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Jewish National Fund a Disgrace

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    Abolish the JNF by Uri Avnery April 21, 2007 http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=107&ItemID=12642 What would we say if an American
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3 7:58 PM
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      Abolish the JNF
      by Uri Avnery
      April 21, 2007
      http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=107&ItemID=12642


      What would we say if an American institution, holding
      a seventh of all the land in the United States,
      adopted statutes that allowed it to sell or rent land
      only to White Anglo-Saxon Protestants?

      We would not believe it. And it is, indeed,
      impossible.

      But that's the way things are in Israel. This us now
      the subject of a stormy public debate.

      These are the facts: The Jewish National Fund (in
      Hebrew Keren Kayemet le-Israel - KKL) holds 13% of all
      the land in Israel. Its statutes explicitly prohibit
      the sale or rental of land to non-Jews. This means
      that every Jew in the world, living anywhere from
      Timbuktu to Kamchatka, can get land from the KKL,
      without even coming to Israel, while an Arab citizen
      of Israel, whose forefathers have lived here for
      hundreds - or even thousands - of years, cannot
      acquire a house or an apartment on its land.

      The debate arose after a recent ruling of the Israeli
      Supreme Court which proscribed discrimination between
      citizens in the distribution of land. On the strength
      of this, the KKL has been sued. Now the Attorney
      General has decided that the Government cannot
      discriminate against Arab citizens, even while
      distributing land belonging to the KKL.

      This is all very nice, but there is a "but". The best
      legal brains looked for a way out: How to keep the
      discrimination alive in spite of the court's decision?
      No Problem. The Attorney General simply proposes that
      for every dunam (1000 square meters, a Turkish measure
      still applied in Israel) that the KKL will have to
      distribute - God forbid - to Arabs, the government
      will compensate it with another dunam somewhere else.
      The alternative land will be in the "peripheral"
      areas, the Negev and the Galilee, where it is much
      more profitable. And for good measure, the government
      will guarantee that the annual revenues of the KKL
      will reach half a billion Shekels. Thus the cake will
      be divided but remain whole.

      The KKL, by the way, appoints almost half the
      directors of the "Israel Land Authority", the
      government body that is in charge of all state-owned
      land in Israel.

      In this situation, 20% of the citizens of Israel are
      denied the right to buy a home in large parts of the
      country, while this right is enjoyed by Jews living in
      Brooklyn and Odessa.

      How did this state of affairs come about?

      Like many other bad things here, it started quite
      innocently.

      More than a hundred years ago, when the Zionist
      movement was created, the need arose to buy land for
      Jewish immigrants in Palestine. The KKL was set up for
      this purpose. In every Zionist home around the world a
      blue collection box was hung up. In every classroom in
      Jewish schools, children were urged to drop their
      coins into the box. In Jewish schools in this country,
      KKL-trustees were appointed, whose job was to
      encourage donations, for example by organizing
      fund-raising competitions between classes and between
      schools. The blue box became a symbol of the Zionist
      movement, perhaps the most prominent. I, too, put my
      coins into the box that was passed along the benches
      every Friday in my classroom in the Ahad-Ha'am
      elementary school in Tel-Aviv.

      With the money thus collected, a lot of land was
      acquired, on which Kibbutzim and Moshavim were set up.
      That was the height of Zionist idealism. The
      "Redemption of the Land" and "Hebrew Labor" were the
      cornerstones of the Zionist dream.

      And, indeed, what could be more beautiful? Children
      all over the world dropped their pennies into the blue
      box. The land of Israel was bought with good money. On
      this land the pioneers, sons of merchants and usurers,
      tilled the field in the sweat of their brows.

      All over the world, Jewish children were singing: "I
      shall tell you, girl, / And you too, boy, / How in the
      land of Israel / The land is redeemed. // A dunam
      here, a dunam there, / Clod after clod, / The land of
      the people is being bought, / From the North to the
      Negev. // On the wall there hangs a box, / A blue box,
      / Every penny in the box / Redeems land..."

      However, this beautiful story had a dark side, which
      was not registered in Zionist consciousness.

