"Privatizing Apartheid in Israel December 11, 2005
By Leila Khaled Mouammar
"We live in a thunderously failed reality. ... A state lacking justice
cannot survive. ... Even if the Arabs lower their heads and swallow
their shame and anger for ever, it won't work. A structure built on
human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself. Note this
Zionism's superstructure is already collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem
wedding hall. (Avraham Burg,
Prior to the dismantlement of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the
privatization of state assets and services was quietly undertaken in
order to ensure that the loss of political power would not also mean the
loss of an economic status quo beneficial to the White minority.
In the past few years, the Israeli government has also been steadily
transferring key state assets and services into private hands. Most
recently and significantly, state-held lands are being transferred over
to quasi-private or private control.
On 15 June 2005, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Israel Lands
Administration (ILA) - who together with the Israeli Rural Regional
Councils, own some 93% of land in the Israeli state - agreed to a
massive land swap.
This agreement was an essential prerequisite to the JNF's acceptance of
the recommendations of the Gadish Committee that will introduce massive
changes to land ownership arrangements in the state of Israel.
Currently, the vast majority of "landowners" in the state of Israel are
"tenants" that do not actually own the land on which they live. They
lease it, on long-term leases from the landholding agencies listed
above. The adoption of the Gadish Committee recommendations, formally
announced on 19 June 2005,
will allow for current leasees of residential land to finally opt to buy.
The new arrangement, however, applies only to land owned by the ILA.
Lands owned by the JNF, and held in trust for "the Jewish people," as
well as community or common lands on moshavim and kibbutzim that are
administered by the Israeli Rural Regional Council, are not subject to
the new recommendations.
A quasi-private land agency, the JNF owns a total of 12% of the land in
Israel. Under the agreement, it will exchange the land it owns in
already established Israeli cities for monetary compensation, and an
equivalent amount of "undeveloped" land in the Negev and the Galilee. A
recent report in Ha'aretz
(http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/638729.html) indicates that the JNF
may receive as much as an additional 2 billion NIS - approximately 430
million USD - in revenues from the sale and lease of its properties.
While Palestinian citizens of Israel account for roughly 19% of its
population, they own a mere 3% of the land therein.
The Palestinian citizenry of Israel is largely concentrated in three
main areas: the Triangle (al-Moutallet), the Galilee (al-Jalil) , and
the Negev (al-Naqab).
The Triangle region houses a Palestinian majority of some 75%. The
Galilee region comprises about one-third of the total land area of the
state of Israel and holds a Palestinian majority of some 52% (595,000
citizens out of 1,148,000). When the coastal cities of the Galilee are
removed from the equation, the "heart of the Galilee" - officially
designated as the districts of Carmel, Upper Nazareth, Ma'alot, Migdal
Ha'emek and Afula - house a Palestinian majority of some 78%. In the
Negev, Palestinians make up 25% of the population.
In a conference at Ort Braude College in Karmiel in the Galilee, the day
after the land swap agreement was reached between the JNF and the ILA,
Prime Minister Sharon outlined the relationship between the
disengagement of Gaza and development plans for the Negev and the
Galilee stating : "I am not prepared to accept the claim that leaving
Gaza is the trampling of Zionism. It is in fact strengthening Zionism in
areas that are much more important, and that's what must be done in the
No Palestinian representative was invited to speak on the panel
discussing development in a region with a Palestinian majority, and so
representatives from the 52 Palestinian towns in the Galilee boycotted
Chairman of the Israeli Arab Follow-up Committee, Shuki Hatib, called
the event, "a racist conference which is the continuation of the policy
to 'Judaize' the Galilee."
Shimon Peres, the minister responsible for promoting development in the
Galilee and the Negev, did not attend the conference, citing scheduling
conflicts. Peres, nevertheless, raised the issue of the Galilee and the
Negev in a meeting with Condeleeza Rice where he sought US funding for
the development of these regions, putting it as a case of "to be or not
Connecting the Dots
As a quasi-private agency, the JNF is not likely to be bound by the
recommendations of the Gadish Committee. There are attempts being made
by legal advocacy groups, like Adalah (www.adalah.org), challenging the
"private" status of the agency, and demanding that an equality precedent
established in an earlier Supreme Court case (Qaadan vs. Katzir) apply
and be implemented to all land holding agencies in Israel.
The JNF, however, will cling to its status as a "private" agency in
order to continue discriminating against non-Jews in its allocation of
long-term lease agreements.
By exchanging already built-up municipal properties, ostensibly worth
more because of their urban location, for "undeveloped" lands in the
Galilee and the Negev, the JNF is hoping to increase the Jewish
population there through the building of new settlements. The risk that
Palestinian citizens of Israel might purchase the lands transferred to
the ILA under the swap is negligible since no non-Jew could have
negotiated a long-term lease agreement with the JNF, and the areas in
question are largely Jewish in composition.
