Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Peoples Dispatch.
Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, on Monday, January 30, filed an objection to the U.S. move to build its new embassy in Jerusalem on land stolen by Israel from its original Palestinian owners. It called for the immediate cancellation of the plan.
The objection was filed by Adalah to the Jerusalem District Planning Committee, U.S. ambassador to Israel Thomas R. Nides, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on behalf of 12 descendants of the original owners, four of them U.S. citizens.
Blinken was in Israel on Monday to meet Israeli President Issac Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other state officials.
In a press release on Monday, Adalah called the move to build a U.S. diplomatic compound in Jerusalem a violation of international law related to the respect of private property.
Israel confiscated the land from its original Palestinian owners under the Absentees’ Property Law, passed in 1950. Israeli state archive records, published by Adalah in July 2022, make Palestinian ownership clear. The documents reveal that the land was temporarily leased to British mandate authorities by its Palestinian owners well before the creation of Israel in 1948.
Adalah also called Israel’s Absentees’ Property Law “one of the most arbitrary, sweeping, discriminatory, and draconian laws enacted in the state of Israel.” It further said that the “law was drafted with racist motives and its sole purpose was to expropriate the assets of Palestinians.”
Israel had forced more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and villages at the time of its creation in 1948, during the Nakba, and confiscated much of their land using the 1950 law. It is also doing the same in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in its attempt to Judaize them.
Adalah underlined that if the United States proceeds with the plan, “it will be a full-throated endorsement of Israel’s illegal confiscation of private Palestinian property and the state department will become an active participant in violating the private property rights of its own citizens.”
The U.S. embassy is currently located in Tel Aviv, which was recognized by the U.S. as the capital of Israel until 2018. Under the Donald Trump presidency, the U.S. government changed this long-standing policy and officially designated Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Plans to move the embassy to Jerusalem were put in place then, and final proposals for the same were submitted in February 2021 under Joe Biden’s administration. Israel has already leased the land to the U.S. State Department.
The United States remains the only major country to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. The UN considers the city disputed territory as Palestinians also claim the city as their own.