There are multiple considerations when considering who has the ultimate right to land. In the end, I am afraid it comes down to might makes right – if you can forcefully take and maintain it, who can stop you? The only problem with this is, if you have taken it illegitimately, you may always have enemies motivated to take it back. But here are the considerations.
1. What rights can we appeal to for land ownership?
- Historical Presence: One of the primary arguments is based on historical presence or continuous habitation of a particular land by a specific group of people. In the case of Israel, proponents of Jewish settlement often point to the historical connection of the Jewish people to the land, citing religious, archaeological, and cultural evidence to support their claim. This argument asserts that Jews have inhabited the region for thousands of years and thus have a rightful claim to it. Certainly, they have been there longer than the Palestinians.
This area may have become known as “Palestine” during Roman rule, back even to the second century CE, although the root of the word comes from the word for “Philistine,” the Jews nemesis. But of course, the Jews took the land from the Canaanites much earlier than that. And no Canaanites exist today. So perhaps the Jews are oldest living claimants.
- Legal Rights: Advocates may also rely on legal documents or agreements to support their claim to the land. For instance, in the case of Israel, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and subsequent legal instruments like the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 are often cited as legitimizing Jewish claims to the land.
- Captured Territory: Another argument often made, particularly in the context of Israel’s borders, is the legitimacy of territory gained through wars or conflicts. Proponents of Israeli settlements in territories like the West Bank argue that these lands were captured in defensive wars and thus fall under Israeli control as a result of legitimate self-defense.
- Security Concerns: Security considerations are frequently raised to justify control over certain territories. In Israel, the argument is often made that control over strategic locations is essential for national security and defense against external threats.
- Settlement and Development: Some argue that the development and settlement of previously uninhabited or underdeveloped land contribute to the overall welfare and prosperity of the nation. In Israel, supporters of settlement expansion in areas like the West Bank often cite the need for territorial contiguity, natural resources, and space for a growing population as reasons for continued development.
- Religious and Cultural Ties: For many, the land holds profound religious and cultural significance. In the case of Israel, both Jews and Muslims claim religious ties to Jerusalem and other holy sites, which can factor into arguments regarding ownership and control of specific areas.
- Peace and Coexistence: Contrary to arguments supporting exclusive ownership, some advocate for shared ownership or cooperation between different groups as a means of fostering peace and stability in contested regions. This perspective emphasizes the importance of dialogue, mutual recognition, and compromise in resolving disputes over land.
2. Is the Palestinian ethnicity genuine or just a manufactured anti-Zionist ethnicity?
Certainly, non-Jews such as Christians, Samaritans, and Druze have long lived there, and of course, the Muslim Ottomans conquered and ruled the territory in from 1517-1923, ending as part of the Treaty of Lausanne which officially ended remaining WWI conflicts. So the territory was largely populated by Arab Muslims until the end of World War II, when the British, who controlled the territory based on WWI, established the modern Jewish homeland there.
So while the people of the region have a unique history and local culture and dialect, it can be argued that the Palestinians are not really a unique ethnicity, but merely Arabs. Palestinian Arabic is part of the broader Levantine Arabic dialect continuum and shares many linguistic features with other varieties of Arabic spoken in the region. And because the language and culture are significantly the same, there should be little difficulty in repatriating the Palestinians to the huge mass of surrounding Arab nations.
Even if we accept that the Palestinians have a somewhat unique language, culture, and experience living in the land conquered by the Ottomans, and later the Allies, it does not mean that they have a right to the land. With that in mind, it seems probable that the refusal of these nations to accept Palestinians is not primarily due to the volatile nature of Palestinians (especially Hamas and Hezbollah), nor due to a significant cultural problem, but merely due to the Muslim desire to NOT have a Jewish state.