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Historical Rights

Gans, Chaim
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) In, Lukas H. Meyer, ed., Justice in Time: Responding to Historical Injustice. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft. Pp. 79-99.

As Chaim Gans observes at the beginning of this chapter, the notion “historical rightsâ€? has to do with events that (a) occurred at particular points in time and that (b) have particular significance for those claiming certain rights connected with or based upon those events. With this definition in mind, Gans examines historical rights related to nationalist disputes about territorial claims. In both public and academic discourse about territorial claims, there are two basic ways to approach disputes about territorial claims. One approach emphasizes the priority of the people in relation to a territory – that is, the idea of being the first settlers or inhabitants as establishing the claim to a territory. The other emphasizes the priority of the territory in relation to the people – that is, the idea of the land forming the identity of the people as establishing the claim to a territory. Gans examines the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches to territorial disputes under these headings: first occupancy as grounds for sovereignty; and formative territories as grounds for territorial sovereignty.


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