The Philadelphia Coalition for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel staged a creative protest outside the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Tree of Life fundraiser at Vie, 600 N Broad St., on Thursday, March 29th from 5pm-7pm. The gala honored David Cohen, the Executive Vice President of the Comcast Corporation and the chairman of the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.
Carrying signs reading “Land Theft is Not Charity,” about forty protesters, who included members of Philly BDS, students from both Temple Students for Justice in Palestine and Penn BDS, and other activists from the Philadelphia Palestine solidarity community chanted as part of a spirited picket of the event that included puppets and street theater. The protesters’ “Bulldozing homes, stealing land; it’s all part of the JNF plan!”, called attention to the past and present role of the Jewish National in the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians from Israel-Palestine. At issue is the fact that the JNF enjoys tax-exempt status as a charitable organization in the U.S.
Founded in 1901, the Jewish National Fund originally collected money from Jews throughout the world to “redeem the land of Israel” by purchasing land in historic Palestine. Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the JNF has raised tens of millions of dollars for planting JNF forests, many of which are built on top of former Palestinian Arab villages.
Penn BDS stands with Philly BDS and Temple SJP, stating “We denounce the actions of the Jewish National Fund, which has been an integral part of the strategy of the State of Israel to evict Palestinian families from their homes, destroy Palestinian and Bedouin villages and remove traces of the Palestinian people. The Jewish National Fund is a full participant in Israel’s system of apartheid by restricting the use of its land to exclusively Jewish settlers, and the JNF should not be allowed to hide behind its current status as a charitable and environmental organization. Land theft is not charity.”
Temple Students for Justice in Palestine add, “We deplore the JNF for ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their land since the organization’s inception. The organization humiliates Palestinians and ultimately supports the ruin of an entire people. Additionally the JNF upholds segregationist’s policies by favoring land ownership for Jewish settlers over the indigenous population!”
“Why are American taxpayers granting tax-exempt status to an organization whose expressed mission is in violation of U.S. foreign policy regarding Israeli settlement expansion and military occupation? Most conversations about peace in Israel-Palestine overlooks the facts on the ground as well as the role of the United States government in maintaining the status quo,” said Susan Landau, a Jewish member of Philly BDS. “The JNF wants to be thought of as an environmental organization, but works hand-in-hand with the Israeli government to keep the land available only to Jews.” The Negev Desert and the Galilee are two current focal points for JNF ‘greenwashing’—the use of environmentalist propaganda and projects to veil efforts in stripping Palestinians of their homes and land.
(Additional information about the Jewish National Fund can be found at www.stopthejnf.org, the website of the global Campaign to Stop the JNF.)
CONTACT: Susan Landau