The Jewish National Fund (JNF) Righteous Gentiles Forest and The Willy Brandt Wald (zum 70. Geburtstag)
Introduction, a Sort of an Apology and a Methodological Comment Regarding the Use of Quotation Marks
I began researching the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Righteous Gentiles Forest and the Willy Brandt Wald (zum 70. Geburtstag) and the destroyed Palestinian Arab Village of Shajara, the Golani Junction, Lower Galilee in preparation for my lecture on the JNF on 8 June 2004 at the Oekumenische Zentrum Stuttgart, sponsored by Kulturamt der Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart and the Arabischer Kulturverein Stuttgart. Germany, and supported by the generous hospitality of Samieh Jabbarin and the outstanding assistance of Katharina Buhler.
I have been researching the JNF for some two decades now, beginning with the research that led to the publication of the only English language independent critical history of the JNF by Walter Lehn, author, and myself, associate author, The Jewish national Fund (Kegan Paul International, London, 1988) and culminating in my Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within (Zed Books, London 2003). .
Having identified the JNF as a central instrument in rationalizing and implementing Israeli settler colonial state apartheid land tenure policies, and following the publication of my Apartheid Israel, I embarked upon a sustained series of lecture tours, beginning 2002, with the view to advance informed understanding JNF activities, notably afforestation activities, lifting the veil that enable the JNF, a central Israeli apartheid instrument, to cover its complicity with the war crimes and the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Israeli army in the course of and in the wake of the 1948-49; project itself in the West as a charitable organization, committed to sustainable development and the defence of the environment; and as such benefit from a tax exempt status in all member states of the UN where it has fundraising activities.
This present study is the third case study submitted in the course of the lecture tours undertaken since 2002, the first being "Eyewitness Report: Visit to the South African Forest, Golani Junction, Planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the Friends of the JNF, and the Women's Zionist Organization of South Africa to Cover-Up the Remains of the 1948 Destroyed Palestinian Arab Village of Lubya", 2 March 2002, submitted to the Media Review Network, Laudium and Pretoria, South Africa, and the second being "Research Report on the Subject of the British Park Funded by the Jewish national Fund of the UK", 24 & 25 May 2004, submitted to the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland, UK. .
Since I was invited to present my lecture in Stuttgart, Germany, I thought it befitting to anchor my presentation in a JNF activity that was related to Germany. A brief telephone enquiry to the JNF Head Offices in Jerusalem identified the Willy Brandt Forest, incorporated into the Righteous Gentiles Forest at the Golani Junction, Lower Galilee, as such an activity. .
Critical discussion of the question of Palestine and Israeli apartheid cannot be complete without reference to the Nazi occupation of Europe and the holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi Government upon Jewish communities, Roma communities, homosexual communities, mentally challenged communities and untold others, if only because it has been the practice of all official instruments of the Government of the State of Israel and the World Zionist organization to attempt suppress such critical discussion in the West by aiming to intellectually terrorize interlocutors claiming that since "We" did not mass annihilate six million Palestinians in gas chambers in Israel, whereas "You" mass annihilated six million Jews in Europe "You" have no right to voice criticism against Israel, and "You" better shut up. .
Since this research refers to the Righteous Gentiles Forest and the Willy Brandt Wald, both intimately associated with resistance to Nazism, it is imperative to establish at the outset clearly and emphatically a fundamental principle that ought to inform all aspects of human endeavour: There is no "collective guilt"; there is nothing such as "collective guild"; any talk of "collective guilt" is quatsch. .
It is because there is no collective guilt that "collective punishment" is so fundamentally repugnant morally and illegal juridically. .
Just as I, a Jewish individual, born in Jerusalem in 1943 and a citizen of the State of Israel, am not guilty for any such war crimes and crimes against humanity as have been perpetrated by the Governments of the State of Israel against the Palestinian Arab people, the indigenous people of Palestine, so an offspring born in an illegal Zionist settlement (only for Jews) in the post 1967 Israeli occupied territories is not guilty of any such crimes that may have been perpetrated by his or her parents against the said indigenous people of Palestine, and an offspring of a Nazi official is not guilty of any such crimes as may have been perpetrated by his or her parent in the years of the Nazi occupation of Europe. Only the individuals in question may be guilty. Their children and grand children are born innocent. There is no collective guilt. .
