Monthly Archives: May 2011

PM Cameron drops patronage of JNF ethnic cleansers

An important new development in the BDS campaign to expose the racist nature of the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

Cameron drops Israel ‘racist’ charity

Prime Minister David Cameron has quietly terminated his status as an Honorary Patron of the controversial Jewish National Fund (JNF).  His office confirmed he had “stepped down”.  For many years leaders of all three main political parties became Honorary Patrons of the JNF by convention.  According to Dick Pitt, a spokesperson for the Stop the JNF Campaign, “Cameron was the only leader of the three major parties remaining as a JNF Patron.  This decline in political support for the JNF at the highest levels of the political tree may be a sign of the
increasing awareness in official quarters that a robust defence of the activities of the JNF may not be sustainable.”

The news of Cameron’s move has reached Palestinians in refugee camps, people whose land is under the control of the JNF.  Salah Ajarma in Bethlehem’s Aida Refugee Camp was “delighted to hear the news that the British Prime Minister has decided to withdraw his support for this sinister organisation involved in ethnic cleansing. My village, Ajjur, was taken by force from my family and given to the JNF who used money from JNF UK to plant the British Park on its ruins. For the Palestinians who were evicted from their villages and have been prevented from returning, Cameron’s withdrawal is another victory on the road to achieving justice and freedom for the Palestinians”.

The JNF chairman Samuel Hayek defends the work of the organisation saying, “for over 100 years we have had one mission: to settle and develop theLand of Israel” as pioneers of the “historic Zionist dream”.  The registered charity claims their work, especially in the Negev region of Israel, deals with “the rising demographic challenges faced by Israel”.  In recent months the JNF’s activities in the Negev have received extensive international media coverage, linking them to the demolition of Palestinian Bedouin villages and confiscation of the land of the village.  Campaigners report that “even Israeli courts have criticised the JNF as an organisation that discriminates against non-Jews and there is mounting evidence of the JNF’s involvement in Israel’s programme to change the ethnic composition of areas inside 1948 Israel as well as in Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories.  It is not acceptable that such an organisation is allowed to operate in the UK, much less to enjoy charity status”.

Michael Kalmanovitz, UK co-ordinator of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, said “Cameron’s patronage of the JNF lent parliamentary credibility to a criminal organisation backed by a highly-equipped occupying army and masquerading as a ‘humanitarian charity’.  Now parliamentarians who are ‘Friends of Israel’ must consider how much longer they can defend Israeli apartheid and worse.“

Pressure has been mounting on Cameron and the JNF.  An Early Day Motion in the Westminster Parliament highlighted the Prime Minister’s status as honorary patron and claimed that “there is just cause to consider revocation of the JNF’s charitable status in the UK”.  UK and international JNF fund-raising events increasingly face protests due, campaigners argue, to “a shift in public opinion on Israel generally”.  In 2007, the American JNF application for consultative status on a key UN committee was rejected because delegates were unable to distinguish between the activities of the US Branch and those of the JNF in Israel whose activities the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concerns about.

The Stop the JNF Campaign has workshops planned in London on 4 June 2011 and protests against JNF fundraising activities will be organised throughout the coming year.

ENDS

Notes for editors:

1. The Stop the JNF Campaign is an international campaign aimed at ending the role of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeIsrael) (JNF-KKL) in:

–          the on-going displacement of indigenous Palestinians from their land

–          the theft of their property

–          the funding of historic and present day colonies, and

–          the destruction of the natural environment.

The JNF continues to serve as a global fundraiser for Israeli ethnic cleansing, occupation and apartheid. Despite its role in a State institution of Israel (the Israel Land Authority) and in institutionalized racism and apartheid, the JNF and its affiliate organizations enjoy charitable status in over 50 countries.

For further information, contact gb@stopthejnf.org, 07931200361

Website: www.stopthejnf.org.uk

2. Email from Prime Minister’s Press Office, Thu, 26 May 2011

Following the formation of the Coalition Government last year, a review

was undertaken of all the organisations and charities the Prime Minister

was associated with. As a result of this review, the Prime Minister

stepped down from a number of charities – this included the JNF. A full

list of all the charities and organisations the Prime Minister and Mrs

Cameron are associated with is published on the Cabinet Office website.

Rachel Stanton

Prime Minister’s Press Office

10 Downing Street

SW1A 2AA

020 7930 4433

3. ‘Cameron Becomes New JNF Patron’, TotallyJewish.com, 2nd February 2006
http://www.totallyjewish.com/news/national/?content_id=2661

4. Extract from ‘The British Park’ by Uri Davis, JNF e-book volume 1, p21
“The JNF-UK, as in other countries in Europe and the Americas, is a registered charity. The planting of the British Park over the lands of destroyed Palestinian villages, including Ajjur and Zakariyya, can in no way be described as ‘charitable’.  Rather it ought to be classified as an act and as a policy of complicity with war crimes. The British Park and the recreational facility developed in the shade of its forest trees serve to veil from critical public view war crimes perpetrated by the Israeli army in the course of, and in the wake of, the 1948 war. This policy of

complicity with war crimes has been maintained by subsequent Israeli Governments, underpinned by Acts of Parliament such as the Jewish National Fund Law of 1950 and the Covenant signed between the JNF and the state of Israel in 1961.”

