“Ethnic cleansing is a crime – justice now in Palestine!” Chanting with great energy and exuberance, the Philadelphia Coalition for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel (Philly BDS) was once again a colorful and vocal presence in protest at the annual local fundraiser for The Jewish National Fund.
This year’s JNF fundraiser, “March Madness Poker Tournament” was held in Manayunk on Thursday, March 21. Under the banner “STOP THE JNF’s APARTHEID ROYALE,” members of Philly BDS and allies costumed themselves as playing cards bearing the words “Stop the JNF!” Carrying signs reinforcing their message “Land Theft is not Charity,” protesters positioned themselves strategically on both sides of the driveway entrance to the event. Informational postcards and conversation were available to attendees and passers-by.
Each year, the JNF raises over $60 million in the United States alone. The demonstration aimed to call attention to the human rights abuses against Palestinians by the Jewish National Fund and to encourage activists to work to revoke its tax-exempt charitable status.
Founded in 1901 for the purpose of acquiring land in Palestine for Jewish settlement, the JNF has provided the infrastructure for the historic and ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The organization’s mandate is the acquisition of land and property rights for the exclusive use of Jews and its charter stipulates that only Jews can buy or lease its land. After 1948, the JNF was re-branded as an environmental organization focused on forestation. One of its major projects was to plant forests over Palestinian villages destroyed in the Nakba, in an attempt to erase any sign of a Palestinian presence in the land. Now, the JNF is the main driver of Israel’s “Greenwashing” campaign to disguise its crimes as progressive environmentalist policies. The JNF claims to be working in the interests of Bedouin living in the Negev, when in fact it works to displace and dispossess them, demolishing their villages and appropriating the land for state forestation projects.
The protest by Philly BDS and its allies contributes to the international “Stop the JNF” campaign that has been gaining ground in the UK, Europe and elsewhere. It also connects directly to Philly BDS’s campaign to boycott Tribe Hummus, which is owned by Osem, a company whose profits contribute to the JNF.