JNF denies it works to dispossess Palestinians, smears critics
2 January 2012
Stop the JNF Campaign
Letter sent to 68 MPs who have signed Early Day Motion 1677
From: Stop the JNF Campaign UK
I understand that you are in receipt of a letter from David Goodman, CEO of the Jewish National Fund, in response to your signing Early Day Motion (EDM) 1677, challenging the JNF. The purpose of this letter is twofold: firstly, to defend the accuracy of EDM 1677 by providing a range of authoritative sources which support each of the points made in EDM 1677 concerning the racist discrimination of the JNF in Israel and its involvement in acts of dispossession against the Palestinian people, and, secondly, to refute the claims made by Mr Goodman of racist or anti-Semitic behaviour or beliefs levelled against the persons named in the letter. These are rebutted point by point. Finally, a proposal is made to allow Mr Goodman to present his concerns in an open forum where the facts can be established and competing claims challenged and evaluated.
David Goodman, CEO of the JNF (Jewish National Fund) UK, says in his letter to MPs that he is “particularly concerned” at the potential of EDM 1677 to “tarnish the work of the JNF”.(1) Mr Goodman has asked for a private meeting with each of the 68 British Members of Parliament who have signed the EDM in the UK Parliament.
Early Day Motion 1677 in the name of Jeremy Corbyn & Gerald Kaufman:
That this House welcomes the Stop the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Campaign launched on 30 March 2011 by the Palestinian Boycott National Committee, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others to inform the public about the JNF – Karen Kayemet L’Yisrael, its ongoing illegal expropriation of Palestinian land, concealing of destroyed Palestinian villages beneath parks and forests, and prevention of refugees from returning to their homes; notes that the JNF’s constitution is explicitly discriminatory by stating that land and property will never be rented, leased or sold to non-Jews; further notes that the UN rejected the JNF USA’s application for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council on the ground that it violates the principles of the UN Charter on Human Rights; regrets that the Prime Minister is a JNF honorary patron; and believes that there is just cause to consider revocation of the JNF’s charitable status in the UK.(2)
Since the EDM was tabled, Prime Minister David Cameron has ended his relationship with the JNF, the first time in 110 years that the JNF has not had the sitting PM as an Honorary Patron. Breaking with established tradition also, both the Liberal Democrat and Labour Party leaders declined the JNF request to be Patrons. All three party leaders are tight-lipped but this radical erosion of overt political support may well be due to concerns that the activities of the JNF, its role in the dispossession of Palestinian citizens of Israel while funding Jewish-only colonies and its involvement in the military occupation and colonisation of the Occupied Territories, considered to be illegal by the UK Government, has the potential to damage those associated with the JNF.(3)
The letter to MPs from Mr Goodman smears supporters of Palestinian freedom as Jewish self-haters or anti-Semites; the substance of the letter, however, is a denial that Israel is working to dispossess its Palestinian citizens on ethnic grounds. Mr Goodman makes claims concerning the Bedouin of the Naqab (Negev) specifically.
The JNF is deeply involved in Israeli ethnic cleansing
Mr Goodman asserts that Israel is committed to “positive action to help minorities” because “in Israel equality for all is…a determined reality.” The problem for the JNF is that its claims are rebutted from many sources, not least the voices of Palestinian they dispossess, but also the JNF’s own statements, Israeli courts and parliament, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Israeli Physicians for Human Rights, the UN and every human rights body that has looked into the activities of the JNF.(4)
Mr Goodman states that “Every free society has to deal with problems relating to private property”. Indeed Israel’s own “problems relating to private property” have consisted in dispossessing Palestinians of their property on an explicitly ethnic basis, and denying Palestinians’ rights under international law. Prior to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, this dispossession was carried out largely by the JNF which prevented lease or purchase by Arab citizens, including the legal owners. The JNF has continued to play a central role in this process of ethnic cleansing of land since 1948 as an agent of the Israeli state (a role which in itself is contrary to charitable purposes).
