JNF, the Jewish National Fund, an international Zionist charity that today holds semi-governmental authority in Israel. Among the very earliest of Zionist entities, it was founded in 1901 for the purpose of buying and developing land for Jewish settlement in Ottoman-Turkish (later British Mandate) Palestine. For many decades the JNF collected donations, especially from European and North American Jews, in its small, iconic Blue Boxes, telling donors their money would help to “make the desert bloom”.
It is well known that the founders of the young State of Israel were heavily invested, through archaeology, in uncovering the traces of the country’s ancient civilizations. What is not so well known is that, at the same time, they were also busy covering up the remnants of its recent history. In short, the 1950s and ’60s saw wide swaths of the country planted in JNF pine forests, partly in an attempt to enforce and conceal war crimes carried out in the founding of the state.
Many people would be surprised to know that one of Israel’s major national parks, Sepphoris/Tzippori — along with the adjacent Israeli moshav of the same name and the surrounding forested tracts — represents just such a place: Until 1948 it was the thriving Arab-Palestinian town of Saffuriya, (and here), home to some 5,000 souls.
In the featured VIDEO, our host is Jonathan Cook, the UK-born, Nazareth-based independent journalist, author and guide. Cook stands just outside the national park’s fenced boundary and describes to a group what once existed here, and in hundreds of places just like it, and how seemingly innocent afforestation projects both cover the traces of people’s former life here and help insure they can never reclaim what was lost.
Be advised: Cook unapologetically uses the term “war crime” for the intentional expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Arab-Palestinians in the course of the 1948 War, for Israel’s refusal to repatriate the refugees after the hostilities had ceased, the systematic destruction of 500-plus of their former towns and villages, and the state-sponsored theft of the resultant “absentee” lands. Really, in the light of international humanitarian law– the Geneva Conventions, there is simply nothing else to call such things. Watch and learn…
Explore further — Related posts by Jonathan Cook:
DISCOVER WHY a former Dutch diplomat feels the Israelis, and particularly the JNF, cynically exploited his family’s name and reputation. At issue is their planting of a forest back in the 1960s in honor of his father, one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” who died at the hands of the Nazis in 1944 after helping many Dutch Jews escape the Holocaust. In a story that spans more than 70 years, Erik Ader began to discover nearly a decade ago the truth about the now-forested tract. His shock has led both to expressions of outrage and, now, to Ader’s symbolic acts of apology and solidarity. These include include the planting of an equal number of trees — olives, not pines — in a small Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank, one that has been the target of repeated attacks from present-day Israeli settlers. Go HERE…
ANOTHER POST tells the story of Canada Park, a JNF-forested area built illegally by the State of Israel on land occupied by them in 1967– and on the ruins of three Palestinian villages which were forcibly depopulated and then destroyed in the immediate wake of that war. Vindictive and thoroughly reprehensible, this episode stands as a reminder, if one were needed, that the Nakba, the Palestinian “catastrophe”, did not end in 1948. I feel some small connection to Canada Park, and to its dark secrets, since it’s a place I myself have hiked and explored. Today, few people travelling between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on busy Road 1 would realize — and even fewer would care, I suppose — that the area around Latrun Junction which they pass through is in fact Occupied Territory from 1967, and that a shameful chapter of Israeli history was played out very nearby.