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The forfeiture of Jerusalem lands to Arabs

By Aaron Klein

Earlier this month, I correctly reported hundreds of acres of lands in Jerusalem owned by an international Jewish organization and purchased using Jewish donor funds for the stated purpose of Jewish settlement, have been used for the illegal construction of dozens of Arab apartment buildings, a refugee camp and a United Nations school.

The Jewish National Fund, an international nonprofit organization that owns the areas in question, has seemingly done little to boot the Arab squatters from its land, while the Israeli government, which manages the areas, did not halt the illegal Arab construction. There are now entire Arab communities and U.N. facilities for Arabs built upon the Jewish-owned lands in Jerusalem purchased by Jews, for Jews. As a result, Israel’s security fence has isolated the JNF-owned lands to Arab sections of Jerusalem, in effect forfeiting to Arabs the properties meant for Jewish residence.

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The JNF states in its charter it works “on behalf of the Jewish People … to enable Jewish settlement [throughout Israel].”

In the esteemed organization’s first response to my article, JNF CEO Russell Robinson released a letter claiming my piece contained “unverified facts and figures.” Robinson’s letter didn’t list any examples of the supposed unverified facts and figures and didn’t dispute a single word in my article, the substance of which was run by JNF’s offices prior to publication. Removing the possibility of any doubt to the contentions in my article, I obtained and quoted from internal JNF documents outlining all the illegal Arab construction on the Jewish-owned lands in question!

Realizing the tactic of attacking my article wouldn’t work, Robinson now has released a second letter containing misleading, unsupported blanket statements such as “Rest assured JNF does not give away land to Arabs.”

Robinson also attempts to put the onus on Israel since the Jewish state’s government determined the route of the security fence, which blocked off the Jewish-owned property from Jewish Jerusalem

Robinson’s latest diatribe reads:

“We appreciate [your] concern about giving away land to Arabs; in fact we share it. Rest assured JNF does not give away land to Arabs. In fact, today JNF owns about 17 percent of the land of Israel, far more than was actually purchased by the organization before the founding of the state.

“Israel is a democratic nation; its leaders are elected by its citizens and governed by its laws. JNF is a Zionistic organization, albeit an apolitical one, and works alongside and with respect for this government and its laws.

“Security fences are built to ensure the safety of the country’s citizens, surely of paramount importance to all Zionists. These fences are built by democratically elected governments. Please tell me whom I should debate on the security of the citizens of Israel.

“JNF’s focus is not on political issues but in transforming the land and bettering the lives of the people who live in it. We have stayed true to this mandate. In 105 years we have cared for the land, planted forests, built parks and playgrounds, safeguarded historical sites, built water reservoirs, constructed security roads, educated Diaspora Jewry about Israel and her environment, built communities, and brought a sense of hope and renewal to those devastated by war …”

The letter goes on to outline all the good JNF has done over the years. And it certainly has done plenty of good.

But as the researcher of these issues, I am insulted by Robinson’s seemingly deceptive statements. In true Clintonian fashion, Robinson tells Jewish donors they can ”rest assured” JNF doesn’t give away land to Arabs. Certainly JNF hasn’t legally forfeited its right to the lands, so it is technically accurate to state it didn’t give the land away. In practice, though, JNF has done just that. JNF’s inaction during years of illegal construction on its properties has ensured that the Jerusalem areas in question will likely remain Arab. There are now entire developed Arab communities and U.N. facilities for Arabs built on JNF-owned lands in Jerusalem purchased by Jews, for Jews.

Robinson discusses Israel’s security fence as if it arbitrarily blockaded the JNF lands to Arab sections of Jerusalem. The fence was built in 2003 and 2004. I documented that the illegal Arab construction occurred over the past twenty years, long before the security fence was even a proposed idea. Some of the Arab building occurred during the past five years, with at least one project still under construction.

It was because the Arabs were not stopped from establishing de facto towns on JNF-owned land that the security fence route blocked off the Jewish-owned lands to Arab sections. I doubt the Israeli government’s fence would have isolated the land had JNF used the properties for its intended purpose – Jewish settlement.

Robinson states the JNF is apolitical. But allowing Arabs to illegally construct communities on lands in Israel’s capital – land purchased with donor funds for the stated purpose of Jewish settlement – is about the most political statement the JNF is in a position to make.

The trend is not limited to Jerusalem. Arabs are reportedly building without permits on JNF-owned property in the Galilee and in areas outside Bethlehem.

Robinson outlines all the good JNF has done over the years. And it certainly has done plenty of good. But I challenge him to actually address the issue at hand: Why have Arabs been allowed to illegally construct on JNF-owned property purchased with Jewish donors funds – and what is JNF doing about it?

Palestinians illegally build apartments in Jewish-owned Shoafat (WND photo)

The properties in question include about 270 acres in the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Qalandiya and Kfar Akev, located near an old Israeli airport, and about 50 acres in a north Jerusalem suburb known as Shoafat, which is adjacent to the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev. The lands were legally purchased on behalf of JNF using Jewish donations in the early 1900s, immediately after the organization was founded in 1901 with the specific charge of repurchasing and developing the land of Israel for Jewish settlement.

A tour of Qalandiya and Kfar Akev found dozens of Arab apartment complexes, a Palestinian refugee camp and a United Nations school for Palestinians constructed on the land.

U.N. school for Palestinians illegal built on Jewish property (WND photo)

According to officials in Israel’s Housing Ministry, Arabs first constructed facilities illegally in Qalandiya and Kfar Akev between 1948 and 1967, prior to the 1967 Six-Day War during which Israel retook control of the entire city of Jerusalem. Qalandiya, still owned by JNF, came under the management of the Israeli government’s Land Authority in the late 1960s.

Ministry officials say the bulk of illegal Arab construction in Qalandiya took place in the past 20 years, with construction of several new Arab apartment complexes taking place in just the past two years.

Illegal Arab construction in Qalandiya (WND Photo)

Neither the Israeli government nor JNF took any concrete measures to stop the illegal building, which continues today with at least one apartment complex in Qalandiya under construction.

The Jewish-owned land in Qalandiya has an estimated value of about $35 million, according to Housing Ministry officials.

Jerusalem’s Shoafat neighborhood, which has an estimated value of $3 million, was also purchased by JNF in the early 1900′s and fell under the management of the Israel Land Authority about 40 years ago. Much of the illegal Arab construction in Shoafat took place in the past 15 years, with some apartment complexes built as late as 2004.

In Qalandiya, Kfar Akev and Shoafat, Israel’s security fence cordons off the Arab sections of the JNF lands from the rest of Jewish Jerusalem.

Internal JNF documents obtained by WND outline illegal Arab construction on the Jewish-owned land. A survey of Walandiya summarized on JNF stationery conducted in December 2000 and signed by a JNF worker states, “In a lot of the plots I find Arabs are living and building illegally and also working the JNF land without permission.”

The JNF survey goes on to document illegal construction of Arab apartment complexes and the UN school under the property management of Israel’s Land Authority.

In an official clarification regarding the status of the Jewish-owned lands, JNF stated, “The documents you obtained show clearly that the manager of these lands is the Israel Land Authority. It is evident that JNF is caring for these lands with inquiries, passing information and much more.”

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