The JNF openly practices racial discrimination; its constitution prohibits JNF-controlled land being sold, leased or worked by Palestinian citizens of Israel. The JNF publicly clarified its discriminatory policies over the 13% of Israel lands it owns:
“The JNF, in relation to being an owner of land, is not a public body that works for the benefit of all citizens of the state. The loyalty of the JNF is given to the Jewish people and only to them is the JNF obligated. The JNF, as the owner of the JNF land, does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state.”(5)
The High Steering Committee of the Arabs of the Negev sees the forced removals as ethnic cleansing and calls for recognition of their communities and the provision of normal state services to citizens, rather than forced displacement, house demolitions and land seizures.(6)
Israeli courts ruled in 1984 that the Naqab (Negev) Bedouin had no land ownership claims, overturning land ownership recognition by the Ottoman and British Mandate authorities, effectively making Bedouin residences illegal.(7)
The Israeli Parliament in July 2007 passed the Jewish National Fund Law which stipulates that all land in the possession of the Jewish National Fund is to be allocated exclusively to Jewish people and that no future law could infringe the JNF’s right to discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel.(8)
Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned the procedure whereby Palestinians, including Bedouin, are denied building permits so that their homes can be destroyed at any time by administrative order. Amnesty called it “a conscious Israeli government policy of dispossession…despite the residents’ Israeli citizenship and their long-established claims to their lands.” Amnesty called on the Israeli government to “stop its policy of home demolitions both in communities inside Israel, such as Al-‘Araqib in the Negev, and also in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem”.(9) Amnesty wrote to the Chairman of the JNF, Effie Stenzler, “urging him to place a moratorium on all forestation operations in al-‘Araqib [whose] residents are Israeli citizens with a long-standing claim to the lands in question”.(10)
Israeli authorities began demolition of the Bedouin village of Al-‘Araqib in 2010 and despite subsequent rebuilding efforts by villagers, the village has been demolished 33 times . Human Rights Watch rejects the JNF claim that it is carrying out “forestation” on behalf of the Israeli Government and that Al ‘Araqib is a designated as a “recreational area”, observing that the “professed plans seem to be more about politics than forestation”. In March 2010, Israel’s agriculture minister announced that the JNF’s forestation activities around al-‘Araqib were undertaken “in order to safeguard national lands.”(11) In the Israeli and Zionist lexicon “national” means “Jewish-only”(12), as in Jewish National Fund, and safeguarding “national” lands means the removal of land from Palestinian to exclusively Jewish ownership.
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel described the current plan to forcibly remove tens of thousands of the Naqab ’s non-Jewish population as “a declaration of war on the Bedouin in the Negev.” They have also detailed the main legal, political and policy structures that institutionalise discrimination and entrench inequalities between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as the so-called ‘Prawer Report’ that outlines Israel’s plans to forcibly displace Arab Bedouin from their homes in the Naqab.(13)
Since the founding of the State of Israel, the Naqab Bedouin have suffered the same fate as other Palestinians left behind after the mass ethnic cleansing of 1948, i.e. mass expulsions from Israel, (14) forcible seizure of most of their land and forced concentration into smaller infertile areas that make farming difficult. Rahat, for example, referred to by Mr Goodman, holds 52,000 Bedouin on 21,000 acres, while nearby Bnei-Shimon covers 440,000 acres and is home to just 6,000 Jews.(15) Rahat is a concentration zone for an unwanted population.(16,7) “The Bedouin deeply fear moving to the seven existing townships, which themselves have only the most minimal of services…”(17)
Coalition of Women for Peace earlier this year reported that the JNF plan is to “uproot people to plant trees”. The Coalition joined with many other human rights groups to protest “the destruction of Al-Arakib and planting a forest in the village by the JNF”. They reported that “large police forces destroyed the village of Al- Arakib for the 11th time, using violence, including the use of sponge bullets, beatings and arrests. At the same time, the JNF began the work of planting ‘Forest of Ambassadors’ on the village land…the continued work of planting shall mean immediate deportation for residents of Arakib. The demolitions in Al-Arakib are part of the plan of the Government of Israel to “Jewdise” the Negev and the JNF has a central role in the implementation.”(18)
The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) rejected an application by the JNF USA for consultative status with thousands of other NGOs on the grounds that the JNF’s work violated the principles of the UN Charter, which emphasizes respect for human rights and equality.(19)
Summary – Part 1
The JNF-KKL is involved in the Israeli programme of ethnic cleansing across Israel/Palestine, including the violent, forcible removal of the Negev Bedouin on grounds of ethnicity. The JNF is an integral part of this programme of forced population removal on grounds of ethnicity and has even participated in the demolitions of Al ‘Araqib. As elsewhere in Israel/Palestine, the JNF plants trees with the aim of obliterating evidence of villages that have been emptied by forced population removal, effectively covering up war crimes. Abundant evidence of the JNF’s racist discrimination is available from JNF documents, UN bodies, and numerous Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organisations.
