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Why is JNF UK throwing a Bedouin-themed party?

The JNF has played a fundamental role in the displacement of the villagers of al-Araqib, an unrecognized Bedouin village that Israeli authorities demolished for the 90th time last week. Later this month the organization is holding a ‘Bedouin Night’ party in London.

The Jewish National Fund in the United Kingdom (JNF UK) will be hosting a Bedouin-themed party catering to young professionals in London later this month.

According to the invitation, the event — which is slated to take place on November 26th — will be held at a “secret Central London location” in a “unique Bedouin style venue,” and will include a “mystical night of cocktails and (non-tobacco) shisha.”

Invitation to a 'Bedouin Night'-themed event, put on the the U.K. branch of the Jewish National Fund.

Invitation to a ‘Bedouin Night’-themed event, put on by the UK branch of the Jewish National Fund.

The JNF has played a central role in the displacement of Israel’s Bedouin in the Negev Desert.

The organization, which was formed in 1901 as a means to purchase land for Jewish settlement in Ottoman-controlled Palestine, is the largest private landowner in Israel today, controlling 13.1 percent of the country’s land. As a quasi-governmental non-profit that operates mostly in line with government policy – the JNF only markets its land to Jews.

The JNF prides itself for being an environmental friendly non-governmental organization that plants trees, although a closer look at its projects reveals that it uses sub-contractors for projects across the Green Line, including Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. In 2012 investigative journalist Raviv Drucker exposed a list of JNF-funded projects in West Bank settlements.

The choice of theme for the London event is staggering considering the JNF’s direct involvement in the wholesale expropriation of Bedouin land. In 2002, the state announced plans to forcibly relocate the residents of Atir to the township of Hura, in order to make room for the man-made, JNF forest of “Yatir.”

The concept of an event honoring Bedouin culture grows even more absurd in light of a reality in which villagers are slowly being forced to abandon the same traditional, pastoral lifestyles the JNF is trying to portray in its event.

“The JNF’s forestation projects have become a tool to kick Bedouin from unrecognized villages off their land, destroy their villages, and push the residents into townships,” says Michal Rotem, of the Negev Coexistence Forum.

Israeli policemen stand by as a bulldozer demolishes the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib for the 64th time (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen stand by as a bulldozer demolishes the Bedouin village of Al-Araqib for the 64th time (photo: Activestills.org)

JNF policy has also played a fundamental role in the displacement of the villagers of Al-Araqib, an unrecognized Bedouin village, which was demolished by Israeli authorities for the 90th time last week.

In 2010, the JNF erected a giant sign on village land declaring plans for “God-TV Forest,” a forestation project funded by an American evangelical television station on village land. In the unrecognized Bedouin village of Awajan, JNF bulldozers began clearing land in May 2014 to build a major forest that would displace its residents.

As my colleague Amjad Iraqi previously pointed out, Atir, Al-Araqib, and Awwajan are hardly the only cases in which forestation has been used by Israel and the JNF as a method of displacement and land grabbing against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.

In addition to designating areas as “state lands” in places such as the Negev and the occupied Jordan Valley, the policy is also facilitated by the Land Ordinance of 1943, a law dating to the British Mandate, which allows the state to confiscate and use lands for “public purposes.”

The results of this policy have included the establishment of ‘Ambassadors Forest’ (also on the land of Al-Araqib) ‘Ramot Menashe Park’ over Lajoun in the Triangle; ‘South Africa Forest’ over the depopulated Palestinian village of Lubya in the Galilee; and ‘Canada Park’ over Imwas, Yalo and Beit Nuba outside Jerusalem, among many others.

JNF UK’s response:

JNF UK is an independent UK charity supporting an array of social, cultural and environmental and humanitarian projects in Israel.

Today JNF UK’s work takes place almost exclusively in the Negev, the desert region in Israel’s south where most of the Bedouin community live. As such, JNF UK has a long and proud record of supporting Bedouin communities throughout the region. Projects supported by JNF UK are saving and transforming the lives of Israeli Bedouin; and creating new possibilities for Bedouin youth.

