The Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR) in the UK has accused the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a registered charity, of being involved in activities in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories “which could be classified as war crimes”. There is, claims the AOHR, “accumulated evidence” of such complicity.
“The Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeYisrael) is the financial arm of the Zionist movement established in 1901,” said a statement from the human rights body. “It has been active in stealing Palestinian land under the ‘Absentees Law’ with the help of the British Mandatory government until 1948, and it has continued with the help of the Israeli government ever since.”
During the past 20 years, with the help of Elad, the Israeli settlers’ organisation, the JFN has transferred the ownership of thousands of acres of land and other Palestinian-owned property to illegal settlers in East Jerusalem. “In the 1980s and 1990s, it declared the owners of dozens of Palestinian properties to be ‘absentees’, expelled the residents and confiscated the buildings.”
In the Negev Desert, the JNF is pushing Bedouins to abandon their villages under the pretext of planting trees and nurturing woods. “They are carrying out a plan to evacuate 30,000 Palestinians,” said the AOHR. This plan has been approved by the Israeli government, which wants to clear the so-called “unrecognised” villages. A budget of around £200 million has been allocated for this ethnic cleansing.
The Bedouins refuse to accept this plan which requires them to give proof dated before 1979 of their ownership of properties. This has been described by AOHR as “impossible” because the Bedouins were not used to registering their properties before that year. As such, the Israelis raze the villages which are then rebuilt by their owners.”
Major General Doron Almog, who has a long history of oppressing and killing Palestinians, has been assigned to supervise the programme. Many complaints have been filed against Almog in international courts by families of his Palestinian victims. He was tipped-off by Israeli diplomats that a British court had issued an arrest warrant against him when, in 2005, he landed at Heathrow Airport. The Major General decided to stay on board the El Al aircraft and return to Tel Aviv.
Jeremy Corbyn and sixty-eight other British MPs signed an Early Day Motion last year which explained the JNF’s ongoing illegal expropriation of Palestinian land, its concealment of destroyed Palestinian villages beneath parks and forests, and its prevention of refugees returning to their homes. The motion noted that the JNF’s constitution is explicitly discriminatory by stating that land and property will never be rented, leased or sold to non-Jews. Corbyn also noted that the UN rejected the application from the American branch of the JNF for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council on the grounds that it violates the principles of the UN Charter on Human Rights.
In February this year, members of the Green Party of England and Wales voted overwhelmingly to support an international call for action against JNF practices in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories; the party also called for the JNF’s charitable status in Britain to be revoked.
Prime Minister David Cameron stepped down as an Honorary Patron of JNF in May last year. According to the Jewish Chronicle, Cameron thus became the first British prime minister not to be a patron of the fund in its 110 year history. Dick Pitt, a spokesperson for the Stop the JNF Campaign, commenting on Cameron’s move, said: “This decline in political support for the JNF at the highest levels of the political tree may be a sign of the increasing awareness in official quarters that a robust defence of the activities of the JNF may not be sustainable.”