Part 2 – De-legitimisation of critics
The Stop the JNF Campaign in the UK (and internationally) is committed to universal human rights. We work in partnership with human rights organisations in Palestine and Israel for justice for Palestinian refugees who wish to return to their lands, a right enshrined in international law. We urge the dismantling of those racist state and para-statal institutions that enforce segregation, remove the bulk of land from Palestinian residence for exclusively Jewish use, and carry out dispossession of Palestinians in order to maintain a system of Jewish privilege over non-Jews.(20) The Stop the JNF Campaign is non-sectarian, not affiliated to any religious or political group, and comprises Jews and non-Jews who are united in opposing the activities of the JNF. The response from supporters of Israel’s activities is the familiar one – to conflate opposition to the activities of Israel and its supporters with anti-Semitism. We note Mr Goodman’s odd claim that he writes on JNF headed notepaper to attack Jewish critics of Israel “not as Chief Executive of JNF UK [but] as a member of the Jewish community.”
To avoid engagement with the issues raised by its critics, the JNF CEO works to smear the accusers. Goodman claims that six people he says are associated with Stop the JNF are “examples of hate speech and extremism”.(21) The six are three prestigious authors, Joel Kovel, Israel Shahak, and Shlomo Sand, to whom are added Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) Chair, Mick Napier; Paul Donnachie and John Wight. Goodman uses fabricated allegations and anonymous and unsourced “quotes” from Zionist websites(22) which have been set up specifically to promote the idea that supporters of Palestinian human rights are driven by hatred of Jews.(23) While claiming to speak on behalf of Jews, Goodman, with no sense of irony, smears Jewish critics of Israel.
Mr Goodman quotes US author Joel Kovel: “My quarrel with Judaism took shape about the themes of chauvinism and entitlement, and in this way extended to the critique of Zionism. The antipathy began viscerally in the Synagogue and at my aunt’s funeral and over the years grew into a worldview”. Goodman suggests that Joel Kovel’s narrative of his personal rejection of his parents’ religion, in his case Judaism but a common human experience, somehow reveals Kovel as anti-Semitic.(24) A book on Israel/Palestine, Overcoming Zionism, has been critically acclaimed:
o According to Michael Warschawski, former director of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem, “Joel Kovel’s uncompromising criticism of Zionism is rooted in a very deep feeling of empathy and solidarity with his fellow-Jews caught in the death-trap of the Zionist adventure.”
o Samir Amin, director of the Third World Forum, decribes the book as “absolutely fundamental for those who reject the unfortunate confusion between Jews, Judaism, Zionism and the State of Israel…It convincingly argues in favour of a single secular state for Israelis and Palestinians as the only democratic solution for the region.”(25)
o Kovel’s books on psychiatry and ecology have also been widely praised.(26)
Mr Goodman claims that SPSC Chair Mick Napier justified the killing of students in a Jerusalem college in 2008. This allegation refers to an article written in 2008 which clearly does not justify the killing of Jewish students but describes the genocidal ideology taught at the settler college, Mercaz HaRav, and the commitment to Jewish supremacy and ethnic cleansing of many of its alumni. Using mainly settler sources, the article analyses Mercaz HaRav’s promotion of virulent racism and murder.(27) While Goodman asserts without evidence that the SPSC Chair supported the killings, others passed rather different judgements.
o Shir Hever, Israeli author,(28) wrote of the “open-mindedness of the SPSC activists who remain true to their rejection of racism of all kinds, and who have become a role-model for activists around the world on how to oppose apartheid without falling into the temptation of making hateful remarks or making unfair generalizations.”
o Fathi Khdirat, organising non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation of the Jordan Valley,(29) is witness to JNF’s illegal activities there. He writes that, “I am happy to be one of those who support SPSC. I know who you are and what you are doing for freedom for Palestine.”
