On Libertarianism and the Jews’ 2,000 Year Old Claim to Palestine

by Sep 20, 2016Foreign Policy23 comments

An artist's depiction of the deportation and exile of the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon's temple (James Tissot/Public Domain)

The argument that the Jews are the rightful owners of Palestine based on a claim dating back 2,000 years is irreconcilable with libertarian principles.

Rafi Farber, whom I recently debated on the Tom Woods Show on the subject of the legitimacy of Israel’s establishment, writes on his blog:

In my debate with Jeremy Hammond on the legitimacy of the State of Israel from a libertarian perspective, the center of Hammond’s argument is that a 2,000 year old claim to previously homesteaded land is invalid because there is a statute of limitations in libertarianism….

So what is the statute of limitations in libertarianism? It is when a claim is entirely foregone. When a claim is foregone, that claim cannot be picked up by subsequent generations. Once someone gives up a claim, that claim is gone and can no longer be inherited.

He goes on to say that Jews have never given up on their claim to Palestine, therefore Palestine belongs to the Jews and any non-Jew on land once occupied by Jews “must leave”. This is an accordance with the defense of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine that Farber and his co-authors make in their paper “The Legal Status of the State of Israel: A Libertarian Approach”, published in the Indonesian Journal of International Law.

The first point I’d like to make here is that this point about the statute of limitations wasn’t my own. Rather, I was quoting none other than Rafi Farber, et al, in their paper, as follows:

But are there no statutes of limitation? Surely, two millenia and counting would more than qualify for any statute of limitations. There is such a thing, for the libertarian, as a ‘natural’ statute of limitations: the further back ones [sic] goes into the past, the more difficult it is to encounter any relevant evidence. Since the burden of proof always rests with he who wishes to overturn extant property rights, mere passage of time can serve as a natural limitation.

And I expressed my agreement with this. Next, I quoted Farber, et al, acknowledging:

First of all, possession is nine tenths of the law. He who now possesses the land is presumed to be the rightful owner of it. It is up to the one who wants the territory, but does not now occupy it, to make the case for transfer.

Well, in 1948, the Jewish community owned only about 7% of the land in Palestine, whereas Arabs owned more land than Jews in every single district. The UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), the body that came up with the infamous UN “partition plan”, noted that “The Arab population, despite the strenuous efforts of Jews to acquire land in Palestine, at present remains in possession of approximately 85 percent of the land.”

So, by Farber’s own argument, the Arabs being in possession of most of the land, we must presume them to have been the rightful owners of it. The burden of proof was on the Zionists to make the case for transfer of these lands from their Arab inhabitants to the Jews.

Was such a case made? No, of course not. Israel was established not by legitimate land purchase, reclamation, and homesteading, but by force of arms and the ethnic cleansing of most of the Arab population from their homes.

During our debate, I provided a relevant quote from former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan:

We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here. In considerable areas of the country we bought the lands from the Arabs. Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahalal arose in the place of Mahalul, Gevat—in the place of Jibta, Sarid—in the place of Haneifs, and Kefar Yehoshua—in the place of Tell Shaman. There is not one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.

After quoting from Farber’s own paper on the point about how the passage of time serves as a natural statute of limitations and how possession is nine-tenths of the law, I followed up by quoting a third excerpt from their paper:

We readily admit that there is no single Jew who can trace his ownership rights over any specific piece of land from 2000 years ago. And this, indeed, would be the criterion for transfer of land titles if we were discussing individual rights. But we are not now doing so. Instead, we are discussing tribes, not individuals…. We do so in order to perform a reductio ad absurdum: if we take the non-libertarian principles circulating in those environs and logically deduce from them, we can demonstrate that according to them Jews are the rightful owners of the terrain under dispute, and that all and any payments made by them in land purchases were supererogatory.”

Hence, we can plainly see that by Farber’s own admission, as a co-author of the above quoted paper, the argument that in 1948, Jews were the rightful owners of Palestine is one, a departure from Libertarian principles and, two, absurd.

I rest my case. The argument of Farber’s, et al, that Israel’s establishment was legitimate on the basis of a claim to land rights dating back 2,000 years can hardly be taken seriously and fails even on their own terms.

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  1. Blake

    I left a comment on there but doubt it will pass moderation:
    “So are you okay with dispossessing a native people of their land because of your sense of entitlement to their land? Is that Jewish values according to you? By all accounts of historians/writers of the time the ancient Judaeans never differentiated themselves from fellow Palestinians. No ‘Jewish kingdom’ was ever mentioned by them. Palestine was. The only accounts of this supposed ‘Jewish kingdom’ was in Jewish religious texts written after the ‘fact’ and even those lasted for a short period in time in what would be Palestinian history. Ashkenaz Jewry – who make up 85-90% of modern day Jewry – are not even from the Levant.”

    • Rafi Farber

      It passed! Congratulations!

      • Blake

        So are you okay with what you have done and your insane sense of entitlement to Palestine?

