We, residents of the Negev, human rights activists, social organizations in Israel, Jewish and other allies in the United States and around the world, issue this call to the leadership of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in Israel and the U.S.:
JNF must no longer serve as an accomplice to the discriminatory policy of the Government of Israel and the Israel Land Administration (ILA) designed to expel and dispossess the Negev Bedouin from their land.
Join our urgent call to the leadership of JNF to:
1. Stop funding and participating in the forestation and development of any area that is the site of an existing or demolished Bedouin village. Stop all development of lands for which Bedouin have made legal claims of ownership until their cases have been fully adjudicated in Israeli courts or a mutually agreeable just settlement is reached.
2. Submit JNF’s development plans for the Negev to independent scrutiny by environmental, human rights and social justice organizations to work toward truly sustainable development of the Negev for ALL its inhabitants, Jews and Arabs alike.
3. 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.
4. Join with human rights organizations in Israel to allow the Bedouin to live on their traditional lands, as they have for many generations.
Please click on "Take Action" on the right side of this page, add your name and your protest message will be emailed right now to JNF’s top 3 leaders in the US: Chairman Ronald Lauder, President Stanley M. Chesley and CEO Russell Robinson - and KKL-JNF's top 2 leaders in Israel: KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler and Deputy Chair Menachem Leibovic.
Background: 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 and Jewish-only settlements 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.
On Jan. 16 and 17, 2011, the Israeli government sent bulldozers and Israeli riot police to demolish the Negev Bedouin village of Al-Arakib for the 9th time, shooting the residents with rubber bullets, beating them with batons, injuring 11 people, 5 of whom were hospitalized. The police arrested 11 Israeli human rights activists who attempted to help the residents rebuild their village.
Israel Lands Administration Development Director Shlomo Zeizer said "We are making an effort to find a 'final solution' to what's happening in Al-Arakib," and "We are preparing the ground for planting," clearly implicating the JNF, which built a new camp in Al-Arakib (under Israel Police protection) for its bulldozers to plant a forest there, prevent the return of the Bedouin forever and cover up all traces of Bedouin life in the demolished village. These shocking statements were printed only in the Hebrew edition of YNET's 1/16/11 report, and omitted from the English edition. As of late 2012, the village has been demolished over 30 times.
The Open Letter has been signed by a big tent of 36 ideologically diverse Israeli and American Jewish organizations – 28 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 ■ Recognition Forum ■ Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights ■ Laqiya Womens’ Association ■ Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Campaign ■ Gush Shalom ■ The Israeli Committee against House Demolition ■ Social TV ■ Alternative Information Center ■ Fighters for Peace ■ Public Committee Against Torture in Israel ■ New Profile – Movement for the Civil-ization of Israeli Society ■ Yesh Gvul ■ Amnesty Israel
From the US:
■ Jewish Alliance for Change ■ Rabbis for Human Rights-North America ■ Meretz USA ■ Shalom Center ■ Jewish Voice for Peace ■ The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring ■ Tikkun Community ■ Network of Spiritual Progressives
Please click on "Take Action" now on the right side of this page to email your protest message right now to JNF’s top 3 leaders in the US and JNF-KKL's top 2 world leaders in Israel.