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Who owned Israel prior to 1948?

Who owned Israel prior to 1948

Who owned Israel prior to 1948?

The British held a colonial mandate for Palestine from 1917 to 1948. The British government issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which supported the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. 

Before the British mandate, the Ottoman Empire ruled the region from 1517 until 1917. Before the Ottoman Empire, the land was ruled by various empires, including the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and the Islamic Caliphate. 

In 1948, the Jewish State of Israel was proclaimed in part of the ancient land of Israel. The British controlled the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding region until Israel became an independent state in 1948. Jerusalem was divided, with Israel controlling the Western portions and Jordan containing East Jerusalem. Who owned Israel prior to 1948


On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was established, marking the end of British rule in Palestine. This event triggered the first Arab-Israeli War involving neighboring Arab countries, which ultimately led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs.

Before 1948, the region now known as Israel was part of the British Mandate for Palestine, which was established after World War I. Before that, the area was under Ottoman rule for several centuries until the end of World War I in 1918.

The Ottoman Empire, based in Turkey, controlled the region from the early 16th century until its dissolution after World War I. Before the Ottoman period, the area had various rulers, including the Byzantines, Romans, and ancient civilizations.

Who owned Israel prior to 1948?

As the Ottoman Empire weakened in the early 20th century, Britain and France played significant roles in the Middle East through the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) and subsequent developments.

After World War I, the League of Nations granted Britain the mandate to administer Palestine, which included the territory that would later become Israel. The British Mandate for Palestine lasted from 1920 to 1948.

Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, so there was no Israel to be “owned” before 1948.

For around 500 years before World War I, the entire Middle East was “owned” by the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire was much like the United States, divided into Vilayets (provinces), similar to states. People moved freely from province to province as they liked.
When the Ottomans s


How much land did the Jews own in Palestine (currently Israel) before the British mandate? What percentage of the land had Jews purchased before 1948? How did they manage to acquire lands during the British mandate?

Originally Answered: How much land did the Jews own in Palestine (currently Israel) before the British mandate? How did they manage to acquire lands during the British mandate?

Not sure why so many questions about Israel are really propaganda or rhetoric disguised as Quora.

First of all, one might rephrase it as “How much land did the Jews own in Palestine (currently Israel) before the British mandate (formerly the Ottoman Empire, formerly the Mongolian/Persian/Babylonian/Muslim/Roman/Jewish Empires)?”

The “Jews” owned land in “Palestine” for five millennia. They acquired a lot of the new land before the ”British Mandate” by paying exorbitant fees to the landowners at the time, many being Arabs and mostly absentee Ottomans whose land it was due to their conquest of it 500+ years prior.

The land during the British Mandate belonged to The British. Why? Because, as in the very, very long line of conquerors of that land, they had the right to oversee and parcel it and extract resources and install rulers as they saw fit, just as every conqueror from the Jews/Muslims/Romans/Babylonians/Persians/Mongolians/Egyptians and Ottomans did prior.

The Arabs who lived and owned land in Palestine (before it was conquered by the Ottomans, whose land it then became) owned the land for the exact reason the Jews/Romans/Babylonians/Persians/Mongolians/Egyptians, and Ottomans did prior; they conquered and took the land. 

Who owned Israel prior to 1948?

Most notably, Jerusalem, which was founded as the Holy City of the Jews several thousand years before the Arab Muslims conquered that city by the sword; at the time, that very same city was the Holy City of the Christians who had themselves destroyed it by the sword from the Jews. Indeed, you can’t argue, “Yes, but the Arabs lived there before the British/Ottomans/Jews,” because that only opens the argument, “But the Jews lived there before the Arabs.”

 I get you can try and go back and make a case again for the Arabs in parts of Palestine, but that is just the point. If the yardstick is “Who was here first?” it is not only near impossible to make a historical case for one person, but it is also impossible to apply just to Palestine. Why not the US, Mexico, Russia, and Africa? If the yardstick is ” but we conquered,” then only the last people to do so have a case and tough toenails.

