Habitat International Coalition and Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, wish to raise their concern about Israel’s discriminatory land allocation policies toward Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, who constitute nearly 20% of the population.
In particular, HIC and Adalah wish to draw the Commission’s attention to the policy of the Israel Lands Administration (ILA), a state agency, of prohibiting Palestinian citizens of Israel from leasing Jewish National Fund (JNF) lands, which amount to 13% of Israel’s lands. This policy, under which Palestinian citizens of Israel have no access to 13% of “Israel’s lands,” encourages apartheid-like settlements and segregation along racial or ethnic lines.
The ILA claims to control over 93% of the land in Israel. Since 1948, large tracts of Arab-owned land have been confiscated or otherwise appropriated by the state or Zionist “national” institutions such as the JNF, for the exclusive use of Jewish citizens. The JNF acquired approximately 78% of its land from the state in 1949 and 1953, the majority of which belonged to Palestinian refugees.
The JNF enjoys a special status under Israeli law. For example, Israel signed a covenant with the JNF in 1961, declaring that all JNF lands would be administered by the ILA, subject to the JNF’s objectives, namely to purchase, acquire on lease or in exchange land in Israel “for the purpose of settling Jews.” The JNF interprets this as prohibiting the allocation of its lands to “non-Jews.” This prohibition is racist in nature and effect. Israeli law also confers upon the fund privileges usually reserved for a public authority. As the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has recognized, the JNF executes many governmental functions. Meanwhile, this discriminatory institution operates in several of the Member States of this Commission, registered as a tax-exempt charitable organization.
In October 2004, Adalah submitted a petition to the Supreme Court of Israel demanding the cancellation of the ILA’s policy of marketing and allocating JNF lands through bids open only to Jewish citizens.
In its written response to the petition the JNF stated that:
The JNF in relation to being an owner of land is not a public body that works for the benefit of all citizens of the state. The loyalty of the JNF is given to the Jewish people and only to them is the JNF obligated. The JNF, as the owner of the JNF land, does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state.
It is the position of HIC and Adalah that, as a public agency established under law, the ILA is not permitted to discriminate on the basis of nationality or pursue goals that violate the rights to equality and dignity. The ILA’s discriminatory policy is dangerous, irrational and extremist, and sends a harmful and humiliating message to Palestinian citizens of Israel.
In July 2004, the JNF acquired NGO status with the UN Department of Public Information. As an organization that publicly acknowledges that it “does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state”; however, the JNF operates contrary to this principles of the UN Charter.
HIC and Adalah call on the Commission on Human Rights to recognize that mechanisms of institutionalized discrimination operate in their various of forms. We therefore urge the Commission investigate the State of Israel’s discriminatory land allocation policies, which violate international human rights law. Such an investigation should:
- Reaffirm the principles of nondiscrimination on grounds of nationality;
- Urge the Israeli government to cease its discriminatory land allocation practices using institutions such as the JNF, and to apply principles of equality, just distribution and fairness;
- Inform the ECOSOC of the discriminatory nature and official status of the JNF, particularly in view of its putative nongovernmental status.