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Shared Narratives — Session 4
Session 4: Concepts of Land
Note: This session discussed the paper by Ilan Troen in Shared Narratives, entitled "Israeli Views of the Land of Israel/Palestine," and a paper by Professor Sari Hanafi of the American University of Beirut, entitled "Spacio-cide: Colonial Politics, Invisibility and Rezoning in Palestinian Territory," published in Contemporary Arab Affairs, Vol. 2, No. 1, Jan–Mar 2009, 106–121. Professor Hanafi was unable to be present at the discussion in Istanbul. His paper is available at http://jft-newspaper.aub.edu.lb/reserve/data/urpl665-mh-wk6/Spacio-cide_by_Hanafi.pdf
ILAN TROEN: I was asked to talk about claiming land, rights to land, how people imagine land. I was not restricted by time, whether it was before 1948 or after 1948, and in fact, as I am going to try to suggest, 1948 is an artificial barrier. I would even argue that what it is that I have to say is not specific to Jews or to Muslims or to Christians or to Palestine.
I have been trying to learn about how people claim land in South Africa and Australia, the United States, as well as the Basques and the Canadians, and have concluded there are certain universal aspects to the process. And the way in which Jews claim land is not in any way atypical to the way in which so many other peoples do so. And so the arguments that will be set forth here have aspects which are universal and not merely local.
Middle East conflicts, since time immemorial, have been over land claims. We just came from the Topkapi, the Sultan's old palace in Istanbul. The Sultan owned the land, not just in Turkey, not just in Topkapi, he owned the land in this whole part of the world.
Kings owned land through divine right. The oldest and most ubiquitous way in which people claim land is that they assert that the land belongs to God – "the earth is the Lord's", if you will – and that somehow they are the delegates, the legatees, the agents of the Lord in claiming the land. That is certainly true of Judaism.
What I would have liked to have heard, and I would hope to hear here, is a discussion of what is the Muslim claim to land, and are the claims of Muslims and Christians similar or different to those of Jews? And what I gave to you was the incredible cacophony of diversity with which Jews claim land as religious people. I gave you people who argue that Jews have the land eternally. They may have been placed in exile, but they will certainly be returned to it because it is part of the covenant.
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