Beginning on the day that marks the New Year for Trees, Tuesday, February 3 is the Jewish holiday of Tu B’shvat, which honors the sacred miracle of trees. In many Jewish trtytfraditions, trees are celebrated as one of the most central symbols of life, and in Jewish law, there are strict prohibitions against destgroying trees.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, leaders of the religious Zionist movement began a custom of planting trees in Jewish colonies in Palestine as part of a celebration of Tu B’shvat. In 1901, this tradition was then adopted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) for its “Plant a Tree in Israel” Campaign. Since then, the JNF has shamelessly exploited Tu B’shvat as an opportunity to raise international funds and support for its tree plantings, which function to greenwash Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
For more than 100 years, the JNF has been complicit and integral in the systematic expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and villages. Under the guise of “environmentalism,” “Jewish values,” and “making the desert bloom,” the JNF has co-opted the sacred Jewish practice of planting trees and re-purposed it to create and further entrench the Zionist project of building a Jewish state in Palestine. With forests of invasive, rapid-growth tree species of eucalyptus and Alpine pine planted over stolen land, the JNF works to ensure that Palestine is populated with a Western Landscape of recreational parks and forests created for explicitly Jewish use, leaving Palestinian refugees with little left to return to of their villages and land-use practices. The JNF’s racist brand of environmentalism is at the heart of Israel’s colonization of Palestine; the environmental devastation left in its wake is the inherent consequence of the violent extraction of natural resources needed to fuel a colonial and militarized society gone mad on war and occupation.
Around the world, the JNF uses its major fundraising campaign — what it calls “Green Sunday” on Feb. 1 and Feb. 8, which intentionally falls near Tu B’shvat — to build international, public and financial support for Israel. The JNF coordinates Green Sunday fundraising events with branches in other Western, settler-colonial states such as the US, Canada and Australia, which enables and normalizes the JNF’s manipulative conflation of Jewish holiday with support for Israel’s colonial brand of environmentalism.
One of the more egregious of these events includes JNF Canada’s Green Sunday “security plantings” in Halutziot, a town in Israel that borders Gaza. According to the JNF Canada, it will help plant eucalyptus trees and shrubs that will “improve the protection of these citizens” because “Sometimes [trees] help save lives.” Because of the racist nature of the JNF, it only values the trees that it plants over stolen Palestinian land, not the trees — specifically olive trees that are crucial for Palestinian economic and cultural livelihood — that are uprooted and bulldozed to make room for Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank.
On February 8, the JNF Australia is organizing financial support for what it calls “Greening the South” in Israel and uses the language of environmentalism — “contributing to the growth and sustainability of Israel” through the creation of green spaces and gardens — to raise funds for the growth and sustainability of Israel’s colonization of Palestine.
Every place the occupying government of Israel seeks to expand its reach in Palestine, the JNF is involved: from the displacement of 40,000 Bedouin from the Naqab/Negev for the $600 million development and settlement project “Blueprint Negev,” to attempts to annex the Jordan Valley; from on-going forced displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, to attempts to take control of the West Bank Palestinian village of Sebastia.
In an effort to combat Green Sunday, the Stop the JNF Campaign has helped organize efforts to replant indigenous trees and agriculture in Palestine through the Plant-a-Tree project, a collaboration with Stop the Wall – Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Palestinian Farmers Union, Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN). The Campaign is now working with the Land Defense Coalition in Palestine to plant 5,000 trees in 2015.
Please join with the Stop the JNF Campaign and our partners to plant indigenous trees in Palestine this May, 2015, as part of the Stop the JNF Delegation to Palestine! Ways to support include:
- Plant-a-tree in Palestine: Help re-plant Palestine with olive trees native to the region.
- Organize a screening of Enduring Roots: Over a Century of Resistance to the Jewish National Fund. Email Ijan@ijsn.net for more information.
- Read and share IJAN’s e-book on the JNF: Greenwashing Apartheid: The Jewish National Fund’s Environmental Cover Up.
- Visit the new Fallen Donors web site to sign the petition to renounce previous support for the JNF and instead pledge to work for justice for all. You may also provide testimony of your transformation from JNF supporter to “fallen donor.”