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British MP Galloway, says in this video:

"Israel precludes Arab citizens of its own state from buying property and land inside that state except in carefully controlled Arab villages."

Is this true? Are Arab citizens of Israel prohibited from purchasing land in certain places of Israel?

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4 Answers 4

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The answer is a simple "No", without any controversies.

There are and never were any laws prohibiting or controlling the sale of land based on nationality.

The JNF (mentioned in the other answer) has nothing to do with "Israel" since it's a private fund, not a government institution (and owns only 13% of total land).

The only controversy is over whether said private entity could be forced by the state to choose who it sells the land it owns to.


For context, it is important to note that while Israel has no legal limitations on sale of land to Arabs, many Arab states have legal limitations on selling land to Jews. In some - such as PA - selling property to Jews is punishable by death penalty. Those laws can't be blamed on "settlement" and "occupation" since the prohibitions were in place since long before Israel was founded in 1948 (while death penalty was passed by PA, original prohibition was from 1892 century Ottoman Empire).

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  • I'm locking this in the version without the additional paragraph because it seems to be inaccurate. The linked Wikipedia article references a 1997 NYT article reporting on the introduction of that death penalty law. So it's misleading to say in bold that these laws were in place before 1948.
    – JJJ
    Mar 10 at 12:45
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    I will unlock it, but you will have to phrase your claims carefully. The previous wording was ambiguous with one way of reading it as if the death penalty was in place prior to 1948. Also to other, please don't start an edit war. Instead, flag it if moderator intervention is required for enforcing site rules. Otherwise take it to meta if you want to start a discussion about content of a post.
    – JJJ
    Mar 10 at 16:34
  • You mention restrictions based on nationality, but Arab Israelis are Israeli just like Jewish Israelis, so what does that have to do with the question?
    – Stuart F
    Mar 11 at 12:48
  • @JJJ - clarified. And as far as I recall, the edit was wasn't just not STARTED by me but I wasn't even a participant till today. And the point was that there's a law against it
    – user4012
    Mar 11 at 14:47
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    Not only that, but IMHO @JJJ your job was to freeze the Q in original state since the edit war was by an individual making invalid edit - they were NOT complaining about possible misreading of the paragraph but completely incorrectly claimed that it had nothing to do with the question
    – user4012
    Mar 11 at 14:52
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tl;dr: Effectively yes, it does, but in principle mostly-no.

Land ownership, leasing, and planning-of-use are a complicated issue, especially in Israel/Palestine. I won't provide a full and detailed explanation of the various aspects of the situation, but rather try to paint a few broad strokes to support the tl;dr statement above.

In Israel, most land is officially owned by the state. This is a legacy of the land registration mechanism and social order common to the Ottoman empire, which differed from European feudalism; the Sultan owned (almost) all land, formally; and the semi-equivalents of feudal landlords were empire-mandated tax collectors. The tax collector (and his hierarchy of deputies/delegates etc.) had no claim to the land itself. And while in Europe, commons and feudal estates were eventually divided up into the private ownership common today, in Ottoman Palestine this had happened only partially by the time the British and then the Zionists took over. A land registry was only started in the 19th century (!) ; the result was, that Israel was instituted 'inheriting' the vast majority of land in the sovereign territory as formally state-owned land. ... and Israel has not, and will not, sell or give out land to (non-Jewish) Arabs. It actually doesn't typically sell land at all, and rather offers long-term leases. IIANM, most Israelis who own apartments and houses - do not own the land those are built on, but rather hold a very-long-term lease.

Israel also rarely leases out parcels of lands to (non-Jewish) Arabs either, as such lease-outs regard planned construction of new towns/settlements or expansion of existing ones; and Israel's planning policy allows almost exclusively for settlement by Jews. There are a few exceptions to this rule - IIANM there have been some expansions of already-established Arab or mixed-Arab-Hebrew localities, and Israel has created new permanent settlements into which it moved some of the semi-nomadic Bedouin population in the Naqab region. But other than that, no new Arab settlements have been created since Israel was formed, over 75 years ago.

