Why the JNF?
JNF as a para-statal body.
By “para-statal body” we mean an organisation which is not formally incorporated into the mechanisms and structures of the state itself, but operates in parallel to it, advancing key state policies. To put it simply, a para-statal body is an unofficial arm of the state; JNF is a prime example.
How did JNF acquire this status?
The status developed after 1948, through a legislative process which incorporated JNF principles of Jewish exclusivity into the state’s structures and also ascribed to the JNF roles which enabled it to influence state policies as they unfurled, especially regarding the land.
JNF had played a very influential role in the preparation for the Nakba, ideologically and practically. Some thought that with the establishment of the state in 1948 the JNF’s role would recede, but UN Resolution 194 (The Right of Return of the refugees) changed.
The new state quickly understood the threat posed to Jewish demographic dominance by Resolution 194: should the Palestinians be allowed back to their villages and homes, Jews would not be the majority. JNF offered one element of the solution to this by becoming one of the recipients of the lands acquired by force during the Nakba. Other recipients were kibbutzim and moshavim and, later, the Land Authority. Thus, stolen lands were “offloaded” by the state.
The state then also moved to legislate in such a way as to thwart the Right of Return. The Land Acquisition (Validation of Acts and Compensation) Law, 1953 was passed to guarantee the “legality” of the possession of confiscated Palestinian land by its new “owners”. In the words of the Finance Minister, the purpose of the law was “to instil legality into some of the acts undertaken during and following the war.”
Further laws followed, including some which gave the JNF its privileged para-statal position. The Basic Law: Israel Lands (1960) defined as “Israel Lands” all the areas in the possession of the Development Authority, the state and the JNF, specifying that they couldn’t be sold. Also, a Memorandum of Association of the JNF was initiated, cementing the relationship between the JNF and state. Following this, a Covenant was agreed between the state and the JNF, guaranteeing the JNF nearly 50% representation on the Israel Land Council (ILC), a very important body which, to this day, makes the policies governing the use of 93% of the land inside the Green Line.
The cumulative result of these legislative moves is that Palestinian refugee property has been recategorized as JNF or state land, undermining the Right of Return. JNF parks and forests cover many ethnically cleansed villages, hiding the ruins and attempting to re-write their history. Even more significantly, the JNF principle of Jewish exclusivity over the land has been effectively incorporated into the state’s laws. Not only that, the JNF has a significant influence, via the ILC, over what happens to its own and the state land. In short, 93% of the surface area of Israel is ruled in accordance with the notion of Jewish supremacy.
The JNF has the power to exercise control over the management of land resources, but it is very difficult to hold it to account through normal channels, as Adalah knows well. Adalah has challenged the JNF position in the Israel Land Council, unsuccessfully to date. We should note the clear declaration of JNF racist principles, made in response to Adalah’s case in 2004:
“The JNF is not the trustee of the general public in Israel. Its loyalty is given to the Jewish people in the Diaspora and in the state of Israel… 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.”
The JNF’s ideology pre-dates the establishment of the state of Israel and was a harbinger of Israel’s racist concept of nationality.
In July 2018, The Basic Law: Israel – the Nation State of the Jewish People was passed in Israel. This law raises serious questions about the legal context in which the JNF UK (and all JNF branches internationally) operates, with the support of British taxpayers’ money, channelled to this organisation as a result of its charitable status. The Nation State Law forms part of Israel’s constitution, but falls within the bounds of absolute prohibitions under international law, enshrining, as it does, features of apartheid and racism within the apparatus of the state.
This law legitimises, within Israel, practices which would be considered totally unacceptable in a constitutional democracy. It is well documented that discrimination has been a fact of life in Israel since its inception; however, the importance of this particular law is that it makes such practices part of the very fabric of the state. The Nation State Law makes challenges against discrimination, through the legal process, virtually impossible; in short, Israeli law now enshrines that which is illegal in any democratic state.
The new law has the following features (inter alia):
- The right to exercise national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
- Jerusalem, “complete and united”, is the capital of Israel.
- The state’s official language is Hebrew.
- The state will be open to Jewish immigration.
- The state views Jewish settlement as a “national value” and will act to “encourage and promote” such settlement.
- State official holidays are all Jewish
- State emblems are all Jewish in origin.
The law demotes the status of Palestinians, who retain “citizenship” BUT are denied “nationality”; that is for Jews only, Jews anywhere in the world. The Nation State Law makes it clear beyond doubt that Israel is not a state of all its citizens but one in which Jewish citizens have privileged status above other citizens.
There is no reference within this law to the political rights, the human rights to equality and dignity, nor the social rights of the Palestinian population of the state, which currently stands at over 20% of the whole. Key rights are specified as exclusive to or “unique” to the Jewish population, thereby legitimising discriminatory practices. Jerusalem, identified as a “corpus separatum” in 1947, to be protected because of its special position in three major world religions, is simply claimed as Israeli. Settlement, in which the JNF plays a crucial role, is a “national value”, despite the illegality of settling militarily occupied lands.
Israel was an apartheid regime from its inception: this law rubber stamps it. Israel is a self-proclaimed apartheid regime.
In 2018, underscoring the racist nature of the state, a proposed Basic Law: Equality was defeated in the Knesset. Israel calls itself a democracy but has no Equality law for all its citizens.
What does this mean for the JNF worldwide? JNF UK pledges itself to the state of Israel in its mission statement, saying it is “Supporting Israel for Life” and is “100% Israel”. The JNF internationally has wedded itself to the apartheid state of Israel: What Israel wants, the JNF delivers. JNF embraces apartheid. See JNF and water Apartheid here.
The inevitable question arises: how can UK taxpayers’ money be used to subsidise the JNF UK, given its wholehearted endorsement of an apartheid state and its use of those British-sourced funds within that racist state?