The Palestinian land ownership claim

A misleading collection of maps
The Palestinian land ownership claim

The Palestinians, who conduct a successful public diplomacy over the Internet, published maps of pre-state Israel under the British Mandate in 1946, claiming that only 5 % of the land belonged to the Jews.

The most notorious deceptive representation is the following one:


But they on purpose, omit to publish THE SAME MAPS with both Jewish AND ARAB ownership!!


Correct comparative maps


Moreover, the 5 % proportion of Jewish ownership as claimed by the Palestinian side does not reflect the truth. Between 1880 and 1935, the land owned by the Jewish community with corporate and individual acquisitions was 2,317,395 Dounams (2317 km2)[1] corresponding to 8.8 % of the 26,323 km2 area of the British mandate for Palestine.  (Wikipedia: 26,625 km2 with lakes (incl. ½ Dead Sea+Tiberias), 26,185 km2 of land)

The land purchasing distribution being as follows:

429,887 Dounams (1000 Dounams=1 km2) by the PICA – Palestine Jewish Colonization Association.

579,492 Dounams by the Palestine Land Development Company

836,396 Dounams by the JNF – Jewish National Fund

432,100 Dounams by individual Jews

Totaling 2,317,395 Dounams = 2,317 km2.

However, the fact that approximately 9 % of the land belonged to the Jews does not mean that the remaining 91 percent were in Arab ownership!

Correct percentages

The correct percentages based on Pre-1967 war / 1949 Armistice lines borders are as follows:

Israel 20,770 km2, Jewish ownership: 2,317 km2/20,770 km2 = 11.1 %

Israeli Arab ownership: 3.3 % x 20,770 km2 = 685 km2

Absentee Arab ownership (Arabs who fled, who were enticed to leave by Arab states, and those who became refugees beyond their volition): 16.9 % x 20,770 km2 =3,510 km2

Israeli Public State Land (Under the previous sovereignty of the “Crown”) 68.7 %!!


The Partition Plan voted 29 November 1947

The plan allocated 56 % of the Mandate land to the Jewish State. However, about 60 % of it was the Negev Desert. Meaning 33 % of desert and 23 % of inhabitable/cultivable land of the Mandate. It allocated the Arab side 43 % of land and allotted 1 % for the Corpus Separatum of Jerusalem and its access roads.

Namely, 14,910 km2 to the Jews (of which approx. 9,000 km2 of desert and approx. 6,000 km2 of inhabitable/cultivable land).


State-owned barren land

[1] Aumann Moshe, Land Ownership in Palestine, 1880-1948, Israel 4 Academic Committee on the Middle East, 1976 p. 121 in https://www.wordfromjerusalem.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/the-case-for-israel-appendix2.pdf and Aumann Moshe, Land Ownership in Palestine, 1880-1948, Israel Academic Committee on the Middle East, Jerusalem, 1976, pp. 11-12


How to calculate the Arab private property during the British Mandatory Rule?

Apparently, the British were rather keen on Jewish purchases of land and neglected to conduct proper cadastral and ownership records for the Arab sector.  Indeed, …by 1948, the Mandatory Government of Palestine had completed the land settlement of only about five million metric dunams, which represent just 20 per cent of the 26 300 square kilometers of Palestine's total land area. This settled area is almost identical to the boundaries of the northern part of the State of Israel recognized by the United Nations in 1947. The fact that land settlement was not completed under the cadastral project, has remained ever since the focus of disputes over land ownership in areas of conflict between the Israeli Government, Jewish settlers and Palestinian Arabs.[1]

Unfortunately, the Wikipedia entry on Mandatory Palestine[2]  could mention only the MISLEADING classification of Arab / non-Jewish ownership which inexorably includes Unowned Public State Lands, bestowing an undeserved perception of a high percentage to Arab owned lands. That classification would have been honest were it Arab & Unowned Public State Land.

So, we could reach an approximate UNREALISTIC MAXIMAL PERCENTAGE as follows:

Palestine Mandate Land Mass (without the lakes) 26,185 km2.

Minus Pre-1967 War / 1949 Armistice Lines Israel 20,770 km2 = 5415 km2

From that figure we should deduct 3,393 km2 of Area C of the OSLO II Accords (A negligible area of Arab property there) 5,415 – 3,393 = 2,022 km2.

To that we should add 3.3 % of Israeli Arabs’ owned land 685 km2, 16.9 % of Absentee Arabs owned land in Israel 3,510 km2 and the Gaza Strip 365 km2, reaching a figure of 6,582 km2 which makes 25 % of the landmass of the British Mandate. Noting that the Israeli Arab citizens make full use of their private land property.

BUT, we don’t know:

1-    The % of Unowned Public State Land in the Gaza Strip

2-    The % of Unowned Public State Land in Areas A and B of the West Bank!

We can therefore venture in estimating that individual Arab Owned Land could vary around ± 15 % of the British Mandate landmass. (See map Nr. 2 above.)



Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s initial offer was 100 % of Gaza + 73 % of the West Bank minus East Jerusalem 71 km2 minus 195 km2 of the Dead Sea water mass.

Meaning, 5655 – 195 - 71 = 5.389 km2 x 0.73 = 3934 km2 + Gaza 365 km2 = 4,299 km2

4,299 km2/26,185 km2= 16.4 %  of British Mandatory Palestine.


Now, how about superimposing this map on the above Mandatory Palestine map showing Jewish and Arab land ownership and acknowledge whether the Palestinians’ private properties would be within reach of their owners?




[1]   GAVISH Dov and KANAK Ruth, The Cadastral Mapping of Palestine 1858-1928, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 159 No. 1, March 1993 pp. 70-80 in https://www.jstor.org/stable/3451491?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandatory_Palestine

Related Newsss ss