      The land was indeed bought, often at exorbitant
      prices, but from rich absentee owners, who did not
      live on it or cultivate it. When the late Ottoman
      Empire was bankrupt and in dire need of money, it sold
      huge tracts to rich Arab merchants in Jaffa, Beirut
      and other cities, who bought them as an investment.
      The Arab Felaheen (farmers), who had tilled the land
      for many generations, were mere tenants. When the KKL
      bought the land, the Felaheen were driven out, often
      with the help of the Turkish, and later the British
      police.

      In spite of all this effort, when the United Nations
      resolved in November 1947 to partition the country
      between a Jewish and an Arab State, less than 7% of
      the land belonged to Jews. Only a part of this area
      belonged to the KKL, the rest to private Jewish owners
      in the towns and the agricultural "colonies".

      Logic would have dictated that with the founding of
      the State of Israel, the KKL transfer its lands to the
      State. After all, that was the idea of collecting the
      money.

      But this did not happen. In fact, the very opposite
      took place: the new state transferred to the KKL
      millions of dunams of land expropriated from Arabs -
      the refugees who were not allowed to return
      ("absentees" in legal language), those who had
      remained in the country but were absent on a given day
      from their villages ("present absentees"), as well as
      Arabs who became citizens of Israel.

      It is important to keep this in mind, since it
      disproves the big lie that hovers over the whole
      debate: that the KKL land was bought with the money of
      the Jewish people. The greater part of the present KKL
      land was not bought at all, but conquered in war and
      transferred to the KKL.

      Why transferred? Why did the sovereign state transfer
      lands gratis to a non-state body? Only one reason
      comes to mind: so as to continue with the
      discrimination against the Arab citizens.

      In an official brief, the KKL argues that it does not
      owe loyalty to the principles of the State of Israel,
      as put down in the 1948 Declaration of Independence
      (equality between all citizens, regardless of religion
      and race), but to "The Jewish People". This means that
      "The Jewish People", which is not a political body, is
      being presented as an independent entity superior to
      the State of Israel.

      The KKL does not act, of course, for "the Jewish
      People". It is an instrument of the Israeli Jewish
      community against the Israeli Arab community. It has
      become an instrument for institutionalized
      discrimination. The Attorney General's sleight of
      hand, designed to satisfy the demand of the Israeli
      Supreme Court for equality between all citizens, while
      still allowing a body based on discrimination to keep
      hold of 13% of the land in the state, does not change
      the situation in principle. The KKL is not unique.
      Discrimination reigns in many fields. In the last few
      days alone, the following facts happened to come to
      light:

      * The chiefs of the Treasury Ministry are pondering
      how to pay allowances to big Jewish families, without
      paying them to big Arab families. (There are two
      communities in Israel with a soaring birth-rate: the
      Jewish orthodox and the Muslim Arab, especially
      Bedouin.)

      * The Ministry of the Interior is pushing a law that
      allows all foreigners who marry Israelis to acquire
      Israeli citizenship, even if they are not Jewish - but
      explicitly excludes Arabs. This denies thousands of
      young Arabs, citizens of Israel, the right to set up a
      family in Israel, if the bride or bridegroom is a
      resident of the Palestinian territories, even if he or
      she is a relative.

      * The Ministry of Education confirmed what until now
      has been an open secret: that the appointment of every
      teacher and principal in an Arab school in Israel is
      subject to the approval of the General Security
      Service (Shin-Bet). But the ministry is progressing
      with the times: Until now, the Shin-Bet representative
      was automatically the vice-chairman of the
      appointments committee. From now on, he will only be a
      simple committee member.

      It would be nice if we could say that these phenomena,
      and the many others of the sort, are inspired by the
      right-wing. But the truth is that most of them came
      into being when the Zionist left was in control, and
      continue now with the support of the left-wing whose
      representatives serve in the Sharon government.

      This is not the state that we promised ourselves in
      the Declaration of Independence. We have a tough
      struggle ahead of us, until Israel becomes a
      democratic, liberal, secular, pluralist and
      egalitarian state.

      A step in this direction would be the abolition of the
      KKL and the transfer of its lands to the state.

      *********************************************************************

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