Call on JNF to end its complicity in the dispossession of the Negev Bedouin from their land
JNF must reconsider its development plans for the Negev and commit to truly sustainable development of the Negev for all of the region’s inhabitants, Jews and Arabs alike
12.10.10, Washington, D.C. – Thirty-five Israeli and American Jewish organizations sent an Open Letter yesterday to the leadership of the Jewish National Fund as it convenes in Atlanta for its 10th Annual Conference.
The letter, addressed to JNF Chairman Ronald Lauder, President Stanley M. Chesley and CEO Russell Robinson, calls on JNF to end its complicity in the discriminatory policy of the Government of Israel and the Israel Land Administration (ILA) of destroying Bedouin villages in the Negev and dispossessing Israel’s Bedouin community of their land. This policy betrays Israel’s commitment to the values of equality and justice enshrined in its Declaration of Independence, to which the state is obligated by the international conventions it has signed.
The letter, which is available on http://bedouinjewishjustice.blogspot.com/ at http://bedouinjewishjustice.blogspot.com/2010/10/open-letter-to-jewish-national-fund.html, demands that JNF reconsider its development plans for the Negev and commit to working toward truly sustainable development of the Negev for ALL its inhabitants, Jews and Arabs alike.
The sponsors call on JNF to:
Stop forestation activities in areas of existing Bedouin villages as well as on lands for which Bedouin have made legal claims of ownership, pending final court decisions.
Fund projects for Israel’s Bedouin citizens and communities at levels that are proportional to the size of this population in the Negev—nearly 30%--recognizing the contribution of the Bedouin to the flourishing of the Negev.
Join the call of human rights organizations in Israel to allow the Bedouin to live on their traditional lands, as they have for many generations.
The Open Letter has been signed by a big tent of 27 ideologically diverse NGOs, human rights organizations and social movements from the Negev and Israel and 8 American Jewish organizations:
Al-Arakib Village Committee; Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality
Rabbis for Human Rights, Israel
Shatil – Leading Social Change, An Initiative of the New Israel Fund
The Regional Council of Unrecognized Bedouin Villages
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel
Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel
The Association for Support and Defense of Bedouin Rights in Israel
Hit’habrut-Tarabut – Arab-Jewish Movement for Social and Political Change
AJEEC – Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development
The Local Committee – Alsira Village
Al-Arakib People’s Committee
Women’s Coalition for Peace
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Sikkuy – The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel
Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights
Laqiya Womens’ Association
Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Campaign
The Israeli Committee against House Demolition
Alternative Information Center
Fighters for Peace
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
New Profile – Movement for the Civil-ization of Israel Society
From the US:
Jewish Alliance for Change
Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
Jewish Voice for Peace
The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring
Network of Spiritual Progressives
JNF is engaged in intensive forestation and development in the Negev designed to ensure a Jewish majority in the region. To achieve this, it plants trees on large tracts of land containing Bedouin villages, many with ongoing legal claims of ownership, requiring massive dispossession of Arab Bedouin from their lands in order to open up space for the Jewish population. The destruction of the entire villages of Al-Arakib and Twail Abu Jarwal and the expulsion of hundreds of men, women and children to make way for JNF forests are but a few of many examples.
JNF has filed with Israel’s Interior Ministry a publicly available plan for forestation which completely ignores the existence of “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in areas it intends to blanket with trees. Detailed objections to the JNF plan have been submitted to Israel’s Ministry of Interior by Israeli human rights organizations.
JNF Petition Campaign: The Open Letter to the JNF is being launched today by the 35 organizations as a public petition campaign at www.change.org at the following location online. Each time the letter is signed online, it is emailed to JNF leaders Ronald Lauder, Stanley M. Chesley and Russell Robinson. A related petition campaign, started in August by JAFC and 7 other Jewish organizations, gained the endorsement of more than 60 prominent American Jews, including rabbis, artists, academics and organizational leaders, calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the demolition of unrecognized Bedouin villages in Israel and to negotiate a just solution to the plight of Israel’s Bedouin Palestinian Arab citizens in the Negev. That petition drive now has nearly 4,000 signatories and growing.
The American Jewish petition expresses solidarity with an Israeli petition, signed by over 3,500 citizens of Israel and others, sponsored by the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Economic Development (NISPED), an Israeli nonprofit in Beer Sheva which promotes Arab-Jewish equality and empowerment for the Arab citizens of Israel, particularly the Arab Bedouin community in the Negev. That petition is hosted by www.change.org here and emailed to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren each time it is signed.