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Bill allocating JNF land to Jews only passes preliminary reading
Yoav Stern and Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Correspondents
19 July 2007
The Knesset plenum approved a bill Wednesday, in its preliminary reading, which calls for all lands under the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to be allocated to Jews only. The bill passed by a massive majority of 64 MKS to 16.
This is institutionalized Jewish racism and ethnic democracy that is raging against anything Arab
MK Ahmed Tibi
The bill, initiated by MK Uri Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party), MK Zeev Elkin (Kadima), and MK Moshe Kahlon (Likud), is geared to bypass a 2004 court ruling which annulled an Israel Lands Administration (ILA) policy that prevented Arabs from participating in bids to purchase land owned by the JNF.
As a result of the ruling, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided that all land managed by the ILA, including land owned by the Jewish National Fund, will be marketed without discrimination or limits including to non-Jews.
The JNF owns 13 percent of state land, purchased for Jewish settlement.
This is another expression of a series of racist laws that are passed every day in the state of the Jews. The Arab population won't accept the theft of their rights to the lands that have been expropriated from them for years.
MK Mohammed Barakeh
When the bill was discussed in the Knesset presidency, there were demands to nullify it because it was called racist, but Knesset legal advisor Nurit Elstein said a bill should only be rejected if the racism is explicit in the proposal.
Hadash Chairman MK Mohammed Barakeh called the bill an "abominable legislation" and added that "the Knesset's face is the face of Uri Ariel, the radical of the settlers." He maintained that, "this is another expression of a series of racist laws that are passed every day in the state of the Jews. The Arab population won't accept the theft of their rights to the lands that have been expropriated from them for years."
In response to the bill, MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra`am-Ta`al) said "this is institutionalized Jewish racism and ethnic democracy that is raging against anything Arab."
The Meretz faction said that the government's support in the racist bill exposes its real face. "The Knesset is giving an excellent excuse for whoever is asking to represent Israel as an apartheid state which must be destroyed," said the party's statement.
MK Wassel Taha (Balad) said, "Only an insane Knesset passes a racist law that perpetuates the 'great land robbery of 1948' and changes it into an only Jewish asset."
MK Jamal Zahalka, also of Balad, maintained that the law shows an increase in the level of racism, and a decrease in the level of democracy, and a sprint to the direction of institutionalized apartheid.
MK Elkin, however, said that the bill comes to prevent the state of Israel from breaching the basic treaty between the state and the JNF, and to make historical justice.
JNF not required to act for good of all, court told
Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent
16 December 2004
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) is not required to act for the good of all of Israel's citizens and asking it to allocate land for the benefit of everyone is tantamount to nationalizing its assets, according to a document submitted to the High Court of Justice this week.
The document was submitted by the JNF in response to a petition brought against the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) about two months ago by the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the Adalah legal center.
The petitioners are asking the court to annul an ILA policy that prevents Arabs from participating in bids to purchase land owned by the JNF. The petitioners say the policy is not in keeping with the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty.
About five years ago, the High Court set a precedent when it ruled in favor of Adel Kaadan, who wanted to buy a lot in the community of Katzir, which was built on state land allocated to the Jewish Agency. A panel of five justices, led by Court President Aharon Barak, ruled that "the state's obligation to act with equality extends to all of its activities. It therefore also extends to the allocation of state lands."
ACRI attorney Ouni Bana argued before the court that the Kaadan ruling set a general rule, by which the state must not transfer the use or ownership of land to a third party that contracts with Jews only with regard to public land resources.
However, the JNF argued that its right to act as the "trustee of the Jewish people" surpasses even the principle of equality. "The JNF of course recognizes the right of all citizens to equality," the document submitted to the court states. "However, equality does not extend to the right of one person to settle on another person's property."
The JNF currently has lands amounting to about 2.5 million dunams. The document, to which an affidavit by JNF chairman Yehiel Leket was appended, also noted that it is not funded by the government, that its assets were acquired through the contributions of tens of thousands of Jews throughout the Diaspora, and therefore "the JNF has a clear obligation to its donors" and was established to work for the good of the Jewish people only.
JNF lawyers argued that JNF ownership of land is completely separate from the state, according to the Basic Law on the People's Lands, "which authorized separate and independent ownership of JNF lands."
In response to the JNF, the petitioners' attorneys argued that the prohibition against discrimination applies to private organizations, as well as public authorities. In any case, they added, because the JNF carries out government functions, it cannot be seen as a private organization. The petitioners also noted that their petition was directed against a undisputedly public body, the Israel Lands Administration, which administers JNF lands and must market them equally to all citizens.
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