But in correspondence with Adalah, Bishara noted, Israeli officials have claimed that the refugees permanently lost any right to their properties. Most of their lands were sold off to a Development Authority in the 1950s.
"In our view, even when the properties are sold, the income from the sales continued to reside with the absentees, not with Israel," Bishara said.
On the lands of many of the destroyed villages, new Jewish communities were established to prevent any return by the refugees.
Saffuriya's extensive lands, for example, were settled from 1949 onwards by East European Jews, and the site renamed Tzipori. Today, about 300 Jewish families live there.
According to analysts, Israel set about implementing a two-stage process after the Nakba: it concealed evidence of a historic Palestinian presence to legitimize the land theft, while enforcing a strict system of residential segregation in Israel to ensure no Palestinian citizens could regain a foothold in their former lands.
Pappe has termed the first stage "memoricide."
An international Zionist organization, the Jewish National Fund, was responsible for planting European-style pine forests over the ruins of Palestinian villages such as Saffuriya.
As well as disguising the land's provenance, the forests created an instant physical impediment designed to prevent the refugees from rebuilding their villages.
Pappe noted a famous saying about the Palestinian refugees usually attributed to Israel's founding father, David Ben Gurion: "The old will die, and the young will forget."
"Israel actively sought to engineer such forgetting, and the pine forests were intended to assist in erasing those memories," he said.
"Paradoxically, today the forests have become the most obvious signposts to help young Palestinians in Israel identify where the villages were buried."
In Tzipori, the forest planted over the refugees' homes is named in commemoration of Guatemala's independence in 1821. It hints too at the Israelis' murky historic dealings with Guatemala's military governments.
Other forests close by honor Winston Churchill, Britain's wartime prime minister; Lord Balfour, author of the Balfour Declaration that promised the Zionists a homeland in Palestine; and Coretta Scott King, the widow of US civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Still more have been named after countries such as South Africa and Canada, whose populations donated funds to buy trees.
Pappe observed: "This was a way for Israel to connect the forests to foreign states and provide an international legitimacy to these acts of ethnic cleansing and memoricide."Vetting committees
But even with the villages destroyed and forests planted over them, Israeli officials were fearful that Palestinian citizens, especially the internal refugees, might seek to gain access to the hundreds of rural Jewish communities built on their former lands.