Sunday, April 22, 2007

Abolish the Jewish National Fund (JNF)

By Uri Avnery

"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.......

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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