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March 17, 2005 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-03-17

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Editorials are posted and archived on

A Just And Jewish* State

Dry Bones



uppose that after America bought Louisiana
from France, it had turned New Orleans over
to the Baptist Church with a promise that the
church would rent or sell land to Christian Americans
only. It might have seemed sensible at the time, as a
way to discourage Catholic immigration, but it would
be considered immoral now
But that is largely the situation that Israel finds itself
in now with respect to the lands that were abandoned
by their Arab owners in 1948 and sold by the new
State of Israel to the Jewish National Fund. JNF's mis-
sion, dating to its founding more than 100 years ago,
has been to preserve and protect land for Jews, so it
adopted a policy of refusing to sell or rent any of the
land to a non-Jew.
Last month, however, Israel's attorney gen-
eral, Menachem Mazuz, ruled that practice
discriminatory and said the government
must end it. His action came in a case involving six
Israeli Arab families who were the high bidders on an
Israeli Land Authority auction of JNF-owned plots in
the Galilee town of Carmiel. The authority froze the
deal with the six families, citing JNF's Jewish-buyers-
only rules.
The issue is not trivial on either the practical or the-
oretical levels. JNF owns 13 percent of the land of
Israel, most of it concentrated in the northern and
middle parts of the country and containing a whop-
ping 70 percent of the population. And the problem
comes amid the larger debate over how Israel can pro-
vide equal right to all its citizens, a fifth of whom are
Arab, and remain a Jewish state.
The moral grounds are clear enough. Governmental
discrimination against the Arab Israelis is just as wrong
as official segregation of blacks was in America. But
JNF argues that it is not governmental. "The state is
obliged to treat all its citizens equally," JNF Chairman

Yehiel Leket told the Forwarch "but
we are not the state."
Maybe not, but it is pretty close to
being the state. Since 1961, a state
agency, the Israel Lands
Administration, has administered the
JNF lands and the fund names half
of the ILA'.s board. Now, the fund is
negotiating a more formal separation
from the government.
One suggested way out of the
dilemma would allow the JNF to
swap its lands, most of them north
of Beersheba, for state land in the
Galilee and the Negev.
Development of the
Negev as a future home to
hundreds of thousands of
Jews is a very high priority of the
fund, but it has not won consistent
government support for its initiatives
there. The attorney general's finding
may give a welcome push to the
plan, which has stalled in part on
whether to make an acre-for-acre
swap or to trade lands of equal value,
a difficult proposition in view of
JNF's valuable urban holdings.
The JNF deserves full credit for
the exceptional job it has done in the
past, not just in planting trees, for which it is well
known, but also for the development of water projects
and environmental preservation that is so vital to the
long-run health of Israel. The JNF can be counted on
to push the Negev developments with energy and effi-
But in the end, Israel must face up to the deeper

Trusting The Messenger

Democratic Party had fallen into the hands
such tactics. It feels besieged by a national
of zealots and crackpots.
media that repeatedly has shown itself to be
But Nixon and his advisers didn't trust the
hostile toward the president and his advisers.
American people to sort it out. Instead, they
There is no point in going into the liberal
resorted to the break-in at Watergate to get
bias of the media. It is real. Take it from one
the goods on the opposition.
who's been there.
I'm certainly not placing Bush's malfea-
It is most pronounced in the hothouse of
sance on that level. It's the mind-set that's
Washington journalism, where many seem to
feel that the political mainstream is repre-
The unfettered flow of information is the
sented by Michael Moore.
lifeblood of a democracy. The Framers knew
However, most American voters, with the
that. When John Adams tried to choke off a
exception of tenured professors at elite univer-
hostile press by use of the Sedition Act in
sities, are perfectly capable of sorting out the
1798, he sealed his fate as a one-term presi-
garbage and coming to their own conclusions.
They don't need the Fox News Network and Rush
In that era, though, political bias was clearly iden-
Limbaugh to help them do it. They are not the
tified in newspapers. The news was slanted for
numbskulls their political opponents sneer at.
either Adams' Federalists or Thomas Jefferson's
The Bush people should have known that. They
didn't need to pay journalists to support their initia-
Most of today's media proclaim objectivity —
tives, nor to plant a ringer from a phony news
from "Fair and Balanced" to "All the news that's fit
organization to lob the president softballs at press
to print." But those brave proclamations have been
honored more in the breach than the observance in
It was simply unnecessary. Worse than that, it
recent years.
betrayed the same lack of trust that led to the
Still, it remains for the people to sift out the
downfall of the Nixon administration.
truth. Government should keep hands off. It's a
There wasn't any doubt that Nixon would be re-
matter of trust. ❑
elected in 1972. The country understood that the



4 :111 ournalism ultimately comes down to a matter

of trust.
A reporter who has no credibility his no
career. A newspaper that consistently runs big, blar-
ing headlines with no substance to them will lose
If you want to call yourself a journalist in America
— Poof, you're a journalist. The First Amendment
bars the government from licensing us, as many
other countries do. With the advent of Internet
bloggers, the line between journalists and ideologues
is muddied even more.
So trust is more important than ever. But trust
cuts both ways.
The revelation of payoffs to columnists by the
Bush administration and the planting of a
Republican stooge amid the White House press
corps is disheartening. What it reveals is a funda-
mental lack of trust in the judgment of the
American people.
It is obvious why the administration resorted to

George Cantor's e-mail address is
gcantor@thejewishnews. corn.







question of how much it, or even a semi-private
agency like JNF, can condone discrimination against
citizens who don't happen to be Jewish. Defenders
of the JNF bylaws say the restrictions are important
to assure the continuity of a Jewish state. But if that
state cannot assure justice to all its citizens, it skirts
the principle of equality that is integral to Jewish




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