UPDATE: Sign the petition.
One of the most racist bills to come down the pike in a long time has just passed its first reading in the Knesset. The Jewish National Fund Bill would prohibit Israeli Arab citizens from leasing state land. A little history is in order. The Jewish National Fund has raised funds in the Diaspora to buy and administer land for the use of Israel’s Jewish citizens. It has always by charter refused to recognize any Arab right to lease such property.
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that such a practice was discriminatory and not in keeping with the nature of a true democracy and it directed the JNF to allow the Arab complainant to lease JNF land. The current Knesset bill is an attempt to do an end around the judicial ruling.
Jerry Haber first informed me about this troubling and racist bill. After he told me about it we started e mailing about my idea to create an online petition campaign against the bill. We hoped to get several thousand Jewish signatures against it and present them to the Israeli Knesset. Our aim would be to notify the MKs that Diaspora and Israeli Jews are shocked, angry and saddened to see the racist depths to which the Knesset has sunk in passage of this bill on first reading. If enough of us sign, perhaps our sleepy American Jewish leadership might rouse their organizational machinery to oppose the bill as well.
I call upon all my readers to sign the petition. Tell everyone you know about it and ask them to sign. Publicize it in every way you can. Write letters to your Jewish newspaper asking their readers to sign.
Here is the text:
We the undersigned express our profound disapproval and sorrow at the Israeli Knesset’s recent passage, on first reading, of the Jewish National Fund bill. The bill would prohibit Israel’s Arab citizens from leasing land owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and managed by the Israeli Land Authority (which administers 93% of Israel’s land). The Israel High Court had earlier ruled that the ILA cannot discriminate against Arabs in leasing such land. This new legislation is an attempt to circumvent that ruling.
We applaud the High Court for putting an end to a discriminatory practice that should never have existed within a democratic state. We also applaud the Israeli MK’s, Jewish and Arab that voted against the amendment. If Israel is to be truly democratic, all its citizens must have the right to lease land held in trust by the government of Israel. Israel must not settle for anything less.
We call upon to the Knesset to defeat the amendment when it comes up for its next reading and to embrace values of equality and tolerance for all its citizens.
The petition will go online shortly and I will add a link here as soon as it does.
Dan Fleshler reports to me that Ronald Lauder, national chair of JNF has released a statement applauding the Knesset’s racist bill. The language of the statement shows that neither he nor his organization has a clue what being a democracy means:
“We are gratified that the government of Israel…recognized that the land purchased by the Jewish people for the Jewish people should remain in the hands of its rightful owners.
“This Knesset decision reaffirms the vision and the dream of Theodor Herzl and the millions of Jews over the past 106 years who contributed and participated in the rebirth of a Jewish nation after 2,000 years. The land of Israel is part of the very existence of the Jewish people from as far back as Abraham. We are a people linked to our land. Now and forever.”
Jerry Haber of Magnes Zionist has pointed out the aboslute fallacy of this statement here:
It has been argued in defence of the amendment that the lands owned by the Jewish National Fund were purchased by Jews for the express purpose of Jewish settlement, and that to use it for other purposes would be to violate the wishes of the donors. This argument is invalid for two reasons: First, the vast majority of land owned by the Jewish National Fund was not purchased by Jewish individuals but rather was expropriated by the Israel Government in the early years of the state from absentee Palestinian owners and transferred to the Fund so that the Israel government could not itself be accused of discriminatory land leasing – a legal fiction of dubious morality. Second, no parallel mechanism for the settlement needs of Arab citizens was ever established. On the contrary, as the Or Commision set up after the Israeli Arab protests in 2000 noted, “Arab settlements have been surrounded by security zones, Jewish district councils, national parks, nature reserves, and highways, that prevent or inhibit the possibility of future expansion.”
For Lauder and the JNF, a Jewish state means Jews are superior and Arabs hardly exist. Is this a democracy? Or is this a state in which those of one religion possess rights that others don’t have? Can we as Diaspora Jews countenance Israel lapsing into such an abased state?