The Apartheid Reality Inside the Wall
More than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed in the lead up to, and
after, the 1948 war and not a single new town for Palestinians has been
established since Israel's founding, despite the fact that its
Palestinian population has increased almost 10-fold (from 150,000 to
some 1.3 million, and more if one includes the citizens of illegally
occupied East Jerusalem).
Land for new Jewish townships is regularly expropriated from the private
and public holdings of neighbouring Palestinian towns, resulting in
disproportionately large amounts of land reserved for the use of Jewish
townships and citizens.
For example, Sakhnin is a town of some 25,000 Palestinians, now living
on roughly 9,000 dunams of land, due to land expropriations made by
neighbouring Misgav, a Jewish town founded in the 1980's. As a result of
these expropriations, the 15,000 Jewish citizens of Misgav enjoy the use
of 180,000 dunams of land.
No Palestinian citizen of Israel will benefit from the Israeli Cabinet's
decision to drop the prices for land for new housing construction
projects in the Galilee by 20% - 40%, beginning in July 2005, for a
period of two years. This was ensured by allocating Galilee lands to the
While some Palestinian citizens do own land, often passed down from
parents and grandparents, they face restrictions on its use. Much of the
land that Palestinians own has purposefully been designated by the
Israeli state as for "agricultural purposes" only. Unable to purchase or
lease land elsewhere, Palestinians have often built on these lands, only
to have their homes destroyed.
A 1996 Ministry of Interior report noted that though 57% of unlicensed
building inside Israel was carried out by Palestinians, 90% of all house
demolitions were carried out against Palestinian homes. There are over
16,000 outstanding demolition orders in the Galilee alone.
In the Negev, the situation is even worse. There are some 46
unrecognized villages in the Negev that do not appear on any Israeli maps.
The JNF plans to develop new Jewish communities there under the name of
settlement project "Blueprint Negev," (www.jnf.org/negev/facts.html).
There is no recognition on the JNF website of the existence or rights of
the 46 Palestinian villages.
Land confiscations, house demolitions, and aerial spraying of toxic
pesticides are tools used by the Israeli State to make the erasure of
these villages from the map a reality. For more information, see the
website of The Association of 40 at www.assoc40.org/index_main.html.
Privatization and the Apartheid Reality on the Other Side of the Wall
The JNF and other government ministries, have also found privatization
to be a useful tool in engaging in controversial, i.e. illegal, activities.
For while it is somehow acceptable to openly advocate for an exclusively
Jewish state within Israel's pre-1967 borders, despite the ever growing
numbers of non-Jews within it, it is not acceptable to do the same in
the occupied territories.
For this purpose, the JNF established Himnuta, a private company in
which the JNF owns 99% of the shares. Himnuta buys properties inside the
occupied territories, often using money from the World Zionist
Organization and government ministries. The majority of its purchases
lie just inside the Green Line, areas key to negotiations. Even if these
lands are eventually returned to Palestinian control, Himnuta stands to
gain, as evidenced by the generous compensation packages to the illegal
settlers in Gaza.
Himnuta was recently involved in a scandal involving the purchase of
private Palestinian lands that the owners had not agreed to sell. In
February 2005, Hai Cohen, former Himnuta CEO, Lieutenant Colonel Yair
Blumenthal, chief of the Civil Administration's infrastructure
department, brothers Yosef and Yaakov Amram, Jerusalem businessmen, and
their attorney Eitan Tzachi were arrested on suspicion of forging
documents, trading in illegal land and aggravated fraud.
The suspects were responsible for at least five illegal deals
encompassing stolen lands near Hebron, Gush Etzion, Jericho, Ma'aleh
Adumim and Givat Ze'ev.
Not to Be
The pullout from Gaza, and talk of further pullouts, are the first real
indications of the beginning of the end of the Zionist dream in Israel.
These moves are coming in response to the emerging demographic reality.
This year, for the first time since some 750,000 Palestinians were
expelled from their ancestral lands and homes in 1948, the Palestinians
have regained a majority position.
Despite the expulsions, military occupations, curfews, unemployment, and
all the ancillary hardships imposed by the Zionists to drive them out,
there are now 5.3 million Palestinians to 5.2 million Jews, in the lands
of Mandate Palestine
Even if one accepts that Gaza is no longer a part of Israel- a fallacy
when Israel control the borders, air and seaports and continues to bomb
it at will - Palestinians in the rest of the territories under Israel's
control will reach majority status once again soon.
Israel therefore faces a choice between being an apartheid state where a
minority rules over the majority, or of being a binational state which
is no longer a Jewish state.
Apartheid regimes never last forever and this one will fall too. But
this regime has already laid the groundwork to safeguard its assets.
Most state wealth will soon be in private hands that will have made a
pretty penny off of apartheid, occupation, murder and dispossession.
Unfortunately, white collar criminals tend to get away with their crimes.