I as a citizen of the State of Israel and as a Jew am not collectively guilty for the Palestinian Nakba, the terrorization, ethnic cleansing and forcible expulsion of the majority of the indigenous people of the country of Palestine, the Palestinian Arab people, by the Israeli army under the cover of the 1948-49 war and the leveling the localities of their residence to the ground, some 400 villages, urban quarters and near entire cities in all; neither for the Palestinian Naksa, the less successful (from a political Zionist point of view) terrorization, ethnic cleansing and forcible expulsion perpetrated by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the course of the 1967 war resulting in the additional expulsion of some 300,000 of the indigenous Palestinian Arab population; nor for the bantustanization of Palestine and the construction of the criminal "Apartheid Wall."
And citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany, or of any other member state of the European Union or members of any Christian or other church, synagogue or mosque are not collective guilty as Germans, Europeans or Christians, Jews or Muslims for the holocausts perpetrated under the Nazi regime and the Nazi occupation of Europe. There is no collective guilt. .
But since there is a government, namely, the Government of the State of Israel, which alleges that it acts not only in the name of all citizens of the State of Israel, but additionally in the name of all Jews everywhere; and since this particular Government, as indeed all previous Israeli governments, have been perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly my name both as a citizen of the State of Israel and as a Jew - I have a responsibility, as do all citizens of the State of Israel and all Jews, to mobilize first and shout loudest: "War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity -Not in My Name". .
And since the said Government claims that citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany, or of any other member state of the European Union or members of any Christian or other church are not collective guilty as Germans, Europeans or Christians are "collectively guilty" for the holocausts perpetrated under the Nazi regime and the Nazi occupation of Europe, and, therefore, have "no right" to raise their voice in criticism and protest against Israel's occupation policies, not to speak of Israeli apartheid or the war crimes of the Palestinian Naksa and the crimes against humanity of the Palestinian Nakba - citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany, as do all citizens of all other member state of the European Union or members of any Christian or other church, have a responsibility to mobilize first and shout loudest: "Veiling of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity - Not in My Name" .
It is in this context that I owe the officials at the JNF Afforestation Division, Golani Centre, Lower Galilee and Southern Golan Regional Office a sort of an apology, in that given my first loyalty to the values of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, notably, anti-apartheid, and the defence of the rights of the victimized and stateless 1948 Palestine refugees to return and to the titles to their properties inside the State of Israel - I found myself negotiating their racist "innocence" in terms similar, I believe, to the kind of narrative resorted to by righteous gentiles whose first loyalty was to universal values and consequently to the defence of victimized Jews under Nazi occupation. In other words, in the face of the said officials, I did, paraphrasing George Mikes' epigram, "hardly ever lie, but not dream of telling the truth." (How To Be an Alien, 1966:16) .
Not that there are death camps in the territories occupied by the Israeli army in the course of the 1948-49 war beyond the boundaries allocated to the "Jewish state" by the UN General Assembly Resolution 181(II) recommending the partition of Palestine with economic union and the internationalization of the City of Jerusalem as corpus separatum under UN administration, or in the territories occupied by the Israeli army in the course of the 1967 war. Nor is there smoke curling up out of the chimneys of crematoria in the Israeli occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. But death camps and mass annihilation in gas chambers are not the only crimes against humanity as defined in international law, nor are they the only criminal instrument known to perpetrate genocide. As former MP and former Minister Shulamit Aloni pointed out "there is no single fixed method for murder and not even for genocide." ("We do not have gas chambers and crematoria, but there is no one fixed method for genocide." Haaretz, 6 March 2003) .
It cannot be sufficiently emphasized that the reparations, compensations and restitutions agreements of 1952 between the Federal Government of Germany and the Government of the State of Israel referred quite properly to material damages and other injuries suffered by the Jewish survivors of the Nazi occupation of Europe not to lives slaughtered. In this regard, the sufferings of the Palestinian Arab victims of the 1948-49 war and successive Israeli-Arab wars and subsequent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are indeed comparable to the sufferings of the survivors of the Nazi occupation of Europe.
