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Tuesday, 11 May 2010

International Meeting to Boycott the JNF

My first memories of the JNF were of its ubiquitous blue box that most Jewish families had. It stood on the mantlepiece and was the recipient of one’s spare change. After all it was a charity, by definition a good cause, and didn’t we all know about what good work it did planting forests and helping with the reclaiming of land from swamps in Israel?

Little did we know that the primary mission of the JNF was to reclaim land from the Arabs, to permanently estrange them from it. From buying up land at market prices pre-1948, the JNF acquired about 5 times its holdings in 1950-1, as a result of the Israeli State selling it 2 million dunums of land, confiscated from the expelled Palestinians, at bargain basement prices.

The JNF was founded in 1901 and it became the land settlement division of the Zionist Organisation/Jewish Agency. As its Director of Colonisation, Josef Weitz stated in his diaries in 1940:
The only solution is to transfer the Arabs from here to neighbouring countries. Not a single village or a single tribe must be let off. [Ilan Pappe: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, page 62]
The JNF owns 13% of the land in Israel. Together with the Israeli Lands Administration, with whom a covenant was agreed by the Knesset in 1960-1, the JNF controls some 93% of land in Israel. Arabs have some 2.5% despite being 20% of the population and the rest is in private Jewish hands.

But the JNF is an organisation with a difference. By its Constitution, it is forbidden to rent, lease or sell land to non-Jews. Its task is simple – to ‘redeem’ land from non-Jews for the benefit of Jews. Is this racist? Well to most people it is a no-brainer. If you were to establish a British National Fund whose constitution prohibited the use of its land by Jews then of course it would be anti-semitic. And likewise the JNF which is a part of the Jewish Agency and used by the Israeli state as a means of subcontracting its own racism.

But the JNF is not stupid. It has rebranded itself as a 'green and environmental' organisation under the title 'Turn Jerusalem Green' or, if it were more honest ' 'Lets Rid Jerusalem of the Palestinians'.

It publicises its 'The Negev Challenge' referring to the Negev desert in the south of Israel. It 'forgets' to mention that this challenge is an old tale of ethnic cleansing. Evicting and expelling the Bedouin and 'Judaising' the Negev is its primary purpose and this has result in the 'unrecognised' towns and villages of the Bedouin being uprooted and destroyed. No Jewish areas of habitation are, of course, unrecognised.

The JNF is in short a land thief and at the conference held in Edinburgh last weeked, hosted by Scottish PSC, we began to organise the fightback. This was an international gathering of a number of organisations, both national and international. As they become available I hope to post a fuller report in future weeks.

Tony Greenstein

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