Gerry Liston


The origins of the modern Israeli land and planning law regimes can be traced back to 1901, the year in which the Jewish National Fund (JNF) was established. The JNF, which, as will be seen, still plays a dominant role in the Israeli land law regime, was originally founded for the purpose of acquiring land in Palestine. According to the memorandum of association of the English company into which the Fund was first incorporated, its object is to acquire land in Palestine “for the purpose of settling Jews on such lands.” The same memorandum of association also prohibits the JNF from selling any land it acquired. JNF land could be leased but only “to any Jews upon any term.”1

Leading figures in the early years of the Zionist movement had high ambitions for the JNF. Indeed a resolution was passed at the Seventh Zionist Congress rejecting “unplanned, unsystematic and philanthropic small-scale colonization” of Palestine.2 Notwithstanding such ambitions, the JNF, in its early years, was not successful in its mission to ‘redeem’ the land of Palestine. By May 1948 the JNF owned only 3.56% of the land of historic Palestine.3