As a child, my family brought me up to be a Zionist. They told me that Israel was a shining light in a dark and evil region; a moral state; my people’s rightful home. And perhaps the best thing about this self-professed utopia was the Jewish National Fund, the JNF – a benevolent charity who were turning an uninhabited desert green. How good was that! How good were my people! They’d taken a dead expanse and breathed life into it! We were god-like!!!
This narrative appealed to me, even when I turned away from Zionism, because I cared deeply about the environment. I voted Green and donated to Greenpeace. So I saw the JNF as an environmental organization – one of the few positive things to come out of ‘Israel’. I looked on with pride at my granddad’s office wall, which is covered in certificates commemorating trees planted in his name. I was proud that trees were planted in my name for my Bar Mitzvah.
Then I researched the situation, whilst visiting East Jerusalem and the West Bank. What I found out shocked me. I realized that I’d been wrong. The JNF isn’t apolitical; it’s a terrorist organization.
This week my cousin asked me if I’d like to help plant one hundred trees in ‘Israel’ to commemorate my granddad’s one hundredth birthday. That request inspired me to write this article, to share my knowledge with the world…
When the Jews were given Palestine, undemocratically, by a group of foreign bureaucrats, they faced a problem. They wanted their new country, ‘Israel’, to be both a Jewish state and a democracy. But the majority of inhabitants were non-Jews. Had there been an election, that majority would have voted against any policies which defined ‘Israel’ as Jewish, or which gave any special rights to Jews.
The early Zionists had to create a Jewish majority. And so they took two courses of action:
They increased the Jewish population, by encouraging Jews to migrate to Israel. Those Jews were given citizenship, even if their families had never stepped foot in ‘Israel’ before.
They also decreased the native population within the new ‘Israel’, by instigating a process of ethnic-cleansing.
Please don’t confuse the term ‘ethnic-cleansing’ with ‘genocide’. Whilst the Zionists did kill, and continue to kill, vast swathes of Palestinians, they did not try to murder every single Palestinian. But they did try, and continue to try, to cleanse their land of people who have Arab ethnicities; using whatever means they can to push those people beyond ‘Israel’s’ borders.
The JNF’s director, Yosef Weitz, admitted that his organization was set up to achieve this sort of ethnic-cleansing, on the 20th of March 1941, when he said:
“The complete evacuation of the country from its other inhabitants and handing it over to the Jewish people is the answer”.
"It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both people... the only solution is a Land of Israel, at least a western Land of Israel without Arabs... There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries... Not one village must be left, not one tribe".
And Weitze put his money where his mouth was when he supported Project Dalet; a military operation that led to the Nakba.
During the Nakba, whole villages were cleared by force. Seventy-eight percent of ‘Israel’ was occupied. More than seven hundred thousand people were expelled or fled. Others were killed. Over four hundred towns and villages were destroyed.
The majority of the land which was stolen during the Nakba went to the ‘Israel Land Authority’, the ILO; an organization run by twenty two members, ten of whom are appointed by the JNF. The ILO only ever leases its land to Jews. Other land was given directly to the JNF itself.
The JNF, therefore, had campaigned for the ethnic-cleansing of Palestine, supported its execution, and profited from it too.
This ethnic-cleansing didn’t stop in the 1940s. The Zionists are still ethnically-cleansing ‘Israel’ today, and the JNF are still playing a leading role.
In 2012, they asked for help to “make the Negev a liveable place”. In doing so, they ignored the fact that the Negev is already a ‘liveable’ for the Bedouins who have lived there for centuries.
Many of those Bedouins have had their land, livestock and homes, confiscated by the JNF. The village of El Araqib, for example, was destroyed for the 21st time in 2011, when the JNF bulldozed the remaining buildings to clear land for a ‘Peace Forest’. The JNF have also been complicit in the destruction of the Atir village, to create another forest, and the Umm Al-Hiran village, which is set to make way for a new Jewish settlement. It doesn’t look like they’ll stop these sort of actions anytime soon.
Of course, clearing ‘Israel’ of non-Jews is only half the equation. Today, over seven million Palestinians live as refugees. Five million are entitled to UNWRA services. One and a half million live in refugee camps. And, from my experience in the West Bank and Jordan, most of those people dream of returning home.
They have good reason to dream. Those refugees have a right to return to their land, under United Nations Resolution 194 (III), which states:
“Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date”.
The Zionists, in breach of international law, have done everything possible to stop Palestinian refugees from exerting this right of return; denying them citizenship of the new country, ‘Israel’, and blocking them at the border when they’ve attempted to go home.