The reader will observe the terms "Jew", "Jews" or "Jewish" as well as "land of Israel" are not infrequently placed in quotes. The reasoning informing this procedure is as follows:
This writer adheres to the principle of separation of religion from the state, and is grateful to the American revolution of 1775 and the French revolution of 1789 for introducing this principle as a normative political frame of reference. Taking this principle as point of departure, it is essential, in the view of this writer, to maintain a clear distinction between the idea of Judaism as a confessional statement (which aught to remain strictly within the private sphere, and, like sexual orientation and gender preferences, not the subject of legislation or other forms of state intervention) on the one part, and Zionism as a political programme (a negative political programme, an apartheid programme) on the second part. The political Zionist idea of a "Jewish state" obfuscates this distinction. Wedding the Judaism to the political Zionist programme can only result in the prostitution of Judaism as a confessional statement, pronounced by the individual within his or her private sphere, regulated and funded by individual choice, and free from state intervention. Likewise with regard to the term "land of Israel." Thus, where terms related to "Judaism" or the "land of Israel" appears in a political Zionist context they are placed inside quotes to signify impropriety. I apply the same procedure with reference to the term "White" in the context of South African apartheid.
Phrases in square brackets represent comments added by this writer.
The Righteous Gentiles Forest and the Willy Brand Wald zum 70. Geburtstag
The Willy Brandt Wald zum 70s Geburtstag represents a section of the forest planted by the JNF in commemoration of the Righteous Gentiles, namely non-Jews who took risks, and often risked their lives and the welfare of their families, in order to save Jews from the persecution and death in the hands of the Nazi authorities and their collaborators. Next to the Willy Brandt stone memorial there are stone memorials for the Danish Resistance Fighters and Queen Beatrix of Holland (see photographs below).
As was explained to me by the official with the JNF Afforestation Division, Golani Centre, who bewailed the fact that "Jews" represent a demographic minority in the lower Galilee [the Palestinian Nakba notwithstanding], the marble plaques of the Queen Beatrix of Holland have been removed from the memorial stone in the JNF forest dedicated to her name and stored in the safety of the Golani Centre depo to protect it from the "vandalism" of the neighbouring Palestinian Arab population, citizens of the State of Israel, resident in the surrounding villages. Since I had contacted the said Golani Centre in advanced and expressed specific interest in the Willy Brandt Forest, explaining that I need to visit the site in advance of a lecture in Stuttgart, the conscienteous official fitted the Willy Bradt marble plaque back into its designated niche in the Willy Brand memorial stone for me to photograph, whereupon it was returned to the safety of the Golani Centre depo.
More on alleged Palestinian "vandalism" below.
In addition to housing the Lower Galilee and Southern Golan Regional offices of the JNF Afforestation Division, the compound of the Golani Center also shelters the commemoration walls, fitted with plaques carrying the names of the many donors to the planting of the Righteous Gentiles Forest.
The JNF Afforestation Division, Golani Centre, Lower Galilee and Southern Golan Regional Offices
Commemoration walls, fitted with plaques carrying the names of the many donors to the planting of the Righteous Gentiles Forest.
The Jewish National Fund
Let us first consider what the JNF (caretaker of the "land of Israel", on behalf of its owners "Jewish People" everywhere) has to say for itself regarding its activities in Israel, specifically with reference to ecology and the protection of ecosystems. .
According to the JNF official website, the JNF has planted more than 240 million trees since 1901 to protect the land, green the landscape and preserve vital ecosystems. Through the generosity of donors [like you?], JNF continues this effort, planting seedlings, maintaining forest health, combating desertification, protecting watersheds and managing water flow.
The JNF further claims that today the JNF and its partners must grapple with the challenge of balancing the phenomenal growth and development Israel has experienced in the last decade with the maintenance of an ecologically sound environment. Indeed, ecological activities in recent years have been marked by significant growth as JNF claims to have become increasingly responsive to the rapidly evolving needs of the country: new water resources and land management, alternative techniques for utilizing brackish and flood water sources, soil conservation issues and river restoration.
The JNF, allegedly historically committed to strengthening the ties between man and land, recently led successful efforts to ensure the legislative protection of designated areas and forests.
With the advances of man and technology on the environment, JNF's assumed role as guardian of the land becomes ever more critical. (Based on http://www.jnf.org/site/PageServer)
As to forestry, the JNF suggests that Israel is the only country in the world that will enter the 21st century with a net gain in numbers of trees. JNF has planted over 220 million saplings, providing luscious belts of green covering more than 200,000 acres. JNF national forest development work claims to balance population needs with limited forest "supply." While the forests of Israel belong to the people [i. e., "Jewish people"], the JNF ensures their environmental soundness while promoting optimal use.
The JNF website additionally suggests that one can purchase trees and help maintain Israel's green spaces through their On-Line Tree Planting Center (Click here) and recommends "Despite Impossible Odds - Jewish National Fund Converts Arid Israeli Desert to Thriving Forest", an article by Claire Adler, Special Correspondent, for further reading .
As to fire prevention and safety. the JNF claims to battle approximately 1,000 forest fires every year during the five fire-prone months, and alleges that although half are caused by negligence, the others are attributable to arson and hostile actions [namely, by Palestinians], which have increased since 1987. Yet, the JNF claims that with a commitment to research, equipment and training, JNF is making real progress in minimizing loss.
And as to reclaiming the land and soil conservation, the JNF prides itself that over the years it has reclaimed more than one quarter of a million acres of land, transforming a barren landscape into verdant farmlands, forests and viable communities. JNF activities today center around subterranean drainage of lands and anti-desertification activities. In Israel, JNF claims that it is the only body with responsibility for soil conservation. A founding member of the International Arid Lands Consortium, JNF has put Israel in a global leadership position on soil conservation. Current activities include limiting the devastation of further erosion in the Negev and efforts to preserve soil quality in the inland valley areas. (Based on http://www.jnf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Forestry_and_Ecology)
To concretize the prospective supporter's commitment to the JNF and its activities in Israel, the JNF has an interactive programme, an online E-Z Tree center, offering the prospective supporter an opportunity to give the gift that keeps on growing, namely, sponsor the planting of a tree or trees in any one the JNF forests. The prospective supporter is cautioned, however, that in the event he or she would want to use their E-Z Tree account and choose to laminate their certificate and/or choose special shipping options, they will not be able to perform this transaction online, and must call 800- 542-TREE to place their complete order.
Planting a tree in Israel, claims the JNF, is the perfect way to show the prospective supporter's care. He or she can plant trees for many different reasons and help green the "land of Israel" while sending a special gift to a friend or loved one. For each order, a beautiful certificate of one's choice is mailed to the recipient with one's own personal message. Supporters are invited to plant for all of these occasions: Birth, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, graduation, wedding, birthday, get-well wish, wedding or in memory of someone special. Over the last 100 years, JNF claims to have planted over 240 million trees in the "land of Israel".
The one reason for planting a JNF tree which the official JNF website above fails to mention is veiling and covering up war crimes and crimes against humanity. The bulk of JNF forests are planted over the ruins of Palestinian Arab villages ethnically cleansed by the Israeli army in the course of and in the wake of the 1948-49 war, destroyed and near completely leveled down and on their lands. Prior to the protecting the land, greening the landscape and preserving vital ecosystems; and previous to reclaimed more than one quarter of a million acres of land, transforming a barren landscape into verdant farmlands, forests and viable communities - the land had to be ethnically cleansed of the bulk of its indigenous Palestinian Arab population, terrorized to flee and forcibly expelled by the Israeli army under the cover of the 1948-49 war, their rural and urban localities, some 400 villages, urban quarters and near entire cities in all, leveled and razed to the ground.
Thus, the JNF is an accomplice to these war crimes and crimes against humanity. The JNF has been able to project itself as a charitable organization committed to the protection of the environment and sustainable development, and gain a tax exempt status with most member states of the UN because it has been successful in veiling and covering up its criminal complicity.
The evidence suggests that the JNF is not a charitable organization committed to the protection of the environment and sustainable development. The evidence suggests that quite the contrary is the case, namely, that the JNF represents a central plank of Israeli apartheid; that its Articles of association and Bylaws are incompatible with the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the standards of international law, and the stipulation of European law; and that rather than be classified as a deserving charity, it deserves to be divested of its tax exempt status and declared an illegal organization under international law.
If my visit in March 2002 to the neighbouring South African Forest planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the Friends of the JNF, and the Women's Zionist Organization of South Africa to Cover-Up the Remains of the 1948 Destroyed Palestinian Arab Village of Lubya is anything to go by then visitors to the Righteous Gentiles Forest on weekends and public holidays are likely to witness a peacenik's dream: Arab families happily barbequing next to Jewish families in the shadow of the JNF forest and their children frolicking in the recreational grounds developed by the JNF for the benefit of the public seemingly devoid of any whiff of racial discrimination as defined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1966 (Article One: "In this Convention, the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. ")
Were it that one were able to put a full stop at this point.
Having researched the JNF for the better part the past two decades, I came to realize that, in my experience, for the most part, in many or most cases JNF forests are planted over the ruins of Palestinian Arab villages (some 400 in all) destroyed and ethnically cleansed by the Israeli army under the cover and in the wake of the 1948-49 war with the result that the bulk of their inhabitants (some 750,000 people in all in 1948 totaling over 4 million today) became stateless refugees, forcibly expelled or terrorized to flee for shelter in localities that were outside the borders recommended for the "Jewish state" by the UN General Assembly Resolution 181(II) of November 1947 with a minority (some 150,000 in 1948 totaling over 1 million today) somehow survived the massive crime against humanity of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Israeli army and became citizens of the newly established State of Israel inside the armistice lines agreed between the State of Israel and its neighbouring Arabs states in the 1949 armistice agreements (the "Green Line").
The total population of the State of Israel within its pre-1967 boundaries is some 6 million people, of which some 1 million are Palestinian Arab citizens of the State of Israel. Of the 1 million Palestinian Arab citizens of the State of Israel some 25 percent, approximately 250,000, are internally displaced persons, known in Israeli political parlance by the oxymoron "present absentees". They are "present" in that they are taxpaying citizens of the State of Israel/ Yet, insofar as their rights to such properties as to which they held title prior to 1948 (lands, houses, companies, safe boxes, bank accounts, shares, jewelry, furniture etc) - they are classified under Israel's Absentees' Property Law of 1950 as "absent."
Citizens of the State of Israel, or otherwise, in the view of the draconian Absentees' Property Law of 1950, the rights of the "present absentees" inside Israel to such properties as to which they held title until 1948 are nullified and vested in the Israeli Custodian of Absentees' Property, in the same way that the rights of the 1948 Palestine refugees outside the said "Green Line" to properties to which they held title until 1948 were nullified under the same law.
Of the some 500 Palestinian rural and urban localities that were recorded in the British Mandate Survey of Palestine in the territories that came under Israeli sovereignty in the wake of the 1948-49 war only some 120 survived. One of the surviving villages is the village of Tur'an, near the Golani Junction. My Haifa lawyer hails from Tur'an. He confirmed that, alas, the story of the JNF Righteous Gentiles Forest was similar to the story of the JNF South African Forest in that the former, like the latter was planted over the ruins of a destroyed Palestinian Arab village. The former, over the ruins of the village of Shajara and the latter over the ruins of the village of Lubya.
In the morning of Friday, 4 June 2004 I toured the Righteous Gentiles Forest guided by an official of the JNF Afforestation Division, Golani Centre, Lower Galilee and Southern Golan Regional Office, and in the afternoon of the same day I return to the site guided by an internally displaced person, a "present abentee", citizen of the State of Israel, who together with his family found refuge in the neighbouring village of Tur'an, unlike the bulk of his community, who in the wake of the destruction of their village Shajara ended up as stateless 1948 Palestine refugees outside the "Green Line".
Shajara before 1948
Israeli occupation date: May 6th, 1948 (since the great Palestinian poet Abed al-Raheem Mahmoud was killed in the village on the July 13th, 1948, then occupation date of the 6th of May 1948 may not be credible. It is very possible that the village exchanged hands several times with the Arab Liberation Army) Distance from district center: 14 (km) West of Tiberias Elevation from the sea: 250 (meters) Israeli attacking brigade: Units from the Golani Brigade Village defenders: Arab Liberation Army and local Palestinian militia. Village remains: After destruction by Israelis al-Shajara was completely obliterated, and only house rubble left behind. Ethnically cleansing by Israelis: Al-Shajara inhabitants were completely ethnically cleansed. Land ownership before occupation (Dunums): Arab 2,757; Jewish 61; Public 936; Total 3,754 (2,719 cultivable). Population before occupation: 1931, 584; 1945, 770 = 720 Muslims + 50 Christians Number of houses: In (1931): 124 Town's name through history: The Crusades referred to al-Shajara by Seiera. Schools: Al-Shajara had an elementary school for boys which was founded during the British Mandate period. Israeli settlements on town lands: Ilaniyyah, Sedeh Ilan, and the agricultural station, now turned an army base for basic training named Havat ha-Shomer.
(Based on http://www.palestineremembered.com/Tiberias/al-Shajara/index.html and Walid Khalidi All That remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, 1992:540- 41)
In order to access the locality of the destroyed Palestinian Arab village of Shajara, one first enters the "Jewish" settlement of Ilniyyah (Sejerah), more precisely, the Zionist colony of Sejerah.
