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Water Law in British-Ruled Palestine

Water History 6: 247-263 (2014), DOI 10.1007/s12685-014-0103-9

20 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2014 Last revised: 4 Dec 2015

David Schorr

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 3, 2014


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 turns to 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.

Keywords: water law, Israel, Palestine, British Empire, Ottoman Empire, water rights

JEL Classification: K11, K32, N45, N55, Q25

Suggested Citation

Schorr, David, Water Law in British-Ruled Palestine (April 3, 2014). Water History 6: 247-263 (2014), DOI 10.1007/s12685-014-0103-9 . Available at SSRN:

David Schorr (Contact Author)

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law ( email )

Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv 69978, IL

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