They don’t have a leg to stand on when they get conquered since that is their stance. If the argument is ” but we were here for x 100 years,” then what is that x? Is it 100? Does that mean Israel’sIsrael’s right is cemented in 2046? Do we expand it to 500 years? That means that Turkey just squeezed in 50 years or so ago with Istanbul, and the US has to get the heck out of dodge.

In light of that, couldn’tcouldn’t one just as quickly pose the question, “How much land did the Arabs/Muslims own in Jerusalem before the Romans expelled the Jews? How did the Muslims acquire control of and turn Jerusalem into a Holy City?” as relevantly as the question posed above. This is not to discount that claim but to point out that one must ignore the history before and after that conquest to substantiate the claim (or acknowledge and cooperate with both prior and following allegations).

Who owned Israel prior to 1948?

 One cannot very well conquer and forget about the claims of the conquered and then be conquered and claim the mantle of the beaten victim. To do so requires that you either acknowledge the claims of victimhood of those you conquered prior or relinquish your claims of ownership and victimization. It isn’t even a slippery slope. It is, in fact, the History of Man.

To answer your question, in a genuine sense, it doesn’tdoesn’t matter how the Jews “acquired those lands if the implication is that they did so through some previously unknown, underhanded, or aggressive behavior since the entire history of that (and the entire world for that matter) is based on that very behavior.

 In reality, much of the land was acquired through the best of behavior, paying for it and then developing it into sustainable, arable, livable land through blood, sweat, and tears. 

Who owned Israel prior to 1948

This is not to say all the inhabitants from all of the cultures prior may not have also done the very same with the same intentions in addition to any conquests or that the Jews are not guilty of the same aggressive conquest that prior people were (often and interestingly enough the same people pointing fingers at the Jews however)

However, the very implication of the question is that “the Jews” acquired lands belonging to “Palestinians” through the collaboration of The British, whose land it also was not, and that somehow the only people with claims to the land were the Arabs who lived there before the Jews “acquired” new lands before the British conquered it before the Ottomans conquered it, but AFTER they conquered it from the Jews/Romans/Babylonians, history existing as a tiny self-serving slice of time independent of the history before or after.

Who owned Israel prior to 1948?

Anyone could make such a spurious claim; why can’t the Mongolians? The British made a mistake not with the Balfour Declaration but with the McMahon-Hussein Treaty in which they, remarkably, agreed to “return” the lands stretching from Persia to Egypt “back” to the Arabs under the guidance of Sharif Hussein, ignoring the very fact that the Arabs had conquered Palestine, Jerusalem, Babylon, Persia, Anatolia, Constantinople, Egypt, North Africa, and Iberia/Spain themselves.

Wouldn’t the actual claim to the land have been The Ottoman Turks? They had conquered and ruled the land for 500 years. Interestingly enough, not only is their claim to “Palestine” no less valid than anyone else’s, but their claim to TURKEY is not. The Turks do not come from Turkey. They come from the Russian Steppes 100s of miles to the east and north. 

Who owned Israel prior to 1948

They rode in on the wave of the Arab conquest of Anatolia (ancient home to Greeks and Jews, in case you forgot where TROY is) and proceeded to turn the local Jews and Greeks into “Dhimmis” of the now “Turkish” Islam. After 500 years of unremitting siege, they also conquered one of the greatest cities of Western Civilization, not to mention the Holy City of Christianity, Constantinople, and sold the Greeks and Jews living there into slavery and converted the city and her Holy Places into Mosques (Hagia Sophia has been one of the great Churches built 100s of years prior by Constantine aka Saint Sophia).

So, in light of all this history, a “question” is posed. How “the Jews”manage to get land in Palestine from what we are supposed to believe are the “rightful” owners when, in fact, the history of that (and again all) land is that the only rightful owners throughout time are those who own the land. If the Arabs who lived in Palestine before the Ottomans/British/Jews can claim Palestine as theirs, then so can the British, Ottomans, Jews, Mongolians, Arabs, Persians, Greeks, and Egyptians. 

Who owned Israel prior to 1948?