      • Rafi Farber

        Me? What did I do? Are you American? You have an American name. Are you OK with what “you” have done in Vietnam and Hiroshima and Nagasaki and everywhere else? What kind of question is that, “Are you OK with what you have done?” I didn’t steal anything from anybody.

      • Blake

        You know exactly what I am speaking about. Answer why you claim a 2000 yr old laughable right for your Ashkenaz European slavic ‘tribe’

      • Rafi Farber

        There is no need in elaborating something so patently obvious. If you can’t figure it out from simply reading from “However” then there is no point.

      • Jeremy R. Hammond

        The “However” has no bearing on the point.

        You are, of course, welcome to produce an argument; I would merely observe how you’ve declined to do so.

    • Sheila

      The fact is that the Jews were only one of the twelve tribes of Israel. No Jew today can claim a bloodline link to them as they were exiled never to return from God’s point of view. The current day Jews are descended from Khazar converts with no claim to the land. I have about as much right as them to claim the land. Jesus stated that he had come only to the lost sheep of Israel which was the Northern Kingdom. It was the Jews from the Southern Kingdom,, a separate kingdom that conspired to kill him. Most people today have been hoodwinked from lack of knowledge

  2. Pat Mc Ginley

    Since the claim is based on the Bible which is based on a 6,000 year-old Earth and ‘creationism’ i.e. totally anti-science and therefore false, it’s a false claim. For example, how do they reconcile the Bible version of human history with the fact that most people of European and Asian ancestry have between 0-4% Neanderthal DNA, due to some humans migrating from Africa having mated with Neanderthals? But, of course, some leading Zionist rabbis accept the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution, etc. whilst maintaining the totally anti-scientific claim to Palestine. Zionism is obviously a political movement using religion as an excuse and a recruiting tool. It’s also built on lies, deceit and bribes. A clear example is the fraudulent Scofield Bible which is the dodgy document responsible for the millions of Christian Zionists believing they must support Israel. The most successful Zionist coup of all. And the least well known.

    • Blake

      And it is a misinterpretation of what it says in the Bible anyway. Abraham was a foreigner in Philistine for a long time (Genesis 21:34) – and “thee” does not refer to a country called “israel” it refers to Abraham (singular) and the seed of Abraham passed onto the gentiles in the New Testament for accepting Jesus (Galatians 3:14 & Hebrews 8:1) – New Covenant was found on better promises.

      Furthermore, Ashkenaz Jews – 85-90% of modern day Jewry – are from Japeth and not Shem (Genesis 10:3) and do not descend from good old Abe.

      • Guy

        Furthermore, Ashkenaz Jews – 85-90% of modern day Jewry – are from
        Japeth and not Shem (Genesis 10:3) and do not descend from good old Abe.
        Thank you for pointing this out .I was about to make a similar statement.

  3. TecumsehUnfaced

  4. Javed Mir

    We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs- Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan of the dead past:

    Surprisingly claim to the Palestinian land is lodged after the so called 2000 years. There should be some international law to recognise land rights.

  5. Guy

    The creation of the state of Israel was a mistake and the major reason why there is so much trouble in the Middle East .Netanyahoo just stokes the flames . Until the world body politic decides to own up to the truth and speak it ,we will never have peace in the Middle East. I note that there are more and more young Jewish people supporting BDS , this gives me hope that someday soon , through shame if we have to , Israel will change it’s tactics and welcome the Palestinian people as their brothers and sisters. No justice ,no peace.

    • Javed Mir

      Well written.

  6. pensword

    Since Rafi’s claim to Jewish entitlement is, in fact, predicated in part upon Scripture, he would do well to examine the stipulations of Deuteronomy 28: 15-68. It’s obvious that those originally bound to the terms of this Covenant breached it quite some time ago.

    The lease is up. Time to move on.

  7. Bernard Bohbot

    Jeremy Hammond,
    It is true that usually, no people has the right to recover territories that they lost hundreds of years ago. However, the Jews were a landless and persecuted people. This is why Zionists -like myself- believe that the Jews had legitimate claims in Palestine. As for the fact that the Palestinian Arabs were already living there, this is precisely the reason why the Zionist movement accepted to partition Palestine twice – in 1922 when Jordan was severed from the rest of Palestine, and in 1947. The left is supposed to advocate the redistribution of wealth, not exclusive propriety rights!

    • Javed Mir

      So at least some one has agreed to the truth, although partially.

      • Bernard Bohbot

        What do you mean by ”partially”?

      • Javed Mir

        I mean that truth is that the natives were expelled from their land outright and the jews were brought in.

      • Bernard Bohbot

        1) The Jews are (partly) natives as well. The land of Israel is the cradle of the Jewish identity and there is no reason to deny it. One can defend the self-determination right of the Palestinians without denying Jewish history.
        2) The Palestinians were expelled after they attacked the Jewish community of Palestine on November 30th 1947. Of course, nothing justifies ethnic cleansing, but let’s not forget that the Palestinians tried to destroy the Yishuv in the first place.

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