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Monday, September 24, 2007

JNF to suspend Jewish-land-only policy

This is very dangerous.  Let’s just hope the Knesset will keep its word…"despite whatever is stated in any law, leading of JNF's lands for the purpose of the settlement of Jews on these lands will not be seen as improper discrimination."



The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

JNF to suspend Jewish-land-only policy

The Jewish National Fund has agreed to sell land in Israel to non-Jews for a limited time, the organization announced on Monday morning, as part of the state's response to three petitions to the High Court of Justice.

The state and the JNF had reached an agreement according to which the government would "reimburse" the organization for land it sold to non-Jews, by providing it with an equal amount of state land.

According to the JNF's response to the High Court of Justice, the policy of allowing land allocations to non-Jews will be in effect for the three months it will take to draft a final land-swap deal with the state.

The High Court was due on Monday to hear the three petitions, which have called on the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) to stop restricting public tenders for land owned by the JNF to Jews.

The issue is an especially emotional one because it challenges one of the most cherished ideals of the Zionist movement, the redemption of the land through purchase by the Jewish people.

The petitions were filed by Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; The Arab Center for Alternative Planning; the Association for Civil Rights in Israel; the Mussawa Center for the Rights of the Arab Citizens of Israel and two private petitioners.

The petitions are the direct outcome of the ruling on an earlier one filed by Israeli Arab Adel Ka'adan, whose bid on a tender for a housing lot in the community village of Katzir, south of Umm el-Fahm, was rejected because he was an Arab. The ILA, which owned the land, gave it to the Jewish Agency for development.

The Jewish Agency, which is in part a settlement movement, was established to serve the needs of the Jewish people and does not distribute land to Arabs. The High Court of Justice ruled that because the ILA was a state institution, it could not hand over state land for development to an institution that does not treat all Israeli citizens alike.

Following that ruling, the petitioners decided to try to take matters one step farther. Although the ILA does not own the JNF lands, it administers them and issues the tenders for their lease. According to Regulation 27 of the Regulations of the Obligations of Tenders, the ILA is authorized to conduct a tender on JNF-owned land. A 1961 covenant between the state and the JNF allows the ILA to sell JNF lands solely to Jews.

In its petition, Adalah charged that "the ILA is obliged to act in accordance with the principles of public law, and first and foremost, the principle of freedom."

It also charged that Regulation 27 violated the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom.

The issue became even more controversial when, in the state's response, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz agreed with the petitioners.

"The attorney-general's position is that the ILA is obliged to uphold the principle of equality in allocating the lands it administers including lands owned by the JNF," wrote the state's representative, attorney Osnat Mandel, head of the High Court Petition Section of the State Attorney's Office.

Initially, the JNF strongly rejected the petitioners' arguments. "The JNF will claim that it should not be obliged to allocate lands in its possession to non-Jews," wrote Attorney Alex Hartman.

"In regard to all matters concerning JNF lands, the imposition of an obligation to allocate them to Jews and to non-Jews will not only disrupt and damage the organization's activities and tasks, but will also nullify entirely the special role of the JNF as the owner of an eternal possession of the Jewish people. The imposition of such an obligation would amount to a declaration of the illegality of the JNF, as well as the illegality of the multitudes of contributions made by Jews, who have sought to redeem the land for over 100 years."

Recently, a group of figures including Nobel Prize winner Yisrael Uman and former army chief of staff Lt.-Gen (res.) Moshe Ya'alon asked the High Court to accept them as respondents to the petitions.

In their request, the group accused the petitioners of seeking to expropriate the land "purchased with the funds of Jews for themselves and as their property. These petitions seek to make use of the Jewish property for uses other than the ones for which the money was donated. The petitions seek to undo the entire aim of the blessed Zionist enterprise, to reject its achievements and to steal the vision of tens of thousands of Jews and turn their backs on their legacy."

In the meantime, on July 18 the Knesset passed a bill in preliminary reading declaring that JNF lands will only be leased to Jews and that "despite whatever is stated in any law, leading of JNF's lands for the purpose of the settlement of Jews on these lands will not be seen as improper discrimination." The bill was approved by a vote of 64-16.

Should the law be approved in final reading, it will override the court's decision, if the court rules in favor of the petitioners.

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1189411468814&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Copyright 1995- 2007 The Jerusalem Post -


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