Greenwashing:  The Jewish National Fund

The JNF in Australia have tax deductibility status as an environmental organisation. According to the JNF’s website:

“Donations of $2.00 or more to the JNF Environment Gift Fund for the planting of trees and other environmental projects are tax deductible.”

The JNF advertise themselves as a primarily environmental organisation but they are complicit in ongoing forms of land theft and ethnic cleansing. This process has been described as ‘greenwashing’.

JNF Australia has funded numerous projects that have assisted the JNF’s overall agenda.  A recent example is JNF Australia’s establishment of the John Howard Forest in Nahal Assaf in the Northern Negev in 2007. This forest is part of the JNF’s ongoing Blueprint Negev plan to increase Jewish settlement in the Negev.

“Over the past two years we have seen a systematic effort to turn the Northern Negev into a forest region,” said Atawa Abu-Frih, chair of the Public Committee for the Unrecognised Villages. “We are not against a green environment, but the afforestation program is becoming an inseparable part of the plan to take over land upon which Bedouin live, or where there are pending land claims by Bedouin.”

As well as directly supporting projects such as these JNF Australia’s fundraising and marketing campaigns play a key role in legitimising and green-washing the activities of the JNF as a whole.

Since 1948, the State of Israel has enacted a series of laws that have allowed it to systematically confiscate Palestinian-owned land and transfer it to the State and to Zionist institutions, including the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency, and the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

Today, while non-Jewish Arab citizens constitute approximately 20% of the Israeli population, only 3-3.5% of the land in Israel is owned by them, as compared to 48% in 1948.

The JNF currently owns approximately 2.5 million dunams of land, or more than 600,000 acres – 12% of all public Israeli land. However the JNF’s land ownership rates in areas in high demand for residential construction is estimated to be much higher, at 30%-35%.

Former JNF Chief Inspector Amikam Riklin has said that the JNF’s tree planting activities are a way to claim undeveloped, former Palestinian land for future Jewish Development, and that, “the moment that development is requested, the state will just arrange to take down the trees, in full compliance with the law”.

Image from the what’s behind JNF website supporters:  AJDS member Nicole Erich holds a sign that reads: “I’m concerned about the JNF because when I put money into the blue box as a child I thought I was only planting trees NOT erasing memories.”

The JNF has publicly stated that, “The JNF, as a landowner, is not a public body that works for the benefit of all citizens of the state. The loyalty of the JNF is given to the Jewish people and only to them is the JNF obligated. The JNF, as the owner of the JNF land, does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state.”

There are numerous examples of the JNF’s involvement in land confiscation and Palestinian dispossession.  More recently, JNF has been working with the Israeli government to entirely replace the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran with the new Jewish settlement of Hiran.   Concerns have also been raised about the environmental damage caused by JNF’s planting of species which are not suited to the local ecology.

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This article appeared in the AJDS Magazine Just Voices, issue 17, 2019: Environmentalism.