The JNF is Planting Trees Over Ashes, Again

I was an antiapartheid activist who supported Israel. I grew up learning about the holocaust – how our great uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents were killed by antisemites and how every non-Jew has the potential to be an antisemite. I learned that ‘the Arabs’ are antisemites and also want to destroy us. I believed all of this until I found out the story we were told growing up was a fabrication to foster “love of Israel”.

In this version of history, Jews came to Palestine, a land without a people, and the UN gave them the land because they had nowhere else to go and had just suffered a holocaust. Then “the Arabs” tried to throw us out, because they are also antisemitic and Jew hater. This includes the Arabs in Israel and all the surrounding nations. The Jews were just defending themselves. Arab leaders called villagers to leave until the war had been won and the Jews were driven away from the land, then they can return. These were actual stories I believed and this is probably the narrative that most Jews who support Israel believe today. I believed this narrative until I found out the story we were told growing up was a fabrication to foster “love of Israel”.

It was only when I read the truth from writers like Professor Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe I saw the absurdity of this narrative.

Today, the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and Jewish National Find (JNF) are trying to capitalize on those lies told to me and many other Jewish South Africans by building an ‘anti-aparthied park’ called Gan Siyabonga in Tel Mond. Michael Kransdorff, chairman of the Jewish National Fund in South Africa, who is championing the garden commented, “At a time when some are trying to divide South Africa and Israel for their own sectarian interests, this garden will be a living testament to the bond between the two peoples in the struggle for freedom.”

Tel Mond is part of the Palestinian land of Miske. Zochrot, an NGO that has been working since 2002 for exposing and disseminating historical information about the Palestinian Nakba in Hebrew, with a view to promote accountability for the Nakba among the Jewish pubic of Israel and the implementation of the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees, undertook a memorial tour to Miske in 2003. As they recount:

Some of the family members were among those expelled from the village, and they talk to the younger generation about the history of Miske, about the tragedy of the expulsion in 1948 by Jewish forces, and about their longing for the past which may one day return. It seems that the stories and the aspirations are no less important to the second, the third, and even the fourth generation of the displaced.

The place is almost completely destroyed. The remains of the village that are left are the structure of the school (two large stone structures with a few windows, sooty and abandoned), the cemetery, and an exposed, shattered structure of the old mosque.

The uprooted families say: ‘The state of Israel, after destroying the village and its structures, planted in their place, via the Jewish National Fund, a forest of trees in order to blur the footprints that cry out from the past, and to cover up the crime and the truth.’ ‘Zionist camouflage to cover up the ruins of the village,’ as one of the refugees said.

A stranger coming upon this place without previous knowledge, could not know what had been cruelly destroyed.

The story of Miske is just one of the numerous examples of villages destroyed by the IDF and erased by the JNF, who own over 80% of the land in Israel and exclusively allow jews to live on their land.

Ben Gurion, the national founder of the state of Israel and a person I was taught to honour, stated that the demographics of Palestine had to be changed in order for Zionists to maintain power. Armed Jews systematically terrorized Palestinian villages, sometimes killing hundreds of people; sometimes just firing bullets over villages’ heads, driving people out of their homes. Hundreds of thousands of people were driven from their homes.

The JNF identified which villages needed to be vacated to create a Jewish homeland, to change the demographics of the land. Building an ‘anti-apartheid’ garden is simply their latest ploy in erasing a history of violent displacement.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven away, some literally into the sea!

Yet the narrative I was given was that we were the victims, that these armed military forces were the ones that needed protection.

My Israeli cousin says “Zionism is the liberation movement of the Jewish people who have been oppressed and murdered for centuries. As for the poor Palestinians: recall that in 1948 Israel accepted partition of the country. The Palestinians tried to throw us to the sea. Such mistakes come with a cost. To this day the Palestinians have NEVER put forward a plan under which they will accept a Jewish State next to them.”

But accepting a Jewish state means relinquishing their home land. In our mind, this is tantamount to saying that black people during apartheid should have been happy living in Orania.

Israel has proceeded to build an Apartheid state, where the same government makes and implements laws for different people based on religion in every region of historical Palestine. Within the 48 borders, a Christian or Muslim has different rights (and lesser rights) than a Jew.

The Israel Land Authority is dominated by JNF whose constitution says only Jews can use the land they control, which is 97% of Israel. There are more than 30 discriminatory laws which privilege jews over any other person living in Israel occupied Palestine.

A Jew has never been evicted from their home, whereas tens of thousands of people from other religions have been forcibly removed, as Israel continues to engineer the demographics to form a Jewish land. 

Where Israel rules by military law, a Palestinian falls under military laws whereas a Jew is privileged with civil Israeli law. More than 800 000 adult males out of 2,4 million have been jailed under military law – that sounds so familiar to South Africa. Military law allows administrative detention of men, women and children, without access to lawyers or even the reason why you are being detained. Worse than South Africa. 

Yet Jews still see themselves as being under siege and as though they are acting in “self defense”, jews are the victims of “arabs” who hate us.

It is unconscionable that any human rights activist can support the Israeli state! Israel violates international human rights laws all the time, Israel violates International law generally with complete impunity. 

Israeli’s are brought up racists, as my cousin says “just examine what Muslims have recently been doing to each other – Syria, Iraq, Libia, Yemen. Does anyone really believe they will treat the infidel jews better if they could?”. 

As part of their grade 11 curriculum, Jewish children are taken to the concentration camps showing how everybody hates jews and this is why “arabs” have to be oppressed in Palestine. This empowers an 18 year old to prevent the infirm from going to hospital and to behave inhumanly to “the other”.

No self respecting person who rejects racism (not just antisemistism), who sees Israel as the apartheid, racist, oppressive state it is, can “love Israel”. My Judaism says that every human is precious, not just Jews, I cannot subscribe to a supremacist view of humanity.

No JNF! No Zionist Federation!