I realize I have not answered your question because I don’t see it as one, and I think the way it is framed is the ultimate straw man. The answer is the Jews acquired the land in Palestine the same way every other culture did in Palestine going back 4,000 years, some of it good, some of it bad, some of it in-between. It would be great if everyone could recognize this elemental truth and thus try to understand and perhaps grant one another or at least understand each other’s historic/emotional claims to land that was once theirs, even if that claim is based on the same one the current “owners” have.

 It might open the door to more fruitful and cooperative arrangements instead of another 3,000 years of the same. This goes for the Jews of Israel as much as anyone else, by the way (applying this historical understanding of competing and valid claims vs., as some IsraelisIsraeli/Jews do, rabid and unwavering claims that do not allow for other historical realities).

What was the land of Israel called before 1948?

  • Between 1922 and 1948, the land was legally and officially under the rule of the British. It was formally called “Palestine” in English. In Arabic, it was officially named “Falastin,” and in Hebrew, it was formally called “Palestina (E.Y).” The “E.Y” stands for “Eretz Yisrael,” as the Jewish community called it.
  • During the Ottoman rule, the land was never a single administrative unit. The territory that forms what the Palestinians call “historic Palestine” was, at the end of Ottoman rule, split between districts that were officially called “Kudüs-i Şerif” (Jerusalem), “Nablus” and “Akka” (Acre). These three districts were referred to by Europeans as “Palestine” and sometimes by locals as “Southern Syria.” The locals had no regional identity; they identified themselves by their religious affiliation.
  • During the Mamluk rule (13th to 16th centuries), the land was considered part of Syria (“Bilad al-Sham”) and was either called “Filastin” or “Southern Syria.”
  • During the Crusader period, there was a kingdom called the “Kingdom of Jerusalem,” and the Christians referred to the land as the “Holy Land.”
  • During the Early Arab period (7th to 12th centuries), the land was called “Jund Filastin”.
  • During the Byzantine rule (4th to 7th century), the land was divided into three provinces called “Palaestina Prima,” “Palaestina Secunda,” and “Palaestina Salutaris” (which includes most of modern-day Negev and Sinai deserts).
  • During the Roman rule, the land had many different names. In the later periods (2nd to 4th centuries), the land was incorporated into the province of Syria after the failed rebellion of the Jews against Roman rule in 135 CE. It was called “Syria-Palaestina”. The Romans chose the name “Palaestina” to erase any Jewish ties to the land. Before that, it was officially called “Iudaea” (i.e. Judea). The origin of the name “Palaestina” is in Greek visitors from the 3rd and 5th centuries BCE, who referred to this land by this name, as there was an ancient nation called “Plishtim,” or “Philistines,” of Greek origin, who lived in the southern coastal area of the land. The Romans separated Iudaea from the “Galilaea”
  • During the Jewish Hasmonean rule (2nd to 1st century BCE), the land was called “Yehuda,” which is the Jewish pronunciation of “Judea” or “Judah.”
  • For the Greek rule (4th to 1st centuries), I couldn’t find the official name of this land. It was called part of “Coele Syria” and sometimes called “Palaestina” by Greeks, who adopted the earlier Greek names. The Jews called it “Yehuda” or “Eretz Yisrael”. I found a map of Greek districts; these include “Judea,” “Samaria,” and “Galilaea.”
  • During the Persian rule (6th to 4th century), there was an autonomous Jewish province called “Yehud Medinata” (i.e., “Province of Judah”). Besides, there were the provinces of “Shomron” and “Galil.”
  • During the Babylonian and Assyrian rule (8th to 6th centuries), the land didn’t have a specific name, but the province of “Yehud” existed. The Assyrians who conquered the Kingdom of Israel in c. 720 BCE had a province called “Yisrael,” but it was only around the cities of Samaria and Nablus.
  • Before the Babylonian and Assyrian rules, there were two independent kingdoms in the land, one based in Jerusalem and its name was the “Kingdom of Judah,” or “Mamlekhet Yehuda,” and one found in the city of Samaria called “Kingdom of Israel,” or “Mamlekhet Yisrael,” which is often referred as the “Northern Kingdom” or “Kingdom of Samaria.” These two kingdoms broke from the united “Kingdom of Israel” during the 10th century BCE.
  • Before the establishment of these kingdoms, petty city-states controlled the land, and among them were the tribes of Israel, mentioned in Egyptian scripts from the 13th century BCE. The locals called the landals “Cna’an” or “Canaan.” Canaan had three primary cultures: the Canaanites, whom the Israelites and Judeans emerged from (unless you believe the tale of the Egyptian captivity), the “Philistines” (referred to as “Plishtim” or “Plishti” by Canaanites, “Pleshet” by Egyptians and as “Palashtu,” “Plishti” or “Plishtu” by the Assyrians. They lived in five city-states on the southern shore of the Mediterranean coast and were of Greek origin. To the north, in modern-day Lebanon and the northern coast of the Galilee, lived a nation who also referred to themselves as Canaanites but were called by the Israelites and Judeans “Tzidonim” or “Sidonites,” after the city of Sidon, which was one of their main cities. These are the “Phoenicias”. The name Canaan may come from the Hurrians, who lived in Syria, and means “Land of Purple” because the Phoenicians were the leading producers of purple dye. It may also come from the Egyptian rulers, who referred to Canaan sometimes as “Retjenu” when they ruled it several times during the 3rd millennium BCE.

