Untimely Observations

Real Estate in the Holy Land

In the comments section of my last piece, “RonL” has taken exception to my claim (which was ancillary to my argument) that non-Jews are prevented from owning land in Israel. In response, he writes,

Christian Arabs own more private land in Israel than Jews. It is Jews who are not allowed to live in certain areas, not the other way around.

It seems that, if RonL is to believed, even in Israel, Jews are a poor, little persecuted minority.

But this statement is the proverbial half-truth that’s worse than a lie. The real truth is that most all land in Israel -- some 93-94 percent -- is owned by the state. The tiny remainder is, as RonL mentions, fairly evenly distributed between Jews and Arabs, but this inconsequential.

Real-estate socialization goes back to Israel’s founding; indeed, land that was abandoned by Arabs in 1948 was absorbed by the nascent government. There’s no need to go into bureaucratic minutia, but the public land is broken up between the state itself, the Jewish National Fund, and the Israeli Development Authority. All public land is managed by the Israeli Land Administration (ILA).

Israeli citizens, of course, enjoy something that resembles land ownership for residential and commercial purposes; however, legally, they are taking out long-term leases on public property. Moreover, one of the central purposes of the ILA is to restrict land “ownership” (or semi-ownership or leasing or what have you) to Jews, which is not surprising for a state that has been from its inception ethno-religiously defined. (This might change, of course, if Israel starts to rehearse America’s history of “anti-discrimination,” as the story I linked to suggests.)

Israel’s real-estate policy is rarely mentioned by American Israel enthusiasts, such as Geroge Gilder, who argue that America should support the Jewish state, partly, because it’s a thriving “capitalist,” “secular” hotbed of innovation. The truth is that the Jewish state has nationalized the most basic resource and store of wealth.

My sense is that RonL already knew much of what I’ve explicated above, which is why he so carefully phrased “Christian Arabs own more private land in Israel than Jews” (emphasis added). But he just couldn’t resist posting this bit of squid ink.

As for Larry Auster’s attacks, and his attack dogs, Dennis sums up my feelings exactly.