Seeking an Order to Freeze Bidding Procedures Initiated by a Private Israeli Company for the Sale of Land in Nazareth Confiscated from Arab Owners in 1958

HCJ 5902/08 Sa'ida Hamdan, et al. v. The Minister of Finance, et al.

Adalah: “The Mivtahim Company acted as the state’s agent for the purpose of effecting the confiscation, and is not entitled to exploit the confiscation procedures in order to sell the confiscated property on the free market and to profit from that action.”

On 3 July 2008, the Supreme Court of Israel ordered Mivtahim Ltd., a private company which published bids for the sale of confiscated land in Nazareth, to freeze its final decision regarding the bid pending the court’s decision on a motion for injunction and petition filed by Adalah on 1 July 2008. The case was submitted on behalf of three Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel demanding the return of their ten-dunam plot of land in Nazareth that was confiscated by the state in 1958 under the Land Ordinance of 1943. The state confiscated the land for the alleged purpose that it would use it for public purposes. However, the land has never been used for such purposes to date, Adalah argued.

Adalah also demanded a declaration stating that the confiscation is invalid and that an order be issued to the Finance Minister and Mivtahim Ltd. to freeze the bidding procedures presently underway for the sale of the land until a final decision is delivered on the petition. The petition was filed by Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara on behalf of Mr. Sa’ad Hamdan, Mr. Ahmad Haj, and Mr. Muhamed Haj Yahia, children of the former land-owners, against the Finance Minister and Mivtahim Ltd.

The land which is the subject of the petition is being offered for sale by Mivtahim Ltd. The ten-dunam plot is part of a larger 130-dunam area of land that was confiscated by the state from its Arab owners and transferred to the company by the Finance Minister in 1958. Mivtahim then built a small hotel for its workers on a section of the land, which operated until the year 2000. Mivtahim Ltd. recently decided to sell the confiscated land and published an public advertisement inviting offers by 1 July 2008.

The petitioners contended that the plot of confiscated land has not been used for the purposes declared by the Finance Minister over the course of fifty years. In addition the company’s intention to sell the land also strongly indicates that there had never been a need to confiscate the ten dunams, and therefore the land should be returned to its original owners. Furthermore, Adalah argued that, “Even if we were to presume that the confiscation in 1958 was legitimate, it cannot be considered to be so today, when the reason for the confiscation no longer exists and after the passage of fifty years in which it was not used for the declared purposes for the confiscation.”