Progress in Palestinians' Property Rights
By David Henderson
With the case for pessimism so strong, we must take whatever good news we can find. Some of us have longed for the emergence of a charismatic Palestinian figure who, while opposing Israeli oppression and settler-colonialism in all its forms, would also defend individual property rights and free enterprise while condemning both outside donor aid as dependence-inducing and the corrupt, authoritarian, and unrepresentative Palestinian Authority (PA).
This is from Sheldon Richman, “A Glimmer of Hope in Bleak Palestine,” Antiwar.com, August 6, 2018.
The piece is about the successful efforts of Palestinian Khaled Al Sabawi to achieve clarity of property rights for Palestinians in parts of Israel.
Such a person has indeed emerged: Khaled Al Sabawi. Al Sabawi has quite a story to tell. In 1948, during the Zionists’ violent ethnic cleansing of Palestine and establishment of the state of Israel, his father’s family was driven from their home and 50-acre farm in the village of Salama, east of Jaffa. The family fled to Gaza, along with many other refugees. Then in 1956, when Israel, Great Britain, and France launched a war against Egypt, the Israeli army invaded Gaza (30 years before Hamas was formed), ransacking and searching the refugees’ homes, including the home of Sabawi’s grandmother and father. When the soldiers found the grandmother’s deed to their home in Salama, they confiscated it and departed. Apparently, that is just what the soldiers were looking for.
Khaled Al Sabawi’s background:
When his father grew up and earned advanced university degrees, he moved to Canada to raise his family. But then he moved back to Palestine and established a large insurance company in the West Bank and Gaza. His son Khaled has now done something similar, graduating from the University of Waterloo in Ontario. After switching from computer engineering to geothermal engineering, he embarked on two entrepreneurial ventures: geothermal energy for the Occupied Palestinians Territories and elsewhere in the Middle East and registration of individual property titles in the West Bank. The latter project is called TABO, the Arabic word for “title deed.”
More on his project:
So his TABO project has the admirable objective of preventing more Israeli settlements on land that Palestinians legitimately own. He and his team work to track down the last owners of properties or their heirs and to plot the boundaries. Forbes reports that “after identifying land for sale from Palestinians who possess inheritance documents but no official papers, Al Sabawi sets about obtaining approval from relevant family members, before determining the borders in a manner more accurate than the ‘this olive tree to that one’ approach.”
“We have to walk every corner of the land with a GPS machine, the head of the village council and every single neighbor,” Al Sabawi said. His work has ruffled feathers, and that may seem unsurprising until you learn that “the challenge did not come from Israel; it came from the Palestinian Authority.”
The whole piece, which I highly recommend, gives, as Richman says, a glimmer of hope for that troubled part of the world.