15:44 , 08.02.09


Photo: David Landis Land in the Galilee. Out of Arabs' reach Photo: David Landis
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Arabs claim land reform is racist

Ahead of slated vote on privatization of state lands, Arab sector wages battle against the bill: 'We are citizens of the State, and not a security threat. Time has come for the State to change its approach and not to enact discriminatory laws'
Sharon Roffe-Ofir

The land reform bill has yet to be passed, but the Arab sector is already up in arms about it. A day before the Knesset vote that is expected to pass the bill into law, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee sent a letter to the Knesset speaker and to the attorney general demanding that they block the bill, which they claim severely discriminates against the Arab population in Israel.


"The proffered alternative will rule that lands transferred to the Jewish National Fund will exclusively be to the benefit of the Jewish citizens of the State," the letter claimed.

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According to the committee, which sent the letter with the help of Arab minority rights organization Adalah, passing the bill will lead to about 0.3 acres being confiscated from their Arab owners, never to be returned. In addition, the law will forbid the settlement of Arabs of lands transferred from the state to the Jewish National Fund as part of the reform.


According to the letter, the reform will result in transfer of ownership of all the lands confiscated from the Arab population since the establishment of state. The lands, which were never utilized for the purposes to which they were confiscated, are currently under the custodianship of absentee properties.


"The bill will bring about the privatization of some of lands of destroyed and uprooted villages, as well as many lands belonging to Palestinian refugees. This policy of privatization will thwart any future possibility of returning these properties to their original owners," wrote Attorney Suhad Bishara, representing Adalah.


Adalah have based their argument on the Nuremberg Laws in which the confiscation of land is a gross violation of international law according to the Hague.


High Arab Monitoring Committee Chairman Mohammad Zeidan said claimed that the petition was issued on the backdrop of the racist repercussions of the law. "We are citizens of the state and not a security threat. The time has come, today more than ever, for the State of Israel to change its approach to the Arab population and not to legislate laws that discriminate against us," he said.


'JNF acts only in favor of Jewish population'

Zeidan also spoke out against the controversial decision to transfer Jewish National Fund lands to the state in exchange for 60,000 dunams (approximately 14,800 acres) of area in the Negev and the Galilee. "We are very worried about the transfer of land from the Israel Land Administration to the JNF. It is clearly a way to prevent Arabs from taking part in land deals," he said.


"The transfer of lands in the north and in the Negev to the JNF means that Arab citizens of the state will not be able to obtain rights to those lands in the Negev and the north. The location of the lands exacerbates the expected damage because the Arab population lives mostly in these areas and is crying out for development, fair planning, and land resources.


"Transferring public assets to a body that declares itself as an organization acting for the good of one group in the population only – the Jewish population – infringes the principles of equality, the constitutional right to dignity, and the principles of development," it was claimed in the letter.