Water History

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 247–263 | Cite as

Water law in British-ruled Palestine

  • David SchorrEmail author


This article surveys the water law of Palestine under British rule, identifying the legal norms governing the use of water and explaining some of the factors shaping the development of this area of the law. It argues that despite their lack of official lawmaking power, Arabs and Jews succeeded in decisively shaping the course taken by water law in this period. After surveying the Ottoman water law in force when the British took power in 1917, the article examines influential court decisions in a case brought by the Arab residents of the village Artas against government expropriation of water, and explains the significance of this litigation for the subsequent development of Palestine’s water law. It then discusses British initiatives meant to reform water law and subject the country’s water to state control, plans frustrated by the opposition of Zionist groups fearful of increased government regulation. It closes by noting that water law was made in this colonial context neither by imposition from above nor by resistance from below, but by intervention of subject peoples at the highest levels of official lawmaking.


Palestine Water law Property rights League of Nations Mandate Zionists Arabs 



Landon Derentz, Bill Gutterman, Shira Hantzis, Rachel Jacobson, Adi Levitski, MJ Muwassi, Yael Nomkin, Waseem Omar, Ariel Pariente, and Ben Soloway all provided critical research assistance. Dan Bitan, Nandini Chatterjee, Assaf Likhovski, Amer Marei, Assaf Selzer, Bob Varady, an anonymous reviewer, and participants in the faculty seminar at Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law supplied helpful comments at various stages. Research funding was provided by the Israel-Palestine Scientific Organization; the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 1108/11); the University of Plymouth’s Judging Empire travel fellowship; the David Berg Foundation Institute for Law and History and the Cegla Center Interdisciplinary Research of the Law, both at Tel Aviv University; and the US National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or any other funder.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of LawTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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