The Hidden History of Zionism

By Ralph Schoenman


Chapter 5
The Seizure of the Land

4. Tragic Consequences   |   6. Zionism and the Jews


It is appropriate to review the pervasiveness of this murderous policy and its consequences. In the territory which came under Israeli occupation after Partition there were approximately 950,000 Palestinian Arabs. They inhabited nearly 500 villages and all the major cities, which included Tiberias, Safed, Nazareth, Shafa Amr, Acre, Haifa, Jaffa, Lydda, Ramle, Jerusalem, Majdal (Ashqelon), Isdud (Ashdod) and Beersheba.

After less than six months only 138,000 people remained. (Figures vary from 130,000 to 165,000.)The great majority of Palestinians were killed, forcibly expelled or fled in panic before slaughtering bands of Israeli army units.

Having thus eliminated most of the Palestinian inhabitants from the land of Palestine, the Israeli government undertook the systematic destruction of their homes and possessions. Nearly 400 villages and towns were razed to the ground during 1948 and 1949. More followed in the 1950s.

Moshe Dayan, former Chief of Staff and Minister of Defense, was uninhibited in his summary of the nature of Zionist colonization before students at the Israel Institute of Technology (The Techniyon):

We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs, and we are building here a Hebrew, Jewish state. Instead of Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. You do not even know the names of these villages and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist. Not only the books, but also the villages do not exist.

Nahalal was established in place of Mahalul, Gevat in place of Jibta, Sarid in the place of Hanifas and Kafr Yehoushu’a in the place of Tel Shamam. There is not a single settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab village. [64]

The following table was prepared by Israel Shahak, Chairperson of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, under the heading " Arab Villages Destroyed in Israel." [65]

Destruction of Palestinian Arab Villages

Name of the District

Number of Villages

Before ’48



































































Shahak stresses that this documented list is incomplete because it is impossible to find numerous Arab communities and "tribes". Israeli official data characterize, for example, 44 Bedouin villages and towns as "tribes", to reduce, by census contrivance, the number of permanent Palestinian communities.


"Absentee" Property

With the expulsion of the Palestinians and the destruction of their towns and villages, vast amounts of property were seized under the rubric of the "Absentee Property Law" (1950).

Until 1947, Jewish land ownership in Palestine was some 6%. By the time the state was formally established, it had sequestered 90% of the land:

Of the entire area of the state of Israel only about 300,000 to 400,000 dunums [67,000-89,000 acres] ...are state domain which the Israeli government took over from the Mandatory regime [British Mandate] [2%]. The J.N.F. (Jewish National Fund) and private Jewish owners possess under two million dunums [ 10% ]. Almost all the rest [i.e., 88% of the 20,225,000 dunums (4,500,000 acres) within the 1949 armistice lines] belongs in law to Arab owners, many of whom have left the country. [66]

The value of this stolen property was over $300 million - over thirty years ago. (Arab League estimates are ten times this amount.) In current dollars, this figure would have to be quadrupled.

The U.N. Refugee Office estimated the value of Arab abandoned orchards, trees, movable and immovable property in the territory under Israeli jurisdiction was about 118-120 million Pounds Sterling, an average of 130 [$364] per refugee. [67]

The seizure of Palestinian property was indispensable to make Israel a viable state. Between 1948 and 1953, 370 Jewish towns and settlements were established. Three hundred fifty were on "absentee" property. By 1954, some 35% of Israel’s Jews lived on property confiscated from absentees and some 250,000 new immigrants settled in urban areas from which Palestinians had been expelled. Entire cities had been emptied of Palestinians, such as Jaffa, Acre, Lydda, Ramle, Bisan and Majdal (Ashqelon).

This plunder embraced 385 towns and villages in their entirety and large sections of 94 other cities and towns, containing 25% of all buildings in Israel. Ten thousand businesses and retail stores were handed over to Jewish settlers.

From 1948 to 1953 - the period of greatest immigration - the economic importance to Israel of seized Arab property was decisive. The amount of cultivatable land seized from Palestinians driven from their country by massacre was two and one half times the total area of land granted the Zionists with the end of the mandate.

