Editorial |

One More Reason to Dismantle the Jewish National Fund

Former JNF chief Danny Atar.
Former JNF chief Danny Atar.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Justice Ministry issued a new report last week on the Jewish National Fund pointing to significant and severe flaws in the organization’s conduct in 2014-17. The report further reinforces the understanding that this national institution has become not only a source of institutional discrimination but also fertile ground for corruption. Thus, the conclusion that has long been obvious is strengthened: It’s time to dismantle the JNF.

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According to the report, which covers the term of the Labor Party’s Danny Atar as JNF chair, senior board members were appointed according to a coalition agreement and officeholders were selected on behalf of party affiliates. The coalition agreement even determined certain policy decisions, which the board rubber-stamped retroactively.

Thus, it was with the agreement that tripled, to over 500 million shekels ($155 million) allocations to the World Zionist Organization and other Zionist bodies. The report also noted payments, for purposes beyond the JNF’s purview, to entities affiliated in some fashion to Labor Party organizations or figures. These include: 1.17 million shekels for an irregular sponsorship deal with the Yedioth Aharonoth group that was approved retroactively, on Atar’s orders; 37,000 shekels to Sihat Hashabbat, a paper distributed in synagogues, at the request of a Labor Party activist and on behalf of the Berl Katznelson Foundation; 250,000 shekels in a fast-track procedure to the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum for closing ceremonies for Holocaust Remembrance Day. Additional large amounts were allocated to events and organizations including the Hebrew Song Festival in Arad, the Storyteller Festival in Holon and Jerusalem’s Jabotinsky Institute in Israel (Haaretz, Wednesday).

JNF officials were quick to announce that they have since mended their ways, and are now transparent and proper, and the report does note that lessons were learned. Despite that, the JNF should be shut down, as should the other “national institutions,” such as the Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Organization and Keren Hayesod (called United Israel Appeal in the United States) – because they completed their mission with the establishment of the state and are no longer needed. For national endeavors we have government ministries.

As a “green” organization, the JNF acts in furtherance of maintaining natural resources, tourist attractions and the environment, and it is particularly accomplished at forestry. Had it focused only on these goals, one could be content with calls for repairs. But the JNF’s professional decisions are subordinated to preserving Jewish supremacy over the country’s land resources. The State of Israel actively prevents the sale of land to Arabs and equal development for all citizens in Israel, by creating an artificial distinction between state lands and JNF lands. Therefore, there is no other choice but to call for the dismantling of the Jewish National Fund and the transfer of land management and forestry duties to the relevant government ministries.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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