Israeli authorities arrested dozens of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Negev region in the south of the country in early January, as Palestinian Bedouins resisted expulsion from their historic lands under the pretext of a reforestation project by the Jewish National Fund (JNF).
In the early hours of January 17, Israeli police forces stormed the towns and villages of al-Zarnouq, Abu Talool, Khashm al-Zina, and Tel al-Sabe, detaining almost 41 Palestinians, the youngest of whom is only 10 years old.
Palestinian bedouins have been resisting the ethnic cleansing of the Negev since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
At that time, about 65,000 to 100,000 Arab Bedouin were the only inhabitants in the Negev, a mostly desert area in the southern part of historic Palestine (now Israel). Some Bedouins were traditional nomads, making a living by carrying goods across the desert. But most were pastoral farmers and shepherds, tending their sheep and goats and carefully eking a living out of the dry landscape.
The new State of Israel immediately began “Judaizing” the Negev, by confiscating lands, expelling Arab Bedouins from their dwellings and encouraging colonisation of the area by Jews.
While Israel did recognize the Bedouins as citizens – it provided no services – no water, no electricity, no roads, no education to dozens of Bedouin “unrecognzied villages”. It did not recognize their right to own the lands they had been living on since long before the creation of the State of Israel. Instead, it attempted to move them into smaller areas in order to take over their lands (a process that indigenous Canadians would immediately recognize).
“The Jewish National Fund” Israel – about “trees” or “expropriation”?
One of the vehicles used by Israel to effect the expulsion of Palestinian citizens from their own land is an agency called the “Jewish National Fund” (or JNF-KKL in Israel). JNF presents itself as an environmental agency, raising money to plant thousands of trees all over “land of Israel”.
But it doesn’t disclose who is being displaced by the JNF “forests”. The JNF does not actually expel Bedouins itself, that is done by the Israeli military. But JNF provides the rationale for the expulsions and JNF bulldozers tear up wheatfields grazing areas.
JNF was created in 1901 to buy land in Palestine for European Jewish immigrants. After Israel was created in 1948, Zionists no longer bought land from Palestinians – they just took it. JNF then repurposed itself as an “environmental agency” and began planting trees… on Palestinian land. JNF tree planting exercises were also used to create parks to cover up destroyed Palestinian villages as was the case in Canada Park.
JNF Canada (and your tax dollars) help pay for ethnic cleansing
JNF Canada raises millions of dollars every year in Canada to send to Israel. Some of the fundraising is through a “blue box” campaign, mostly aimed at Canadian Jews. But annual “JNF Negev dinners” are organized in various cities around Canada where wealthy individuals and corporate donors are invited to shell out thousands of dollars per table and listen to speeches about the “environmental” work of the JNF in Israel.
Few of those attending would feel comfortable if Canada were to launch a fundraising campaign to further the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Canadians from certain areas of the Canadian north. And few of those who attend and contribute have any idea that one of the main activities of JNF Israel is the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian bedouins from their traditional lands.
What should Canada do?
- direct our Canadian Ambassador in Israel to visit the bedouin villages in the negev and make a detailed report to the Canadian government.
- If the report confirms that “forced displacement” is in fact taking place, Canada should lodge a strong note of protest with Israel, as it has done in similar circumstances with other countries like Myanmar
- Send a Canadian delegation, composed of at least 50% indigenous Canadians, to observe first hand the claims of ethnic cleansing of Israel’s indigenous Bedouin citizens.
- Carry out a review of the tax deductible status of the Jewish National Fund Canada.
An on-the-spot interview with a Palestinian Bedouin lawyer
Watch Mohammed El Kurd’s interview with Rafat Abu Aish, a young Palestinian Bedouin lawyer and activist (NOTE: the interview begins at 2 minutes and 20 seconds).
Don’t miss OFIP’s upcoming webinar:
How Canada supports Israel’s expulsion of Palestinian Bedouins from their land
Wednesday, February 16th at 1:30 PM EST
To register in advance for this webinar:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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