Sunday, October 10, 2010

Media Advisory: 36 Israeli and American Jewish Organizations Send Open Letter to JNF

Jewish Alliance for Change
P.O. Box 96503 #89647
Washington, D.C. 20090-6503
Contact: Doni Remba or

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 11, 2010

36 Israeli and American Jewish Organizations Send Open Letter to JNF
Call on JNF to end its complicity in the dispossession of the Negev Bedouin from their land
JNF must reconsider its development plans for the Negev and commit to truly sustainable development of the Negev for all of the region’s inhabitants, Jews and Arabs alike.

Washington, D.C. – Thirty-six Israeli and American Jewish organizations have sent an Open Letter today to the leadership of the Jewish National Fund as it convenes in Atlanta for its 10th Annual Conference.

The letter, addressed to JNF Chairman Ronald Lauder, President Stanley M. Chesley and CEO Russell Robinson, calls on JNF to end its complicity in the discriminatory policy of the Government of Israel and the Israel Land Administration (ILA) of destroying Bedouin villages in the Negev and dispossessing Israel’s Bedouin community of their land. This policy betrays Israel’s commitment to the values of equality and justice enshrined in its Declaration of Independence, to which the state is obligated by the international conventions it has signed.

The letter, which is available on at, asks that JNF

  • Stop forestation activities in areas of existing Bedouin villages as well as on lands for which Bedouin have made legal claims of ownership, pending final court decisions.
  • Fund projects for Israel’s Bedouin citizens and communities at levels that are proportional to the size of this population in the Negev—nearly 30%--recognizing the contribution of the Bedouin to the flourishing of the Negev.
  • Join the call of human rights organizations in Israel to allow the Bedouin to live on their traditional lands, as they have for many generations.
  • Reconsider its development plans for the Negev and commit to working toward truly sustainable development of the Negev for ALL its inhabitants, Jews and Arabs alike.

The Open Letter has been signed by a big tent of 28 ideologically diverse NGOs, human rights organizations and social movements from the Negev and Israel and 8 American Jewish organizations:

From Israel:
■ Al-Arakib Village Committee ■ Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality ■ Rabbis for Human Rights, Israel ■ Shatil – Leading Social Change, An Initiative of the New Israel Fund ■ The Regional Council of Unrecognized Bedouin Villages ■ Physicians for Human Rights – Israel ■ Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel ■ The Association for Support and Defense of Bedouin Rights in Israel ■ Hit’habrut-Tarabut – Arab-Jewish Movement for Social and Political Change ■ AJEEC – Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development ■ The Local Committee – Alsira Village ■ Al-Arakib People’s Committee ■ Women’s Coalition for Peace ■ Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel ■ Sikkuy – The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel ■ Recognition Forum ■ Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights ■ Laqiya Womens’ Association ■ Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Campaign ■ Gush Shalom ■ The Israeli Committee Against House Demolition ■ Social TV ■ Alternative Information Center ■ Fighters for Peace ■ Public Committee Against Torture in Israel ■ New Profile – Movement for the Civil-ization of Israel Society ■ Yesh Gvul ■ Amnesty International – Israel Section

From the US:
■ Jewish Alliance for Change ■ Rabbis for Human Rights-North America ■ Meretz USA ■ Shalom Center ■ Jewish Voice for Peace ■ The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring ■ Tikkun Community ■ Network of Spiritual Progressives

JNF is engaged in intensive forestation and development in the Negev designed to ensure a Jewish majority in the region. To achieve this, it plants trees on large tracts of land containing Bedouin villages, many with ongoing legal claims of ownership, requiring massive dispossession of Arab Bedouin from their lands in order to open up space for the Jewish population. The destruction of the entire villages of Al-Arakib and Twail Abu Jarwal and the expulsion of hundreds of men, women and children to make way for JNF forests are but a few of many examples.

JNF has filed with Israel’s Interior Ministry a publicly available plan for forestation which completely ignores the existence of “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in areas it intends to blanket with trees. Detailed objections to the JNF plan have been submitted to Israel’s Ministry of Interior by Israeli human rights organizations.

JNF Petition Campaign: The Open Letter to the JNF is being launched today by the 36 organizations as a public petition campaign at at the following location online: Each time the letter is signed online, it is emailed to JNF leaders Ronald Lauder, Stanley M. Chesley and Russell Robinson. A related petition campaign, started in August by JAFC and 7 other Jewish organizations, gained the endorsement of more than 50 prominent American Jews, including rabbis, artists, academics and organizational leaders, calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the demolition of unrecognized Bedouin villages in Israel and to negotiate a just solution to the plight of Israel’s Bedouin Palestinian Arab citizens in the Negev. That petition drive now has nearly 4,000 signatories and growing.

The American Jewish petition expresses solidarity with an Israeli petition, signed by over 3,500 citizens of Israel and others, sponsored by the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Economic Development (NISPED), an Israeli nonprofit in Beer Sheva which promotes Arab-Jewish equality and empowerment for the Arab citizens of Israel, particularly the Arab Bedouin community in the Negev. That petition is hosted by at and emailed to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren each time it is signed.

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