JNF UK provided bomb shelters to protect Bedouin communities from rocket attacks during Operation Protective Edge. We are improving the infrastructure of Bedouin villages and have supported the provision of medical care to the Bedouin community – with a particular emphasis on researching and treating common genetic disorders prevalent within the community.

In addition to these life-changing initiatives, JNF UK funds a young leadership project called Desert Stars, which is the only programme of its kind to work with the Bedouin community – providing mentoring and direction to young Bedouin with leadership potential and an interest in social engagement.

JNF UK are bringing the Desert Stars’ founder to the UK later this month where he will be highlighting the life-changing differences that the project has and continues to make to Bedouin youth.

Alan Aziz, CEO of JNF UK said, “We support Desert Stars because we feel passionately about funding a project which changes the lives of Bedouin youth. This leadership and educational programme was designed and launched together with Bedouin community leaders, so I was incredibly shocked to hear negative comments being made towards events we are holding to honour the work that the Bedouin community and JNF UK are doing together.”

During his trip, the founder will be speaking at a number of JNF UK events including schools, synagogues and a JNF UK Young Leadership Weekend. He will also be speaking at a JNF UK Young Professionals evening, which is inspired by his incredible work which helps the future of the Bedouin
community in Israel.

Correction: The JNF UK is is not the UK branch of the JNF as previously stated. This article has been amended to reflect the fact that JNF UK is an independent organization.

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    1. Ben

      “private…quasi-governmental non-profit that operates mostly in line with government policy…only markets its land to Jews.”

      Oh, but, why, Arabs can buy land anywhere in Israel! There is NO discrimination! LoL.

      Try to picture an American White National Fund, private…quasi-governmental non-profit that operates mostly in line with government policy…only markets its land to Whites.

      Try to picture an American Christian National Fund, private…quasi-governmental non-profit that operates mostly in line with government policy…only markets its land to Christians.

      Try to picture an American Jewish National Fund, private…quasi-governmental non-profit that operates mostly in line with government policy…only markets its land to Jews.

      Try to imagine.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Lauren

      Irony at its best. This event should be boycotted!Signed, a Negev resident

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Helloooooo, earth to Benny, are you there…. echo, echo, echo….?

        Under Israeli laws, neither Arab NOR Jewish Israelis can buy JNF lands. We can only lease those lands.

        Privately owned lands however can be bought and sold by anyone, Jewish or Arabs. So where is the discrimination?

        I’ll tell you where, Benny-leh, my jaundiced little hater….

        The PA has passed an edict which forbids Palestinian Arabs to sell privately owned lands to Jews. And the penalty for breaking this law is DEATH. Indeed, there have been executions of Palestinian Arabs by the PA when they ignored this edict.

        But Benny does not want to shine his torch there. To him it is un-interesting if Arabs practice laws based on ethnicity. He is only interested in make believe discriminatory practices which we are supposedly guilty of. That’s Benny for ya. And not just Benny, he represents the Israel hating crowd. Fairness is not even on their radar. They practice a relentless propaganda war and disinformation campaign against us.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Oh excuse me I’m so sorry for my gross failing Gustav, please forgive me I should have written “Oh, but, why, Arabs can LEASE land anywhere in Israel! There is NO discrimination!” You know as well as I do that there is widespread official as well as unofficial, unspoken, covert discrimination in where Arabs can buy or lease land or get permits to build. A whole range of tactics. Jerusalem is just one egregious aspect of this–but it takes place across the land. Do NOT shamelessly prevaricate and disassemble on this.

          If an Arab country was belligerently occupying Tel Aviv do you thing Jews would smile upon their brethren who sold their properties to Arabs? Eh? Yet another condescending, smug, double standard and empathy failure by a lord of the land here. Nothing new.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            BEN:”If an Arab country was belligerently occupying Tel Aviv do you thing Jews would smile upon their brethren who sold their properties to Arabs?”

