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Monday, August 02, 2010

Israeli land discrimination in Jerusalem?

Three weeks ago, Fox News' Reena Ninan did a report that claimed that 80% of land in Jerusalem is marked for Jewish neighborhoods and cannot be purchased by 'Palestinians.'

Let's go to the videotape.

When this came out, I knew it was wrong, but I did not know how to prove it. CAMERA has now proven it wrong:
But Ir Amim's claims are false, and Ninan’s report is wrong, though to understand why requires some background. First, on the general topic of land ownership in Israel (more details can be found here and here), about 80 percent of the land in Israel is owned by the government. In part this is due to geography – half of Israel is the Negev, which is mostly desert, and the desert is usually owned by the government (this is true in the United States also, for example in the desert southwest).

Moreover, Israel began as a socialist country, so government ownership of industries, banks and land was the norm. In order to administer government and related land holdings, in 1960 the Israel Land Administration (or ILA) was created. While Israeli industries and banks have mostly been sold off, privatization of government land has been underway only since August 2009.

It is still true today in Israel that many homes or apartments are built on government land, and the homeowner doesn't actually own the land, though Israelis will often refer to "buying" the land. Instead of buying, however, they are actually paying the ILA for a long-term so-called capital lease, with the cost supposedly determined by the value of the land. The term of the renewable lease would usually be as long as 49 years.

Ir Amim's claim, recounted by Fox News, is that the ILA restricts such leases to Israeli citizens (meaning Jewish, Arab and other citizens), or foreigners who are Jewish. And unlike Israeli Arabs, Palestinians from East Jerusalem are generally legal residents of Israel but not citizens, and supposedly would not have access to such land.


So why is Ir Amim wrong? Because the ILA also has regulations which say that for its purposes Israeli residents are not foreigners, and this effectively trumps the older lease terms cited by Ir Amim and Fox News.
Read the whole thing.


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