An international campaign wants to stop a non-profit environmental organization that has been functioning for more than 100 years by purporting fallacies and anti-Israel propaganda.
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was established with the hope to help the birth of the State of Israel. JNF plants trees for forest development in Israel, creates parks, battles forest fires, is responsible for soil conservation, pioneers innovative solutions to help Israel's water supply, among other notable work.
The "Stop the JNF Campaign" alleges that the Jewish National Fund "was instrumental in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in the 1948 Nakba, and continues to play a central role in maintaining Israel's regime of apartheid." It calls for the revocation of JNF's charity and to isolate the group by breaking all ties with it.
The campaign posted an action alert on its website last Friday asking its readers not to support JNF's "Green Sunday" on Feb. 5. "Don't be taken in," the alert reads. "The JNF's tree planting is a cover for ethnic cleansing."
Despite its shrill and nonsensical premise, the "Stop the JNF Campaign" has garnered support from organizations across the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries around the world. It also has spread to American and Canadian college campuses.
Vilifying labels such as "ethnic cleansing" and "regime of apartheid" are used by anti-Israel activists to demonize the State of Israel. Hebrew University Professor Emeritus Gideon Shimoni has explained that the false equation between Israel and apartheid in South Africa is a "deceptive device [which] functions much like use of the term 'holocaust' to describe any and all human disasters. It obscures apartheid's constitutive core, racism, as well as its actual historical context, South Africa."
The false notion that Israel engaged in "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians cheapens actual cases of ethnic cleansing, including the Bosnian genocide committed by Bosnian Serbs, the ethnic cleansing of Armenians during World War I, Nazi Germany's persecutions and expulsions of Jews which culminated into the Holocaust, the Sudanese campaign against black ethnic groups in Darfur, among many other examples.
A look at the founders of the Stop the JNF Campaign helps explain its outrageous agenda. It was started by the Habitat International Coalition (HIC), the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), the Scottish Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC).
IJAN is a radical organization that advocates the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. The organization was a sponsor of last year's "Never Again For Anyone" tour across the U.S. and in Toronto, Canada, which featured speakers who equated Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to that of the Nazis' treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.
The Scottish Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) is a fringe anti-Israel organization that repeatedly uses the Holocaust to demonize Israel and has served as a platform for Holocaust deniers and Hamas supporters. The chairman of SPSC, Mick Napier, tried to justify a horrific terrorist attack in Israel by spewing lies about the school that was targeted and writing, "Palestinians continue to resist and we should be inspired by their courage, fortitude and endurance against an enemy that threatens them openly with a 'Holocaust'." In March 2008, a terrorist entered the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem and opened fire, killing eight students and wounding nine more. The massacre was praised by Hamas and supported by 84% of Palestinians, according to a poll taken shortly after.
BNC is the Palestinian coordinating body for the worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. BDS is a worldwide initiative to encourage companies, consumers, universities, cultural centers and more to boycott and divest from all Israeli interests and bodies. On college campuses, BDS often takes the form of student groups and professors pushing for universities to divest from companies that have holdings with Israel or do business with Israel.
The Stop the JNF Campaign is one initiative of the worldwide BDS campaign. Its launch last March was announced on the BDS website. BDS leaders, such as Omar Barghouti, single out Israel, apply double standards to the state, and often use the "apartheid" myth and false "ethnic cleansing" charge.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Bard criticized "the constant barrage of rhetorical demonization, double standards and delegitimization" of Israel as the "new anti-Semitism" on Monday during a conference in Israel. "Harnessing disparate anti- Semitic, anti-American and anti-Western ideologies, it targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, Israel, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world, and uses, perversely, the language of human rights to do so," he added. "We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is."
Last July, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd visited an Israeli-owned business in Melbourne after it was attacked by demonstrators. "I don't think in 21st-century Australia there is a place for the attempted boycott of a Jewish business," Rudd said. "I thought we had learned that from history," he added.
Unfortunately, the BDS campaign is gaining ground among youth in the United States. This weekend, the 2012 National BDS Conference is being held at the University of Pennsylvania. The conference is organized by PennBDS, a recognized student group at the University. The university is not sanctioning nor sponsoring the conference.
BDS tactics have not achieved many practical results, and seem more symbolic in nature. This holds true for the Stop the JNF Campaign. Just last week Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund held an international conference on Climate Change & Forest Fires in the Mediterranean Basin: Management & Risk Reduction. The conference drew approximately 150 participants including lecturers and guests from Jordan, Kosovo, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Canada and the U.S. Additionally, JNF maintains partnerships with government and professional organizations in the United States, Egypt and Jordan.
If planting trees has become an act of evil, it may be time to re-evaluate your thinking.