            You are excused, Benny-leh. Now here is your reply…

            First of all, if an Arab country would occupy Israel, the only Jews in Israel would be in the cemeteries. I know you will prevaricate on this but it already happened in the past, in the 1948 when the Arab Legion overran Gush Etzion and it let your “peace loving” Palestinian Arab militia execute all the Jewish defenders who surrendered and had their hands tied.

            Second of all, you just admitted that you are ready to make excuses for Arabs discriminating based on ethnicity you only worry about so called discriminatory laws which we supposedly have. For your information, if your Arabs have the right to hate us because of the occupation, we have the right to hate them for their 100 years of violence and war against us. If you excuse one side (them) then you should excuse the other side too (us). Alternatively, don’t overlook wrongs on EITHER SIDE. Otherwise you just betray your bias.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            There were atrocities on both sides. You’re sidestepping my point because you can’t go through it. If the Swedes or the Canadians occupied Israel and behaved exactly towards the inhabitants of Israel as the Israelis now behave towards the inhabitants of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, do you seriously think Jews would smile upon their brethren who sold their properties to the Swedes or the Canadians? Do you deny the possibility that Jews would mete out executions to their brethren whom they viewed as traitors in that context? There are probably analogous Haganah episodes that support my point.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            I have NOT sidestepped your point at all. Your analogy does not stand up to scrutiny.

            The Israeli occupation is a CONSEQUENCE of Arab violence. A violence which was INITIATED and PERPETRATED against us by your Palestinian Arabs, first to try to prevent the existence of the Jewish state and subsequently to try to destroy it. Therefore we have every right to continue the occupation till such time as your Palestinian Arabs agree to accept the existence of the Jewish majority state.

            So your excuse that they have the right to implement ethnic discrimination because of the occupation, does not wash.

            But if you make the excuse that they have the right to hate us because of the occupation, then you should also be willing to excuse the discrimination by many individuals amongst us because we have the right to hate them for the violence and war which they INITIATED and still perpetrate against us. Especially since we have no discriminatory land LAWS but your Palestinian Arabs do!

            As for your stupid hypothetical about Swedes or Canadians occupying us, it is bunk because we have not made war or carried out violence against Sweden or Canada. So what excuse would they have for occupying us, Benny?

            Wanna go back to the drawing board now Benny, darling and explain why you think that Palestinian Arab ethnic discrimination (by law) is ok but individual Israelis who have had enough of Arab violence are worse than your Palestinian Arab institutions who discriminate by law?

            I can’t wait for Benny’s response…

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            …on second thought, I know Benny’s response already (assuming he doesn’t just skulks off or says something like let’s agree to disagree – which just sidesteps MY point).

            His response will be something along the lines of – well, Palestinian Arabs are allowed to do ANYTHING but Israelis (by that he means Israeli Jews) must be totally altruistic and fair to their enemies no matter what their enemies do to Israelis. Mix, stir and repeat endlessly…

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You’ve lost me. Resistance to an illegal occupier’s agents buying land in an effort to solidify the illegal occupation is “ethnic discrimination”? Novel legal theory.

            The Swedes/Canadians were an obvious hypothetical. An exercise. Your challenge to that hypothetical is oddly literal. Strange. As if the main point is entirely lost on you. The issue, I thought I had made clear, is how Jews would react to an illegal occupier, any illegal occupier, buying up their land in order to solidify and entrench an illegal, belligerent occupation. Your prejudiced idea is that Jews would fundamentally react differently than Arabs. I think that’s nonsense.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            BEN:”You’ve lost me. Resistance to an illegal occupier’s …”

            No Benny, you lost yourself. The occupation is NOT illegal. There is NOTHING illegal about it.

            The occupation came about as a CONSEQUENCE of Arab agression and can only end when they agree to a peace deal which will include at least some of OUR conditions too. Not just theirs.

            They broke it Benny, so they have to help to fix it not just expect Israel to withdraw unilaterally without redressing the possibility of further agression by your Arabs.

            You keep on keeping on sidestepping that point of mine.

            Reply to Comment