Here are some examples of property theft that were clearly unjustifiable when they were first done, but may or may not now be considered legitimate.
There are few left today would defend the actions of the U.S. government in dishonoring its early 19th-century treaties with the American Indians and seizing land that was promised to the various tribal nations in perpetuity. Yet there are even fewer who would favor dusting off the original treaties and returning all the land to the Indians that was originally recognized as theirs. Most feel that even if the original theft of the land from the Indians was a monstrous injustice, it would merely compound the injustice to bring in the county sheriff to kick Joe Green and his family out of his house so that Jake Tenspears of the Shawnee nation may again have the land that his g’-g’-g’-great grandparents rightfully owned.
Here’s another instance. In the Middle East, Palestinians in the West Bank seek a “right of return” to their homes in Israel. Many of these families or their parents fled their homes at the urging of the Arab military; some were driven out by the Israeli military. Many of these homes have been occupied by Jewish or Palestinian Israelis for fifty years; others have been empty ever since the original occupants left. Should the original Palestinian owners still be considered the rightful owners of all these properties, none of them, or only the uninhabited ones? And does it matter whether they were forced out or left voluntarily?
Still more recently, thousands of Cuban landowners fled for their lives during Castro’s communist revolution, and the Cuban government confiscated their property. There is serious talk in the U.S. about suing or freezing the assets of companies that develop or do business on land that our government still considers to rightfully belong to its original Cuban owners. This theft is now forty years old. Has it become legitimate by passage of time? Will it ever?
I suspect that most posters on this board (myself included) will consider at least one of the thefts listed above to be legitimate now. What is the deciding factor? Is time the only relevant consideration?