Absentees’ Property Law

The Absentees’ Property Law—1950 defines broad categories of persons (largely Palestinians) as “absentee”. Movable and immovable property belonging to absentees was and continues to be placed under the control of the State of Israel with the Custodian of Absentee Property. Passed in 1950, the Absentees’ Property Law took effect retroactively as of November 29, 1947, and stayed in effect until such point as the state of emergency declared in 1948 is lifted (which it has not been to this day). Under the law, the custodian is supposed to be a temporary custodian until a permanent settlement for refugees is reached. However, instead, the custodian commonly transfers the properties deemed as belonging to “absentees” to Jewish claimants. This law was the main legal instrument used by Israel to take possession of the land belonging to the internal and external Palestinian refugees, and Muslim waqf properties across the state. In recent decades, the law has been used mainly against Palestinians to seize properties in East Jerusalem. See How Israel Applies the Absentees’ Property Law to Confiscate Palestinian Property in Jerusalem.