A website from a group calling itself the New Keren Kayemeth Leisrael — or the New JNF — indicates that such a radical conversion has taken place. It introduces us to Rafi Schtendel, a JNF chairperson who begins to understand that claims by his organization to care for the environment by planting trees are bogus. Schtendel came to this realization after reading Facing the Forests by the Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua.
Schtendel writes, “It is so sad that in the story, only after the Arab worker burns the JNF forest, it exposes what’s buried beneath it. Why must it be that way? Why not simply acknowledge what we’ve done, destroyed and covered up? Yehoshua has his worker’s tongue cut off, but ours is intact and we must use it to say out loud: Sixty-five years ago there was an entire culture here that we have destroyed to establish a Jewish State, whose ruins are covered by KKL forests.”
Schtendel confesses that he should have paid closer attention to comments made five years ago by Michal Katorzah, a JNF employee in charge of signposting. “Actually, a great part of our parks are on lands that were Arab villages, and the forests are a cover-up,” Katorzah said.
To underscore that he is a changed man, Schtendel has undertaken a personal mission of posting new signs to commemorate the Palestinian villages that used to stand where JNF parks are now located.
One New JNF sign recalls that the village of Ayn al-Zaytun in the Galilee region had 567 inhabitants living in 127 houses in 1931. By the mid 1940s, 820 Muslims lived in the village, which had a mosque, an elementary school and its lands covering an area of some 110 hectares.
The villagers cultivated olives, cereals and grapes. According to various testimonies, seventy local men were killed by fighters from the Palmach, a Zionist force, when the village was captured in early May 1948. They were shot in the head, after their hands and feet had been tied up. The Palmach unit burnt or blew up the village’s houses in a calculated move also designed to terrorize the inhabitants of the neighboring town, Safed, who watched in horror from the hills.
The comments published on the website are in general positive about the New JNF. One reader posted a video in which she expresses the feelings of a tree in a JNF forest. “Until today, I lived under the illusion that I had been planted to be a tree and grow like a tree, not in order to hide the ruins of Imwas and Yalu villages destroyed by the IDF [Israel Defense Force] in 1967,” rages the angry tree.
Too good to be true?
While reading about the New JNF, I felt this was too good to be true.
My suspcions were confirmed when I saw a report on the Real News Network about activists from the New JNF handing out leaflets in the center of Tel Aviv. “We are the new JNF,” says an activist wearing a t-shirt with the logo of the organization. “People have never known the names, they know the new, Zionist names of these forests, but not what is underneath them. So the New JNF is here to educate people about them.”
The report reveals that the New JNF blog is a parody and that Rafi Schtendel is a slight alteration of the name of JNF chairperson Efi Stenzler.
The activists will certainly appreciate the latest actions of the Stop the JNF Campaign-UK, which last week accused Britain’s Charity Commission of not applying its guidelines to the JNF. Stop the JNF pointed out that the JNF had been involved in the demolition of al-Araqib, a village where Palestinian Bedouins live in the Naqab (Negev).
In March, Stop the JNF requested that the Charity Commission remove the JNF from the register of charities. The campaign group argues that the JNF is not a charity but an Israeli institution which plays a key role in the administration of land and practices systematic discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel. The JNF’s “charities” registered in the UK provide funding for the maintenance of the this racially discriminatory system.
However, the Charity Commission has decided to allow the JNF to remain listed as a charity.
(Source / 09.12.2013)
Former minister Benny Begin, who helped draft the Prawer Plan, denies saying Israel’s Bedouin support the plan: How could they if they never even saw it?
Map of the planned land confiscation and compensation as part of the Begin-Prawer Plan
Light blue: Jewish town
Orange: Bedouin municipality
Purple: To be expropriated by the state
Green outline: Land to be given to unrecognized villages
Red outline: Land for other uses (pasture, etc.)
Until now, nobody knew the extent of the Prawer-Begin Plan. No government official or statement has detailed how many Bedouin citizens will be displaced, how many unrecognized villages razed and how much land will be expropriated by the state.
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) on Monday published a copy of a map distributed to members of the Knesset Interior Affairs Committee. The map was prepared by the Prime Minister’s Office for Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home party in an attempt to assuage his party’s fears that too much land would be given to the Bedouin.
