Exposing the racist JNF ~ by @jksnowdon


Related: Greenwashing Apartheid | EBook of the Jewish Anti Zionist Network


January 19, 2012 | John Snowdon | Mostly Palestine بلد واحد

From 27th December 2011 I took part in the second international Stop The JNF campaign fact-finding delegation to Palestine. The purpose of this visit was to learn about the role of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) or Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL) in the Zionist programme of colonisation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid within the State of Israel and, contrary to international law, the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Delegates met with and talked to a wide-range of people and groups: Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel, Palestinians under occupation, human rights organisations and NGOs. We visited areas which have been the focus of JNF-KKL activity before and after May 1948:

  • Palestinians in Silwan, East Jerusalem facing displacement and illegal settlement activity.
  • Bedouin villagers in the Naqab (Negev) dealing with repeated house demolitions, forced water shortages and forestry blight.
  • Villages destroyed in 1967, the remains deliberately hidden within JNF-KKL leisure forests.
  • Jordan Valley families subject to three waves of ethnic cleansing since 1967 and now living in tents and shelters without amenities such as running water and electricity.
  • Palestinians whose land straddles the green line, who having re-established their village on a fraction of their former territory now face encirclement and eventual displacement by the route of the apartheid wall.

During this intensive five-day period we were able to garner a greater understanding of the issues faced by Palestinians as a consequence of the JNF-KKL initiating, facilitating and maintaining a system of racial inequality of land ownership and use.

Settler activity and violence

The steady encroachment of western style settlements into Palestinian communities, together with racist violence is deeply concerning, as we witnessed in Silwan where the JNF-KKL uses its subsidiary Himanuta to carry out its dirty work. Together with the settler organisation Elad and under the guise of archaeology and tourism, local residents struggle to prevent their homes and communal land being stolen.

Bogus archaeology used for illegal settlement activity

 Bribery, blackmail and physical intimidation are some of the tools used to displace families. Residents told us that the Zionist organisations use Israel’s Absentee Property Law and even Ottoman era statutes to rescind Palestinian ownership; properties are then further removed in a web of settler ownership arrangements. We observed a deep crater which has recently damaged the local Mosque, this was caused by a settler tunnel running the length of Silwan. Ostensibly for archaeological ‘research’ this covert civil engineering enterprise is literally removing the ground from under the feet of Palestinians. We walked round Silwan accompanied by local residents where the contrast between settler streets and Palestinian areas is evident. Dwellings are best described as fortified compounds with CCTV, barbed wire, bolted gates and in some cases, watch-towers. Israeli flags hang limply above streets cleaned from top to bottom twice a day. This largess is paid for with money taken from the Silwan budget allocation by the Jerusalem Municipality residents told us as we walked along dirty, rubbish strewn Palestinian streets which flood with settler run-off when it rains.

Land confiscation and forestry

That the JNF-KKL is intimately involved both in the removal of Palestinians from their land and in Israel’s attempts to alter historical facts on the ground to bolster their claim of ‘a land with no people for a people with no land’ is evident throughout former Mandate Palestine. We visited the Naqab (Negev) the home of the Bedouin who consider themselves the indigenous people of this area, a fact, we were told, recognised by both the Ottomans & the British. The families in al Araqib 

This used to be a thriving Bedouin community

 have had their village destroyed (at least) thirty-three times since July 2010 and are forced to seek the protection of the village cemetery for their main shelter. On the day we visited a thirty-fourth demolition was only prevented by our presence at the site. They have been cut off from a reliable water supply, had their crops sprayed with herbicide, their ancient irrigation system destroyed and over forty-thousand olive trees uprooted by the Israeli government and the JNF-KKL.

Where once a thriving agricultural community cultivated barley, wheat, olives and vegetables; where sheep and chickens were farmed for milk, meat & eggs, now a desolate wasteland meets the empty sky. Row upon row of banked arid soil lies ready to accept an unwelcome guest. Welcome to the Ambassadors Forest, not a sylvan idyll but an environmental disaster and human rights injustice. The JNF are continuing to plant trees while the Bedouin al-Turi family have a legal action pending as they are the legal owners of this land, having the documents to prove it. Furthermore JNF-KKL are planting non-native species on this stolen land: while the remaining villagers live in water poverty, the newly planted Eucalyptus and Acacia trees demand additional water resources which the JNF-KKL is only too happy to provide.

The Bedouin are the wrong kind of Israeli citizen and are therefore subject to forced demolitions and displacement, denial of legal rights and the concentration of their communities into urban reservations. All to ‘make the desert bloom’ and provide for “the future of Israel”. AKA: settlers.

