The Jewish National Fund (JNF)1 was instrumental in the ethnic cleansing2 of Palestine in the 1948 Nakba, and continues to play a central role in maintaining Israel’s regime of apartheid.3 The JNF provided political, financial and intelligence4 support for the Zionist forces in their conquest, massacres and ethnic cleansing operations that characterized the 1948-49 war and the Palestinian Nakba. Today, the JNF controls vast properties belonging to millions of Palestinians, developing them exclusively for persons of “Jewish nationality,” a concept established and promoted in the JNF’s charter to exclude all others.
The JNF was created in 1901 to acquire land and property rights in Palestine and beyond for exclusive Jewish settlement. While indigenous Palestinians are barred from leasing, building on, managing or working their own land, the JNF holds the land in trust for “those of Jewish race or descendency” living anywhere in the world to “promote the interests of Jews in the prescribed region.”5
To ensure such racist control over the majority of confiscated Palestinian lands, Israel adopted the JNF model of discriminatory land management as official state policy. In 1953, the Israeli Knesset legislated special status for JNF, enabling it to carry out governmental functions as a Zionist institution (“for Jews only”). The JNF continues to operate as a state-chartered organization6 under Israeli law with direct control over some thirteen percent of the land in pre-1967 Israel.
Further, the JNF appoints six out of thirteen members of the governing board of the Israel Lands Authority (ILA), which manages the JNF’s thirteen percent, in addition to another eighty percent of all land in Israel. It is through this relationship with the JNF that Israel, while portraying itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, in fact, outsources the land-management functions of the state to this discriminatory state-chartered organization.
After the 1948 Nakba and the expulsion of approximately two-thirds of the Palestinian population from their homeland, the JNF was repackaged as an environmentalist organization carrying out forestation activities. The JNF’s forests, parks and recreational facilities, planted and built on the ruins of hundreds of destroyed and depopulated Palestinian villages, have critically served to veil from public view the continuing official Israeli attempts to erase the traces of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The JNF is thus fundamentally complicit in the denial of displaced Palestinians’ rights to return, restitution and compensation, and in green-washing Israel’s regime of apartheid, colonization and occupation.
The JNF’s activities are not limited to the part of mandate Palestine that became Israel in 1948. The JNF’s Canada Park, for example, covers the remains of the Palestinian villages Imwas, Yalu, and Beit Nuba, which the Israeli army depopulated and razed on the explicit orders of the then Chief-of-Staff, General Yitzhak Rabin, in the course of the 1967 war. Moreover, through its subsidiary Hemnuta, the JNF has illegally acquired lands and houses in the occupied West Bank, and particularly in 1967 occupied Jerusalem.
Today, the JNF’s projects of displacement and forestation continue, particularly in the Naqab (Negev) and the Galilee. In these areas, “development” projects in which the JNF plays a central role, aim to continue the forced displacement of Palestinian citizens of Israel to make way for exclusively Jewish settlements and JNF parks and forests.
The JNF continues to serve as a global fundraiser for Israeli colonization and apartheid. Despite its complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity, and despite its status as a chartered agent of the State of Israel, the JNF and its affiliate organizations enjoy charitable status in over 50 countries as environmental charities. These JNF branches worldwide also work to muster the political support necessary for legitimizing and promoting Israeli apartheid, a task greatly facilitated by the political, economic and cultural elites in each country that have signed on as JNF patrons.
As part of the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel until such time as it respects and implements international law, we the undersigned organizations call on global civil society to join us in a campaign to challenge the JNF by:
- exposing and documenting the role of the JNF in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine;
- protesting and disrupting the JNF’s fundraising activities across the globe;
- opposing and acting to nullify the JNF’s charitable and tax exempt status in Europe, the Americas, Oceania and Asia, and Africa;
- condemning the activities of the JNF through popular tribunals and truth commissions;
- supporting Palestinian and Israeli organizations resisting the forced displacement of Palestinians in the Naqab and Galilee; and
- urging those organizations collaborating with the JNF, and especially those with environmental and anti-racist mandates, to break ties with the JNF.
1 In Hebrew, Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael (KKL) [literally, the ‘Perpetual Fund for Israel.’ In some states, JNF affiliate organizations use this name instead of JNF.
2 Ethnic cleansing by means of expulsion, massacre and population transfer and related grave breaches and crimes defined in the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), as well as the Charter of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal (1945) and the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court (1998).
3 The term apartheid refers to the crime defined in article 2 of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (see: http://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%201015/volume-1015-I-14861-English.pdf) and article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (see: http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/romefra.htm).
4 The JNF played an important role in the preparation of the “Village files,” used by Zionist forces as a primary reference in planning and executing the depopulation and destruction of Palestinian communities in the 1948 Nakba (See Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oxford: One World Press, 2006, pp. 17-22).
5 JNF/KKL Memorandum of Association
6 State-chartered, or parastatal organizations, are organizations that through a formal, legal agreement, participate in the functions of the state.