1948 Land Ownership 2

(continued from 1)

You wanted a source on my land ownership figures. I used Mideastweb. But then after you asked, I decided to look around some more. First of all, with respect to your land ownership figures, they are entirely misleading. The Ottomans had five categories of land usage ranging from private ownership to “dead land” to communal land inside villages. Essentially what your pro-Palestinian sources did was to take everything that wasn’t Jewish-owned but fell into any of these 5 Ottoman categories and call them “Palestinian owned.” Thus, if only 30% of the entire land was settled, somehow your sources called 23% of that plus the other 70% that were unsettled and most of which were un-owned “Palestinian owned land.”

But I’m a pedantic guy and decided to look around. It seems there are many issues with identifying what was owned by whom. In fact the only number everybody seems to agree about is that Jews bought and owned 7-8% of the land which represented 20% of land that could be cultivated.

Otherwise, you get differing sources on the pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli sides. You’ve listed a pro-Palestinian source, so I’ll mention a pro-Israel source like Myths and Facts that quotes a section in a Michael Curtis book called The Palestinians. In it, he uses an article by Moshe Aumann who quotes page 257 of the Survey conducted by the British Mandatory government in 1946 and which proclaims 8.6% of the land is Jewish and another 70% is controlled by the British: Of the remainder, 3% remains in Arab hands and 18% is abandoned:

According to Mitchell Bard (citing Moshe Aumann, “Land Ownership in Palestine, 1880-1948,” in Michael Curtis, et al., The Palestinians, (NJ: Transaction Books, 1975), p. 29, quoting p. 257 of the Government of Palestine, Survey of Palestine), in terms of the land that would eventually become Israel, 9% of the land was owned by Jews, 3% by Arabs who became citizens of Israel, and 18% by Arabs who left the country.


Another article lists similar stats: (important stuff coming up, click on the More link! You know you want to…)

“By the eve of statehood, the Jewish National Fund had acquired a total of 936,000 dunums of land; another 800,000 dunums had been acquired by other Jewish organizations or individuals.11 These holdings amounted to some 8.6 percent of the total land of what would later be Israel; of the rest, more than 70 percent were public lands vested in the British Mandatory authorities.”

But I thought that since we had two contradictory versions, I should go to a source I could trust. I wrote to an Israeli professor who is employed by a significant university inside Israel and who has published scholarly articles on the subject that are considered fair and unbiased. This professor was kind enough to write back briefly and in essence confirmed what I have read in a number of other scholarly sources more recent than Aumann.

Dear Mr. The Middle,

Answering your question requires a serious study.

Shortly I can tell you that out of the total land area of Mandatory Palestine – 26.3 million metric dunams, the total area of Mandatory Palestine, well over half was state land (the Negev is 12.5 million dunams [ed. By TM, obviously these lands are almost impossible to cultivate] and state lands in other parts of the country as well + Waqf endowed lands etc.).

The Jews bought and owned in June 1947 over 1.8 million dunams which were about 7%.

Apart from that there were lands in the hand of Christian Churches and missions, private effendis from the Middle East, and almost a million dunams [4%] were ex-private lands of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

The UN partition plan allocated 11.4 m. dunams to the Arab State and 14.92 m. dunams to the Jewish state [ TM says that if the Negev is 12.5 million dunams and the Jews already owned 1.8 million, then the UN gave the Jews a lot of crappy land + land they already bought + another 0.62 million dunams. Sounds like a good deal for the Palestinians since they seem to get over 75% of the cultivable land!!!!!!]

When the fighting ended [1948], the land area of Israel had grown to 20.6 m.d. [The Middle says, so the Jews ended up with another…4 to 6 million dunams because the Arabs launched a war, and my friendly scholar confirms:]
According to various estimates, Palestinian abandoned land ranged from 4.2 million dunams to 5.8 million dunams.
867,000 dunams were cultivated by Israeli Arabs in 1949 [The Middle says, that’s all?!].

I hope you enjoyed the response and the enlightening research, even if it refutes your figures by a considerable amount. Nobody is saying Palestinians didn’t lose land…because they did. They did not however lose anything close to the entire land and of what they did lose, there have been mechanism allowing them to claim compensation. Again, I remind you that more compensation was on the table in 2000. I also remind you they lost that land because they attacked and because they refused any form of sharing of the land.

Remember, however, there is still a chance to divide the land and make peace. Wouldn’t that be nice?


  1. kenny

    5/22/2006 at 12:17 am

  2. Sarah

    4/21/2011 at 2:22 pm

  3. YJ Draiman

    8/9/2017 at 12:53 pm

  4. next

    5/13/2019 at 2:48 pm

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