From the founding of the League of Nations onward, the land belonged to the people living there. This was the majority of Muslim Arabs who had ultimate sovereignty.

The British controlled and administered it in a “Mandate.” it was an inherently racist system in which enlightened Europeans were supposed to take care of savage tribes until the latter was ready for self-rule. At its basis, it contradicted the Charter of the League of Nations – and later the United Nations – which was based on the right of “self-determination.” (see Dr. Cattan’s analysis in the UN history: Part I (1917-1947)).

By the end of the mandate, the population of the land was about two-thirds Arab, with one-third Jewish. Most of the Jews were Zionists who had immigrated after 1922. Most of the Arabs had ancestors who had been living on the land since Canaanite times (Drew M’s answer to How do Palestinians respond to the Israeli claim that most of them are just immigrants from the Arab World who came during the Mandate period? in Palestine Today).

Ownership of the land (as distinct from sovereignty) was mainly in the hands of the Arabs. About 46% was not owned by any private party: it belonged to the state and, ultimately, to the sovereign people (the majority Arab, see above). About half (48%) was owned by individual Arabs. Only some 6% was owned by Jews, and most of this was owned by foreign corporations.

Who owned Palestine before Israel?

Ownership and sovereignty are not the same thing.

The British 1920–1948 accepted Ottoman Empire (1299–1920) land ownership laws. Most of the land (about 80% from memory) was owned by the Sultan, later the Crown, i.e., Britain. About 5–7% registered to Jews and about 15% to Arabs, of which 2/3 was Bedouin grazing land. The Bedouins could feed their animals and live as nomads but could not sell.

When the Turkish Land Registry Law (1858) came into effect, many traditional owners refused to register their property to avoid taxes and conscription to the Ottoman army. Large landowners took legal ownership, many who didn’t even live in Palestine, or the village leader (Mukhtar) who held collectively but could buy or sell as he wished.

Most of the peasants (Fellahin) owned nothing. They could live on the land they farmed and could not be evicted, but they had no ownership rights.

Towards the end of the Ottoman period (~1880–1920) and during the British Mandate period, there was significant immigration to the region by Arabs from neighboring areas to take advantage of rising economic conditions, largely a consequence of Jewish emigration. Most ‘indigenous’ Palestinians come from this group of late arrivals. They never owned any land except in urban areas, if at all.

How much of Palestine was owned by Palestinians before 1948?

Okay, this isn’t very easy.

Before the 1948–1949 Arab-Israeli war, the territory was a British protectorate – the Palestinian Mandate. Before that, it had been part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. It wasn’t ever a separate country in the modern era.

However, Muslims did own land and buildings before 1948. Lots of them. All over the territory. Although a lot of Muslims were poor, there were ones who were better off. The British recognized the ownership of these lands and enforced it. Moreover, the Israeli government still recognizes that Israelis don’t own these lands and buildings. Under Israeli law, these are owned by “Absentees,” the Israeli government administers those properties and leases them out.

