Protest against JNF has spread to Britain
The British Guardian published last week two letters (read below) that express the ongoing anger at the policies of the JNF in the Negev
Protest against JNF has spread to Britain following the letter that was published by organizations in Israel and the United States against the repeated destruction of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Al – Arakib.
Behind the village repeated demolition is the Jewish National Fund's intention to plant trees on the territory of the village.
A protest letter was issued in response to a donor's conference held by the JNF in Atlanta. Activists of the Jewish Alliance for change demonstrated outside the conference hall and even managed to interrupt the gathering. The letter was later distributed and published in many internet sites in Israel, USA and the UK and hundreds of citizens have signed it.
JNF officials showed their concern by publishing response letters that try to cope with the serious charges that unmask the JNF's respectable image. JNF's response was received with mistrust and parody.
It turns out that JNF's donors both Jews and non-Jews are not eager to take part in a racist policy. The JNF is now deeply concerned with the economic implications of the public's opinion on the dispossession of the Bedouin in the Negev.
If diplomats are virtuous men sent abroad to lie for their country (Henry Wotton), what is Samuel Hayek of the Jewish National Fund's excuse (Letters, 16 October)? The JNF's focus, from the day it was established, was to purchase land for Jewish settlers and to alienate it from the Arab peasants who tilled the land. When Hayek writes that the JNF's work "is not based on any political or religious affiliation", he is either being disingenuous or he has not read the JNF's own entry on the Charity Commission website, which states that its objects include the "such charitable purposes as benefit persons of Jewish religion, race or origin".
When the supreme court ruled in the Ka'adan case that the Israeli Lands Authority (and so the JNF) could not refuse to lease land to non-Jews, the JNF lobbied for a new law, which passed its first reading by four to one in the Knesset in 2007. The bill included a clause stating that "the leasing of JNF lands for the purpose of settling Jews will not be seen as unacceptable discrimination".
Last week the "unrecognised" Bedouin village (Jewish villages are never unrecognised) of Arakib in the Negev was demolished for the seventh time in order that the JNF could begin planting its forests. This is not sustainable development but colonial expansion at the expense of the indigenous populaton. If Hayek doesn't believe the JNF's behaviour is racist, what would he say about a British National Fund that refused to rent or lease its land to British Jews?
Samuel Hayek portrays the Jewish National Fund as humanitarian and politically neutral, supporting incontestably worthwhile projects such as planting trees to develop the environment of Israel. It's true that millions of trees were planted by the JNF in Israel in the 1950s and 1960s using donations from diaspora Jews. The narrative promoted by the JNF was that a barren, rocky land was being turned into a green oasis. As a child in the 1950s, I eagerly contributed to this project, donating my weekly "charity money" to JNF-sponsored fundraising activities at my synagogue school. I have certificates to show that trees were planted in Israel in my name. But when I visited Israel years later, I realised the darker purpose of the massive tree-planting project. I found many wooded parks planted on the sites of Arab villages razed to the ground by Jewish militias in 1947-48.
Mr Hayek is right: JNF-sponsored tree-planting transformed the landscape ecologically. I now know that the programme of tree-planting was used to transform the landscape in a more political and historical sense as well, to render invisible any trace of the previous inhabitants. Mr Hayek's claim that the JNF supports the population of Israel, whatever their background, represents (to use his own words) "a distortion of the truth on the grandest of scales".
Dr Barry Stierer