The Jewish National Fund (JNF) plans to build up to 3,000 residential units on land it owns in the greater Tel Aviv area.
TheJewishPress.com reported here last week that the JNF owns land worth approximately $1.75 billion.
It plans to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the new project following an approval of the new policy last month.
No timetable has been announced, Globes reported, but building on its own land will save the cost and bureaucracy of having to deal with Israel Land Authority tenders.
However, it will have to apply for building permits on land where there are no existing apartments or which needs to be re-zoned, meaning it could be years before final approval is received.
The bureaucratic procedures may be shorter than usual because the plan has been coordinated with the government, which has promised that it will ease the housing shortage in the metropolitan Tel Aviv region.
The value of the Jewish National Fund’s land in 2013 was $1.75 billion (6.7 billion shekels), Globes reported Wednesday.
Known in Hebrew as Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael, JNF’s total assets are $3.25 billion, including the land, whose value in 2014 grew by another $350 million. The JNF sold land for $600 million in 2014 and collected another $21 million in donations.
The report also reveals that JNF has a staff of 950 employees, whose collective salaries are $81 million, almost half of $170 million it spent on land development and forestry.
Sometimes horrendous actions spawn unintended positive results. Like when a grossly anti-Israel, baseless singling out of Israel for humiliating exclusion from an ostensibly open international festival inspires a new pro-Israel organization that is eager to stand up for Israel.
Take Finland. Please.
Every year for the past 15 years Finland hosts an event they call a “World Village Festival.” Think World’s Fair on a smaller scale. There is always a theme for the year’s event. In 2015, the focus was on development in Africa and the Middle East. The festival took place the third weekend in May.
KEPA, which is the acronym for the Finnish word that translates to Service Centre for Development Cooperation, is the organizer of the event. KEPA services Finland’s NGOs, and while politically and ideologically independent, it operates with funding from Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
KEPA describes its World Village Festival as being “open to all and a meeting place offering tastes of different cultures and surprises from all over the world.”
The Jewish National Fund (the Keren Kajemet LeIsraeli’in, or KKL in Hebrew) which has an active presence in Finland, signed up to participate in this year’s World Village Festival, just as it has done for the past two years.
But this year a virulently anti-Israel organization, ICAHD, noticed JNF’s requested presence at the WVF and complained that such an organization which engages in “ethnic cleansing,” is an Apartheid supporter and engages in “greenwashing.”
ICAHD stands for Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions. Just a few points about ICAHD: one, it apparently does not even have a presence in Israel any longer, according to NGO-Monitor, and its primary activity appears to be championing the BDS movement.
ICAHD, according to the pro-Israel Finnish website Tundra Tabloids, pressured KEPA into disinviting the JNF. The WVF organizers then informed JNF it could not participate “due to questions about the legality of its activities,” which included the various outrageously false claims promoted by ICAHD, which were given the imprimatur of the academy, by Hannu Juusola, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Helsinki.
The head of the Finnish branch of ICAHD, Skysy Räsänen, crowed that banning the JNF was “a victory for the BDS movement.”
KEPA also pointed to testimonies by, amongst others, Rabbis for Human Rights, as justification for banning the JNF.
While the JNF was mild in its response, there were some who were less so.
One organization, a brand new pro-Israel group that calls itself VOIS – Voice of Israel in Scandinavia, is a spin-off from a larger pro-Israel organization.
VOIS was galvanized by the rejection of JNF from the Festival. It set up a presence outside the gates to the Festival, and handed out pro-Israel literature, engaged with those entering the Village, and directly challenged the organizers of the event on the JNF ban.
One member of the group marched into the Village and spoke directly to Jonas Bistrom, KEPA’s development policy specialist. This VOIS member, Kenneth Sikorski, sought to engage Bistrom about the exclusion of the JNF from the Festival. Specifically, as Sikorski told the JewishPress.com, Bistrom was asked whether the WVF asked the JNF for a response to the allegations leveled against it, before the decision was made to exclude the pro-Israel organization. Sikorski also pressed Bistrom on whom KEPA had relied in making the exclusion determination.
