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Bill allocating JNF land to Jews only passes preliminary reading
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Posted on July 22, 2007
By Yoav Stern and Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Correspondents

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.

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.

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.

Click here to view this article at Ha'aretz's website


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