In addition, a lot of the region’s land was used for grazing by Bedouin Arabs, who pretty much took their flocks where they pleased but had rules to prevent things like overgrazing. They had been using the land like this since before Moses got there. As grazing land depends heavily on seasonal rainfall, everyone had to work together to preserve the land, and if the grazing were poor, you would move your flock of sheep, goats, or whatever to someplace new.

Who owned Israel prior to 1948

So, even though it’s been over 70 years, there are many Palestinians who can probably establish good titles to lands that are currently within Israel. It is the heart of the request for “Right to Return” – that Palestinians displaced from the property they owned and left during the 1948–49 war, or since the Israeli occupation after 1967, should be able to get that land back and live there.

But that only applies to perfect farming areas and cities. As I’ve noted, most of the land was used for pasture, which gets really complicated. The Israeli government sold much of that to farmers as it was never “owned” in the first place, at least not in the British land registry system sense. 

Instead, it was essentially land held in common by various tribes in the Israeli courts for decades, trying to re-establish their right to use it. Think of it as being of the exact nature as aboriginal title in Canada – land that large family groups had used for centuries that they claim to have been displaced from.

Who owned Israel prior to 1948

  • The Canaanites established independent city-states influenced by the surrounding civilizations, including Egypt, which ruled the area in the Late Bronze Age.
  • During the Iron Age, two related Israelite kingdoms, Israel and Judah, controlled much of Palestine, while the Philistines occupied its southern coast.
  • The Assyrians conquered the region in the 8th century BCE.
  • Then, the Babylonians in c. 601 BCE
  • They were followed by the Persians, who conquered the Babylonian Empire in 539 BCE.
  • Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire in the late 330s BCE, beginning a long period of Hellenization in the region.
  • In the late 2nd century BCE, the Hasmoanean KIngdom conquered most of Palestine and parts of neighboring regions.
  • The Hasmoanean kingdom gradually became a vassal of Rome, which annexed the area in 63 BCE and called it Judea.
  • Roman Judea was troubled by large-scale Jewish revolts, which Rome answered by destroying Jerusalem and the Second Jewish Temple.
  • In the 4th century, Palestine became a center of Christianity, attracting pilgrims, monks, and scholars.
  • Following the Muslim conquest of the Levant (the Levant historically includes the countries and regions of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey (Hatay Province), Israel, Jordan, and Palestine) in 636–641, several Muslim ruling dynasties succeeded each other as they wrestled control of Palestine.
  • In 1099, the Crusaders established the Kingdom of Jerusalem in Palestine.
  • It was reconquered in 1187 by Saladin to become part of the Ayyubid Sultanate in 1187.
  • Following the invasion of the Mongol Empire, the Egyptian Mamluks reunified Palestine under its control.
  • The Ottoman Empire conquered the region in 1516 and ruled it as Ottoman Syria, largely undisrupted through the 20th century.
  • In 1917, the British captured Palestine from the Ottomans. The League of Nations gave Britain mandatory power over Palestine in 1922. British colonial rule and Arab efforts to prevent Jewish migration into Palestine led to growing sectarian violence between Arabs and Jews, eventually causing the British government to announce its intention to terminate the Mandate in 1947.
  • The United Nations General Assembly recommended partitioning Palestine into two states: one Arab and one Jewish. The Arabs rejected the Partition Plan, and the Jews ostensibly accepted it, declaring the independence of the State of Israel in May 1948 upon the termination of the British Mandate.

What was the government of Palestine before 1948?

Palestine was a British Mandate from 1923 to midnight of 14 May 1948. The Mandate specified non-annexation of the territory of Palestine, and its administration was meant to develop the territory for the benefit of its native people.

Instead of granting the natives sovereignty for their assistance in ending the Ottoman rule, the United Kingdom set Palestine aside to create a “homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine,” as per the Balfour Declaration of 1917, a non-legal public statement against which the Palestinians expressed anger and dismay.

