Saturday, December 6

Human rights complaint accuses JNF of racism

Here is an article of interest on a human rights complaint filed against the Jewish National Fund in Canada. Published in the Canadian Jews News in August 2007.

Ed Corrigan


The article abstract documents the rulings by the Attorney General of Israel (2005) and the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1998) that the JNF's bylaws and operations are racist.

http://www.forward.com/articles/in-watershed-israel-deems-land-use-rules-of-zioni/
http://www.forward.com/articles/zionist-groups-facing-legal-problems/
http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/9a798adbf322aff38525617b006d88d7/0bc7883100a95730852569af00575179!OpenDocument

The Canadian Jewish News is Canada's largest weekly Jewish newspaper.

This article forms part of the public record. The facts concerning JNF Racism are well known.Abstract (Summary)

In 1998, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights wrote a report on Israel and concluded that because its lands are "chartered to benefit Jews exclusively," the JNF practises an "institutionalized form of discrimination."

In 2005, Israel's attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, ruled that the Israel Land Authority (ILA) - which has been leasing JNF land to Jews on the JNF's behalf in accordance with the JNF's covenant since 1962 - should cut ties with the organization because it excludes Arab Israelis from leasing JNF property. Mazuz considered the practice discriminatory. And earlier this month, Ronald Saba, a Palestinian Canadian and the editor of an online magazine called Montreal Planet Magazine, which features articles for the Palestinian community in Montreal, filed a complaint concerning the JNF with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).

He said that when the ILA was established to administer public land, including JNF land, an agreement stipulated that JNF land would be held "in perpetuity for the Jewish people... If anyone wanted to build on that land, or lease that land, they wanted to make sure that they were Jewish. This is what went to the courts in Israel and this is what the attorney general ruled as discrimination."
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Copyright Canadian Jewish News Aug 30, 2007

In recent years, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the organization famous for those blue tin tzedakah boxes, planting trees in Israel and leasing Israeli land to Jews, has been no stranger to controversy and opposition.

In 1998, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights wrote a report on Israel and concluded that because its lands are "chartered to benefit Jews exclusively," the JNF practises an "institutionalized form of discrimination."

In 2005, Israel's attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, ruled that the Israel Land Authority (ILA) - which has been leasing JNF land to Jews on the JNF's behalf in accordance with the JNF's covenant since 1962 - should cut ties with the organization because it excludes Arab Israelis from leasing JNF property. Mazuz considered the practice discriminatory. And earlier this month, Ronald Saba, a Palestinian Canadian and the editor of an online magazine called Montreal Planet Magazine, which features articles for the Palestinian community in Montreal, filed a complaint concerning the JNF with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).

Saba filed the complaint against the "Government of Canada for violating the Canadian Human Rights Act and Canada Revenue Agency Policy Statement CPS-021 by subsidizing racial discrimination through granting and maintaining charitable status for the Jewish National Fund." The complaint also cites the 1998 UN committee report and the 2005 ruling by Mazuz.

But Joe Rabinovitch, executive vice-president of JNF Canada, said that, unfortunately, these kinds of complaints are not uncommon.

"I've seen this 100 times in 100 different ways," Rabinovitch said.

"Every year, without fail, we get two or three of these [complaints], and they also send them out to every MP in Canada, and the fact is, there is no use arguing with them, because there is no common ground on which we can argue," he added.

"These are the same people who demonstrate in front of our Negev dinners, these are the same people who claim discrimination, these are the same people who say there should only be one state and it should be Palestine."

He added that responding to these complaints is a waste of time,' because each one thus far has been dismissed by the CHRC, and when Rabinovitch spoke with The CJN last week, he hadn't even received any notice about this complaint.

Although Rabinovitch doesn't pay any mind to complaints like these, his organization has had to deal with the aftermath of Mazuz's 2005 ruling.

But Rabinovitch doesn't agree with Mazuz's assessment of JNF practice. He explained that in 1901, the JNF was established to buy land with money raised throughout the Diaspora. Today, it owns about 13 per cent of Israeli land, where about 70 per cent of the population lives.

"What happened after 1948, after the War of Independence, many Arabs left, and after three or four years there was a lot of abandoned land. The government then put [the abandoned land] up for auction, and we bid and paid the highest price for some of this land."

He said that when the ILA was established to administer public land, including JNF land, an agreement stipulated that JNF land would be held "in perpetuity for the Jewish people... If anyone wanted to build on that land, or lease that land, they wanted to make sure that they were Jewish. This is what went to the courts in Israel and this is what the attorney general ruled as discrimination."

Earlier this month, a bill called the Jewish National Fund Law, which would allow the ILA to continue to lease land owned by the JNF only to Jews, was endorsed 64-16 in its first Knesset reading.

Rabinovitch said the JNF practice is similar to Israel's Law of Return, which gives Jews the immediate right to settle in Israel and gain citizenship.

"There are many Jewish organizations that feel that it is discriminatory and there are other Jewish organizations that feel it is not discriminatory, because the Vatican owns land that is only for Catholics and the Arab organization that controls land in Jerusalem, [known as the Waqf] has land that is only for Arabs. However, some people feel that we shouldn't be compared to these other organizations, because Israel is a democratic country and it should be open to everybody."

He said it's hard to predict what the future holds for the JNF, because a number of different proposals are on the table.

One is that if the government rules nonJews are eligible to lease JNF land, it could decide to compensate the JNF by giving it land in the Negev. The JNF has said it hopes to settle 250,000 Jews in the southern region within five to 10 years.

Another possibility, Rabinovitch said, is that the JNF could become a private organization and end all ties with the ILA, allowing it to do whatever it wants with its land.

"This is all speculation, but in actual fact, the matter is still under debate in Israel, under a lot of discussion, creating a lot of intensity among different Jewish groups and whatever the end result will be, we will follow along," Rabinovitch said.

He said he isn't worried, despite the complaints being filed against it by Canadian citizens, that the JNF will ever lose it's charitable status.

"We conform 1 00 per cent to Canadian law. In terms of following Canadian law, we're more Catholic than the Pope" he said with a laugh.

"We've made sure that everything is done according to the law and it's done according to the laws that the Canadian Revenue Agency imposes, so we have no concern."
[Author Affiliation]
By SHERI SHEFA
Staff Reporter
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