March 15, 1950 - Israel enacts Absentee Property Law
On this day in 1950, the Israeli Knesset enacted the Absentee Property Law, which expropriated the land and property of Palestinians who fled their homes during the Nakba in 1948. The law declared that any Palestinians who had been away from their land during the war (even if they were seeking refuge in a neighbouring town) were considered “absentees” and lost all rights and ownership to it. This consequentially led Israel to demolish hundreds of thousands of Palestinian homes and expropriate millions of acres of Palestinian land. As a result of this, hundreds of indigenous cities and villages were systematically destroyed by Israeli soldiers and transferred to Jewish Israelis, preventing the return of the original owners.
This was one of several important laws which were designed to dispossess Palestinians and prevent refugees from returning to their homes. Today, many Palestinians remain to hold on to keys that unlock doors to their properties in Palestine, hoping that one day they will be able to return. The law remains active today and continues to be used in East Jerusalem to dispossess Palestinians of their property and transfer it to Jewish Israeli settlers.
"The law gives anyone who is a Jew the right to claim property, in principle, whether they could prove their ownership to it or not. But a Palestinian who was displaced from his village in 1948 has no right to claim his property back under such a law.” Suhad Bishara, Adalah: Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Under Israeli law today, there are significant discriminatory barriers which make it difficult for Palestinians to obtain a permit to build a home. Since most permits are declined, Palestinians are often forced to build “illegally,” resulting in Israel demolishing their homes. These policies and discriminatory acts of colonization are put in place to privilege the settlement of Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians.