Simon Rocker, a writer for the Jewish Telegraph, which is one of the most important and widely distributed newspapers in the Jewish community in Britain, published a piece on October 12 on the dramatic drop in donations to JNF-UK. In 2011, JNF-UK lost more than 50% of income generated by donations, investments and inheritances—from 5,1 million pounds sterling in 2010 to a little more than 2,4 million pounds in 2011. As part of this drop, direct donations to JNF-UK dropped by 1 million pounds.
This is an immense achievement for the global campaign against the JNF — an organization that funds colonization and dispossession throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, specializing in “greenwashing” of the dispossession process. The British Green Party expressed support for the campaign against the JNF <http://www.stopthejnf.org>`, and in February of last year their general assembly issued a declaration calling for revoking the JNF’s status as a charity, along with all the significant benefits this status entails. In May 2011, British Prime Minister David Cameron terminated his status as an Honorary Patron of JNF-UK.
Until the struggle in Al-Araqib, the only other time that JNF bulldozers were stopped was in the 1930’s. For the first time in its history, the JNF is starting to pay for its share in the dispossession and colonization process. Behind closed doors, in July 2011, senior JNF officials admitted that they fear that the JNF will pay a heavy price for their involvement in Al-Araqib. What they mean by “involvement” is their support for the residents’ dispossession, their violent forestation project on Al-Araqib’s land, and their total erasure of the village using bulldozers. They declared that this was “a very serious public relations failure by the JNF” and said: “Our representatives abroad didn’t know how to answer these charges and lost the battle over our reputation in Australia, the United States and other places.”
The drop in donations is not just a result of protests against the JNF in Israel/Palestine and around the world in light of the organization’s role in the dispossession and colonization process: JNF-UK has also embroiled itself in different scandals and internal conflicts related to JNF-Israel. That’s what happens when you’ve got money — a whole lot of money — to manage behind closed doors. But still, the JNF is a great example of a “post-modern corporation,” running on faith and credibility. Its donation campaigns are based on trust. The more the truth comes to light about the JNF, the more the organization is harmed in the process.
The JNF is not going anywhere: JNF-UK has other, more stable income sources. Its most important source is donations from other charity organizations that total 7, 5 million pounds. It’s for that reason that it is so important to follow the money when it comes to other charity organizations, to remind them that the money they donate to the JNF is used as part of a machine of dispossession and discrimination in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
JNF-Israel has enormous funding sources as well. In fact, it is so well funded that it has no need for donations at all. It receives income from the stolen lands that it received from the state — the lands of the Palestinian refugees — and this income is more than enough to cover its operating costs. The annual budget surplus of the JNF hovers around 1 Billion NIS. The value of land owned by the JNF was appraised in 2011 at 6.2 Billion NIS; the JNF still makes most of its money from renting this land. In 2009, income from land rents reached 1,133 million NIS, as opposed to 972 million NIS in 2008, and 1,000 million NIS in 2011 (NRG-Online, August 3, 2011).
And what is the JNF doing right now?
It has never stopped the forestation of Al-Araqib’s lands and those belonging to the Abu Freih and Al Uqbi families. It continues to pour out enormous amounts of water on the arid lands of the northern Negev/Naqab desert in order to sustain the conquering trees that it planted there, to establish “facts on the ground” and to make sure that they become irreversible. It is preparing the infrastructure for the next big dispossession project in Umm Hiran: another entire Bedouin village slated for demolition, to be replaced by a Jewish settlement. It promoted the establishment of the “Hiran Forest” to make way for the settlement, and is currently providing the settlers from the “Or Movement” the necessary logistical infrastructure to prepare for colonizing Umm Hiran. The bulldozers are not resting.
Al-Araqib Village Committee Chairman, Dr. Awad Abu Freih, responded to the recent news: “It is a great success for our struggle, together with our partners of conscience, Jews and Arabs, locally and abroad. We hope that the JNF leaves the lands of Al-Araqib for good and will stop its efforts to dispossess the Bedouin of their lands. The true face of the JNF is starting to come to light — we are in the right direction. But there is still much to do.”
A small reminder: The JNF bulldozers are working all the time, they are not seasonal. But the elections season is here. The JNF Directorate is elected by a general assembly of the JNF. The composition of the general assembly is identical to the composition of the 192 member Zionist General Council. All the Zionist parties, including SHAS and MERETZ, are members of this Council and of the JNF — i.e., they are partners to the dispossession, and share in the exploits.