http://www.stopthejnf.org/documents/JNFeBookVol1ed2x.pdf

5. Samuel Hayek in ‘Supporting Israel for Life’, JNF Charitable Trust, Annual Report & Accounts 2009
http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends10%5C0000225910_AC_20091231_E_C.PDF

6. The JNF in the Negev (Naqab)

‘Shattering Israel’s image of ‘democracy’’, The Guardian, 3 December 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/03/israel-negev

‘Cameron-backed charity accused of discriminating against non-Jews’, 10 June 2010
http://www.jnews.org.uk/news/cameron-backed-charity-accused-of-discriminating-against-non-jews

‘The Israelis keep bulldozing their village, but still the Bedouin will not give up their land’, The Guardian, 1 March 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/01/israelis-demolish-bedouin-village

‘Stop creating forests that are destroying Bedouin lives’, Amnesty International, 11 April 2011
http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/stop-destruction-bedouin-village-and-its-inhabitants%E2%80%99-livelihoods-5

7. The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
http://www.ijsn.net/home/

8. Early day motion 1677, JEWISH NATIONAL FUND, Session: 2010-11

“That this House welcomes the Stop the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Campaign launched on 30 March 2011 by the Palestinian Boycott National Committee, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others to inform the public about the JNF – Karen Kayemet L’Yisrael, its ongoing illegal expropriation of Palestinian land, concealing of destroyed Palestinian villages beneath parks and forests, and prevention of refugees from returning to their homes; notes that the JNF’s constitution is explicitly discriminatory by stating that land and property will never be rented, leased or sold to non-Jews; further notes that the UN rejected the JNF USA’s application for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council on the ground that it violates the principles of the UN Charter on Human Rights; regrets that the Prime Ministeris a JNF honorary patron; and believes that there is just cause to consider revocation of the JNF’s charitable status in the UK.”

http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-11/1677

9. UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) rejects JNF (US) application for consultative status (2007)

– Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC/6267 NGO/618, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/ecosoc6267.doc.htm

– Badil resources centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights: http://www.badil.org/en/article74/item/429-the-jewish-national-fund-jnf

– CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION, Concludingobservations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (para19),http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/041AB84D2F05080C85257302004A9963

10. Challenge the JNF: Stop the JNF Campaign Workshops, London, 4 June 2011
http://www.stopthejnf.org/greatbritain_takeaction_workshop4june2011.html

11. End fund-raising in Scotland for ethnic cleansing in Palestine, 21 June 2011
http://www.stopthejnf.org/greatbritain_takeaction_protest21june2011.html

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West Dunbartonshire Council under attack for boycott stand

J-BIG is endorsing the open letter below, sent to us by Mick Napier, chair of Scottish PSC. He wrote:

Not for the first time the Scottish Daily Express is wholly fabricating a story  – this time that West Dunbartonshire Council is ‘launching a boycott of Israeli books’.
http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/247880/Fury-as-council-launches-boycott-on-Israeli-books
The Express favourably quotes the Israeli Embassy’s Amir Oftek comparing the Council to Joseph Goebbels burning books by Jewish authors.

The West Dunbartonshire Council unanimously passed a motion during Operation Cast Lead to ‘immediately cease the purchase of any goods we currently source, which were made or grown in Israel.’  http://www.west-dunbarton.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/news/council-refutes-media-claims-regarding-the-israeli-boycott/

The Express article is the usual Zionist tactic of changing the subject away from Israel’s activities.  It is a challenge which, if we rise to the occasion, can give a boost to the BDS campaign.  We all need to defend West Dunbartonshire Council to avoid a retreat from BDS as happened with Marrickvale Council in Australia, in the face of what Mayor Fiona Byrne rightly described as a “sledgehammer of pressure”.

Please sign the open letter below in support of West Dunbartonshire Council. We especially seek signatures from published authors, elected representatives. Get back by 10am tomorrow, Tuesday, so we can get an initial letter and press release out.

OPEN LETTER

24 May 2011
“We applaud West Dunbartonshire Council’s principled decision, taken during the Israeli massacres of Operation Cast Lead, to support the Palestinian appeal for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions).

Attempts to portray this position as a ‘boycott of Israeli books’ fits with well-tried Israeli Government campaigning to re-focus discussion away from Israel’s actions.  Books by UK-published Israeli authors are in no danger of being removed from the library shelves of West Dunbartonshire; forced removal from their homes, however, is a constant peril for many Palestinians as part of Israel’s racist policy of dispossession of the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian boycott includes Israel institutions linked to the state as well as Israeli companies. Publishing companies are not exempt and are already being boycotted around the world, including Scotland.  Iain Banks also responded ethically to Operation Cast Lead:

“I’ve told my agent to turn down any further book translation deals with Israeli publishers. I would urge all writers, artists and others in the creative arts, as well as those academics engaging in joint educational projects with Israeli institutions, to consider doing everything they can to convince Israel of its moral degradation and ethical isolation, preferably by simply having nothing more to do with this outlaw state.”

