illegal Arab construction
Israel news photo: Dov Barak
For generations Jews who dreamed of Zion collected their pennies so the Jewish National Fund could purchase land in Israel. Today illegal Arab building on JNF lands goes unchecked by Israel's leaders.
No fewer than 700 illegal housing units have been built by Arabs in the past two years on land purchased for Jews by the JNF in northern Jerusalem.
Arutz Sheva contacted the JNF to ask about the problem. However, JNF officials say the Israel Land Authority is responsible for administering the lands on their behalf.
Aryeh King, chairman of the Israel Land Fund, says his organization is conducting a careful survey of the illegal structures using aerial photographs, but adds the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the illegal building occurs beyond Israel's security fence. Lands bought by the JNF are on both sides of the fence.
"We're discussing lands in Qalandiya," King explained. "All entry and activity has to be coordinated with the IDF and Ministry of Defense. No enforcement can be undertaken in these areas without the cooperation of the military and police. This is routinely denied on 'security grounds.'"
For example, King says, "We have an aerial photo of an old building from before 2005, but the security fence being built makes these areas out of bounds, and we have no way of documenting and making claims for enforcement."
"This inaction is politically motivated, and people don't realize what is happening. The JNF offers to purchase land at nominal prices in order to return them to the Jewish people, but that's not what is happening."
"I hope that those who donate to the JNF will think twice before giving their money a body that does nothing to secure the assets they hold in trust for the Jewish people," King added.
In light of the grim reality on the ground, King recently sent a letter to JNF donors, as well as members of the JNF board. In the letter, he describes the situation on the ground as seen through aerial photographs which he attached to the letter.
He writes, "The Jewish National Fund purchased lands before the state of Israel was declared with donations from Jews around the world. These lands were registered in the name of the Jewish National Fund. For over a decade the JNF has allowed Arabs to squat on these lands and illegally build without permission."
In the letter he mentions he has failed to make inroads with JNF officials, and asks for others (including board members) to help him in bringing pressure to bear on the organization, "in hopes of eradicating this phenomenon of illegal building and returning assets estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars to the Jewish people."
He says, "Illegal construction on Jewish National Fund lands in the past two years totals over 700 housing units. In light of the deterioration of assets purcahsed through donations from Zionist Jews, and given that Israel's government seems intent to modify its existing policy to allow for the loss of these assets, I have no choice but to make this information available to the public."
"It is my hope that you, members of the JNF board, will steel yourselves to the task at hand and marshal the necessary resources, as well as legal efforts, to restore the land you hold in trust for the Jewish people to them."
King then signs the letter and writes, "If the Fund does not do this as soon as possible, then I would like to offer a symbolic sum of money to the JNF to purchase the assets in question."