There is a question about whether Israel "stole" land:

Did Jews "take over" 73% of their land from Palestinians?

I propose to close this question as off-topic, but (at the time of writing) 28 people have upvoted it (and 4 downvoted). I try use mod powers to enforce community standards, not go against them, so I am being a little less bold than I normally would to get people's opinions.

Two answers have been provided to the question. One has been deleted by a mod. (That decision has been contested and has been discussed in a chat room.)

I think the both the answers are flawed and are more opinionated than definitive. I think the reason they are flawed is because the question poses a false premise that encourages this.

It starts with a definition of stealing that applies to individuals within local jurisdictions, and tries to apply to to countries, as though one person stealing a laptop that belonged to another was directly analogous to the behaviour of countries fighting over land.

Countries are not the same as individuals, and are not subject to the same sorts of laws. The population of Israeli Jews today are not the same people nor persons as the Jews of 1897, or the Jews of 1000AD. Ownership of land does not pass between countries in the same way the ownership of a laptop passes between people. The analogy is faulty.

Asking who "stole" land is inviting opinionated answers - we shouldn't be surprised that the answer is getting them.

I propose to close the question, and would like to hear what others think given it has attracted attention.

  • 1
    I was thinking about closing it when it was first posted. I don't exactly remember why I didn't go through with it, but I still think this is a problematic question and likely should be closed.
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Aug 8 '14 at 13:33
  • The question has changed to "Are Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories legal or illegal?" Aug 8 '14 at 13:43
  • the change from stolen to legal/illegal seems a good idea. "stolen" is too emotive a term to encourage factual answers. Aug 8 '14 at 15:44
  • I completely agree, my bad on choosing a weak title. All in all, people also have a problem with legal and illegal; ugh, it's such a very controversial topic. Aug 8 '14 at 17:41
  • 2
    I was surprised the title stayed as it was for so long. Stealing seems inappropriate no matter the context, and definitely opinionating. This is exacerbated by the fact that the accepted - and most up-voted answer is from the questioner himself.
    – Spork
    Aug 8 '14 at 18:26
  • 4
    I actually think the underlying conceptual question is quite interesting. Can nation-states steal land at all? How would you call the expansion of Russia's border, sometimes by mere meters? I think a degree in international law is necessary - I have no idea what the answers are. A google-hunt incidentally leads to hilarious pages like this: rightsidenews.com/2013022832090/editorial/…
    – Spork
    Aug 8 '14 at 18:32
  • The question this post refers to has been majorly edited, thus this question is now obsolete.
    – Sklivvz
    Aug 22 '14 at 8:11

The question should be closed, but the term "stealing" is the least of its 4 problems:

  1. Title/body 100% mismatched.

    The question's only claim - and its body - come from Matt Giwer's statement.

    Matt Giwer's statement was in an article very explicitly discussing 1948 creation of Israel. Whereas the new title (and the answer) pertain to post-1967 occupation and settlements

    (also see Slkivvz' answer for the related discussion of vagueness)

  2. There is no notable claim.

    Strictly speaking, there's no notable claim here. The question quotes an Internet troll, not a public figure or a person of any expertise on the topic.

    Ref: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/soc.history.what-if/rD67IZD-rYg

    In all fairness, the general claim that can be discussed is quite notable, but NOT the source OR the wording presented in the question.

  3. The new title ("Are settlements legal") is not really answerable since it asks about legality absent jurisdiction or clarification of what jurisdiction is being discussed.

    First off, I will again point out #2 - the claim being cited has nothing to do with either settlements or their legality.

    Second, even if you drastically alter the claim to deal with post-1967 settlements, the problem arises of how you define legality.

    The answer cites International Court of Justice - but doesn't mention that it has no jurisdiction on the topic here.

    • A second legal opinion cited, while it looks legit on the surface, is from an article bought for by pro-Palestinian conference.

    Moreover, if we go back to the actual claim (which was mostly about 1948), there's no legality there in general - there's no law about "legal" vs "illegal" results of armed conflicts, in general.

