In 1948, according to the Palestinian narrative, only 5 percent of the land was owned by Jews, while 95 percent was owned by Arabs. But, like so many other parts of the Palestinian tale, this one, too, is a myth. Landownership does not mean sovereignty. Landownership is subject to the laws of the sovereign, and since there has never been a Palestinian sovereignty, the issue of privately-owned land is moot.
Nevertheless, to clarify things, privately-owned land became an option only after the 1858 Turkish Land Registry Law. Until then, no individual had any official deeds to prove ownership of any piece of land. The Ottomans divided the Land of Israel into sanjaks, or districts ruled by a sanjak-bey who was responsible for the military and administrative affairs of his region. It was the Ottoman sovereign alone who dictated the conditions of landownership.
The British Empire, the new sovereign following World War I, inherited from the Ottomans the different land categories, including their Turkish names. The British government, at that time still committed to the Balfour Declaration, chose not to nationalize the land, and instead...
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