Myths About Israel: The Jews Don’t Hold the Deed to the Land
By Nathan Jones
Do the Jews hold any legal title deed to the land of Israel?
Dr. Reagan: The Jewish people do indeed hold the legal title deed to the land of Israel. Not only can the Jewish people claim an eternal covenant to the land of Canaan given to them by God in Genesis 13-17, but when they came back from exile to the land in the late 1890s and the early 1900s, they bought the land back from the Arab absentee landlords who had laid claim to the land under the Ottoman Empire.
The Jewish returnees paid exorbitant prices for what had become worthless land. Ironic, since nobody wanted that land. It had become a desolation. In fact, the Bible in Deuteronomy 28-30 prophesied that when the Jews would be temporarily ejected from the land due to their disobedience, the land would become a desolation as it waited for the return of its rightful owners. Moses stated that God would put a curse on their land, and as a result of that curse, the land would become filled with diseases and plagues (Deut. 29:22), and the land itself would become “a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass [growing] in it…” (Deut. 29:23).
The curse would be so terrible that when foreigners came to visit the land, they would cry out, “Why has the LORD done this to the land? Why this great outburst of anger?” (Deut. 29:24). And the answer will be: “Because they forsook the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers…[and] they went and served other gods and worshiped them…Therefore, the anger of the LORD burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book; and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and in fury and in great wrath…” (Deut. 29:25-28).
True to prophecy, the land from the Roman Era on became an utter desolation. Huge swaths of the land was deprived of any trees, which had been all cut down by the marauding armies. Many once fertile areas had been reduced to swamp lands swarming with malaria. For almost two millennia nobody wanted this land. This is an historical fact.
I believe with all my heart that God made the land of Israel a desolation on purpose so that nobody would want it. The land would sit desolate waiting for the prophesied return of the Jews. When the time finally arrived for them to come back to their ancestral homes, the land would begin to heal.
Nathan Jones: The restoration of the land of Israel from desolation to bounty stands out as a modern day fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Moses did not leave his people with just the curse. He continued on to speak some words of hope. He assured them that if they were ever scattered all over the world, a day would come when God in His compassion would “restore them from captivity” by regathering them to their homeland (Deut. 30:3). “If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back” (Deut. 30:4).
The prophet Ezekiel picked it up from there, prophesying what would happen to the land when the Jewish people were regathered to it (Ezek. 36:34-35): “The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.’”
Isn’t it interesting that the Jewish people bought their own land back? That means that their legal claim not only rests on God’s divine covenant, but on civil law as well. The Jewish people legally own the land of Israel, substantiated by the November 1947 United Nations Resolution 181. In all ways legal, the Jewish people own the land of Israel.
The Jewish people never “stole the land from the Palestinians,” because in truth, there was no such thing as a Palestinian until recently. The Ottoman Empire controlled the land for hundreds of years. The Turks and Arabs owned what the Romans had renamed Palestine as it was part of the Ottoman Empire, that is up until 1917. The British then took over control of Palestine after defeating the Ottoman’s in World War I. The land of Israel became a British mandate, and still no Palestinian people existed there in the early 20th-century. The only people living in that wasteland were a few Arabs and Syrians scratching out a living in the desert. Historical advertisements from that time indicate that those people identified themselves as Syrians, not Palestinians.
Dr. Reagan: All true! Very few people lived in the land of Israel up until the mid to late 20th-century. The land was owned by absentee landlords, many of whom lived in Damascus. They were very wealthy landowners, but they certainly didn’t want to live on their worthless tracks of land. The scant few people who lived there if you asked them what nationality they were all would have said, “We’re Syrians.” That was the original “Palestinian” identity — Syrians.
Remember that Palestine was merely a geographical designation for a certain portion of the Ottoman Empire, like Texas is a designation for a certain portion of the United States of America. But, that area of the Middle East never existed as a sovereign state under the Ottomans. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Muslim or Arab nation. In fact, Jerusalem has never been the historical capital of any nation, except Israel.
Nathan Jones: Right. Following the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132–136 AD, the Romans renamed the land of Israel to Palestine, which is the Latin for Philistine, Israel’s ancient enemy. The Romans also renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina, a name that remained until 638 AD. Capitolina denoted the new city was dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus, to whom a temple was blasphemously built on the site of the former Jewish temple on the Temple Mount. The Arabs kept a form of Aelia with Iliya, which became the 7th-century Islamic name for Jerusalem. The Romans believed they were really sticking it to the Jews by renaming Judea Palestine.
Dr. Reagan: When it comes to the Jewish people legally owning the land of Israel, first and foremost, the land was given to them forever by God in the Abrahamic Covenant. The title deed to the land first came from God Himself. And, second, when the Jews returned, they bought the land legally. The Jews did not take the land by force, as the Muslim world claims today. They bought the land and hold the legal deed.
Incidentally, as the Jews paid exorbitant prices to the Arabs, the Arabs laughed all the way to the bank, thinking they’d pulled a fast one on the Jews. What the Arabs didn’t fathom is that God had promised in the book of Ezekiel that when the Jews did finally come back the land would once again become a land “flowing with milk and honey” like the Garden of Eden. And, that is exactly what has happened.