"By the way you may know of a quite popular Jewish tree planting group called the Jewish National Fund, might be some green synergy there, although again it is implicated in West Bank annexations possibly." From an email posted at http://www.sydneyalternativemedia.com/blog/index-blog?from=20071113 by Tom McLoughlin of Ecology Action Sydney.
So "popular" that, as you'd be aware from my last post, DPM Julia Gillard attended the JNF's "gala dinner" in Melbourne on 4/6/08. So what exactly is the JNF? A tree planting group? A tree planting group called the Jewish National Fund? A tree planting group that has gala dinners attended by the likes of Gillard? And what's this about "implicated in West Bank annexations"? Some tree hugging outfit.
Israel is often hyped as a 'vibrant democracy' by its boosters in the media, so it should come as no surprise to find, in this age of bullshit and greenwash, that the JNF Australia website is a particularly vibrant green. The homepage informs us that "The mission of the JNF of Australia is to develop a sustainable environment in Israel by continuing and enhancing the historic partnership of all the Jewish people with the land." There's even a short - ahem - potted history: "The planting of the first forest in honour of Herzl in 1904 started a revolutionary enterprise: the reafforestation of the land. By 1947 the JNF had planted 5 million trees, but by the JNF's centenary in 2001 the total topped 220 million. Israel became the only country in the world with more trees at the end than at the beginning of the 20th century."
Green synergy, eh?
Here's just some of the dirt:-
"The Fund was established in 1901 as one of the instruments of the World Zionist Organization in implementing its objective - the establishment in Palestine of a Jewish state. The role assigned to the Fund in this enterprise was the acquisition and development of territory for Jewish colonization. Accordingly the Fund acquired, through purchase and other means, land in Palestine as the inalienable possession in perpetuity of the Jewish people. The Fund purchased its first land in 1905; by 1948 it held 3.5% of the lands of Palestine, and by 1967, 17% of the lands of the state of Israel. However, the impact of the Fund on land policies in Israel far outweighs the influence suggested by this fraction: in 1960 the Israeli Parliament adopted land laws under which the policies of the Fund, "for Jews only," were applied to 92% of the lands of the state." (The Jewish National Fund, Walter Lehn with Uri Davis)
"Among ourselves it must be clear that there is no place in the country [Palestine] for both peoples together... With the Arabs we shall not achieve our aim of being independent people in this country. The only solution is Eretz Israel [Palestine], at least the west part of Eretz Israel, without Arabs... and there is no other way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries, transfer all of them, not one village or tribe should remain..." Joseph Weitz*, deputy chairman of the Board of Directors of the JNF from 1951 to 1973, quoting from his 1940 diary in A Solution to the Refugee Problem, Davar, 29/9/67.
"[I]n the critical areas of immigration, settlement and land development the Israeli sovereign, the Knesset, which is formally accountable to all its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, has formulated and passed legislation ceding state sovereignty (including taxation) and entered into Covenants vesting its responsibilities with organizations such as the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency and the JNF, which are constitutionally committed to serving and promoting the interests of Jews and Jews only. It is through this procedure of legal duplicity, the ceding of state sovereignty and vesting its responsibilities in the critical areas of immigration, settlement and land development with Zionist organizations constitutionally committed to the exclusive principle of 'only for Jews', that legal apartheid is regulated by Israel. And it is through this mechanism of legal duplicity that the State of Israel has successfully veiled the reality of Zionist apartheid in the guise of legal democracy since the establishment of the State of Israel to date." (Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, Uri Davis, p 48)
"The South African Forest [Golani Junction] was planted on the site [of the Palestinian Arab village of Lubya, destroyed in the course of the massive ethnic cleansing operations carried out by the Israeli army under the cover of the 1948 war] by the JNF, together with the Israeli Ministry of Education, the Sports Authority, Regional Council of Lower Galilee, and Local Council of Kefar Tevor... It appears that the JNF of South Africa (together with the Israeli government and municipal bodies...) chose to plant the South African Forest and (together with the Friends of the JNF and the Women's Zionist Organization of South Africa) situate the recreational area and the children's playground on the ruins of the Palestinian Arab village of Lubya, located in Lower Galilee, inside pre-1967 Israel, ethnically cleansed under the cover of the 1948 war and subsequently razed to the ground. Under Israeli law, notably the Absentees' Property Law of 1950, the thousands of 1948 Palestine refugees of Lubya and their descendents remain stateless refugees outside the borders of the State of Israel... The refugees of Lubya are denied their right of return to their home village and properties. Instead the cattle of the so-called socialist cooperative Zionist settlements of Lavi and Sedeh Ilan are given access. The war crime perpetrated by the Israeli army against the people of Lubya in 1948 is paradigmatic. Some 400 rural and urban Palestinian Arab localities have been similarly ethnically cleansed and razed to the ground in whole or part. In many localities, Lubya and elsewhere, the crime is covered up by JNF forests..." (Davis, pp 53-55)
