Rights group files objection against US embassy plans on stolen land in Jerusalem

People wave American and Israeli flags at a Zionist Christian rally in Jerusalem (Ryan Rodrick Beiler - Activestills)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  January 30, 2023

Adalah says if the US proceeds, it will be ‘full-throated endorsement’ of illegal confiscation of private Palestinian property.

An Israel-based rights group has submitted an objection to Israel’s planning authorities over a US plan to build a new embassy and diplomatic compound in Jerusalem on land which it says was confiscated from Palestinian families, of whom several are US citizens.

The objection was filed on Monday by Adalah, The Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel, and was accompanied by a letter sent to the US ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling on Washington to “immediately cancel” its plans to build the embassy.

“If the US proceeds with this plan, it will be a full-throated endorsement of Israel’s illegal confiscation of private Palestinian property in violation of international law,” the letter to Nides and Blinken said.

“Additionally … the State Department will be actively participating in violating the private property rights of its own citizens.”

The objection and letter were sent as Blinken arrived in Israel on Monday for a visit to the country, which includes meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli government ministers and officials.

The State Department did not respond to Middle East Eye’s request for comment by the time of publication.

In February 2021, the State Department and the Israel Land Authority submitted plans for a US diplomatic compound, following former US President Donald Trump’s highly controversial May 2018 decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American embassy from Tel Aviv.

In November 2022, Adalah and the Center for Constitutional Rights sent a 45-page letter calling on the US to cancel the plans, attaching rental contracts between British Mandate authorities and Palestinian families who temporarily leased their land to the British, and that land made up part of the Allenby Barracks military base.

The land was confiscated by the Israeli government under the Absentees’ Property Law, which grants the state of Israel the power to confiscate and impound Palestinian properties and assets that they were forced to leave behind during the Nakba.

The land is now registered to the state of Israel and leased to the US, according to The Intercept.

Al-Nakba (The Catastrophe) is the name Palestinians gave to the forced expulsion they endured at the hands of Zionist militias in 1948, when an estimated 15,000 indigenous Palestinians were killed and some 800,000 displaced.

Adalah additionally said in a statement on Monday that the 1950 Israeli Absentees’ Property Law is “one of the most arbitrary, sweeping, discriminatory, and draconian law[s] enacted in the state of Israel”.

“The law was drafted with racist motives and its sole purpose was to expropriate the assets of Palestinians – both refugees and internally displaced persons,” Adalah said.

The call on Monday was made on behalf of the Palestinian families whose land was seized. Adalah said that the State Department has not given them a response since sending the first letter in November.

Earlier this month, State Department spokesperson Ned Price was asked about the US plans for the embassy compound during a press conference.

Price responded by saying “we’re currently considering two options for our future embassy facility in Jerusalem”. One of the options is the Allenby site and the other is in the Arnona neighbourhood of Jerusalem, Price said.