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KKL-JNF to proceed with planting trees in Negev, despite protests from local Palestinians

January 23, 2023 at 3:35 pm

Participants of the March of the Living hold a flag of Israel and flags of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund [Sylwia Penc/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

Zionist organisation, the JNF/KKL (Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel), announced yesterday it will proceed with planting trees near Nahal Yatir in the Negev, despite protests from the local Palestinian Bedouins.

According to The Times of Israel, the controversial decision follows as JNF-KKL chairwoman’s first move since entering office earlier this month. Ifat Ovadia-Luski said the organisation will carry out tree planting and other agricultural work in the area “without any delays”.

Moreover, despite the organisation facing accusations of discriminatory land policies and practices, and of participating in the displacement of Palestinian communities, she added, that JNF-KKL was “at the forefront of protecting, developing and building the country and holding on to and protecting the land, and planting trees were core values of JNF-KKL from the early days of the Zionist movement and proud to be leading these fields today as well.”

The move came to a halt last year following protests from the Palestinian residents of the Negev, who noted that the agricultural work encroaches on their unrecognised lands and that KKL-JNF is seeking to displace them.

According to the Walla news site, planting is expected to begin next Sunday, 29 January.

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Noting the purpose of the practice, Ovadia-Luski said planting would take place “on state-owned lands that protect against incursions, environmental harm, illegal construction and trespassing — all common phenomena in the desert region.”

In response, The Hadash-Ta’al Party, formed by Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi, condemned the move to proceed with the tree-planting as “a despicable and outrageous decision disguised in the form of planting trees”.

The Party added in a statement, “What residents of the Negev need is full recognition of the unrecognised Palestinian villages and towns, infrastructure and rights — not another display of ‘governance”.

The JNF/KKL was founded in 1901, projected as a non-profit organisation with the goal of purchasing and developing land in Palestine for Jewish settlement. It was initially registered in Britain as a company limited by guarantee and, following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, was incorporated as the JNF as it is currently known.