Israeli and American Jewish Groups Condemn Israeli Government and JNF for 7th Demolition of Negev Bedouin Village of Al-Arakib.
November 23, 2010—A large Israeli police force, accompanied by bulldozers from the Israel Land Administration, demolished the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib yesterday, destroying the temporary homes constructed by the village residents since the previous demolition. With the help of volunteers, the residents have already begun the reconstruction of the village, and have vowed to keep rebuilding until the Israeli government recognizes their rights to their land.
We, a coalition of Israeli and American Jewish organizations, condemn the Israeli government’s continued demolition of Bedouin villages in the Negev and the expulsion of their residents. We condemn the Jewish National Fund for its complicity in displacing Bedouin citizens of Israel from their homes and land to make way for forests and new Jewish-only communities in their place. The Bedouin have no comparable opportunities to create new agricultural or livable communities. They are being forced to leave their homes, lands and way of life for overcrowded urban centers plagued by crime, unemployment and despair.
We call on the Israeli government, with the support of the JNF in Israel (KKL) and JNF-US, to negotiate a just and mutually agreeable solution to the plight of the 190,000 Negev Bedouin, Israel’s poorest and most disadvantaged minority – half of whom live in “unrecognized villages” without electricity, running water, sewage disposal, schools or health clinics, and with the constant fear of demolition and expulsion.
JNF’s New Bulldozer Camp Near Al-Arakib for Planting the “God-TV Forest” from Evangelical Christian donations: JNF-KKL last week established a large new bulldozer camp just one kilometer from the village of Al-Arakib, and is planting one million trees in Israel including many near the village of Al-Arakib as part of the “God-TV Forest.” JNF has accepted substantial donations from an evangelical Christian ministry called God-TV, who claim to have received “instructions from God…to prepare the land for the return of my Son…[to] plant a million trees.” (See their video on http://www.god.tv/excavation at minute 21:00).
The JNF, instead of promoting civic equality for all Israelis – the basis for trust and peaceful coexistence – is now supporting (and being supported by) an evangelical ministry that wishes to utilize Israel and the planting of trees to bring about the “Second Coming of Christ.”
Photos of the God-TV forest signage and the new bulldozer camp are available at http://bit.ly/9CL8b6
We believe in an Israel where Jews live in partnership and equality with their Bedouin and other Arab and Palestinian neighbors. The Israel of the JNF, the Israel Land Administration and the Israeli Government is one where Bedouin Arabs are displaced and discriminated against so that forests funded by Jews and Evangelical Christians and exclusively Jewish communities can be built, preventing Bedouin Israelis from ever returning to their land, forcing them to live in poverty and neglect.
A Call for Open Discourse with the JNF: JNF has continued to side-step the concerns we have raised and has responded only with misdirection and misinformation. We again issue this call to JNF for open and honest public discourse on these issues.
We call on the Jewish National Fund to rededicate itself to the ideal enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence of equal development for all of Israel’s citizens, regardless of religion, nationality or gender, by:
- Publicly stating to the Israeli government that it will stop funding or participating in the forestation or development of any area that is the site of an existing or demolished Bedouin village.
- Stopping all activities on 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.
- Submitting 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.
- Funding 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.
- Joining with human rights organizations in Israel to allow the Bedouin to live on their traditional lands, as they have for many generations.
- These facts, among others, establish JNF’s complicity:
- JNF-Israel (known as JNF-KKL), the body entrusted exclusively with forestation throughout Israel’s territory, plays a major role in deciding where forests are planted.
- JNF-KKL continues to push through a massive forestation plan intended to double the area of the Destiny Hills forest project from 14,000 to 28,000 dunams. Several Bedouin communities in this area are slated to disappear along with 11,000 dunams of agricultural land.
- JNF-USA, together with JNF-Israel, the Or Movement, Ayalim and the Government of Israel, are funding and implementing a plan for developing the Negev to bring 250,000 Jews there, creating Jewish-only communities and forests in place of Bedouin villages.
- In 2009, the Or settlement movement was the third largest recipient of funds from JNF-US.
Until it takes a stand against the demolitions and expulsion of Bedouin citizens, and aligns its forestation and development practices with human rights and the universal values enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, JNF cannot begin to remove the moral stain of complicity in such acts.
■ Al-Arakib Village Committee ■ Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality ■ Rabbis for Human Rights ■ Shatil – Leading Social Change, An Initiative of the New Israel Fund ■ Hit’habrut-Tarabut – Arab-Jewish Movement for Social and Political Change ■ Al-Arakib People’s Committee ■ Sikkuy – The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel ■ Association for Civil Rights in Israel ■ Recognition Forum
From the US:
■ Jewish Alliance for Change ■ Rabbis for Human Rights-North America ■ Meretz USA ■ Jewish Voice for Peace ■ The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring ■ Tikkun Community ■ Network of Spiritual Progressives
Check http://bedouinjewishjustice.blogspot.com/ for updates to the list of organizations endorsing this statement.