Monday, June 23, 2008

Gore Blimey!

In my 14/6/08 post on the Jewish National Fund (A Certain Jewish Tree Planting Group), I quoted the following from a two-page JNF advertisement in The Australian Jewish News of 14/10/05 : "Former American vice president Al Gore will be the keynote speaker at JNF NSW's 'Negev Tomorrow' campaign launch in Sydney... 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."

Gore Blimey, I thought, an entire chapter devoted to the JNF. I'll have to check this out. So I borrowed a friend's copy of Earth in the Balance (1992). No chapter on the JNF! I perused the 2007 edition in a bookshop. Still no chapter on the JNF! Tried the index. Nothing under Jewish National Fund! Tried 'I' for Israel and came up with 'Israel: tree planting in, 324'. Eureka, I'd found the 'chapter'!

And here's what the 'chapter' (actually 2 paragraphs of Chapter 15: A Global Marshall Plan) said:-

"Another example of a tree planting movement that reclaims degraded land while serving related goals has been the effort throughout this century by Zionists to enlist the Jewish diaspora in planting millions of trees in Israel to create new forests. Indeed, the reclamation of the desert and degraded lands in Israel is one of the great ecological success stories, reversing centuries of land abuse and restoring productivity. (Unfortunately, more recent approaches to industrial agriculture have led to unsustainable water and soil depletion in some areas of Israel.)

"Meanwhile, the Jewish National Fund's tree planting movement continues to serve as a model for what could be accomplished all over the world, both in degraded areas of the underdeveloped world and in industrial societies. Generations of Jewish children in the US, for example, have raised money to plant entire forests in memory of a relative or in honor of a friend. In the process, these children have been given an invaluable lesson in the dynamics of soil and water conservation - and more subtly, the importance of loving the land."

It's time for some inconvenient truths:-

New forests? Non-endemic pine monocultures.

Centuries of land abuse? Not bad for a land without a people!

Loving the land? But without the natives: "This direct relation established between land use and land ownership led to the widespread and strategic use of planting throughout the Occupied Territories. Understanding the logic of Israeli land seizure, Palestinians intensified their agricultural land use, planting as a pre-emptive strategy in areas they felt were threatened with impending expropriation; such planting was often subsidized by Palestinian and international solidarity organizations. On the other hand, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an organisation dedicated to the development of Israeli state land for the benefit of its Jewish population, was planting pine forests in areas declared as 'state land', mainly around greater Jerusalem in what it called 'the green belt'. These planting programmes were undertaken to prevent Palestinian planting, and to maintain land reserves for the new settlements or for the future expansion of exisiting ones. Pine trees were chosen both because of their fast growth and because of the acidic deposit of pine needles they leave on the ground, which eradicates most smaller plants and undergrowth between the trees. 'Pine deserts' were meant to make the land unusable for the Palestinian shepherds by depriving their flocks of pasture. In many places across the West Bank where there has been large-scale forestation by Israel, there has also been small-scale planting by Palestinians; the lines separating pine and olives are among the many boundaries produced by the colonization of the West Bank." (Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation, Eyal Weizman, p 120)

Al Gore's uncritical recycling of JNF propaganda does him no credit.

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