Despite revolts from the Palestinians, the British allowed Jewish immigration, which soon populated the region with settlers from Europe and other places. Although the United Kingdom realized what a catastrophe it had unleashed, it was too late, as the acts of Zionist terrorism weakened any control that the British held. 

Eventually, the United Kingdom, left devastated by WWII and the rebellions in its colonies, many of which would soon be free of the empire’s hold, limped disgracefully out of the Levant, leaving behind a bloody morass that has not ended to this day.

British Command Paper 1785, December 1922, containing the Mandate for Palestine and the Transjordan memorandum:

Created: Mid-1919 – 22 July 1922

Date Effective: 29 September 1923

Repealed: 15 May 1948

Where were the people of Israel before 1948?

Many were living in the British Palestinian Mandate. Others were living in other Arab countries.

An essential quick bit of history. Both India and Palestine were under British mandate until 1947. Britain wanted out of both and to let the people living there control their destinies.

Muslims within India (a Hindu country) had begged, pleaded, murdered, terrorized, rioted, protested, picketed, and did all sorts towards the Hindus, aiming to pressure Britain and the UN to give them their own country out of India. All on the basis that Muslims cannot live alongside Hindus, so you must solve this by partitioning Muslims away from Hindus. 

Therefore, in August 1947, the UN split India into two partitions: Pakistan and India.

Now, all because Muslims have been saying that the only possible solution to the “Islam cannot live with non-Muslims” problem is to partition Muslims away from non-Muslims.

The UN and Britain wanted to do the same partition idea for Palestine. There is also a Jewish partition and a Muslim partition. They, therefore, proposed this idea at a UN meeting in November 1947.

Twenty-four hours after this was suggested inside the UN. All the Muslims in Palestine started a civil war with the Jews, intending to carry out a total holocaust on them all, as in just wiping out every last Jew in Palestine.

Who owned Israel prior to 1948?

Six months later, to try and stop this civil war. The Jewish partition was recognized as its county of Israel in May 1948 as a result of this. All the major arab countries went to war with Israel to murder every last Jew.

When this war started, the Muslims were intent on killing every last Jew the whole world over. All the Jews living in these Arab countries were forced to flee for their lives and seek protection inside Israel.

I say this as Muslims make the biggest deal imaginable, saying that many Jews moved from other Arab countries into Israel in 1948. They are trying to suggest they stole Muslim houses by doing it. But that is only because that Muslim country had started a war with Jews intent on carrying out a worldwide holocaust of every last Jew, so those Jews were forced to move out of their homes in Egypt, Jordan, etc, into Israel for protection.

If Muslims themselves say to the UN, we Muslims cannot live with other religions, so you must partition us away from non-Muslims to keep the peace. They are doing this to try and get Pakistan created. They cannot then act shocked and play the victim when the same UN does precisely what the Muslims demanded and split them away from Jews, too.

When Jews moved to Israel (i.e., British Palestine) before 1948, did they buy the land they settled on? Or did the Jews seize the land forcibly from Arab landowners? Did the Zionists steal land?

Jews not only bought the land, they often paid highly inflated prices for that land:

“In 1944, Jews paid between $1,000 and $1,100 per acre in Israel, mostly for arid or semi-arid land; in the same year, rich black soil in Iowa was selling for about $110 per acre.”

“The Claim of Dispossession” (Arieh Avneri, 1982)

When John Hope Simpson arrived in Israel in May 1930, he observed: “They [the Jews] paid high prices for the land, and in addition they paid to certain of the occupants of those lands a considerable amount of money which they were not legally bound to pay.”

 [The meaning here is that the Jews who bought the land from the absentee owners and paid the tenants to vacate the land, as well.]


So the tale of “Jews seizing the land forcibly from Arab landowners” during the Mandate is a bald-faced lie.

The reality was quite different—often, a few years after selling land to Jews, the former owner saw what the Jews had done with his “useless” land and told himself:

“Those Jews cheated me! That land was worth ten times what they paid for it! I want restitution!”

I need to surrender my dogs for free?

Who owned Israel prior to 1948

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