JERUSALEM – An international Jewish organization that purchased land in Jerusalem for Jewish settlement – properties WND reported were used instead for the illegal construction of Arab communities and a United Nations school – has been telling concerned donors the illegal construction occurred during periods the land was occupied by Jordan.
Earlier this month, WND broke the story how hundreds of acres of lands at two key Jerusalem sites bought in the early 1900s by the Jewish National Fund, or JNF, a nonprofit that purchases property using Jewish donor funds, have been utilized for the illegal construction of dozens of Arab apartment buildings, a refugee camp and a U.N. school.
The Jewish-owned lands recently were blocked off from Jewish sections of Jerusalem and isolated to Arab neighborhoods by Israel’s security fence.
The fund has seemingly done little to boot the Arab squatters from its land, while the Israeli government, which manages the areas, did not halt the illegal Arab construction on the Jewish-owned properties.
In response to queries by concerned donors, Jewish National Fund CEO Russell Robinson sent letters stating the land highlighted by WND “was under Jordanian management prior to 1967.”
“During that time the Jordanian government oversaw all activities, including the U.N. building. Under international law this makes matters pertaining to the land more complicated than what [WND describes],” states Robinson’s letter to donors.
Jordan, together with other Arab countries, attacked Israel after its founding in 1948 and administered eastern sections of Jerusalem following an armistice agreement until Jordan attacked again and Israel liberated the entire city of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. During the period of Jordan control, some new construction took place, including in areas previously purchased by Jews.
But WND obtained aerial photos of the two JNF sites in question, which Robinson claimed were illegally built upon prior to 1967.
1991 photo of Shoafat shows region entirely forest land
A photo taken in 1991 of one of the sites, Shoafat, shows the entire area was a forest – meaning all illegal Arab construction took place after 1967 while the land was under Jewish control.
1967 aerial photo of Qalandiya region
An aerial photo taken in 1967 of the second site, Qalandiya, which is now a large Arab town, finds construction of a U.N. building but few other sites, indicating the vast majority of Arab construction – dozens of large apartment complexes – occurred under JNF control. WND originally reported some of the construction took place prior to 1967, but the bulk of the building occurred the past few years, under Jewish management.
Robinson did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The properties in question include over 200 acres in the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Qalandiya and Kfar Akev, located near an old Israeli airport, and about 50 acres in a north Jerusalem suburb known as Shoafat, which is adjacent to the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev. The lands were legally purchased on behalf of JNF using Jewish donations in the early 1900s, immediately after the organization was founded in 1901 with the specific charge of repurchasing and developing the land of Israel for Jewish settlement.
U.N. school for Palestinians illegal built on Jewish property (WND photo)
A tour of Qalandiya and Kfar Akev found dozens of Arab apartment complexes, a Palestinian refugee camp and a U.N. school for Palestinians constructed on the land.
According to officials in Israel’s Housing Ministry, Arabs first constructed facilities illegally in Qalandiya and Kfar Akev between 1948 and 1967, prior to the 1967 Six-Day War during which Israel retook control of the entire city of Jerusalem. Qalandiya, still owned by JNF, came under the management of the Israeli government’s Land Authority in the late 1960s.
Ministry officials say the bulk of illegal Arab construction in Qalandiya took place in the past 20 years, with construction of several new Arab apartment complexes taking place in just the past two years.
Neither the Israeli government nor JNF took any concrete measures to stop the illegal building, which continues today with at least one apartment complex in Qalandiya under construction.
The Jewish-owned land in Qalandiya has an estimated value of about $35 million, according to Housing Ministry officials.
Palestinians illegally build apartments in Jewish-owned Shoafat (WND photo)
Jerusalem’s Shoafat neighborhood, which has an estimated value of $3 million, was also purchased by JNF in the early 1900’s and fell under the management of the Israel Land Authority about 40 years ago. Much of the illegal Arab construction in Shoafat took place in the past 15 years, with some apartment complexes built as late as 2004.
In Qalandiya, Kfar Akev and Shoafat, Israel’s security fence cordons off the Arab sections of the JNF lands from the rest of Jewish Jerusalem.
Internal JNF documents obtained by WND outline illegal Arab construction on the Jewish-owned land. A survey of Qalandiya summarized on JNF stationery conducted in December 2000 and signed by a JNF worker states, “In a lot of the plots I find Arabs are living and building illegally and also working the JNF land without permission.”
The JNF survey goes on to document illegal construction of Arab apartment complexes and the U.N. school under the property management of Israel’s Land Authority.
Illegal Arab construction in Qalandiya (WND Photo)
In an official clarification regarding the status of the Jewish-owned lands, JNF stated, “The documents you obtained show clearly that the manager of these lands is the Israel Land Authority. It is evident that JNF is caring for these lands with inquiries, passing information and much more.”
The JNF charter, viewable on the organization’s website, states: “Since the first land purchase in Erez Israel in the early 1900s for and on behalf of the Jewish People, JNF has served as the Jewish People’s trustee of the land, initiating and charting development work to enable Jewish settlement from the border in the north to the edge of the desert and Arava in the south”
“Jewish money was given with deep devotion to enable Jews to settle in Israel, and to have these lands instead settled by Arabs is an abomination that JNF must immediately rectify,” Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, told WND.
“One can almost say this is a fraud being perpetrated on the donors of this land. If the JNF doesn’t do something about it, a message will be sent that we don’t care that Arabs steal Jewish-donated land. This will only encourage more illegal Arab construction on lands purchased by Jews for Jews,” Klein said.
“There is a lot of illegal Arab construction on Jewish land under the nose of the Israeli government,” said Knesset Member Effie Eitam, chairman of the National Union Party. “The law in Israel is not imposed equally on both sides. Illegal Arab construction is usually tolerated, and when anything is done about it, we’re talking about very small measures.”
Eitam served as Israel’s minister of housing and construction from 2003 to 2004 and is now a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“When I was housing minister, I saw a large volume of cases of illegal Arab construction,” Eitam told WND. “Jews should be outraged.”
Are you a representative of the media who would like to interview the author of this story? Let us know.