(2009) JLP 59: 49-65
Haitam Suleiman and Robert Home
Waqf property (held in charitable trust for religious purposes) has been an important element in Muslim societies, and after a period of decline has emerged as a non-profit ‘third’ sector for minorities and in conditions of legal pluralism. This article, after briefly tracing the history of waqf, examines the large-scale transfer of waqf land in Israel/Palestine to Jewish control since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and places that confiscation within a context of postcolonial legal pluralism. The role of successive Absentee Property Laws in this confiscation is related to Ottoman land tenure categories and the Ottoman Land Code, as modified under the British League of Nations Mandate. The special legal status of waqf in the Old City of Jerusalem is discussed, and recent legal disputes over the status of certain mosques and cemeteries are examined as sites of resistance.