Coordination of Campaigns Against the Jewish National Fund

Early in May, a group of activists and lawyers met in Edinburgh, Scotland.  The goal of the meeting was the developmentand international coordination of campaigns against the Jewish National Fund(JNF).  The conference was co-sponsoredby four groups – the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, the PalestinianBoycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (Palestine), the ScottishPSC and Habitat International Coalition. Several such campaigns were already in existence in variouscountries. 

The Stop the JNFcampaign will expose the JNF’s anti-charitable history of political andfinancial support and military intelligence for the ethnic cleansing ofPalestine, building parks and forests to hide villages destroyedin 1948 and 1967, as well as its currentprojects, including land and water theft from Bedouin communities in the Negev,and illegally acquiring lands and houses in occupied Jerusalem through itsprivate subsidiary Hemnuta.

Ismail Zayid told the conference of hisvillage, Beit Nuba, razed to the ground along with Dir Ayyub, Imwas and Yalu in1967 on the orders of Yitzhak Rabin (later Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prizelaureate!).  Those villages are nowhidden under Canada Park, a recreational site built withtax-deductible dollars.

Faisal Sawalha spoke about the"unrecognized" Palestinian Bedouin villages of the Negev- that is, unrecognized by the Israeli authorities who refuse to connectrunning water or an electricity supply, who demolish homes, replacing wholecommunities with Jewish-only developments.

The JNF and the IsraelLands Authority (whose board is half-appointed by the JNF) "manages" 93% ofpre-1967 Israellands.  The JNF was established toacquire Palestinian land and to hold it "in trust" for Jewish people inperpetuity [4] – a perfect example of state racism that Israelhas hidden behind legal and parliamentary mechanisms.

We learnt that the JNFplans to name a forest after Coretta Scott King,the activist widow of Dr Martin Luther King, and to put up a plaque to the great PaulRobeson. This exploitation of people of colour to hide land theft urgesanti-racists to actively campaign against the JNF.

Participants spent many hours together sharing experiences,brainstorming ideas and debating how to frame the work.  The discussions included proposals on whatthe international campaigns would look like. For example, participants thought it important that a key part of thepopular campaign would be education – what is the JNF really, what atrocitieshas it committed itself, what atrocities has Israelcommitted with the JNF’s assistance and complicity?  In recognizing the power and resources thatthe JNF has, the participants also discussed the necessity to coordinate legal,international diplomacy and popular components of the campaigns.

Participants also discussed the need to network with otheractivist organizations and to tie an anti-JNF campaign into the work ofanti-racism and environmental justice organizations.  In this way, the campaigns could expose theJNF and its role in the oppression of the Palestinian people, the Judaizing ofPalestine, perpetuating racism and destroying the environment.  This led the participants to define thecampaigns’ audience, which included other activist organizations, the media,the general public, international institutions and governments.    

The participants also understood the need to define what thecampaigns were calling for.  For example,did we want to "bring down the JNF" or rehabilitate that organization?  If the latter, what would such anorganization look like or even mean, given that the JNF’s sole goal is topurchase land in Palestine for the settling of Jews?  The group also discussed reparations – whatdid this mean for the demands of the campaign? The participants decided it could not mean money in exchange for landbut instead must support the Palestinians’ right of return.

Finally, the participants turned to three "nitty-gritty"tasks: forming committees to do the actual work, setting out the short and longterm goals of the campaign and drafting a campaign call.  First, four committees were established, aresearch committee to gather materials on the JNF, a propaganda committee todevelop materials to be used in the popular campaign, a legal committee todetermine legal avenues to challenge the JNF and a testimonial committee togather, or review previously gathered, testimony of survivors of the JNF’sactions. 

Second, the participants detailed specific short and longterm goals and assigned volunteers to the tasks of making those goals areality.  To that end, the participantsdrafted a ten page document setting forth the campaign’s objectives and goals,which objectives and goals included identifying legal vehicles to further thecampaigns, drafting the campaign call and securing endorsements, producing anddistributing materials to be used in the campaigns, developing tools foroutreach and education, developing a campaign website, assisting in thecampaign in the Naqab, participating in writing future JNF eBooks and reachingout to and engaging with other activist organizations.   Third, the group assigned a drafting team todraft and circulate a first draft of the actual campaign call.  This call was finalized and circulated afterthe conference and can be found at: http://stopthejnf.bdsmovement.net/.

In addition to the campaign call, the participants decidedthat IJAN would also draft a specifically Jewish anti-JNF petition.  This decision stemmed from the recognitionthat certain groups would have trouble challenging any organization thatutilizes the term "Jewish" and the fear that any challenge would be labeledanti-Semitic. Therefore, the group decided that a strong Jewish voice shouldpave the way.  This petition has alsosince been drafted and will be followed by a petition from the generalpopulation.

All in all, it was successful conferences that ended withthe participants committed to challenging the racism and criminal actions ofthe JNF and collaborate on on-going internationalcoordination.

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