American rights group, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), has asked the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a federal district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and several US citizens who live in Israel.
JNF sued USCPR in 2019, alleging that the group is responsible for attacks against Israelis and American citizens because of its support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement and Gaza’s Great March of Return.
In 2021, a federal judge dismissed the case, saying the plaintiffs failed to establish a direct link between the US-based group’s activities and actual attacks against Americans. In dismissing the suit in March 2021, the lower court said the arguments were, “to say the least, not persuasive.”
After JNF appealed, legal argument from both sides were heard yesterday at the US Court of Appeals in Washington.
“This lawsuit is no more than a fishing expedition that casts protected advocacy as a violation of the law,” Diala Shamas, Senior Staff Attorney at the Centre for Constitutional Rights, who presented the oral argument yesterday is reported saying in a USCPR press release. “Smearing human rights advocates as terrorists is a tired and cynical tactic.”
USCPR argued that supporters of Palestinian rights face mounting attacks on their ability to engage in advocacy, from the United States, to Germany, to Palestine. It mentioned the August 2022 raid by the Israeli government on the offices of seven leading Palestinian human rights groups in the Occupied West Bank. It had previously designated many of these organisations as “terrorist” in an authoritarian effort to stop their essential human rights work.
A quasi-state institution set up in 1901 for the colonisation of Palestine, the JNF has been accused of “greenwashing” policies of the Apartheid State of Israel. In an arrangement that does not exist anywhere else in the world, the JNF controls over 90 per cent of the land in Israel, exclusively for Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora. The result is a racist apartheid system, where non-Jewish citizens of Israel are excluded.
Despite its colonial roots and discriminatory practices, the JNF is granted charity status in the US and across Europe. Critics say that this has enabled the JNF to use taxpayers money in covering up the crimes of Israel’s ethnic cleansing through its afforestation projects.