Campaign to End the JNF’s Charitable Status
4 Crestway Parade, The Crestway, Brighton BN1 7BL
Tel: 01273-540717 Fax 01273-540797
Tel: 01273-540717 Fax 01273-540797
Friday October 1st 2010
House of Commons
Fax to: 01302 876097
Dear Mr Miliband,
We write to you in your role as the newly elected leader of the Labour Party. In your speech to Conference last Tuesday September 28th, you said that Labour's foreign policy should be “based on values, not just alliances”. We agree. For too long Britain has blindly followed the United States in its support for the State of Israel, right or wrong.
There is one, immediate decision that you can make, which will show that your election is a fundamental break with New Labour’s past, unquestioning support for Israeli actions. Many of us recall how, during the attack on Lebanon in July 2006 and at the height of the bombardment of Gaza in January 2009, a bombardment which killed 1,400 people including 400 children, the Labour Government refused to call for a ceasefire or implement a ban on arms supplies to Israel.
In your new role as Leader of the Labour Party, you will undoubtedly be invited to follow in the footsteps of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as well as David Cameron, who all became Patrons of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Charitable Trust. Your decision as to whether to accept this poisoned chalice will be an indication as to whether your speech on Tuesday was mere rhetoric or whether you actually meant it. We urge that you decline any such invitation, as it is incompatible with what you wrote on the Labour Friends of Palestine website about achieving “Peace through Human Rights and International Law”. You would also be underwriting the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the illegal settlements.
The JNF was founded in 1901 by the 5th Zionist Congress with the aim of purchasing land ‘for the purpose of settling Jews on such lands and properties.’ After the formation of the State of Israel the JNF acquired the land of the expelled Palestinians for a mere fraction of its value. The JNF Law of 1953 charged the JNF, nominally a non-governmental organisation, with implementing Israeli government land policies. According to the Constitution of the Jewish Agency, and Article 3(a) of the Memorandum of Association of the JNF Ltd., ‘Land is to be acquired as Jewish property and… in the name of the JNF to the end that the same shall be held the inalienable property of the Jewish people. The Agency shall promote agricultural colonization based on Jewish labour…’
When the discriminatory practices of a private organisation became the official policies of the Israeli Government, and when that organisation was charged with implementing that policy, it made the Israeli government guilty of racism. If you agree to sponsor the JNF then you should also be prepared to support a British government that legislates that all ‘national land’ should not be purchased or leased by those who are not Christian. I think we would both agree that a British government which refused to sell land to Jews or Muslims was, by definition, racist. The same applies to the JNF.
In 1995 the Israeli Supreme Court, faced with legal petitions from Adalah and the Israeli Civil Rights Association, ruled that a State body, the Israeli Lands Administration, could no longer discriminate against Israeli Arabs by denying them the right to lease or rent State lands. Israel’s Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said that this was equally applicable to the JNF. The response of the JNF was instructive. On its web site it wrote:
‘For the first time since the State of Israel was founded, the High Court of Justice has been required to consider petitions that de-legitimize the Jewish People’s continued ownership of KKL-JNF lands. These petitions are, in fact, directed against the fundamental principles on which KKL-JNF was founded and in accordance with which it has acquired land and managed it for the past hundred years, up to the present day. The petitions constitute a demand to deprive KKL-JNF – which serves as trustee for the lands of the Jewish People – of the right to make use of these lands for the continuation of the Zionist enterprise in the Land of Israel.’
And if this was not crystal clear, the JNF explained that:
‘A survey commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.’That is the problem. The JNF, which is responsible for implementing the land policies of the Israeli state, a state which includes 1.5 million Arab citizens, acts on behalf of just one component of Israel’s population, its Jewish citizens. Hence why it favour a Jewish State as opposed to a Democratic State that represents all its citizens.
The response of the Israeli government to pressure from the JNF was to introduce a new JNF Bill which passed its first reading on 18th July 2007 by 65-16, stating that ‘"the leasing of JNF lands for the purpose of settling Jews will not be seen as unacceptable discrimination." In an Editorial entitled ‘A racist Jewish state’, Israel’s sole liberal newspaper, Ha'aretz declared that:
‘Every day the Knesset has the option of passing laws that will advance Israel as a democratic Jewish state or turn it into a racist Jewish state. There is a very thin line between the two. This week, the line was crossed. If the Knesset legal counselor did not consider the bill entitled "the Jewish National Fund Law" as sufficiently racist to keep it off the agenda, it is hard to imagine what legislation she will consider racist."Britain’s JNF Charitable Trust also plays a major role in the ongoing displacement of the Bedouin residents of Israel’s Negev region. Funds raised from British donors, including Gift Aid, is being used to establish exclusively Jewish settlements. In order to force Arab communities from their ancestral lands, their villages are classified as 'unrecognized' and under constant threat of demolition. The JNF Charitable Trust is complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Israel’s Negev region. We trust that you will not, by becoming a patron of the JNF, become a party to the ethnic cleansing of Israel’s Bedouin population.
In the light of the commitments which you have given to oppose racism and support peace in Israel/Palestine we would find it inexplicable if you were to become a patron of an openly racist and discriminatory organisation that is in the forefront of the Greater Israel movement.
We look forward to your assurance that you will decline any invitation from the JNF Charitable Trust to sponsor it. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss with you the issues we have raised.
Jackie Alsaid Professor Mona Baker, University of Manchester David Bangs Dr Alex Bell Dr Judith Brown Dr Chris Burns Cox Ruth Clark Adam Darwish James Dickins Greg Dropkin Jackie Fearnley Alf Filer Deborah Fink – Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods Pete Firming, Brent Trades Union Council Naomi Foyle – Brighton Palestine Solidarity Campaign Kenny Fryde Terry Gallogly Anne Gray Tony Greenstein, Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers Centre/UNISON Cliff Hanley Dr Rumy Hasan, Bricup and University of Sussex Abe Hayeem Rosamine Hayeem Bob Jarrett Kevin Moore Professor Moshe Machover, Kings College University of London Beryl Maizells Michael Mansfield QC Zoe Mars, Chair, Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign John Metson Nicola Ostreicher Ernesto Paramo Professor David Pegg, University of York Dinah Rahman Roger Reeve Dee Reynolds Leon Rosselson Michael Sackin Professor Myriam Salama-Carr, University of Salford Miriam Scharf, East London NUT Michael Shanahan Ruth Tenne, Israeli Human Rights Activist Patricia Tricker Yvette Vanson Stanley Walinets Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi – J-BIG Ismail Zayid Dr Monica Wusterman, University of York