The JNF support this illegal behaviour. They plant forests on top of ancient Palestinian villages, to make it as hard as possible for Palestinians to return to their land and rebuild their lives.
Katorzah gives the example of Ayn al-Zaytun, a village which once produced olives, cereals and grapes. It was home to eight hundred and twenty Palestinians before the Nakba. Then the Palmach, a Zionist force, captured the village, bound seventy men, and slaughtered them all. The JNF planted a forest to cover up that atrocity.
This is not a lone example. The Mount Carmel National Park, for example, covers up the ancient villages of Ijzim, Umm al-Zinat and Khubbaza, which were all occupied during the Nakba. Imwas, Yalo and Beit Nouba, were covered by JNF trees after the Zionists took East Jerusalem in 1969. The list goes on and on. In each case, the JNF use European pines rather than native trees, applying a sort of environmental imperialism.
PROPGANADA FOR A ROGUE STATE
When, in 2013, the South African ambassador to ‘Israel’, asked for the removal of eighteen trees planted in his name, he wrote a letter which included the following statement:
“My permission was not sought to plant trees in my name or the name of a South African Ambassador on usurped land, the rightful land of the Palestinians and Bedouins… I cannot be a proponent of what I have witnessed in Israel, and that is, a replication of Apartheid!
“The ‘Certificate’ awarded to me by Mr. Rafael Barak, the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the backing of the Jewish National Fund, is nothing less than an offence to my dignity and integrity. I was not a party to, and never will be, to the planting of ‘18 trees’, in my ‘honour’, on expropriated and stolen land”.
So why were eighteen trees planted in this ambassador’s honour, without his permission?
The answer is simple. The Zionists use the JNF as a propaganda machine to green-wash their crimes, co-opting foreign diplomats by pretending to be nothing more than an environmental organization:
“With over 100 years of experience as caretaker of the land of Israel, Jewish National Fund has planted more than 240 million trees, transforming over 250,000 acres of arid land into lush green forests. Because of JNF’s forestry expertise and commitment to environmental protection, Israel is one of two countries to leave the 20th century with more trees than it had at the start. The trees already planted by JNF have absorbed an estimated 110 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere”.
The JNF Canada says it plants trees to “improve the protection of citizens”, because trees “help save lives”. And the JNF Australia says that planting trees contributes “to the growth and sustainability of Israel”.
In making these claims, the JNF not only justifies its own ethnic-cleansing, but acts as a propaganda tool for the Zionist machine. It misleads the international community, by painting an evil state as a force for good.
But the world is waking up to this green-washing. The South African ambassador was not alone. Even ‘Friends of the Earth’, an environmental charity, now oppose the JNF:
“The JNF is an organisation with explicitly racist aims of conquest. We call upon all those committed to environmental justice to cease and refrain from working with the Jewish National Fund”.
Terrorism can be broadly defined as, “The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”. It is clear that the JNF fit this definition. They have been implicit in the ethnic-cleansing of Palestine, often using violence, and regularly using intimidation. Their aims have always been political:
“The Jewish National Fund is the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners – Jewish people everywhere”.
But the JNF can be stopped if we, the international community, work together. This goal can be achieved in a number of ways:
1. BOYCOTT THE JNF
The JNF rely on donations to operate. If we stop donating, they stop operating! They’re on the BDS list for a good reason.
2. SPREAD THE WORD
The majority of the general public are unaware of the JNF’s crimes. A campaign, ‘Stop the JNF’ has been set up to spread the word. You can help them by sharing this article, or by telling your friends about Stop the JNF.
3. WRITE TO YOUR MP
In 2013 Jeremy Corbyn tabled an Early Day Motion to revoke the JNF’s charitable status in the UK. The support was such that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, was forced to step down as a JNF patron. You can play your part by writing to your MP, asking them to support this motion. If it is successful, the JNF will lose its tax-free status, and so have its UK revenues reduced.
4. PLANT TREES IN THE WEST BANK
My cousin’s recent request got me thinking. Whilst I oppose the JNF, I do support the planting of trees. Fortunately, I was still able to buy my granddad a tree in Palestine for his birthday, by donating to ‘Meca For Peace’. They plant olive trees in the West Bank, to replace trees destroyed by Zionists, and to help give the locals a livelihood. Rather than victimise innocent people, they help to support innocent victims. And the trees they plant won’t have to be cut down when the Palestinians return to their villages.
Whilst writing this article my cousin got back to me. He’s decided to donate to an Israeli orphanage instead of the JNF. Things are on the up…