3 Jan

Israeli court: Land sales must include Arabs

first_imgUnder the deal accepted Monday by the Israeli court, while the fund would agree to sell land to Arabs, the Israel Lands Authority would give the JNF an equal amount of land in exchange. That would allow the fund to tell its contributors that it still maintains its original function of providing land for Jews in Israel. The court ordered the fund to come up with a permanent solution in three months. Critics charged that the deal still discriminates against Israel’s Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of the population. “The JNF’s policy could create a total separation between Arabs and Jews in where they live,” said Auni Bana, a lawyer with one of the petitioners, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. “This is racism.” On the other side, die-hard fund donors insisted they won’t let the organization back down. Israeli Nobel laureate Robert Aumann and former military chief Moshe Yaalon said they want to join the court case on the side of the JNF.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! JERUSALEM – Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday gave the country’s main land distributor three months to change its policy of selling property only to Jews – a practice that Israel’s Arab minority deems racist. The policy also has provoked criticism of the Jewish National Fund – one of world Jewry’s most beloved organizations. Supporters of the fund insist it has the right to refuse to market its lands to Arabs. The case points up a basic contradiction Israel has been grappling with for decades: maintaining its Jewish character while offering equality to its Arab minority in the framework of a democratic regime. The venerable Jewish group in effect acknowledged before the court that it can no longer eliminate Israeli Arabs from its land transactions, agreeing to reinstitute a complex land-for-land deal to try to keep everyone happy. “I think part of this is redefining the vision of what the JNF is all about,” said Mike Nitzan, a member of the fund’s board. The fund is a century-old symbol of the drive to reclaim the Holy Land and fill it with Jews. Founded in 1901, it is known around the Jewish world for its little blue collection boxes, where Jews contributed money to buy land for settlement. A century later, the fund is still in the business of providing land for Jewish settlement in Israel, owning about 13 percent of the land in the country. But even some Jewish critics say it has outlived its usefulness in a modern, democratic state that grants equal rights to non-Jewish minority citizens. Legal expert Moshe Negbi told Israel Radio the fund should have been phased out when the state of Israel was created in 1948. last_img read more