Don\'t Confuse Collective Ownership With State Ownership

While libertarians are known to vigorously object to state ownership of natural resources, this must be distinguished from collective ownership. To see why, consider a recent controversy in Israel, via The Forward:

In a landmark decision, Israel's attorney general ruled last week that one of the fundamental tenets upon which the Jewish state was built — acquiring and reserving land for Jews to live on — is discriminatory and should not continue with state assistance.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz was responding to a Supreme Court case involving Jewish National Fund, an organization that helped build the Jewish state by purchasing land for Jewish settlement — largely with funds donated by Jews in America. Land owned by the fund is designated as public land and leased by the government to homeowners. In his January 26 ruling, Mazuz said that the government may no longer market the land if the fund allows only Jewish tenants.

Among American Jews, Jewish National Fund is best known for its iconic blue tin collection boxes and for its trademark work planting trees in Israel. But the fund helped write Israeli history with its land purchases, which were crucial in determining the borders of the nascent state. Today, JNF owns 13% of Israel's land, home to 70% of the population. Through a 1962 agreement with the government, it has leased that land to Jews through the government's Israel Land Authority. The attorney general's decision throws that historic role into flux.

The chairman of JNF told the Forward that his organization is in talks to sever its official relationship with the state in order to preserve its mission of protecting the land for Jews.

"The state is obliged to treat all its citizens equally," Chairman Yehiel Leket said, "but we are not the state."

To paraphrase Spiderman, with great state power comes a web of sticky red tape. Had the Jewish National Fund remained a private entity, rather than binding themselves to the predictable restrictions governments impose, it would have been able to use the private donations it solicited as it deemed appropriate. Instead, it must now begin the nearly impossible task of cutting its ties with the state. Good luck with that.

Leket said that in order to maintain its mission, the fund has initiated talks to cut ties with the government and to begin marketing its own land.

Israel, unlike America, has no clear laws limiting private landowners' discretion in how they market their land. But experts said a privatized Jewish National Fund would likely still face legal challenges, in part because of the intricate web that connects JNF to the state. One key link is the 1960 Basic Law that defines all JNF land as "Israel lands" along with the 80% of the country's land owned by the government.

Because of these links, said Supreme Court justice Itzhak Zamir, a former Israeli attorney general, privatization is "not very realistic."

Even if official ties are severed, further problems could be created by the source of some JNF land. Some 60% of the fund's 550,000 acres was purchased from the government in a special deal soon after the 1948 War of Independence. Arab-rights advocates say this should preclude JNF from marketing this land only to Jews.

"It can't be regarded as private land, where the Jewish National Fund will be given a free hand to do whatever it pleases," said Dan Yakir, chief legal counsel for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, one of groups that brought the case.

Leket, however, said the fund had fairly bought the land it owns, with donations from Jews around the world — donations that were "designated for the purchase of land to be owned by the Jewish people and held in trust by the Jewish National Fund."

It's worth pointing out that many of Israel's problems stem from the fact that there is almost no such thing as private land ownership in the country. All land purchased by the Jewish National Fund is ultimately owned and leased by the state, even though it was originally funded by private donors. Whether or not you believe ethnic restrictions on land ownership are wise -- I am skeptical -- this is yet another unintended consequence of statism.

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yes, there have been quite a

yes, there have been quite a few conundrums in Canada lately with Indian land leased to non natives by the government decades ago that the indians are now in charge of,and of course that land is worth 30 times what is was, and they(indian bands) want to run it as the true landlords...... etc etc etc.basically they are saying the 99? year leases the gov't signed we're illegal. mucho fighting.

quest, Israelis can and do


Israelis can and do get loans against their leased land. I believe the Israeli government subsidizes home loans for a large majority of the population to help encourage home "ownership," where the subsidized loan is often twice what the market amount would be. The land lease system is basically in name only, but I guess the government still reserves the right to dictate use, as it also does here in the good 'ol U.S. of A.

conceptually,its kind of a

conceptually,its kind of a reverse indian reserve. how do individuals get loans against thier property, or is that possible? do they own the land fee simple, or is it more complex than that? am curious as i am a half Metis and the remnants of the "Metis people"(which is bullshit anyway) have signed a semi autonomous agreement with the Canadian gov't on certain lands, but only if you live and work on that land. otherwise your not a Metis, i guess haha. everything the government touches get fked up.