We reject the Israeli Embassy’s sinister attempts to conflate active opposition to Israeli crimes with hostility to Jews.  We concur with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond that the Scottish Jewish Community should not “be judged or affected by the policies of Israel. The Jewish community is not liable for those policies.  It is possible to be critical of Israel without being anti-Semitic.”

If Israel wants to end the growing campaign of BDS it should end its military occupation and settlement building, cease bulldozing Palestinian homes and end its practice of throwing families onto the street to reduce the Palestinian Arab population, and respect its other obligations under international law.

We urge councils world-wide to follow the example of West Dunbartonshire in Scotland, and a growing number elsewhere, and discuss how to respond positively to the appeal from the Palestinian people for solidarity, above all in the form of a commitment to BDS.”

Omar Barghouti
Lenni Brenner
Ronnie Kasrils
Rich Wiles
Neil Davidson
Marion Woolfson

END

Debating the cultural boycott

British Writers in Support of Palestine has been working with the Southbank Centre in London on staging a debate on cultural boycott this summer.  Anti-boycott speakers seem reluctant to come forward. They will be announced when confirmed. Meanwhile, here is information available so far, including details of the two eloquent exponents of the boycott strategy who have agreed to speak.

Sunday July 10th 2011
7 pm, The Purcell Room
£10 / £5 concessions (limited number)

WHY BOYCOTT CULTURE?

Where basic freedoms are denied and democratic remedies blocked off, cultural boycott by world civil society is a viable and effective political strategy; indeed a moral imperative.

Supporting the motion will be:

Omar Barghouti – author of BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (Haymarket Press).  Palestinian activist and commentator, leading member of the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC)  and of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) .

Seni Seneviratne, poet and performer, author of Wild Cinnamon and Winter Skin (Peepal Tree Press) and BWISP member, a veteran of the South African and Palestinian solidarity campaigns, extremely well versed in the arguments for and against cultural boycott in a global context.  She is a calm and self-possessed speaker, and her presence will help to open up the debate to the wider artistic and cultural community.

You can book tickets here:

http://ticketing.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/literature-spoken-word/tickets/why-boycott-culture-59398

The South Bank website will be updated when full details are available.

JEWS SLAM “WE BELIEVE IN ISRAEL” EVENT

J-BIG is one of four Jewish organisations denouncing a conference organised by the British Israel Communications and Research Centre Committee
(BICOM) . It’s titled “We Believe in Israel”. Read our news release below.

The Jewish Chronicle has given the event top billing: http://goo.gl/PcFvv

JC shows Defence Attaché Philip Stack saluting as Hatikvah is sung at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv

JEWS SLAM ISRAEL ‘APOLOGISTS’ EVENT

Jewish organisations today levelled charges of hypocrisy at the institution behind a conference that aims to encourage people to convey positive images of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

The event, to be staged in London this month (15 May) by the British Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM), will feature speakers from three political party groups, the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour Friends of Israel.

On the same weekend, pro-Palestinian groups will protest opposite Downing Street for an end to Israel ’s siege of Gaza and a rally in Jerusalem will mark the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, when Palestinians were expelled or fled from towns and villages amid Israeli troop advances, losing their land and making them refugees.

The legitimacy of the BICOM conference, entitled “We believe in Israel ” is challenged by four organisations – Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), the Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG), Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) and the radical diaspora group Jewdas.

The four organisations warn that the event will be addressed by apologists for prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration, painting a distorted picture of the role of media, allegations that Israel abuses international law, the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions, the land of Israel and its traditions and people.

The groups cite Israel’s illegal occupation, growing settlements, apartheid wall, and the refusal to abide by United Nations resolutions, international law and humanitarian conventions, as well as its brutal treatment of Palestinians.

Diana Neslen, a spokesperson for JFJP, said: “Jewish humanitarian values have been corrupted by Israel’s human rights abuses. This conference intends to encourage support for whatever Israel does. If people really want to help Israel , they must speak out against its government’s policies and withdraw their support until the occupation ends.”

David Rosenberg, representing the JSG, said: “Who are the ‘we’ who ‘believe in Israel’? Britain ’s Jews are more divided on Israel than at any time since the state was created. Many Jews here cannot reconcile their belief in human rights and democracy, and their opposition to racism, with the appalling treatment of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. They know it is wrong. They know it must change.”

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, secretary of J-BIG, said: ” Israel has criminalised the commemoration of the Nakba by those living within its jurisdiction, and yet this BICOM event seeks to justify the state’s claim to represent Jewish values of justice and compassion. They are going to present a hypocritical view of democracy by campaigning for Israel as ‘a Jewish and democratic state’, which excludes the non-Jews under Israeli rule.”

Jewdas spokesperson Joseph Finlay said: “This conference wishes to found a new religion, worship of the state of Israel . Jews, it proclaims, needn’t worry about pesky things like Torah or ethics any more – all they need to do is ‘believe’ in the Jewish state. Like all good new religions, this one has taboos, the chief one being ‘don’t mention the occupation’. Just send in your money, keep shtum, and bow down to the state of Israel , the golden calf of our times.”