o Sheriff John Scott in 2010 ridiculed charges of racism levelled against five SPSC members on trial in Edinburgh, and ruled that there was no evidence that the accused were motivated by hostility to Jews. Sheriff Scott stated in his ruling that,“It seemed to me that the procurator fiscal’s attempts to squeeze malice and ill will out of the facts were rather strained.” Campaigning against the crimes of State of Israel and its institutions, the Sheriff emphasised, had nothing in common with racism.(30)
Israel Shahak was President of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, co-author of Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, and a professor at the Hebrew University.(31) It is deplorable that the JNF CEO seeks to associate Shahak, a survivor of Bergen Belsen, with neo-Nazis and the KKK. Many of considerably greater standing than Mr Goodman have testified otherwise:
o “Shahak is an outstanding scholar, with remarkable insight and depth of knowledge. His work is informed and penetrating, a contribution of great value.” — Noam Chomsky
o “The voice of reason is alive and well, and in Israel, of all places. Shahak is the latest — if not the last — of the great prophets.” — Gore Vidal”
o “In this deeply disturbing book Shahak and Mezvinsky highlight the dangers that Jewish fundamentalism poses to democracy in Israel… Illuminative, insightful and accessible, this is an important book that deserves as wide a readership as possible.” Gordon Peake, St. Anthony’s College, Oxford.”(32)
Shlomo Sand’s book, The Invention of the Jewish People, is yet more “hate speech…bigotry” according to the JNF CEO, although the work was a bestseller in Israel, and has been extravagantly praised and translated into over a dozen languages:
o “His book is a trip through a landscape of illusions which Sand aims to explode, leaving the scenery freer for a Middle East built … from the hard bricks of truth.” Simon Schama in the Financial Times
o “Sand’s larger point, that Israel needs to become more like other Western democracies and less obsessed with ethnic purity, is welcome.” Newsweek“
o His latest academic work has spent 19 weeks on Israel’s bestseller list and that success has come to the history professor despite his book challenging Israel’s biggest taboo.” Jonathan Cook, Al Jazeera (33)
SPSC supported Paul Donnachie, a student of St Andrews University, during his trial for “racism” in 2011 for defacing an Israeli flag. Mr Donnachie was convicted. The case is subject to a vigorous appeal and Paul’s legal team believe there are multiple grounds for having the conviction overturned, not least the legal precedent set by the Edinburgh court in 2010. (34)
According to Mr Goodman, John Wight “recommended an extremist far-right website”. No evidence is provided because the accusation is false. Goodman also takes Wight to task for using the term “international Jewry”, implying that the very acceptance of the term promotes an anti-Semitic world view. Many mainstream Jewish organisations(35), Zionist Jewish groups(36) and anti-Zionist Jewish groups(37) use the term “World Jewry” without a second thought.
Summary (Part 2)
The authors and activists impugned by the JNF CEO argue for human rights for Palestinians within a commitment to universal human rights.
Supporters of Israel label supporters of Palestinian human rights as “anti-Semitic”. Opposing the Israeli system of apartheid, however, is no more racist than opposing apartheid in South Africa was “anti-White”.
The Mr Goodman asks to meet privately with each MP who has signed the EDM to discuss further. Stop the JNF suggest that this might best be done collectively and a meeting arranged at Westminster where Mr Goodman could be asked some questions, the validity of competing claims examined and evaluated and the truth established.(38)
(1) JNF CEO Goodman’s letter to MPs:
(3) Stop the JNF Campaign (2011) Israeli Charity ‘on the Retreat’ say Palestine Campaigners, http://www.stopthejnf.org///greatbritain_campaignnews_110anniversary11nov2011.html
(4) See, for example
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (2004), Without water: position paper on the right to water in unrecognised villages, www.phr.org.il/uploaded/articlefile_1120399468296.doc or B’Tselem (2011) Civil Administration Plans to Expel Tens of Thousands of Bedouin from Area C, at http://www.btselem.org/settlements/20111010_forced_eviction_of_bedouins
(5) Badil (2007) The Jewish National Fund, http://www.badil.org/en/article74/item/429-the-jewish-national-fund-jnf
(6) El Sana, Talab (05.10.11) The Plight of the Negev’s Bedouin, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/05/bedouin-negev-israel
Until 2004, Israeli planes repeatedly sprayed highly toxic herbicides on crops planted by Bedouin who wished to remain on their ancestral lands and whom Israel wished to remove. Chemically spraying Israeli Jewish communities from the air is inconceivable.
(7) Habitat International Coalition (2004) Bedouin Unrecognised Villages of the Negev,
(8) Adalah (2007) The Jewish National Fund, at http://www.adalah.org/eng/jnf.php
Tom Paine in the 18th Century in his best-selling Common Sense ridiculed the idea of lawmaking that sought to bind future generations.
(9) Amnesty International (2010) Israel condemned over Bedouin village demolition, at http://www.amnesty.org/fr/node/19741
The Palestinian owner has to pay for the compulsory demolition of their own home See
Minority Rights Group International (2011) Israel’s Denial of the Bedouin, at . www.minorityrights.org/download.php?id=1074 . See Haaretz (14.12.11) http://bit.ly/vDF1WA on resignation of JNF Board member in protest at JNF evictions of Palestinian family from their home.