"To avoid international censure, JNF established Himnuta as a JNF subsidiary with wide powers to operate in the West bank and to 'buy' land [in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention], frequently through forged papers for the settlement of Jews in the occupied territories. Though Himnuta is run as a division of JNF, formally, it is a private company - and therefore, its dealings go largely unsupervised It has never issued financial statements or publicized any information about its business deals, even though it is financed in part by state funds, nor is it subject to oversight by either the state comptroller or the High Court of Justice. 'The JNF today holds 99% of the company's shares, and its official offices are at the JNF. Legally Himnuta is an independent company; in many other aspects, it is the JNF by another name'... In addition to Israel Lands Authority (ILA) and Himnuta unlawful activities in the occupied West Bank, JNF openly acquired land there and planted 'forests' on it in its standard way of staking claim and acquisition of Palestinian land." (Financing Racism & Apartheid: JNF's Violation of International & Domestic Law, Palestine Lands Society, 2005, p 28)
"JNF is registered as charity in many countries. Due to the influence of the Jewish communities in these countries, JNF local boards, Friends-of-JNF boards or similar groups include distinguished members of the non-Jewish community in the country concerned. Very likely they are not aware of the extent and severity of JNF's violation of international law in its operations in Israel. Gala events, donations and bequeaths collect many millions of tax-free dollars which are used in Israel for illegal practices." (PLS, p 29)
And to add some local colour - vibrant green of course:-
"Former American vice president Al Gore will be the keynote speaker at JNF NSW's 'Negev Tomorrow' campaign launch in Sydney... A firm friend of Israel, Gore is credited with a strong commitment to Israel, to religious liberties and civil rights, to a progressive immigration policy and a humane social safety net... Significantly, [Gore] devotes an entire chapter of [his book, Earth in the Balance] to the JNF citing its prescient policies of afforestation, desert reclamation and water resources." (JNF snares former US vice president, The Australian Jewish News, 14/10/05)
"Prime Minister John Howard will be honoured with a JNF forest in his name at a gala dinner in Melbourne next month. To be named the John Howard Negev Forest, the forest will be located in Israel's Negev region, the focus of the JNF's Negev Now campaign [which "aims to raise funds to increase the infrastructure and population of the Negev region, particularly through the construction of two water-treatment plants."]... The Howard forest will become the third such tribute paid to an Australian PM. Forests have also recognised Sir Robert Menzies and Bob Hawke, as well as former governor-general Sir Zelman Cowan. The Australia Israel Friendship Forest in the Galilee, which was dedicated in 1988, also bestows a general honour on all the prime ministers of Australia and Israel in a tribute to the Australian Bicentenary and the 40th anniversary of the State of Israel." (JNF to honour Howard with forest in Israel, AJN, 20/4/07)
"The JNF of Australia fully supports proposed legislation in the Israeli Parliament that would allow it to enforce a policy of only leasing land to Jews. The bill, which recently passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset, was approved by a 64-16 margin... According to [JNF NSW executive Rob] Schneider, the bill calls for severing the 46-year relationship between the ILA and the JNF. Under the current arrangement, the ILA manages JNF lands, which account for close to 13% of land on pre-1967 Israel... [Schneider] anticipates JNFA will raise between $9 million and $15 million in 2007." (JNF Australia backs land bill in Knesset, AJN, 3/8/07)
"Commemorate the Yahrzeits of your loved ones by planting trees in the Australian JNF Yizkor [Remembrance] Forest**." (from a JNF ad in the AJN of 16/11/07)
Clearly, a tree planting group like no other.
[* Weitz was one of the group around the leader of the Zionist movement in 1948, David Ben-Gurion. The group is referred to by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe as "the 'Consultancy', an ad-hoc cabal assembled solely for the purpose of plotting and designing the dispossession of the Palestinians." (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, p 5)
[** This forest is planted on the lands of Ijzim, a destroyed Palestinian Arab village, ethnically cleansed by Zionist forces in the 1948 war.]