The Jewish National Fund is starting to respond to the critics over its shameful role in the ongoing repeated destruction of the Bedouin village Al Araqib. This is from an email newsletter the JNF's CEO, Russell Robinson, sent out today:
On my most recent trip to Israel I met with one of the Bedouin of Al Arakib, their lawyer, and a rabbi, all of whom have been very vocal in their tirade against JNF. While the situation of the Bedouin in the Negev remains a complicated one, I can tell you one simple thing: no other organization is doing anywhere near as much as JNF is to help enhance the quality of life for this population. Many complain, many protest, many write petitions, many make noise, but JNF is consistently pushing the projects that will do more for this population than any other NGO on the ground or in cyberspace.
In the same newsletter Robinson also addressed a campaign targeting the JNF being organized by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. For some odd reason this section was labelled "For Your Eyes Only":
Anti-JNF Protest: The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) along with other organizations has called for March 30, 2011 to be a BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) day against Israel. The IJAN has also threatened to picket JNF/KKL offices around the world on this same day. According to ADL, the IJAN seeks to facilitate global anti-Israel activity on the part of anti-Zionist Jews. Since its inception, IJAN chapters around the U.S. have co-sponsored and endorsed numerous anti-Israel demonstrations and have advanced boycott efforts against Israel, including organizing campaigns to pressure celebrities to cancel planned visits to Israel. We take these protests and your safety seriously. It is important to say at the outset that there is nothing to indicate these protests will be anything other than peaceful; however, even peaceful protests require that we have a plan, which we do to ensure the security of our staff around the country.
You can learn about the IJAN campaign at www.stopthejnf.org and sign the call to action here. Among other things, the campaign is calling for organizations working with the JNF, and especially those with environmental and anti-racist mandates (such as the Arava Institute), to break ties with the organization.
Also, Max Blumenthal has been all over the Jewish National Fund/Al Araqib story and he has been encouraging people to leave comments about Al Araqib on the JNF’s Facebook page and to support Jewish Voice for Peace's campaign to tell the JNF No More Demolished Villages. You can find the number to your nearest JNF office on the JVP website, along with a sample call script.
The JNF is clearly on the defensive. The newsletter ends with with a sense of panic, promising the organization's supporters that the JNF "is not hiding inside its Blue Box or under our trees." To fight back they are:
planning to issue positive statements about our work; ask the community to sign an open letter to Hilary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State; join the national “Buy Israel Goods (BIG) Day”, plant trees, host JNF meetings, contact members of congress, change your Facebook status and share Israel’s and JNF’s positive message.
I think they'll have to do more than change a Facebook status to turn the tide on this one.