As indicated by the signposts at the entrance of the "Jewish" settlement, the settlement of Ilaniyyah (Sejerah) was established just over a hundred years ago on lands purchased by the Jewish Colonization Association (founded by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild). The lands, 61 dunums in all, a rather modest enterprise, were purchased from then neighbouring Palestinian Arab village of Shajara. There is an inconsistency in the documentation as to whether the settlement was established in 1900 or 1902.
According to Encyclopaedia Mapa (Vol 1: 61), the settlement of Ilaniyyah began as an agricultural training farm founded by the said Jewish Colonization Association to train "Jewish" workers in agricultural skills, and named Sejerah, after the neighbouring Palestinian Arab village of Shajara. At the time, the settlement was the first new "Jewish" locality in the eastern flanks of Lower Galilee. In the years of the seminal second wave of Zionist immigration to Palestine (1904-1914), the settlement attracted many of the Zionist pioneers and became an organizational center for the nascent Zionist labour movement. Some of the Zionist labour activists who arrived in Sejerah, such as David Ben Gurion, were to become leading figures of the political Zionist movement, and subsequently the State of Israel.
In the wake of the 1948-49 war the lands of the ethnically cleansed and subsequently destroyed Palestinian-Arab village of Shajara were handed over, inter alia, to the Zionist settlers of Ilaniyyah for cultivation as well as all or some of the lands of the adjacent Kaft Sabt. Thus, whereas according to Walid Khalidi, "Jewish" land ownership in Shajara prior to the 1948 occupation by the Israeli army was 61 dunums according to Yeshaayahu Press, Encyclopaedia Eretz Israel (Vol 4: 65), by 1950 the area cultivated by the "Jewish" settlement of Ilaniyyah was 17,093 dunums.
Passing through the "Jewish" settlement of Ilaniyyah/Sejerah one is struck by the wealth represented in the expansive villas that have now replaced the modest settlement housing of the first decades after 1948. Peppered among post 1948 breeze block and concrete homes and farm structures of Ilaniyyah/Sejerah, one can still discern some of the structures built prior to 1948 with local stone.
There is little doubt that much of the wealth of Ilaniyyah today, as the wealth of many other "Jewish" settlements in Israel, is anchored in the massive real estate possessions of land and housing owned by the 1948 Palestine refugees, illegally appropriated by the State of Israel under the Absentees' Property Law of 1950, in the wake of the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Israeli army in the course of and in the wake of the 1948-49 war a crime against humanity under international law. Available research suggests that some 70 per cent of the total land area under the sovereignty of the State of Israel within its pre-1967 boundaries (inside the 1949 armistice lines known as the "Green Line") is 1948 Palestine refugees land illegally appropriated. (Robert Fisk, "The Land of Palestine", The Times, 24 December 1980, Part Eight)
Pre-1949 structures built with local stone
Post 1948 settlement housing of the first decades after 1948
Villas representing the wealth of "Jewish" settlers in Ilaniyyah today
Travelling with my Palestinian Arab guide, resident of Tur'an, "present-absentee" of his destroyed home village of Shajara, now ethnically cleanse and destroyed in order that the "Jewish" settlement of Ilaniyyah expand and develop in Zionist apartheid terms (for "Jews" only) was a sad journey indeed.
We traversed the "Jewish" settlement of Ilaniyyah and arrived at the village spring. The spring is classified as a historical site, and commemorated by a plaque displaying the icon of "Sejerah 1900". The blue plague signifies that the site is an important signpost in the cultural heritage of the country, sponsored and maintained by the Council for the Preservation of Structures and Settlements Sites, the Lower Galilee Regional Council and the Jewish National Fund. As the icon of "Sejerah 1900" and the names of the sponsors suggest, the term "settlement sites" means "Zionist settlement sites."
The text of the plaque reads as follows:
This structure, which is 20 meters deep, was constructed over a water spring that has become exhausted. The structure displays a number of architectural styles, beginning with the Byzantine period through the present period.
As to the question of what happened to the Palestinian Arab village of Shajara whose inhabitants also drew water from the spring, and why was the mosque adjacent to the spring destroyed the plaque remains silent.
Over the years the spring serviced the settlements that were founded next to the water, dating back to the Jewish settlement that existed in the locality in the periods of the Mishnah and Talmud.
The Arab village Sejerah [sic!], the Sejerah Estate and the settlement of Ilaniyyah have also drawn from its water.
