Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Proposal: Land bought for Jews must be shared with Arabs

Group solicited hundreds of millions from U.S. donors to facilitate Jewish settlement
Posted: July 25, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Aaron Klein
© 2007

Illegal Arab construction in Qalandiya (WND Photo)
JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday was presented with a proposal demanding the return to the state of more than 400,000 acres of land purchased with hundreds of millions in Jewish donor funds solicited mostly in the U.S. for the stated purpose of facilitating Jewish settlement in Israel.

If returned to the government, the lands purchased for Jews will be utilized for both Jewish and Arab construction and settlement, according to the proposal presented to Olmert by former education minister and Israeli legal expert Amnon Rubinstein.

The proposal was in response to the Knesset's passing earlier this month of a preliminary bill which calls for all lands owned the Jewish National Fund or JNF to be allocated only to Jews since it was purchased on behalf of the Jewish people. The JNF has been allowing the Israeli government to manage its lands.

The bill passed by a massive majority of 64 Knesset members to 16, garnering support from a number of prominent lawmakers, including opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sources in Olmert's office told WND the Israeli Prime Minister supports giving the JNF land to Arabs and Jews.

(Story continues below)

The Knesset proposal to allocated JNF lands only to Jews followed a widely-circulated WND exclusive report revealing hundreds of acres of key properties in Jerusalem purchased by the JNF for Jewish settlement were instead utilized for the illegal construction of dozens of Arab apartment buildings housing thousands and for United Nations facilities.

The JNF seemingly has done little to boot the Arab squatters from its land, while the Israeli government, which manages the areas, has not halted the illegal Arab construction on the Jewish-owned properties

The Jewish-owned lands recently were blocked off from Jewish sections of Jerusalem and isolated to Arab neighborhoods by Israel's security fence.

The properties in question include over 200 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, adjacent to the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev. The lands were purchased legally 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 U.N. school for Palestinians constructed on the land.

U.N. school for Palestinians illegally 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 in 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 in just the past two years.

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.

Jerusalem's Shoafat neighborhood, which has an estimated value of $3 million, was also purchased by JNF in the early 1900s 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 Qalandiya 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 U.N. school under the property management of Israel's Land Authority.

JNF misleading donors?

In response to the WND report, JND CEO Russell Robinson has been sending statements to concerned donors that the illegal construction occurred during periods the Jerusalem land was occupied by Jordan.

"During that time, the Jordanian government oversaw all activities, including the U.N. building. Under international law, this makes matters pertaining to the land more complicated than what [WND describes]," states Robinson's letter to donors.

Jordan, together with other Arab countries, attacked Israel after its founding in 1948 and administered eastern sections of Jerusalem following an armistice agreement until Jordan attacked again and Israel liberated the entire city of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. During the period of Jordan control, some new construction took place, including in areas previously purchased by Jews.

But WND obtained aerial photos of the two JNF sites in question, which Robinson claimed were illegally built upon prior to 1967.

1991 photo of Shoafat shows region entirely forest land

A photo taken in 1991 of one of the sites, Shoafat, shows the entire area was a forest – meaning all illegal Arab construction took place after 1967 while the land was under Jewish control.

An aerial photo taken in 1967 of the second site, Qalandiya, which is now a large Arab town, finds construction of a U.N. building but few other sites, indicating the vast majority of Arab construction – dozens of large apartment complexes – occurred under JNF control. WND originally reported some of the construction took place prior to 1967, but the bulk of the building occurred the past few years, under Jewish management.

1967 aerial photo of Qalandiya region

Robinson did not return phone calls seeking comment.

'Leftist millionaires' influencing JNF?

Illegal Arab construction on Jewish-owned lands is not limited to Jerusalem. Arabs reportedly are building without permits on JNF-owned property in the Galilee and in areas outside Bethlehem. Due to Israeli military laws, Jews are barred from building on the JNF lands near Bethlehem. Also, Arabs are living illegally in JNF-owned apartments in strategic areas in Jerusalem's Old City.

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

Asked to explain why the esteemed Jewish organization would allow Arabs to illegally occupy strategic land purchased for Jews, one JNF source involved in land acquisition pointed to what he claimed was the "disproportionate influence" over the organization by a small group of Jewish multimillionaires in New Jersey who lead major public fundraising efforts for the JNF.

The source said the group of wealthy New Jersey Jews, all of whom are real estate moguls and many of whom invest in projects as a team, are largely also donors to leftist causes associated with former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who advocates the division of Jerusalem and an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

The Jews include the Wilf, Halpern, Zuckerman and Tisch families, according to the JNF source.

The key lands in Jerusalem upon which the JNF has allowed Arabs to illegally construct are part of the areas Peres has advocated handing to the Palestinians.

Peres currently serves as Israel's minister for the development of the Negev Desert, which the JNF has been leading a massive campaign to populate, with the goal of bringing 250,000 Jewish residents there.

Peres' face is prominently featured on JNF advertisements and material.

"The wealthy New Jersey Jews are highly politically motivated, support leftist causes and are involved in JNF affairs," charged the JNF source. "It is unfair to Jews worldwide who donate to the JNF with certain expectations, such as that their donations will be used for Jewish settlement in Jerusalem."

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