According to a report published yesterday on +972, the new map details plans to displace some 40,000 Bedouin and for the state to expropriate 250,000 dunams (61,700 acres) of Bedouin land.
“The government hid this map from the Bedouin. The government hid this map from the Knesset,” MK Khenin wrote on his Facebook page.
It was not clear whether the map was merely an explanatory document meant to swing votes in the Knesset or an actual working document for the eventual implementation of Prawer. MK Merav Michaeli wrote on Twitter Monday afternoon, “[I]t seems the doc the gov presented isn’t the original doc, the gov is still hiding the original and why the changes.”
Another central figure in the formulation of the Prawer-Begin Plan, half of its namesake, former minister Benny Begin, sent a surprising letter to the Knesset Interior Affairs Committee on Monday.
Coalition leader Yariv Levin (Likud) has insinuated and declared that Begin told him the Bedouin community supports the Prawer Plan, or at least that it is a compromise they would accept.
Begin on Monday refuted that he ever made such statements, writing, “I have never said to anyone that the Bedouin accept my plan.”
He couldn’t have made such a claim, he explained, because he never even presented the Bedouin community with his plan, “and therefore I could not have heard their reactions to it.”
“[Because] I was not able to know their level of support for the law, it therefore follows that I couldn’t say that I know anything about their support for the law.”
In addition to Levin’s now-contested Begin quote, Israeli government spokespeople have responded to anti-Prawer protests in recent weeks by making an unsubstantiated claim that 80 percent of the Bedouin population supports the Prawer-Begin Plan.
“How can you claim that 80 percent of the Bedouin population accepts the Prawer Plan when the most basic information about he plan is hidden even from members of Knesset who are voting on it, and certainly hiding from the Bedouin in the Negev,” anti-Prawer activist Huda Abu-Obaid said on Monday.
“Now it won’t be possible to hide behind vague statements about a plan ‘for the benefit of the Bedouin’,” added another activist, Fadi Elobra. “These documents show anyone who wants to see that this is a plan that will bring about the expulsion of at least 40,000 people from their homes and the expropriation of most of the land under Bedouin ownership in the Negev.”
The activists called on Knesset members to listen to them and their objections to Prawer, vowing to continue protesting against it until the dozens of unrecognized villages in the Negev are recognized and connected to state infrastructure.
(Source / 09.12.2013)
The U.S. and Israel want to limit Palestinian sovereignty, to demilitarize their state, to prevent a Palestinian return and to implement any agreement in stages. But in order for the two-state solution to have a chance at working, they need to do the exact opposite.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far refused to discuss the future borders of the Palestinian state in public, and leaks from the talks suggest that Israel will only discuss the territorial aspects of an agreement after the security aspects are resolved. The American proposal is designed to tackle this new hurdle or at least prepare the ground for a full American two-state proposal.
As I’ve written here in the past, I remain a sceptic regarding the administration’s ability to promote a real agreement, mainly due to the strategic decision by Israel to hold on to the status quo, along with an American reluctance to confront Jerusalem. As long as the administration is not willing to push Israel out of its comfort zone, the only available course of action would be to force the PA to move toward Israel’s position.
So far, this has been the American approach. Kerry backed Netanyahu’s refusal to enter talks based on the terms of reference agreed upon in previous rounds, and instead forced the Palestinians to “negotiate without preconditions.” Now, it seems the U.S. is gradually moving toward two other Israeli demands: maintaining an Israeli presence on the Jordan River for several years, and recognizing Israel “as a Jewish state.”
According to some reports, the Palestinian Authority rejected the American security arrangements proposal. As a result, the Maariv daily reported today, the Obama administration might allow Israel to postpone the coming prisoner release – the very gesture that was promised to the Palestinians in exchange for abandoning all other demands when entering talks.
If the Washington applies enough pressure, I believe it could get the Palestinian Authority to agree to Israel’s terms. Ultimately, the Palestinians simply don’t have much leverage in the diplomatic process and the PA is completely dependent on the U.S. for any political achievement. The only real threat Abbas could make is to resign and dismantle the Authority, and that is a high-risk, no-turning-back kind of act that could have devastating effects on the Palestinians living in the West Bank.