Although Bistrom would not answer Sikorski’s queries, by the time the VOIS member returned to his encampment outside of the Village, KEPA’s executive director Timo Lappalainen had already been there and confirmed to the folks staffing their booth that Juusola, the professor from Helsinki University, a “respected academic” encouraged JNF’s banning because it “supports Israeli Apartheid “and “engages in ethnic cleansing.”
The Finnish “World Village festival emphasizing the environment has banned the participation of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the largest environmental organization in Israel. The Finnish government feigned it was powerless to interfere in the boycott and told the Israeli Ambassador to Helsinki that it has no say in the matter because the “Maailma Kylässä” festival is a “private event.”
Dan Ashbel, the Israeli ambassador to Finland, said:
I wonder how this scandalous decision is consistent with values such as eco-friendliness, fairness, tolerance, and the desire for peace. I wonder if the rest of the organizations in the festival are required to stand up to the same criteria.”
However, the Finnish government’s security forces were able to convince the World Village to ban the Freedom of Speech village, warning that an exhibition supporting the freedom of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine to publish cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed might cause violence.
The JNF has planted 240 million trees since 1901, and Israel is one of only two countries in the world that registered a net increase in the number of trees at the beginning of the 21st century.
It can be assumed that the organizers do the World Village were celebrating Boycott Israel when deciding to ban the JNF, which also has donated 3,000 trees to the Palestinian Authority for its new city of Rawabi north of Ramallah.
The World Village organizers figure that the environment is better off without a pro-environment organization, which is Jewish, and without a free speech environment that might upset Muslims.
In his OpEd “The Two Israels,” (NY Times, March 1, 2015) Nicholas Kristof made a rather broad accusation stating that Jewish National Fund plants forests on land owned by Bedouin Arabs. Unfortunately, Mr. Kristof chose to subscribe to the BDS diatribe against Israel and used JNF as a straw man to do so. We take exception to such reporting and in a response to the Times on March 3 let them know.
Further, the fact that no Israeli governmental official was interviewed by Mr. Kristof to discuss that country’s laws, or identify any specific property disputes and claims procedures, or legal history on the subject should also raise red flags.
We are not a political actor in Israel but rather a 501(c) 3 charity and a UN NGO. Our mission betters the Land for all the people of Israel, regardless of ethnicity or religion. This multi-purposed goal facilitates the continuity of a secure and independent homeland for Jews across the diaspora, and supports our country’s only free and democratic strategic ally in the Middle East.
What Mr. Kristof did not report on was JNF’s multi-year work with the Bedouin community in the Negev that has improved their lives. Witness our efforts at a project called Wadi Atir, near the village of Hura, where the Bedouin community combines its traditional medicinal herbal practices and animal herding with modern farming techniques — the effects of which provide Bedouin men, and most importantly, women, with the tools to empower, educate and bring long-term financial and professional success.
In my meetings and visits with JNF’s wonderful volunteers, board members and staff, I am often overwhelmed by the caring and love shared for the people of Israel, in both good times and bad. Last year when rockets were sent from Gaza into Israel, we helped protect all of Israel’s residents on that border, including the Bedouin. Our partner Green Horizons responded to their villages to calm children with a variety of programs and bomb shelters were delivered to ensure safety.
JNF contributors understand that inclusiveness is the key to Israel’s future. Throughout the Negev Desert, JNF has partnered with numerous organizations to foster synergy and enhance and strengthen the region’s smaller communities that were often forgotten in the past. This small 8% of Israel’s population lives in some 60% of the land. Because they are so far removed from the central part of the country, they are often shortchanged for services, even when it comes to emergency treatment. To meet the demand for urgent care, last year we opened a medical center deep in the Negev Desert, alleviating the two-hour drive residents used to make.
Additionally, people with special needs are treated at our partner facilities Aleh Negev, Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center, and LOTEM-Making Nature Accessible – regardless of complexion, faith or language. And we have collaborated on a transboundary issue to repair an important watershed for the Palestinian Authority and the people of Be’er Sheva, the capital of the Negev, to make sure all have access to clean water.
