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In halacha, is it considered “stealing” for a nation to colonize another piece of land if that piece of land doesn’t have a system of property rights. For example, the Americans colonizing the indigenous people of North America and their tribes who didn’t have a system of property rights. Obviously you have to take into account all the murder, rape etc. but other than that was there something halachically or hashkafically problematic with annexing the land? This question is in the context for gentile nations, not about the ethics of the Jewish nation.

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    The Torah is replete with records of nations conquering nations. The Torah is also replete with statements from Hashem that He is the one causing this to happen. There is no real criticism of these nations for doing this. Would be interesting to see if this has been discussed though
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 9:30
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    The Talmud refers explicitly to the ability of nations to acquire land through warfare, so post-facto there's certainly no issue in living on conquered land. Even regarding the permissibility of the original war, it would seem to be permitted. As @RabbiKaii said, the fact that there are many examples from the Torah of nations fighting nations (and Jews conquering other lands outside Eretz Yisrael) with no clear criticism implies that it's legitimate. Ultimately though, it's not desirable, as can be seen from the famous prophecy about beating swords into ploughshares (Yeshaya 2)
    – AKA
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 21:32
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    I'll check it out later, but I'm pretty sure there's a Ramban regarding [Amalek's attack which states that the Amalekite attitude was particularly heinous because they were not motivated by] the five acceptable reasons for going to war Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 5:15
  • The question can possibly be rephrased: Does a tribe that does not have the notion of kinyan karka said to be in possession of their native lands? If so, I would say that is a disingenuous question.
    – The GRAPKE
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 7:37
  • sefaria.org/Chullin.60b.11?lang=he&with=all
    – User123
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 2:23

2 Answers 2

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Colonialism, referred to in Talmud as כיבוש מלחמה/kibbush milchamah, has legally binding halachic status.

The Gemara (Gittin 38a, Chullin 60b) cites the precedent of when Sichon conquered the lands of Ammon and Moab, the conquered land lost the status of the original dwellers, thus permitting them to be fair-game war gains for the Israelites. The Gemara extends this to conquest of slaves as captives of war. This is codified by Rambam (Avadim 9:4) and Shulchan Aruch (YD 267:18).

The exact terms of this conquest is subject to a large debate in the commentaries:

  • Some Rishonim say that kibbush milchamah works through the regular mechanism of yeiush [unique only that yiush usually doesn't work on land, and is only effective in war situations (Ramban, Gittin 38)].

  • Other Rishonim understand this as a mechanism specific to war, in which conquests of war legitimately belong to the the victors.

  • A third opinion considers this an extension of dina dmalchusa dina (see Radvaz 3:533, Shulchan Aruch Harav, Hefker KA #3}), or alternatively, the source for dina dmalchusa dina

An important caveat to this is: Some authorities (see, for example, Dvar Avraham 11:9, explaining the view of Rashba and Ra'avad) consider the conquest valid only as long as the victors remain in the land. At any point when they relinquish their control, the land automatically returns to the original owners.


This above is a very general approach to a largely technical sugya that is beyond the scope of this answer to do real justice. For further halachic analysis, see Dvar Avraham (V1, Siman 11). See also this article by 'Micropedia Talmudis' for a very detailed treatment.

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I gather from the excellent comments above, that it is proper and morally right, for a nation to colonize another people and land if it will bring them to the knowledge of the True Tzaddik or if the Tzaddik and his name will be aggrandized.

Because this is the opposite of Amalek, whose entire war and purpose is only to hide the name of the True Tzadik, as Rashi explains, "And he tailed you" - Ex.25:18 ויזנב בך -- He would take mediocre people and make them Leaders and big shots, because his entire war is to hide the name of Moshe-Mashiach. He is content for you to follow this rav or this Sadiq as long as it's not the Rosh Bayit, the Sadiq haDor the Tzaddik of the era. This is Likutei Moharan II:66-67 iirc plus numerous places in Likutei Halakhot. R' Nathan reminds us like R' Nachman said however, only the student, only the Joshua can fight for his master's name, a prisoner can't free himself.

As long as ancient Yisrael honored Moshe Rabbeinu they did right in their conquests and were successful and if not not.

The people of Rashbi were under too much Roman brutality to do anything. But wasn't Rashbi a superb general?🤔

The Arizal's people were too busy with his dank Torah to care about colonizing.

The Besht colonized the east, and Rabbi Nachman had his followers and one time made a secret trip into a city where Jews were not allowed to stay overnight. He stayed there, no one knows how, and then Jews were allowed after that, so he "colonized" it. Plus his big trip to Zaslov, Brod and Lemberg, Rabbi Nathan in Chayey Moharan says no one knows the purpose or what he accomplished on that trip, but I'd say there was definitely some kind of colonization to his name and purposes. Many of his Sefarim were printed in Lemberg or is it Lviv.

Saba colonized Eretz Yisrael look every where you go you see his name on every rock, house, head and automobile. His followers colonized it.

Edit: אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ, וַיְזַנֵּב בְּךָ כָּל-הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים אַחֲרֶיךָ--וְאַתָּה, עָיֵף וְיָגֵעַ; וְלֹא יָרֵא, אֱלֹהִים.

Deut. 25:18 How he cooled thee by the way and made you mediocre, by character assassinating the head, Moshe, and raising the hindmost of thee to positions of authority and false pride, all those weak meagre wannabees in thy rear, making you faint and weary; having no fear of God whatsoever.

Source: Rashi there and Sifrei Breslev

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    This does not at all address the OP's questions. You are justifying murder and colonizing carte blanche without even addressing the serious nature of the question. Commented Jun 2 at 6:54

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