own their own homes? From whom will they buy the home? Who profits? There are many questions to be answered as the law moves to the Supreme Court of Israel.


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