Privatization to Subvert Palestinian Hopes of Restitution
By JONATHAN COOK
"Amin Muhammad Ali, a 74-year-old refugee from a destroyed Palestinian village in northern Israel, says he only feels truly at peace when he stands among his ancestors’ graves.
The cemetery, surrounded on all sides by Jewish homes and farms, is a small time capsule, transporting Mr Muhammad Ali -- known to everyone as Abu Arab -- back to the days when this place was known by an Arabic name, Saffuriya, rather than its current Hebrew name, Tzipori.
Unlike most of the Palestinian refugees forced outside Israel’s borders by the 1948 war that led to the creation of the Jewish state, Abu Arab and his family fled nearby, to a neighbourhood of Nazareth......
But last week, in a violation of international law and the refugees’ property rights that went unnoticed both inside Israel and abroad, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, forced through a revolutionary land reform.
The new law begins a process of creeping privatisation of much of Israel’s developed land, including refugee property, said Oren Yiftachel, a geographer at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva......
The privatisation of Tzipori’s refugee land will remove it from the control of an official known as the Custodian of Absentee Property, who is supposed to safeguard it for the refugees.
“Now the refugees will no longer have a single address -- Israel -- for our claims,” said Abu Arab. “We will have to make our case individually against many hundreds of thousands of private homeowners.”
He added: “Israel is like a thief who wants to hide his loot. Instead of putting the stolen goods in one box, he moves it to 700 different boxes so it cannot be found.”......."