Forbidden Land


“Forbidden Land” is a short documentary produced by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel that highlights the confiscation of Palestinian Arab-owned land by Israel. Thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel lost their land in the 1950s and 1960s after the government seized it, claiming that the land was needed for “essential” public purposes. Attorney Suhad Bishara, head of the Land and Planning Unit in Adalah, explains that “these cases are classic ones of expropriation for the sake of expropriation, nothing more.”

“They took our land to build, to settle.  But since then they haven’t built a single house. . . .  We want to build here.  Why won’t they let us return?” — Mohammed Abd El Hassan Jabareen, former resident of Lajoun

“Forbidden Land” examines the issue of land confiscation through two specific cases on which Adalah is working. The first case focuses on the appropriation of a 200-dunam plot of land in the village of Lajoun, located near the Arab town of Umm al-Fahem in the center of Israel.  The land was expropriated in 1953 at the order of then-Minister of Finance Levi Ashkol, in accordance with his powers under the Land Acquisition Law (1953).  Approximately 34,600 dunams of land in Umm al-Fahem, including in the area of Lajoun, were appropriated for “essential settlement and development needs.”  However, over the next 55 years, the land was not put to use by Israel, and where the village used to stand, there are now just a forest and the crumbling remains of a water-well.  In March 2007, the Nazareth District Court rejected a lawsuit filed by Adalah on behalf of 300 Palestinian Arab families who are seeking the return of their land in Lajoun.  An appeal to the Supreme Court of Israel is pending.

The second case centers on a ten-dunam plot of land in Nazareth owned by the Hamdan family that was confiscated by the state in 1958 under the Land Ordinance (1943) for alleged “public use.”  However, the land was never used for such purposes and was offered for sale and sold by Mivtahim Ltd., a private company in 2008.  In 1958, the Finance Minister transferred the land to Mivtahim, which then built a small hotel for its workers on a part of the land that operated until 2000.  Adalah submitted a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court in July 2008 on behalf of three members of the family demanding the return of the plot of land.  However, the court rejected the request for a temporary injunction to prevent Mivtahim Ltd. from selling the land.  The petition also remains pending.

Testimonies from the families who lost their land are presented alongside an interview with Adalah Attorney Bishara who has been working on their cases.  The film casts new light on a harsh system of state land confiscation that continues to dispossess Palestinian citizens of Israel of their land.

“Let me have the land that belonged to my father, to my grandfather.  We are attached to this land.  Why won’t you give it back?” — Sa’ed Hamdan

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Right in Israel is an independent human rights organization, registered in Israel.  It is a non-profit, non-governmental, and non-partisan legal center.  Established in November 1996, it serves Arab citizens of Israel, numbering over one million people or close to 20% of the population.  Adalah (“Justice” in Arabic) works to protect human rights in general, and the rights of the Arab minority in particular.  Adalah released the documentary “Forbidden Land” on Human Rights Day in 2008.