Jewish Call: Stop the JNF – Trees should be sacred, not profane
8 February 2012
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) has designated Sunday February 12th as ‘Green Sunday’, when it encourages people to donate money to ‘plant trees in Israel’. In response to the call from the campaign to Stop the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to boycott Green Sunday, Jews of conscience call upon others to join us in answering the call. In addition to the violence, displacement, and environmental degradation perpetrated by the JNF against Palestinians, we add an independent complaint as Jews to the JNF’s cynical misuse of Tu B’shvat.
In the Jewish tradition, Tu B’shvat is the New Year for the trees. Although Tu B’shvat has always been a minor holiday, in most Jewish traditions trees are celebrated as one of the central symbols of life.. In Halachah (Jewish law), prohibitions against destroying trees, specially fruit trees, are rigorously specified, even in times of war. Throughout folklore in many different Jewish traditions, the planting of trees that bear fruit is lauded as a life affirming deed and a cause for celebration.
In the face of centuries of traditions affirming trees as a symbol of life, leaders of the religious Zionist movement – the movement to claim Palestine as a Jewish state – began a custom of planting trees in Jewish colonies in Palestine as part of a ‘celebration’ of Tu B’shvat. This tradition was adopted by the Jewish National Fund for its ‘Plant a Tree in Israel’ campaign. Ever since then, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) shamelessly exploits Tu B’shvat as an opportunity to raise money to fund their ongoing colonization of Palestine and displacement of Palestinians. Under the guise of ‘environmentalism,’ and ‘Jewish values’ the JNF expels people from their homes, violently displaces people, and radically disrupts natural habitats, sometimes destroying entire eco-systems.
As Jews of conscience, we stand against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the ethnic cleansing Israel is perpetrating against Palestinians, and all the ways that Israeli apartheid harms people. We also reject and oppose the collaboration between the JNF and the Israeli Occupation Forces on these projects of displacement, as well as the ways the JNF destroys and forever alters the natural ecosystems of Palestine. We stand opposed to this destruction and violence, and commit ourselves to acting against it. For centuries, trees have been a symbol of life, which we affirm as sacred. The use of trees in a project of ethnic cleansing is a disgrace to the meaning of this holiday.
As Jews of conscience, we join the international campaign to Stop the JNF and invite others to join us this Tu B’shvat…
– Plant-a-Tree in Palestine: against a century of planting trees of destruction, join our partners – the Palestinian Farmer’s Collective and Stop the Wall – in replanting indigenous trees in the West Bank
– Hold an anti-Zionist Tu B’shvat Seder
– Take action – get involved in Stop the JNF through www.stopthejnf.org and by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), international
Boycott from Within, Israel
Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in Middle East, Germany
Kritische Jüdische Stimme (Österreich)” (the translation is “Critical Jewish Voice Austria”)
Women in Black, Bay Area
Philly Jews for a Just Peace, USA
Dr. Hajo G. Meyer, Holland
Hedy Epstein, USA
Prof. Shulamit Bruckstein Çoruh
Dr. Fanny Michaela Reisin, Germany
Jean Pauline, USA