In the wake of each flare-up in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, people inevitably argue over the same question: “Who owns the territory that currently comprises Israel: the Arab Palestinians, or the Jews?” Then long debates ensue about the history of the two different groups in the region, who was there first, which group was the aggressor, which group has rightful title, etc.
But the Objectivist answer to the question of which ethnic group has the right to the land is: Neither. Land cannot belong to ethnic groups, social classes, or other categories of people, in any sense.
In The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand wrote:
A group, as such, has no rights. A man can neither acquire new rights by joining a group nor lose the rights which he does possess. The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations.
The reason that rights are individual is that the human mind is individual, the process of thought is individual and human life is fundamentally individual. (For more on this, see: QuickPoint 1: Thinking is Individual.) Rights are the moral-political principles that protect individual human life and freedom of thought/action from the coercive depredations of other humans. (See Ayn Rand’s essays from The Virtue of Selfishness here: “Man’s Rights/The Nature of Government.”)
Land can only be owned by individuals, or by groups that are definite sets of individuals in a clear contractual arrangement, (such as a corporation.) Vague conglomerations of people have no singular identity and no collective mind, and thus cannot have rights to anything, as such.