On the other hand - Israel does not, to the best of my knowledge, restrict sale of real-estate by private owners to Arabs. So, if a person or organization owns an apartment or house, or a piece of land, they can sell it to an Arab. I believe non-Arabs selling land to Arabs is extremely rare though - it is somewhat of a taboo, as it runs counter to the purpose of the Zionist movement and the state of Israel in general, which is driving out the native Palestinian (Arab) population in favor of a state of the Jewish colonists. The idea is for Arabs to lose land, not regain it.

One of the bulwarks against Arabs getting land is the "Standing Fund for Israel", also referred to as the Jewish National Fund. This was the organizational instrument of land purchases and distribution for Jewish settlement before Israel was formed, and today still it owns a significant fraction of the total land of the Israel. Unlike formal state institutions, which are in theory partially committed to non-discrimination, the JNF is explicitly chartered to deny Arabs its land; so the state can use, and has used, the transfer of ownership or control of lands to the JNF as a means of developing Arab-free settlements, while pre-circumventing arguments regarding discrimination in land allocation and planning policies.

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No, not really, but there is a controversy regarding this issue, and prior to 2005 the answer would have been yes.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) is a fundraising body. As such, much of funds are earmarked with racism to specifically benefit Jews. The Israel Land Administration (ILA) is tasked with allocating JNF lands. Recently, the ILA was denied the ability to resist allocations on the basisis of Jewishness. That said, it seems as if the ILA must contribute the same size land to the JNF anytime that it allocates JNF land to Arabs. This seems to ensure that no ethnicity no matter how financially strong could ever purchase anything but a minority of the land in Israel.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_National_Fund#Leasing_policy_controversy

It may sound awkward to say "JNF land", but technically it is privately held managed by the ILA. Further, no land managed by the ILA is sold, only managed and leased.

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    -1 - this is a very misleading answer. The only restrictions are specifically on JNF lands - any Jewish citizen owning land can sell it to an Arab without any restrictions. Without being punished by official death sentence which would happen to any Arab who sold any land to Jews.
    – user4012
    Apr 12, 2013 at 19:38
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    What does Jews buying land from Arabs have to do with Arabs leasing land from Jews? go take your political disposition to your own question. Apr 12, 2013 at 19:58
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    what does a private company having any sort of policy on a small minority of land it owns have to do with "Israel"?
    – user4012
    Apr 12, 2013 at 21:09
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    @DVK It's not a private company as you think of it. It's more of an American trust. It is given money to purchase land in that trust. The management of that trust, the custodian if you will, is the ILA. Apr 12, 2013 at 21:31
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    the money comes from private sources. ILA merely manages the land - more like hiring someone to manage any other property you own. The point is that this land is NOT owned by ILA or any branch of Israel's government, nor was bought by them.
    – user4012
    Apr 12, 2013 at 22:25
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Actually, according to this link (Hebrew), Arabs can buy state-owned lands in the Galilee in much lower prices than Jews who live nearby. For example, in Kamon (a Jewish settlement) the state sells lands for 1,000,000 ILS, whereas in Kamana (an adjacent Arab settlement) the same land costs only 150,000 ILS. Moreover, the law and the Supreme Court rulings allows selling lands in Arab settlements only to Arabs, but does not allow the same in Jewish settelments.

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  • When you compare land prices in Jewish and Arab settlements are you really comparing like with like? How do they compare in terms of security, amenities, utilities, policing, communications, etc?
    – Stuart F
    Mar 11 at 12:51
  • The distance between Kamon and Kamana is less than 1 km, so these differences are not substantial. But the main issue is that Jews are not allowed to buy lands in Kamana, whereas Arabs are allowed to buy lands in Kamon. Without this restriction, the prices of lands in both settlements would have been much more similar. Mar 11 at 14:11

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