Virtually all citrus groves of Palestinians were seized - consisting of more than 240,000 dunums [53,000 acres]. By 1951, 1.25 million boxes of citrus from seized Arab groves were in Israeli hands - 10% of the country’s hard currency profits from export.

By 1951, 95% of all Israel’s olive groves came from seized Palestinian land. Olive produce from stolen Palestinian groves represented Israel’s third largest export - after citrus and diamonds.

One third of all stone production came from 52 seized Palestinian quarries. [68]

Zionist mythology includes the claim that Zionist industry, dedication and skill transformed an otherwise barren desert land, neglected by its primitive nomadic Arab custodians, into a garden - making the desert bloom. Palestinian orchards, industry, rolling stock, factories, houses and possessions were pillaged after slaughtering conquest - the Ship of State a vessel of pirates, its proper flag a skull and crossbones.


"Judaizing" the Land

The Jewish National Fund secured its first land in 1905. Its objectives were defined as the acquisition of land "for the purpose of settling Jews on such lands."[69] In May 1954, the Keren Kayemeth le-Israel, "Perpetual Fund for Israel," was incorporated in Israel and acquired all the assets of the Jewish National Fund.

In November 1961, the J.N.F. and the Israeli government signed a covenant based on legislation adopted in July 1960. It established the Israel Lands Administration. A uniform policy was legally in force on the 93% of the land in Israel under the aegis of the state, which was bound by the policies of the Keren Kayemeth le-Israel and the J.N.F.[69a]

As Prime Minister Levi Eshkol declared to the Knesset (Israelj Parliament) upon proposing that the state of Israel adopt the J.N.F.’s exclusive land policies: "The principle established as the basis of the Jewjsh National Fund ... will be established as a principle applying to state lands." [69b]

The Jewish National Fund is explicit on this point. It declared in J.N.F. Report 6:

Following an agreement between the government of Israel and the J.N.F., the Knesset in 1960 enacted the Basic Law: Israel-Lands whjch gives legal effect to the ancient tradition of ownership of the land in perpetuity by the Jewish people - the principle on which the J.N.F. was founded. The same law extends that principle to the bulk of Israel’s state domains. [69c]

Any relationship to this land was governed by the following condition spelled out in all leases pertaining to property:

The lessee must be Jewish and must agree to execute all works connected with the cultivation of the holding only with Jewish labor. [70]

The consequence is that land cannot be leased to a non-Jew, nor can the lease be subleased, sold, mortgaged, given or bequeathed to a non-Jew. Non-Jews cannot be employed on the land nor in any work connected with cultivation. If these conditions are violated both fines and the abrogation of the lease, without any compensation, ensue.

What is particularly instructive is that these regulations are enforced not just by the J.N.F., but by the state under its laws. They apply to J.N.F. and all state lands, which consist, overwhelmingly, of "absentee" property.


Non-Jews Need Not Apply

In Israel these state lands are categorized as "national land". It means Jewish, not "Israeli" land. Employment of non-Jews is treated as illegal and an infraction of law. Because of a shortage of Jewish farm workers, and since Palestinians are paid a fraction of the wages allowed Jewish workers, some Jewish farmers (like former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon) employ Arabs. This practice is illegal! In 1974, the Minister of Agriculture denounced the practice as "a cancer". [71]

Settlements which sublease some land in sharecropping arrangements with Arabs are denounced. The spread of the practice, given the super-profits derived from cheap Palestinian labor, has been labelled "a plague" by the Ministry of Agriculture. The Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency has warned that such practices violate the law, the regulations of the Jewish Agency and of the Covenant between the Israeli State and the J.N.F. The employment of non-Jews has been punished by fines and "a donation to a Special Fund". [72]

Israel Shahak has described this process as "a disgusting mixture of racial discrimination and financial corruption."

What all this reveals, however, is that the state of Israel employs all normal usage in a racist sense. The "people" means only Jews. An "immigrant" or a "settler" can only be a Jew. A settlement means a settlement for Jews alone. National land means Jewish land - not Israeli land.

Thus, law and rights, protections and the entitlement to employment or property pertain to Jews only. "Israeli" citizenship or nationality applies strictly to Jews in all the specific applications of their meaning and governance.

