Friday, July 31, 2015

  • Friday, July 31, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon
Earlier this week Haaretz reported that an Ottoman-era land deed shows that the illegal Arab village of Sussiya was really on private land owned by Arabs (although it admitted that they had no permission to build on land slated for agriculture.)

Is the land privately owned by the Arab Jabor family?

If you are relying on an Ottoman land deed, then you must also rely on Ottoman law to determine the owner of the land. And, as an op-ed in the JPost shows, the Ottoman land law proves that the land has not been privately owned for well over a century.

According to the Ottoman Land Code (OLC) 1858 (Article 68), if a person to whom the land was given (tassaruf – the right to usufruct of land) was absent (mahlul) for three years and did not use or cultivate the land, or pay fees and taxes, the land reverts to the governing authority. Under the OLC, the land could be passed to legal heirs within five years after the grantee’s death, however only with the approval of the governing authority and only as long as taxes were paid. If not claimed or taxes not paid, the property reverts to the authority.

As such, according to the Ottoman Land Code, for the grantee to continue to hold some sort of property rights, the governing authority had to be paid taxes and tithes. In other words, a kushan (Ottoman land deed) is not enough; the land had to be used and taxes and fees had to be paid.

And there are many other restrictions that applied, depending on the type of land and its various categories, which are delineated in the Land Code (Article 3).

If a person cultivated an area for 10 consecutive years, he could apply for a title deed (OLC Article 78). But, if the land were abandoned (mahlul), at any time, even though he had cultivated it for a few years, he would lose his claim to ownership and the grant.

Again, even if he could apply and didn’t, or didn’t pay the taxes or the tithes, the land would revert to the governing authority.

It is clear from documents, historical and more recent observations, maps (1890-1945) and aerial photographs that the land claimed by these Arab squatters at Sussiya has not been continuously cultivated, taxes have not been paid and inheritance has not been applied for. Therefore their claims of ownership based on an Ottoman Empire land grant from 1881 are baseless.
According to this, even at the end of the Ottoman Empire the land was no longer owned by the Jobar family, but it had reverted to being state land - a status that remained under British, Jordanian and now Israeli rule.

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