For more than a century, JNF donors worldwide have taken part in a time-honored tradition and planted more than 250 million trees in Israel to commemorate important milestones, memorials or living testaments to loved ones. This act of taking care of the land has also served to create a green lung throughout the region. JNF is equally renowned for its protection of ecological systems, investing in smart technology and renewable energy, our leadership in sustainability, greening the desert and water conservation. Donors also choose to build farms, reservoirs, hospitals, schools, research centers, parks, and many other projects that benefit all the people of Israel.
Our history is one of love, nation building and industry that has reduced poverty, encouraged women’s rights and created economic opportunities for all. That’s the story that is Israel and JNF. That’s the story that the world needs to know.
American taxpayers’ money helped fund a pro-Palestinian Authority group to encourage “non-violent resistance to end the occupation,” according to material gleaned from the website OneVoiceMovement website, which is involved in the “V15″ campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu, as reported here.
“OneVoicePalestine” received grants from the U.S. State Dept. until last November, weeks after most political observers said it was only a matter of time before the Netanyahu coalition would collapse and new elections would be held.
The hammer fell in December, and two months before, OneVoicePalestine (OVP) launched “The Land is Ours” campaign last September 25 to promote the stated American policy of a “two-state solution” and the un-stated policy of deciding the borders for a Palestinian Authority country.
The OneVoice site, in a blurb on the video it produced, stated its aim is to “encourage young Palestinians to participate in non-violent resistance to end the occupation, realize the two-state solution, and establish an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
The campaign builds on the 2012 mobilization effort – “The Land is Ours, Leave Us Be” – which addressed the expansion of settlements by planting hundreds of trees in a number of areas threatened by confiscation.
Planting trees, borrowing the Jewish National Fund campaign decades ago to plant trees in Israel, is the message of “non-violence resistance.” The video does not show Arabs waving the PA’s Fatah movement flag, emblazoned with a rifle.
Instead, the film shows Arabs marching in Judea and Samaria and planting trees but carefully omits facts that many if not most of the campaigns have been carried out on land where violence is likely because Arabs trespasses on land where Jews live. Their justification is that their claim on the land is valid and that Jews’ claims are not valid.
The Palestinian Authority has backing from the Obama administration, which always says that it is up to both sides — the Palestinian Authority and Israel — to determine borders. However, government grants over the decades, as with the OneVoice video “The Land Is Ours, Leave Us Be,” have been used to contradict the supposed policy that the “final borders” are not to be settled by unilateral actions but by negotiations.
By that definition, Israel also has taken “unilateral actions” every time a Jew builds a home in Judea and Samaria or in areas of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinian Authority.
The difference is that when Jews take action, the Obama administration complains it is an obstacle to peace; when Arabs take action, it is considered their right.
Against this background, the call for “non-violent resistance” is at best naïve.
Official Palestinian Authority encouragement and promotion of violence has been documented at least every week by The Jewish Press and other media, often based on research by the Palestinian Media Watch.
Al Monitor, a predominantly pro-Arab organization, wrote nearly a year ago:
Although major Palestinian nationalist and Islamist movements publicly support and endorse what they call the “popular resistance,” there is little evidence that this support is more than lip service….
Two other problems have prevented nonviolence from becoming the major force in Palestine….Leaders of the movement have been unable or unwilling to show the kind of discipline that Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. showed in keeping the movement totally nonviolent. This partial nonviolence [sic] that features throwing stones at Israeli troops — often at the end of a mass demonstration — not only results in a brutal Israeli crackdown, but more importantly, it weakens the stance of a nonviolent movement.
It added that the second problem that silences the nonviolent movement “has been its inability to involve Israeli peace activists” because of “the lack of clarity about cooperating with Israelis and the ready accusation of ‘normalization” with Israel.
The bold statement that throwing stones is only “partial” non-violent illustrates where the American-funded OneVoice campaign is headed, whether intentional or not.
Violence becomes “non-violence” simply by changing the definition of the term, just as The Jewish Press pointed out here that the White House defeats terror by re-defining it.
Below is the OneVoice video, funded by American taxpayers.