In the longer run, however, imposing on the Palestinians an agreement tailored to suit the political needs of Israel’s leadership is a recipe for disaster. It basically means repeating all the mistakes of the Oslo process. Back then, for pretty much the same reasons – Israeli politics, Israeli fears – the settlements were excluded from the interim agreement, undefined military zones were left in the West Bank(Netanyahu famously boosted that this was the loophole that helped him torpedo Oslo); and the implementation phase was prolonged in a way that allowed the opposition on both sides to organize, gain momentum and ultimately derail the entire process. Sometimes I think the negotiators are determined to repeat the same mistakes.
* * *
Settling for an implementation in stages and accepting fierce Israeli security measures intuitively seems like the right way to go (since trust needs to be built, fear needs to be overcome, and so on), but I propose the opposite idea: If the two state solution has any chance of succeeding in the current geo-political environment – and that’s a big “if” – it needs to be a swift and extremely generous process (towards the Palestinian side).
For starters, such a solution should completely abandon the “zero-sum game” attitude which currently dominates the talks – according to which any gain for one side is a loss for the other. In fact, the more the Palestinians gain from the agreement, the greater their interest in it becomes, and the more isolated those rejecting it will be. The opposite of Oslo.
If Israel, for example, maintains an army presence on the Jordan border or anywhere inside the Palestinian state – even on a temporary basis – any Palestinian political force with a grudge will make this presence the object of his campaign. There will be political attacks, and then there will be physical attacks. For the same reason all Palestinian prisoners need to be released; keeping them in Israeli prisons will create a political time bomb and an on-going sense of resentment.
If the Palestinian Authority doesn’t control its borders or airspace, or if it needs to give up valuable land in the north and around Jerusalem for the settlements and get desert hills in return – in the spirit of some of the recent land swaps maps – the whole idea of statehood becomes meaningless to the average Palestinian. A chair at the UN, after all, is not the object of the Palestinian national struggle. Freedom and dignity are.
I am not a big fan of the security oriented debate since I think it has become a way for Israeli society to avoid making political choices. It should be clear, however, that a strong central government on the Palestinian side is a precondition for making any security arrangement work. The weaker Israel makes Ramallah (which should become Jerusalem), the less capable it is of being accountable for violations. If the Palestinians have no air space and no armed vehicles, they won’t be able to operate as an effective state. And ineffective states are where terrorism grows.
Giving armored vehicles or helicopters to a Palestinian state will not pose a security threat to Israel. The Israeli army has proved time and again that dealing with conventional weapon systems is extremely easy, due to its technological superiority and unique firepower. Much like Hezbollah’s strategic, long-range missiles, a Palestinian tank that fires on Israeli targets won’t survive 10 minutes. The challenge for Israel is the single person with a grudge or the committed underground cell. You want a Palestinian state? Allow it to have tanks. Otherwise you won’t have a state and you won’t have security; you will have something else.
Finally, there can not be a stable agreement without addressing the refugee problem. Even advocates of the two-state solution don’t want to turn 7 million refugees into opponents of the agreement, that is on top of the opposition to it in the OPT. Here also, the generous approach (in Israeli political terms) is the only approach. Israel should allow in hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and compensate and help resettle the others (this is where the Arab world and the international community, which owes a lot to the Palestinians, could help).
I usually don’t use demographic arguments either, but since those have become an inherent part of the two-state conversation, it should be noted that they don’t stand in the way of a substantial return. If a real two-state solution is to take place, Israel will “lose” 250,000 Palestinian residents and citizens in East Jerusalem, which means that accepting as many as 500,000 Palestinian refugees would have resulted in a rise of 250,000 people in the total number of Palestinian citizens in Israel, or an equivalent of 3.1 percent of the whole population. A lot, but in the context of a real final status agreement, it’s not that much. I actually think that we could take many more.
This maximalist approach is, in my opinion, the only way to reach an agreement that is not simply imposed on one side – or worse, implemented through a puppet regime – but has a chance of actually working. As for the ideas being discussed now, history has taught us that a bad agreement can be much worse that no agreement at all
(Source / 09.12.2013)