Thursday, July 26, 2007
The Israeli state is trying desperately to foreclose all exceptions to its unequivocally racist land laws
By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
"Israel's parliament last week approved by an overwhelming majority the first reading of a bill to ensure that much of the country's inhabited land remains accessible to Jewish citizens only -- a move described by one leading local newspaper as turning Israel into a "racist Jewish state"......
The move is the latest in a series of battles since Israel's establishment in 1948 to ensure exclusive Jewish control of land through an international Zionist organisation known as the Jewish National Fund (JNF). By the time of Israel's founding, the JNF had bought about six per cent of historic Palestine for Jewish settlement. Rather than demanding that these territories be handed over by the JNF, the new state authorities assigned the organisation a special, quasi- governmental status. The JNF was also given a significant share of the lands and property confiscated from hundreds of thousands of Palestinians expelled during the 1948 War.
Today, the state has nationalised 80 per cent of land inside Israel, and the JNF holds another 13 per cent. Neither sells land to private owners on the grounds that it is being held in trust for worldwide Jewry. Instead, they offer long-term leases on the land in their possession.
The JNF has far more power than the division of land suggests, however: its 13 per cent share is reported to include some 70 per cent of the country's inhabited land; it effectively controls a government body known as the Israel Lands Authority that manages the 93 per cent of land owned by the state and the JNF; and it dominates committees set up to vet applicants to hundreds of rural communities.
Because the JNF charter forbids it from selling or leasing land to non-Jews, this arrangement has allowed the JNF to discriminate against Arab citizens on behalf of the government. The JNF's control of the Israel Lands Authority and the vetting committees has ensured that Arab citizens are excluded from most of the 93 per cent of nationalised land.
Instead they have been restricted to the three per cent of Israel on which Arab communities already exist or which is privately owned by Arab citizens, though even much of this land falls under the jurisdiction of Jewish regional councils that refuse to allow Arab families to build on it. Dozens of other Arab communities are classified as illegal because the state refuses to recognise them, even though they predate Israel's establishment......"