Wealthy philanthropic individuals operating within private law have been largely absent from the historical justice narrative of states in transition and, consequently, from normative discussion regarding the justification of their actions under the auspices of the market. This Article seeks to fill this void by examining the “private” historical justice of Jewish state-building prior to the establishment of Israel. Specifically, it focuses on the legal history of Baron Edmond de Rothschild’s settlement project during the Ottoman and Mandate periods and investigates the project’s normative implications. The Baron was a fundamental actor in the design of the Palestinian/Israeli space, as he supported existing Jewish settlements and established new ones. He also built several public institutions that continue to exist to date. I argue that the Baron’s settlement project needs to be addressed from a multidimensional aspect with regard to different groups that were affected by it. On the one hand, his settlement project was just towards the Jewish settlement because it provided a shelter for Jewish immigrants who fled Europe, and it realized the Jews’right of self-determination. On the other hand, his project resulted in the coercive displacement of an underprivileged local Arab population called the fellaheen and unjustly infringed on their territorial rights.
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* Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan University. I would like to thank the participants of the “Historical Justice in the Context of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” workshop and especially Yitzhak Benbaji, Leora Bilsky, Doreen Lustig, Alon Jasper, Nurit Wimer, Maria Miguel De Pine and Jubran Jubran for their valuable comments. The data presented in this article was made possible thanks to a research grant from “The Edmond de Rothschild Foundation.” Cite as: Manal Totry-Jubran, Constructing “Private” Historical Justice in State-Building, 21 T heoretical I nquiries L. 305 (2020).
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