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?
Ira Glunts says
Interesting idea. I will sign the letter. Good luck.
Ryan Kermode says
It’s silly to complain about racist laws of Israel. Israel is the Jewish state, and as someone points out in the link below, “Jewish law is littered with references which dehumanize gentiles and treat them as little better than animals”
Richard Silverstein says
Oh we’ve got a live anti-Semite here folks. I’ve just reviewed the blog to which you linked & its instructive, though painful to wade through the miasma of generalizations he makes about Judaism [UPDATE: For those who don’t read carefully, the epithet above refers to the commenter here & not the author of the post he links to]:
Littered? Oh really. Try providing one reference for starters. That would be nice. How do you level such a charge w/o providing a single reference to support you? But at least he tempers his ridiculous statement by acknowledging there may be a Jew or two who doesn’t share such views.
This author makes no distinction between Orthodox Judaism & other denominations which makes this generalization worthless. Orthodox Jews constitute perhaps 20% of the overall Jewish population. There are SOME (though not all) Orthodox Jews who see their lives as being worth more than a gentiles life. But is it valid to extrapolate fr. such a minority view that this is the view of “Judaism?” No, of course not.
In fact, most Jews do not maintain such a belief at all.
Again, this is preposterous. Baruch Goldstein no more represents the views of normative Judaism than David Duke represents the views of all southerners. Are there a few hundred Jews in the world who agree with Goldstein’s views (in fact there is a hardy minority who worship at his grave on the date of his suicide)? Sure. So what does that prove. And I should add that I have practically devoted my life to fighting the Goldsteins of the Jewish people and it is why I am hated among a narrow band of my own people. But to say that this murderous nutcase represents me or my fellow Jews is deeply offensive & just plain wrong.
I’ve learned at this blog that there is a certain class of people who have extreme views & to bolster them they often resort to anecdotal evidence that can hardly be replicated outside of the one or two people offered as evidence of a wider trend. So we have here one Jewish woman espousing views I would view as bizarre & aberrant to Judaism as I know it. What does such a person represent? A trend? An important statistic? Hardly.
John Yorke says
Richard, have you ever considered doing a cost-analysis of your blog? How many thousands of words have appeared here over the years? How many thoughts and opinions have found sanctuary in its columns ? What numbers now languish within its archives, fading day by day into the ever receding past? And what has been the result of all this written contention? Has it stopped one single war, saved one single life, changed one single mind? Sometimes you just have to wonder where it’s all going, don’t you?
A petition as a means of alerting the troops and rousing the populace! OK, it might work but, seriously, I would question its efficacy. Why? Because it’s so predictable. It’s the sort of thing expected of you, Richard. It’s the liberal approach, enlightened, reasonable, rational….. but, just maybe, a bit too conventional. No doubt there will be many who will hear your call and add their voice to yours. And that’s all well and good and as it should be but, in the end, what is really achieved? Will there be any discernible end-product to show for this most laudable endeavour?
Now the way I see it is this. If you really want a result, you first have to get noticed. And for that, it’s better to do the unexpected. It’s no good always pitching straight down the middle. Once in a while there you have to throw in a curve-ball. If nothing else, it does liven things up and makes others sit up too.
How about this for unconventionality? Announce that you’re positively in favour of land reserved exclusively for Jews. No problem there at all. It’s only fair, simple natural justice – even God himself approves; the Bible says so, doesn’t it? Of course, by the same token, it must follow that land also has to be set aside similarly for any non-Jews who might want it.
Refer them then to the TOY blog at http://yorketowers.blogspot.com and suggest this as a way in which such exclusivity might be so sanctioned and legitimised. I can almost guarantee then a flight from any vision of permanent land retention held by those willing to promote such a scheme. God forbid that the sacred soil of Israel should ever be put at risk. No, we’d rather continue on with things just as they are, fighting, killing and squabbling over it as always. Please forget we ever mentioned anything concerning special land reservation.
‘The children of this world, in their generation, are wiser than the children of light’
(translation: ‘It often helps, in this world, if you can be a lot sneakier and more savvy than those who aren’t’)
alternative translation:’ never give a sucker an even break’ Not very liberal, of course, but then who cares? If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we can always…. you know what.
“Oh we’ve got a live anti-Semite here folks.”
Richard, you must learn to tame that instinct to yell “anti-Semite.” You’re by no means the worst offender, but the practice is deeply entrenched and demands continual vigilance.
Razib was fully justified in removing your post, and you might want to consider apologizing.
Richard Silverstein says
Anon: No, it’s you & Razib who owe ME an apology. I didn’t accuse HIM of being an anti-Semite unless his name is really Ryan Kermode & he wrote the comment published here which linked to his post. You guys should read more carefully before you accuse people of accusing you of anti-Semitism. I think it’s you guys who are the jittery, defensive ones. Not me.
You mean you read my analysis of his post above & you think he was justified in deleting it. I think it’s pathetic. My comment on his post contains factual information & legitimate challenges to his claims. What does he do–press delete. Pathetic. And then he snidely says I should go ahead & waste my time & post again so he can delete again. Worthless.
“You mean you read my analysis of his post above & you think he was justified in deleting it?.”
No, I thought he was justified because I was under the impression you had called him an “anti-Semite”. But apparently I was wrong, so I apologize.
But now that you’ve explained that it was really commenter Ryan Kermode whom you calling an “anti-Semite,” perhaps you could explain what in his short post justifies this?
“And then he snidely says I should go ahead & waste my time & post again so he can delete again. Worthless.”
Impolite perhaps, but I think you’re going to find that the “anti-Semitism” charge will increasingly draw this kind of vigorous reaction. People are tired of it, and are beginning to suspect that it’s used to hide more harm than it claims to expose.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t much like people who claim Israel is racist and blame the Jewish religion for such racism saying that Israelis oppress Arabs because Jews think they are “little better than animals.” That’s what Kermode was getting at. And that’s precisely the danger of what Razib is doing. I don’t think he’s anti-Semitic. He probably doesn’t think much of ANY religion, let alone Judaism. He’s clearly read a lot about Judaism. But his “knowledge” of Judaism is skewed by his inherent prejudices & overgeneralizations. A religion is a huge belief system that includes much that is garbage & much that is sublime. To make the type of sweeping generalizations he makes in his post does tremendous violence & disservice to my religion.
I am not one who throws around the term ‘anti-Semite’ wily nily. I have been accused by my own fellow Jews too many times of hating my religion & Israel to do that to someone else w/o good justification.
And if you’re in touch w. this fellow you should ask him to ponder the question–if I was accusing him of being anti-Semitic in the comment I published at his blog, why did I remove the phrase containing that term, which opens the comment I wrote here directed at Ryan Kermode? Does Razib think I was just being 2-faced & didn’t want to call him an anti-Semite to his face? I’ve got news. I call ’em as I see ’em & if I thougt he was one I would’ve said so right at his blog. I think he’s terribly ill-informed. But not an anti-Semite.