Fri. Aug 17, 2007
JNF Lands Bill Is No ‘Apartheid’ Measure
Columnist Leonard Fein criticizes the overwhelming Israeli Knesset vote (64 to 16) reaffirming that private land purchased by the Jewish National Fund should be reserved for Jews. He suggests that this action lends support to the charge that “Israel practices apartheid” (“No, You May Not Live in Our Midst,” August 10).
This is nonsense. Like Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs serve in the Cabinet and Knesset, and they are judges in Israel’s courts; they are consuls-general, and they attend and teach at Israeli colleges and medical, law and graduate schools; they have full voting rights and citizenship, and they participate in Israeli medical insurance and pension plans. They enjoy freedom of speech and press, more so than Arabs do in Arab countries. And they’re not even required to perform military service (although they can if they want to). If blacks in South Africa had enjoyed the same rights as the Arabs in Israel, the term “apartheid” would not be part of our lexicon.
This JNF land, constituting about 13% of Israel, is private land. Similarly, the Catholic Church and Muslim Waqf own private land in Israel and do with it as they please. Israeli Arabs have same rights as other citizens to lease state-owned lands, which amount to about 80% of Israel.
For thousands of years, the Jews yearned to reestablish a Jewish homeland. There are many laws, institutions and practices in Israel that we all support which promote and protect the Jewishness of the state, such as the aliyah laws, Jewish education in schools, the Jewish-starred flag and the national anthem, which speaks of the Jewish soul.
JNF land has been purchased by and for Jews from around the world for more than 100 years. Jews placed their small change into the famous blue-and-white JNF boxes in their homes, schools and synagogues. Jews understood the sacred JNF promise that their money would buy land in Eretz Yisrael for Jews to immigrate there and build a Jewish state in our ancient homeland. This was the contract between the JNF and the Jewish people. As the JNF’s president (and former Conference of Presidents chairman), Ronald Lauder, said, “We are a people linked to our land. This Knesset bill deserves the support of all American Jewish organizations.”
Morton A. Klein
Zionist Organization of America
New York, N.Y.