This is great news. First there was a letter in The Guardian calling on Ed Miliband to distance himself from the ethnic cleansers of the Jewish National Fund. Then there was a letter from the JNF completely misrepresenting what the JNF exists for. Now there are two letters in The Guardian exposing the JNF's denial. Now read on:
If diplomats are virtuous men sent abroad to lie for their country (Henry Wotton), what is Samuel Hayek of the Jewish National Fund's excuse (Letters, 16 October)? The JNF's focus, from the day it was established, was to purchase land for Jewish settlers and to alienate it from the Arab peasants who tilled the land. When Hayek writes that the JNF's work "is not based on any political or religious affiliation", he is either being disingenuous or he has not read the JNF's own entry on the Charity Commission website, which states that its objects include the "such charitable purposes as benefit persons of Jewish religion, race or origin".
When the supreme court ruled in the Ka'adan case that the Israeli Lands Authority (and so the JNF) could not refuse to lease land to non-Jews, the JNF lobbied for a new law, which passed its first reading by four to one in the Knesset in 2007. The bill included a clause stating that "the leasing of JNF lands for the purpose of settling Jews will not be seen as unacceptable discrimination".
Last week the "unrecognised" Bedouin village (Jewish villages are never unrecognised) of Arakib in the Negev was demolished for the seventh time in order that the JNF could begin planting its forests. This is not sustainable development but colonial expansion at the expense of the indigenous populaton. If Hayek doesn't believe the JNF's behaviour is racist, what would he say about a British National Fund that refused to rent or lease its land to British Jews?
• Samuel Hayek portrays the Jewish National Fund as humanitarian and politically neutral, supporting incontestably worthwhile projects such as planting trees to develop the environment of Israel. It's true that millions of trees were planted by the JNF in Israel in the 1950s and 1960s using donations from diaspora Jews. The narrative promoted by the JNF was that a barren, rocky land was being turned into a green oasis. As a child in the 1950s, I eagerly contributed to this project, donating my weekly "charity money" to JNF-sponsored fundraising activities at my synagogue school. I have certificates to show that trees were planted in Israel in my name. But when I visited Israel years later, I realised the darker purpose of the massive tree-planting project. I found many wooded parks planted on the sites of Arab villages razed to the ground by Jewish militias in 1947-48.
Mr Hayek is right: JNF-sponsored tree-planting transformed the landscape ecologically. I now know that the programme of tree-planting was used to transform the landscape in a more political and historical sense as well, to render invisible any trace of the previous inhabitants. Mr Hayek's claim that the JNF supports the population of Israel, whatever their background, represents (to use his own words) "a distortion of the truth on the grandest of scales".
Dr Barry Stierer
Here's the earlier post when the original letter was published.