By Yuval Yoaz
17 December 2004
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) is not required to act for the good
of all of Israel’s citizens and asking it to allocate land for the
benefit of everyone is tantamount to nationalizing its assets,
according to a document submitted to the High Court of Justice this
The document was submitted by the JNF in response to a petition
brought against the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) about two
months ago by the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the Adalah legal
The petitioners are asking the court to annul an ILA policy that
prevents Arabs from participating in bids to purchase land owned by
the JNF. The petitioners say the policy is not in keeping with the
Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty.
About five years ago, the High Court set a precedent when it ruled
in favor of Adel Kaadan, who wanted to buy a lot in the community of
Katzir, which was built on state land allocated to the Jewish
Agency. A panel of five justices, led by Court President Aharon
Barak, ruled that "the state’s obligation to act with equality
extends to all of its activities. It therefore also extends to the
allocation of state lands."
ACRI attorney Ouni Bana argued before the court that the Kaadan
ruling set a general rule, by which the state must not transfer the
use or ownership of land to a third party that contracts with Jews
only with regard to public land resources.
However, the JNF argued that its right to act as the "trustee of the
Jewish people" surpasses even the principle of equality. "The JNF of
course recognizes the right of all citizens to equality," the
document submitted to the court states. "However, equality does not
extend to the right of one person to settle on another person’s
The JNF currently has lands amounting to about 2.5 million dunams.
The document, to which an affidavit by JNF chairman Yehiel Leket was
appended, also noted that it is not funded by the government, that
its assets were acquired through the contributions of tens of
thousands of Jews throughout the Diaspora, and therefore "the JNF
has a clear obligation to its donors" and was established to work
for the good of the Jewish people only.
JNF lawyers argued that JNF ownership of land is completely separate
from the state, according to the Basic Law on the People’s Lands,
"which authorized separate and independent ownership of JNF lands."
In response to the JNF, the petitioners’ attorneys argued that the
prohibition against discrimination applies to private organizations,
as well as public authorities. In any case, they added, because the
JNF carries out government functions, it cannot be seen as a private
organization. The petitioners also noted that their petition was
directed against a undisputedly public body, the Israel Lands
Administration, which administers JNF lands and must market them
equally to all citizens.