JNF, an international nonprofit organization, 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 on the Jewish-owned properties. The JNF charter, viewable on the organization’s website, states: “Since the first land purchase in Erez Israel in the early 1900s for and on behalf of the Jewish People, JNF has served as the Jewish People’s trustee of the land, initiating and charting development work to enable Jewish settlement from the border in the north to the edge of the desert and Arava in the south.” “Jewish money was given with deep devotion to enable Jews to settle in Israel, and to have these lands instead settled by Arabs is an abomination that JNF
JNF, an international nonprofit organization, 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 on the Jewish-owned properties.
The JNF charter, viewable on the organization’s website, states: “Since the first land purchase in Erez Israel in the early 1900s for and on behalf of the Jewish People, JNF has served as the Jewish People’s trustee of the land, initiating and charting development work to enable Jewish settlement from the border in the north to the edge of the desert and Arava in the south.”
“Jewish money was given with deep devotion to enable Jews to settle in Israel, and to have these lands instead settled by Arabs is an abomination that JNFmust immediately rectify,” said Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America.
“One can almost say this is a fraud being perpetrated on the donors of this land. If the JNF doesn’t do something about it, a message will be sent that we don’t care that Arabs steal Jewish-donated land. This will only encourage more illegal Arab construction on lands purchased by Jews for Jews,” Klein said.
The properties in question include about 270 acres in the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Kalandiya 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 1900’s, 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 Kalandiya and Kfar Akev found dozens of Arab apartment complexes, a Palestinian refugee camp and a United Nations school for Palestinians constructed on the land.
According to officials in Israel’s Housing Ministry, Arabs first constructed illegally in Kalandiya 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. Kalandiya, still owned by JNF, came under the management of the Israeli government’s Land Authority in the late 1960’s.
Ministry officials say the bulk of illegal Arab construction in Kalandiya took place in the past 20 years, with construction of several new Arab apartment complexes taking place 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 Kalandiya under construction.
The Jewish-owned land in Kalandiya 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 Kalandiya, 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 The Jewish Press outline illegal Arab construction on the Jewish-owned land. A survey of Kalandiya summarized on JNF stationary 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.”
“The story here,” said Arieh King, director of the Israel Land Fund, a private organization that purchases properties in Israel for Jewish settlement, “is that JNF is giving areas to the Israeli government’s Land Authority to do [with] what they want, like allowing Arab construction. Jews who donate to JNF think they can be sure their money is going to Jewish settlement, but we see that after one year, twenty years, fifty years, some property is going to Arabs.”
Illegal Arab construction on Jewish-owned lands is not limited to Jerusalem. Arabs are reportedly 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.
“There is a lot of illegal Arab construction on Jewish land under the nose of the Israeli government,” said Knesset Member Effie Eitam, chairman of the National Union Party. “The law in Israel is not imposed equally on both sides. Illegal Arab construction is usually tolerated, and when anything is done about it, we’re talking about very small measures.”
Eitam served as Israel’s minister of housing and Construction from 2003 to 2004 and is now a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“When I was housing minister, I saw a large volume of cases of illegal Arab construction,” Eitam said. “Jews should be outraged.”