The contrast with Canada Park near Jerusalem was stark. This area, entirely within the West Bank and therefore illegally occupied Palestinian territory is an arboreal oasis seemingly transplanted from Scotland or the Tyrol. Yet beneath the dappled shade of the trees lie the remains of three Palestinian villages: Imwas, Yalu & Beit Nuba all systematically cleansed of Palestinians in 1967, the land stolen by the JNF and transformed over thirty years into a leisure facility for metropolitan Israelis. The destruction of the villages wasn’t just that of stone & crops but lives. From that day forty-five years ago residents of Imwas and the other villages have no home to go to. Refugee camps, shattered families and scattered communities; not having the correct ID to even set foot in their own village. Imagine.

Villagers can no longer harvest their olives

Several reminders of Imwas stand out: the two cemeteries, where despite the desecration of some graves, a link to the generational rhythms of village life has become a fixed point in time and the native trees of almond, pomegranate and cactus that battle with the colonisers for life.

Vandalised grave at Imwas village

The British Park and Parc de France exist similarly for the recreation of Israelis, developed over the remains of Ajur village and a village dating back to Roman / Byzantine times respectively. Outside the British Park the sign in Hebrew says “JNF is for the welfare of the Israeli citizens” [Israeli rather than Jewish], with a logo saying “JNF supporting Israel for Life”. The “Butterfly Picnic Area” (bizarrely containing two large model sheep?) indicates the support of the “First Ladies JNF Committee of London”. Another plaque is in honour of Kirk Douglas.

A very new sign on the edge of the forest has a picture of a smart housing development titled “House in the Heart of the British Forest”. In other words, housing for settlers will now start to take the place of the trees that were planted to camouflage the remains of the village – and the replacement of one population by another will be complete.

Water access

The availability of water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories depends on whether you’re Palestinian or Israeli e.g. the illegal settlements receive seven times more water than the Palestinian population centres per capita. In 1995 Oslo II set up the Joint Water Committee (JWC) for the West Bank which is supposed to administer water supply and treatment equitably but in practice refuses Palestinian permits for well drilling and rehabilitation. The Israel water company Mekorot (partly owned by JNF-KKL) operates and controls thirty-eight wells in the West Bank which supply illegal settlements, while Palestinians are forced to pay for water tankers also from Mekorot (!) which can mean a high percentage of family income being spent on water.

The delegation visited the Jordan Valley, occupied illegally since 1967, to find out how access to water affected the daily lives of Palestinians who live on five per cent of the land. As we travelled into the Jordan Valley from Jerusalem we passed large-scale agricultural holdings: greenhouses, poly-tunnels, packing sheds and dunam after dunam of lush, fertile fields, bursting with salad crops and fruit trees under netting. These are mainly settler farms with their attendant settler towns and villages easily recognised by their red-tiled, pitched roofs. Alien architecture amidst a dramatic natural landscape of rolling hills. 

Settler farm in Jordan Valley

The Palestinian villages of Fasayil, Fasayil al-Fauqa & Fasayil al-Wusta are home to people displaced twice already, having originally been ethnically cleansed from Ein Gedi. Fasayil is designated Area B by the Oslo accords, while the others are in Area C. The area is littered with the detritus of previous demolitions, dwellings are mainly temporary structures, with the small school, built by the villagers over two years, the only building which seems permanent but is in fact slated for demolition by the Israeli authorities. They rely on Mekorot water tanks but face the threat of this lifeline being cut off as the efforts to forcibly remove them gather pace. Their land is dry and rutted, in need of irrigation for crops and animals and to survive. Cruelly, overlooking them from a nearby hill is a large modern water tank its precious cargo destined for the nearby settlement of Tomer built on their stolen land.  

Palestinian land in Jordan Valley

We talked to a sixteen year old boy who has been working on a settlement farm for three years. Children are denied a decent education as schools are demolished; with high unemployment and little chance to cultivate their own lands due to water shortages, wage- slave labour on illegal settler farms is their only option.

The village of Jiftlik further North shares the same lack of access to potable water due to Israel’s illegal occupation. Salinity is a major problem so for a population of five thousand people this means extreme water shortages for drinking, domestic use and agriculture. Desalination treatment and drilling of new wells is not allowed, therefore Palestinians are unable to grow their staple crops of lemons & bananas now that the Israeli’s drilled two wells which has reduced their supply of fresh spring water. International aid is of little use. We were told that Oxfam were refused permission to build a much-needed reservoir for the area so they bought tanks and water meters instead!

The apartheid wall and ethnic cleansing

The Kennedy Memorial, part of Aminadav Forest, is celebrated by JNF-KKL as a national tree-planting centre with guided walks and interesting ‘archaeological remains’. What the Israeli tourist literature doesn’t mention is that this concrete edifice was built on al-Walaja village…stolen land. Forcibly displaced in 1948, some of the Palestinian villagers regrouped over the green line, slowly, over decades, coming to terms with the end of their lives as they knew them. In 1948 al-Walaja village owned eighteen thousand dunums and farmed another seventy-two thousand dunums; after 1948 they were left with seven thousand and today it’s two thousand four hundred dunums. To experience al-Walaja is to experience the Zionist system of colonialism, occupation and apartheid in microcosm. It is terrible.