(10) Amnesty International (2011) Stop creating forests that are destroying Bedouin lives, at http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/stop-destruction-bedouin-village-and-its-inhabitants%E2%80%99-livelihoods-5
(11) Human Rights Watch (2011) Erasing Links to the Land in the Negev, at http://bit.ly/uIJ7Dz
(12) Schechla, J. (2010) The Consequences of Conflating Religion, Race, Nationality and Citizenship, at http://www.badil.org/en/al-majdal/item/1401-schechla-conflating-race-and-nationality
(13) Haaretz (12.09.11) Cabinet Approves plan to relocate Negev Bedouin, at http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/cabinet-approves-plan-to-relocate-negev-bedouin-1.383842 & http://www.adalah.org/eng/pressreleases/pr.php?file=06_09_11
See also: The Inequality Report: Learn about the main legal, political and policy structures that institutionalize discrimination and entrench inequalities between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel: http://www.adalah.org/upfiles/2011/Adalah_The_Inequality_Report_March_2011.pdf
And the Adalah publication on the Prawer Report, and Israel’s plans to forcibly displace Arab Bedouin from their homes in the Naqab: http://bit.ly/t3w5WY
(14) Cook, J. (2003) Bedouin in the Negev Face New ‘Transfer’, at http://www.merip.org/mero/mero051003
(15) El Sana, Talab, op. cit.
(16) A reduced area into which the unwanted population is forcibly gathered.
(17) MacIntyre, D. (29.11.05) End of the road for the Bedouin,
(18) Anon (2011) Women’s organisations point an accusing finger towards JNF Executive: uproot people to plant trees, http://www.coalitionofwomen.org/?cat=1&lang=en click on ‘Al Arakib’
(19) Badil, op. cit. & http://www.stopthejnf.org//unitedstates_jnfkklinthenews_unstatus2007.html
(20) HSRC (2009), Academic study finds that Israel is practising apartheid and colonialism in the Occupied Palestinian Territories http://www.hsrc.ac.za/Media_Release-378.phtml & http://www.stopthejnf.org///about.html
(21) Goodman attacks SPSC, sparing other JNF partners such as IJAN and Palestinian Legal Aid Fund. Much of the material is cut and pasted from Exposing Stop the JNF ( http://stopthejnf.com), a website using the services of Domains by Proxy a company providing anonymity and untraceability, and used by US politicians to disseminate rumours about their opponents.
(22) See http://engageonline.wordpress.com and http://greensengage.wordpress.com , both campaign against the Palestinian civil society appeal for BDS until Israel conforms to international law.
(23) See http://bit.ly/rzzh2D for examples of rabid anti-Semitism, all presumably less extreme in the mind of the compiler than the number 1, which is not remotely anti-Semitic.
(24) The phenomenon of individuals repudiating the religion of their parents is a mass phenomenon here in the UK and has nothing in common with hostility to those who remain adherents. See http://bit.ly/rSCzxl
(27) Napier, M. (2008) Mercaz HaRav – a training centre for illegal occupation, murder and ‘Arabs to the Gas Chambers’ http://bit.ly/t8VfZB No critics of the article have challenged the material presented on the nature of Mercaz HaRav and the murderous nature of the settler movment. Indeed the claims have been confirmed over the years since 2008.
Since the Israeli Army, the settlers, and the JNF work together to dispossess the Palestinians, Goodman does not like criticism of even these most genocidal settlers, preferring to malign their critics. The reader can read the piece and judge whether it is a justification for murder or a denunciation of murderers.
(30) BBC (08.04.10) Israel protest at concert ‘was not racist, ‘http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/8609737.stm
(31) Pallis, E (06.07.01) Israel Shahak, Belsen survivor who attacked Israel’s treatment of Palestinians http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2001/jul/06/guardianobituaries.physicalsciences
(34) One ground for appeal will be Sheriff MacNair’s ludicrous statement in summing up that “The state of Israel is the land and its borders and the people in it…Saying that a state is terrorist says that everyone within the state is terrorist.”
Scottish PSC (2011) Call to supporters of Palestinian rights, anti-racists, and supporters of free speech, http://bit.ly/o5x7cq
(38) It is noteworthy that the JNF or its supporters have never challenged human rights campaigners or even high-profile critics of the JNF when they have appeared on UK public platforms over many years, despite invitations to do so.