JNF feeling the heat over Al Araqib

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.

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 15 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Potsherd2 says:

    There’s an International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network!?!?

    Wow, no one told me! Where can we sign up?

    link to ijsn.net

    • Citizen says:

      Can you sign up if you’re not Jewish? Just a standard type American?

      • Citizen says:

        I looked at the signer list. A few seemed to have non-Jewish names. I also noticed that Phil has not signed to support IJAN, but his partner has done so… There was also a number of Jews from around the world who commented that they were victims of the Shoah and they know the difference between real anti-Semitism and the fake, manipulative charge used to silence critics of some Israeli actions.

        • yourstruly says:

          citizen

          I’ve been to one of their meetings. They’re’international in the universalist sense of the word. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to have someone such as you as a member. You may recall a couple of their actions – a year or so ago, members locked themselves to gates outside the Israeli consulates in both San Francisco & L.A. It was a coup, of sorts. Then at an annual Zionism meeting in Hollywood they set up a mock check-point. MW may have had a post on the “lock-ins.”

  2. Avi says:

    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.

    Poor JNF, they have to put up with tirades by people whose village, homes, property and land have been stolen. What other suffering do the people of Al-Araqib have in store for the good people at JNF?

    While the situation of the Bedouin in the Negev remains a complicated one,

    “Complicated” is a nice euphemism for, “The truth is inconvenient.”

    I can tell you one simple thing

    It’s “simple” because hiding behind vague claims and platitudes is a convenient obfuscation tool.

    no other organization is doing anywhere near as much as JNF is to help enhance the quality of life for this population.

    By removing them from their own land and stripping them of their property and capital and corralling them into underfunded towns where they can be fenced as the state has historically done with the Bedouin.

    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.

    I’m sure Native Americans appreciate the casinos with which they ended up. Such projects are testament to the fact that European colonialism has done so much for the natives, however ungrateful the natives remain.

    That Israel and Zionist Jews in America are getting away with it in the 21st century is testament to the depravity of the Zionist Jewish community and the state of Israel.

  3. clenchner says:

    The original campaigners against the JNF in this instance, are, I think, past colleagues of Bustan, a local environmental NGO in Israel, and a NIF/Shatil inspired committee of unrecognized Bedouin communities in the Negev. (What I just wrote is probably 4/5ths correct….) JNF is directing attention to IJAN because they are indeed the most offensive to Zionist sensibilities. They are not however, the most representative campaigners on this issue.

    But never mind all that. He said ‘cyberspace!’ I can’t be the only one chuckling at that. Is he a Bruce Sterling fan?!

    • Evildoer says:

      The committee or unrecognized villages is an indigenous body. It wasn’t created by an Israeli NGO. If there are indeed Israelis who claim ownership of the Bedouin struggle they should be told to shove their paternalism somewhere where the sun doesn’t shine.

      The campaign that the JNF refers to what initiated in Edinburgh by the BDS National Commitee, with the involvement of the Scottish PSC and IJAN. See the call here, link to stopthejnf.org and the report of the original meeting here: link to ijsn.net. Since then, many organizations have endorsed the campaign, and despite the slow start, the campaign is growing and it is great to see that the JNF is beginning to feel the heat.

      Later on, afaik, independently of that call, a coalition of 48 Palestinian organizations and soft Zionist organizations in Israel launched a campaign of defending Al-Araqib, and a few US Jewish organizations joined. See the call here, link to jfjfp.com.

      Now, while these two campaigns share a target, they are very different. The BDS campaign is based on the (correct) assumption that the JNF is a fundamental component of Zionism and is intertwined with the Israeli state for that exact reason. The JNF is fundamentally a racist organization that exists for the purpose of ethnic cleansing.

      In contrast, the campaign in Israel is based on the assumption that Israel is a democracy and therefore the JNF actions in the Negev are incompatible with the democratic principles of the state and with the JNF’s own mission.

      For more, see the ripping of that call by Uri Davis, one of the experts on the JNF: link to alternativenews.org

      One can have all kinds of takes on the wisdom of the conciliatory strategy of the Israeli coalition. In the Israeli context, it is perhaps a wise decision, perhaps not. It is hard to judge from afar. The wisdom of American Jewish organizations lining up behind such a call is a different matter, and you are invited to read the different calls and rejoinders and to make your own judgment about what is the right strategy.

      It is hard to understand why the JNF is singling out IJAN. The campaign in which IJAN participates is a Palestinian campaign led by the BNC, and although IJAN participated in the launch it is by no means leading the campaign, which, like all BDS campaigns, thrives in diversity and local initiative. It is possible that they do it because the sight of “traitors” brings in the donors. Good for them! And good for us as it draws attention to the crumbling hegemony of Zionism among Jews.

      • clenchner says:

        Sigh.
        Obviously, the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages IS an Israeli organization. In the Negev, the most influential and veteran rights and development coalition includes both Arabs and Jews. It is the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, founded in 1997. It’s leadership includes those from other groups, including the RCUV.
        link to dukium.org
        This coalition, like many others around the country, is supported by a capacity building organization called Shatil, which employs and serves Israeli Jews and Arabs, including Bedouin.
        The American Jewish organization you reference in your link above was founded in large part by Deborah Brous – the founder of Bustan, a Negev based, Jewish/Arab environmental NGO that worked for Beduion rights with an environmental justice lends. Founded in 1999.

        So the answer to your question, why is the JNF singling out IJAN – the reason is simple. The broad based, Arab and Jewish struggle for Bedioin rights in the Negev, which has been going on for many years with the support of Israel’s primary capacity building center for nonprofits, is a difficult target.

        IJAN, on the other hand, is like a caricature of what an anti-Israel organization might look like if they were intentionally competing for attention from the ADL. They are easy to target because of the extreme language and overarching agenda, which is less about helping al-Araqib and more about using al-Araqib to wage ideological warfare on Zionism and the state of Israel.
        That is what Uri Davis condemns about the broad effort to influence JNF policy and help the residents of the poor village: that it might actually be limited to helping the villagers stay on the land, instead of focusing entirely the racist nature of the JNF and the state of Israel.

        • ToivoS says:

          This sounds so wonderful Clencher in how the Israelis are working on behalf of the Bedouin. Why does your post remind me of that classic Twilight Zone episode “How to serve man”.

        • clenchner says:

          Toivos,
          Israel is a divided society. Some Jews are on the side of the Bedouin. Try not to think in such hard and fast categories. Try and remember that the Bedouin in question are Israeli. As an anti-racist, do not join those who mentally deprive them of citizenship. “Israelis” = Jews, Palestinians, Arabs, Bedouin, Russians, Druze, Hare Krishna’s, Buddhists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews for Jesus…. all citizens.

  4. CTuttle says:

    Meanwhile that Palestinian ‘Pizza pie’ keeps getting smaller and smaller…

    Report: Gov’t to approve 3,800 housing units in J’lem

    The government will approve 3,800 new housing units in Jerusalem outside of the 1967 borders, Channel Two reported on Monday.

    According to the report, the move is an initiative of Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

    *gah*

  5. annie says:

    no other organization is doing anywhere near as much as JNF is to help enhance the quality of life for this population.

    with friends like this who needs enemies????

  6. RoHa says:

    SBS ran a program about it.

    link to sbs.com.au

  7. yourstruly says:

    no other organization is doing anywhere near as much as JNF is to help enhance the quality of life for this population

    “kindly step into this train, my Jewish friends, you’re in for a very exciting time. After all, no organization is doing as much for you as the german national socialist party.”