    And if one takes a somewhat more abstract view that a legal system is only valid in the case of equal applicability of the law, the fact is that Israel is the only country in the world (as opposed to China, USSR, Russia, etc. etc etc) whose post-war settlements with war adversary is ever challenged as far as its legality.

  4. The claim is impossible to objectively evaluate due to "Stealing" term

    The term "theft" isn't applicable to the problem domain.

    I'll grant @Sklivvz' point that both answers - mine included - worked off that term. But since the term is really meaningless in the context, it's impossible to factually address the claim Jews stole the land. The owners want it back.


I just noticed that @Sklivvz edited the question again.

  1. The edit definitely removed the problem #1 that I mentioned above (title/body mismatch).

  2. The edit did NOT address #2. The claim still isn't from a notable source.

    I agree with Sklivvz' comment that the substance of the claim is widely notable and is expounded by Arab side of the dispute extensively. But the actual exact claim isn't.

  3. The edit kind of addressed problem #3 to an extent, but only in form (the title no longer mentiones "stealing"). The substance of the problem remains, even if it's ameliorated. See #4

  4. This was also largely addressed by Sklivvz' edit, but in turn brought a NEW problem:

    Now, the question contains 4 separate claims, only one of them matching the title:

    • That Pre-1948, Zionists owned only 9% of land in the Palestinian Mandate territory

    • That post-1948 Israeli independence, Israel held 73% of the land

      • Moreover, it's unclear whether this discusses the territory being claimed during Israel's declaration of Independence, OR the territory Israel held in 1949 as a consequence of the war against the 5 Arab states that attacked it and consequent truce.
    • That the expansion from whatever they held before to after as "ownership" is somehow legal under international law.

    • That Jews "expelled" 750,000 Palestinians.

  • 2
    There is no requirement that claims come quoted from a notable source. The requirement is that the claim itself is notable. That is, that many adults believe the claim is true.
    – user5582
    Aug 11 '14 at 3:59
  • @Articuno - it needs to be demonstrated that many adults belive the exact same claim to be true.
    – user5341
    Aug 11 '14 at 4:44
  • I used to think so also, but it turns out it doesn't.
    – user5582
    Aug 11 '14 at 5:34
  • My understanding is that a notable source is only required if the notability of the claim is in dispute... although I admittedly haven't been active on meta here in a long time, so that may have changed.
    – Beofett
    Aug 11 '14 at 16:04
  • Of course there are laws about results of armed conflict. The idea that there is such a thing as war crimes is accepted by all states.
    – Christian
    Aug 12 '14 at 16:43

I think that neither of the two answers has had any trouble with the term "stealing". It comes from the original claim.

While I can see how the answers could degenerate into "that's stealing/that's not stealing", they don't seem to have done so.

I think, if anything, that the question is too fuzzy. Are we talking about the creation of the State of Israel? The past wars where land was conquered? Or the Israeli settlements?

When we say Palestinian do we mean the State of Palestine, the Mandate of Palestine or the Palestinians as a nation?

It seems to me that most of the disagreements are on these points and not on the term "steal". It's not a great term to use, but not close-worthy.

As a side note, typically voting on questions goes with the notoriety of the claims, unless a question is of extremely poor quality. This is clearly a notorious claim, so it's valuable to have a question on this topic on the site.


I think that the question has a further problem: it is overly broad. Each notable date along the 'state of Israel' timeline probably merits its own question, and would require a wealth of knowledge (and documentation) to answer satisfactorily.

I'm not against trying, but I think anything less than the best (a serious investment in teasing out the - probably unpalatable to both 'sides' - truth) will just reduce this site to a billboard for a highly polarised slanging match.

(And for the record, I'm also a bit miffed that my - what I thought were - apposite comments got zapped)

  • Your statement was about specific terms in the question that had been edited out, and another mod removed it as obsolete.
    – Sklivvz
    Aug 11 '14 at 10:15

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