The JNF-KKL demolished the village in the late 1950′s: school, Mosque, cemetary and houses. But it was access to the land that denied the former residents their purpose in life: agriculture. They watched from the new al-Walaja village as fertile soil began sprouting pine trees rather than summer fruits, winter vegetables and Autumn olives. They were never going back. After 1967 the village faced settlement encroachment and land confiscation as Gilo to the North East & Har Gilo to the South East and the new JNF-KKL sponsored settlement of Givat Yael have isolated it from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Looking across the valley a local resident pointed out the tree line below the settlement. The forest is used to hold the land until new houses are built: colonisation by plantation.

Post-Oslo the situation has deteriorated as residents were forced into the arbitrary dictates of being either Jerusalem or Area C residents depending on which side of the village they lived. The consequences of this were unforeseen by al-Walaja people who suddenly found themselves illegally living on their own land and known as ‘present absentees’. One Palestinian we spoke to summed this up as “Israel doesn’t have laws for justice, just laws to grab the land’.

In 2010 Israel began construction of the apartheid wall within the green line. Al-Walaja recently lost a legal challenge to the route as it will cut the village off on three sides, steal more land and leave a tunnelled, gated road controlled by Israel as the only means of ingress & egress. Why a tunnel? The road above is Israeli only, no Palestinians. Once the Wall is completed it is feared that this will result in forced displacement of the whole population, starting with the workers who need to get to work early in the morning and will not be able to if the gate is closed, then families with school children and students needing access to education. “If women don’t stay in this village, in 20 years it wont be here any more” one resident said.

Route of apartheid wall in Al Walaja

A tour of the village highlights the length Israel goes to realise its discriminatory policies. One house is outside the route of the wall & so is having its own wall built around it with a connecting tunnel to the village constructed at enormous cost. Israel will maintain that this is all for ‘security’, however a glance across the valley to Jerusalem exposes the lie. An easy twenty-five minute walk for al-Walaja residents is the Knesset and the up-market malls of West Jerusalem but they are more interested in the health and education services they will lose as a result of this policy of ethnic cleansing.

The systematic nature of the Zionist policies is evident from the facts on the ground and the corresponding testimony of demolitions, displacement and settlement-building across historic Palestine. That the JNF-KKL is an integral part of the Israeli state’s colonialism, occupation and apartheid is evidenced by the geographical sweep of its activities: Naqab to Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley and its involvement in all manner of discriminatory programmes and policies. Neither International law, regard for the “peace process” or even human decency and compassion seems to deter JNF-KKL from its mission to prevent Palestinians living peaceful lives on their own land.

This used to be the Palestinian village of Ajur

Action

It’s time to hold the JNF-KKL to account for their actions. Endorse the international call and find out what you can do in your country. UK residents can write to their MP here and urge them to sign EDM 1677 which calls for the removal of the JNF’s charitable status in the UK. The JNF is feeling the pressure as the truth of its racist agenda is revealed. Please join the campaign and play your part in the Palestinian struggle against Israel’s colonial oppression.

Source and more at Mostly Palestine بلد واحد.





Watch Caught on Camera: Ethnic Cleansing




Netanyahu’s Likud on it’s website: “The Jordan River as a Permanent Border”
The Jordan Valley and the territories that dominate it shall be under Israeli sovereignty. The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel. The Kingdom of Jordan is a desirable partner in the permanent status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians in matters that will be agreed upon.

and:

The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.
Source: Likud platform



Israel’s Jerusalem municipality plans to build more than 50,000 (updated Dec 3, 2011: 85.000) new homes in the city’s occupied eastern sector over two decades:

  • 23,628 homes have already been approved, 20,263 in East Jerusalem and 3,365 in the west.
  • 13,824 are pending review, 12,819 in East Jerusalem and 1,005 in the west.
  • 23,266 housing units are still in planning stages, 19,281 in the east and 3,985 in the west.



Of these, the municipality plans:

  • 10,366 homes in northern East Jerusalem, including illegal Israeli settlement Pisgat Zeev and Palestinian town Beit Hanina.
  • 5,239 homes in southern East Jerusalem, including Gilo settlement and Palestinian district Beit Safafa.
  • 4,886 new units in central eastern Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and Jerusalem’s Old City.

Read More



Besides this, Israel approved plans to ethnic cleanse 57.000 bedouin from Palestine



Save yourself time. It is only about this : Ethnic Cleansing



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