Since the definition of a Jew is entirely based upon orthodox religious dictate, "generations of maternal Jewish descent" is the prerequisite to enjoy the right to property, employment or protection under the law. There is no more pristine example of racist laws and procedures.

Using these same criteria, over 55% of the land and 70% of the water in the West Bank [territory occupied in 1967] have been seized for the benefit of 6% of the population - some 40,000 settlers among 800,000 Palestinians. In Gaza [territory occupied in 1967], 2,200 settlers have been given over 40% of the land. A half million Palestinians are confined in crowded camps and slums.

Thus, the practices universally decried in the post -1967 occupied territories are but the continuation of the very process wherein the Israeli state itself was established. The use of force, seizure of the land and exclusion of non-Jewish workers is central to Zionist theory and practice. Theodor Herzl promulgated this program on June 12, 1895:

We shall ... spirit the penniless population across the border ... while denying it any employment in our country. [73]


The Racist Kibbutzim

Ironically, the Israeli institution about which the greatest illusions are entertained is the Kibbutz - a presumptive example of socialist cooperation.

As Israel Shahak stated:

The Israeli organization which practices the greatest degree of racist exclusion is ... the Kibbutz. The majority of Israelis have been aware of the racist character of the Kibbutz as displayed not only against Palestinians but against all human beings who are not Jews, for quite a time. [74]

The Kibbutzim exist predominantly on seized Palestinian land. Non-Jews may not be members. Should "temporary workers" who are Christians become involved with Jewish women, they are forced to convert to Judaism in order to be members of a Kibbutz. Shahak reports:

Christian candidates for Kibbutz membership through conversion have to promise to spit in the future when passing before a church or a cross. [75]

Today, some 93% of the land in what is called the state of Israel is controlled by the Israel Lands Administration under the guidelines of the Jewish National Fund. In order to be entitled to live on land, to lease land, or to work on land one must prove at least four generations of maternal Jewish descent.

If, in the United States, in order to live on land, lease it, rent it, or work it in any way, you had to prove that you did not have at least four generations of maternal Jewish descent, who would doubt the racist nature of such legislation?



63. A detailed analysis of this process can be found in Janet Abu Lughod’s The Demographic Transformation of Palestine, in Ibrahim Abu Lughod, ed., The Transformation of Palestine (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1971), pp.139-64.

64. Moshe Dayan, March 19,1969, Ha’aretz, April 4, 1969, and cited in Davis.

65. Davis and Mezvinski, p.47.

66. Jewish National Fund, Jewish Villages in Israel, p.xxi. Quoted in Lehn and Davis, The Jewish National Fund.

67. The U.N. estimate was made in the late 1950s. Baruch Kimmerling, Zionism and Economy, p.100. Cited in Davis, p.19. In their books, Davis and Kimmerling speak of "118-120 billion Pounds Sterling." This author was unable to locate the original United Nations report, but after thorough examination of other sources, it appears Kimmerling (then Davis) made a typographical mistake. The figure should be millions of Pounds Sterling - not billions.

68. Dan Peretz, Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, pp.142., Davis, pp.20-21. South African diamonds are cut and refined in Israel, in a revealing partnership, before they are distributed to the world market.

69. Walter Lehn, The Jewish National fund As An Instrument of Discrimination. Cited in Zionism and Racism, (London: International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1977), p.80.

69a. The Israel Lands Administration Report (Jerusalem 1962) stipulates that the I.L.A. has jurisdiction over "92.6%" of the total area of the state. Hebrew University professor Uzzi Ornan identifies the area "to which the principles of the J.N.F. apply" as "95% of pre-1967 Israel". Ma’ariv, January 30, 1974.

69b. Walter Lehn with Uri Davis, The Jewish National Fund, (London: Kegan Paul International Ltd., 1988), p.114.

69c. Ibid., p.115.

70. J.N.F. lease, article 23, cited in Israel Shahak, ed., The Non-Jew in the Jewish State (Jerusalem: 1975).

71. Ha’aretz, December 13, 1974.

72. Ma’ariv, July 3, 1975.

73. Raphael Patai, ed., The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, (New York: 1960), p.88.

74. Israel Shahak, A Message to the Human Rights Movement in America - Israel Today: The Other Apartheid, Against the Current, January-February 1986.

75. Ibid.


Last updated on 4.8.2001