The drawer of water would be seated on the capping of the spring and draw the water with a pully.
South of the small water cistern. there are troughs to water animals.
Ruins of the Shajara mosque adjacent to the spring
Advancing further along the road, we travelled past remnants of fruit gardens with surviving pomegranate and fig trees as well as olive groves, and alongside hedge rows of Sabr cacti - the sure signifier of a destroyed Palestinian Arab rural habitation.
Surviving pomegranate tree
Surviving Sabr cactus hedge row
The Zionist fore-runner of the "Jewish" settlement of Ilaniyyah, the Zionist the agricultural training farm founded by the Jewish Colonization Association to train "Jewish" workers in agricultural skills, now named the "Ha-Shomer Estate" (Havat ha-Shomer, "The Estate of the Guard") is now a military facility servicing the educational activities of the Israeli army. The perimeter of another military facility can be seen behind what remained of the olive groves and fruit gardens of the destroyed Palestinian Arab village of Shajara.
I asked to visit the cemetery of the destroyed Palestinian Arab village of Shajara. My Palestinian Arab guide, resident of Tur'an, "present-absentee" of Shajara, told me that all the appeals submitted to the relevant authorities to secure the sanctity of the Shajara cemetery met with refusal, and that the cemetery remains desecrated. Even the limited appeal to put a fence around the graves of his family's immediate relatives with the view to secure the sanctity of their burial place were denied. He took me to the latter graves. I took photographs.
Desecrated graves of the family of my "present absentee"guide
Despites the crime against humanity of perpetrating the destruction of the Palestinian Arab village of Shajara, Shajara under the JNF Righteous Gentiles Forest, like its neighbouring Lubya under the JNF South African Forest, and like Zakariyya and Ajjur under the JNF British Park, together with all other Palestinian villages and urban localities occupied and depopulated by Israel in 1948 lives. Over the years, consequent to the sustained research pursued by conscientious Palestinian Arab and non-Palestinian Arab researchers, including critical research inside the State of Israel, the veil of JNF forests, planted, inter alia, to cover the existence of Shajara and its sister destroyed localities, is progressively lifting. As the veil lifts and the apartheid structures of the JNF are subject to critical scrutiny the charitable and tax exempt status of the JNF will come into question, as will the legality of the Article of Association of the JNF and its related bodies when examined in terms of the constitutions of the respective states where they are registered, notably the EU and the new South Africa.
However, these very hopeful developments would not have been possible without the heroic Sumud (steadfastness) of the indigenous people concerned, the Palestinian Arab people, both inside the State of Israel and outside. They have mobilized in the defence of their lands, applying every means permissible under international law, and where they had lost the struggle they have successfully battled to maintain their collective memory.
The destroyed Palestinian Arab village of Shajara and its sister destroyed localities live. They live in the world wide web in websites such as http://www.palestineremembered.com/Tiberias/al- Shajara/index.html and http://www.nakbainhebrew.org/; in studies such as Walid Khalidi All That remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 and Shukri Arraf, Palestinian Localities in Two Periods: Two Maps [Pre- and Post-1948]. Shajara lives in the oral history of its 1948 Palestine refugees transmitted from generation to generation. Shajara lives in the institutions of the Association for the Defence of the Rights of the Displaced Persons in Israel. And most significantly, Shajara lives in the hearts and minds and limbs, in the flesh and blood of its refugees and their descendent, who, as the photographs below illustrate, visit such of their olive groves and fruit gardens as have survived JNF criminal afforestation policies to harvest their crops and enjoy family barbeques in their shade.
Family visit to olive grove, destroyed Palestinian Arab village of Shajara
On the Question of Palestinian "Vandalism", peace and reconciliation
Given the above, I often ask myself how would I or my children or my grandchildren react if we were in the shoes of my "present absentee" guide to Shajara, his children or his grandchildren, passing by the JNF Righteous Gentiles Forest day in, day out, year in year out, decade after decade; being denied permission to tend the sacredness of the cemetery where our parents, grand-parents and forebears are buried; watching the "Jewish" settlers of Ilaniyyah tearing down their modest residences of the early decades of the State of Israel to have them replaced with expansive villas built on lands illegally confiscated from my family and other families of my native village; observe the remnants of my destroyed village, its fruit gardens and olive groves progressively covered by JNF afforestation activities and sealed by memorial stones commemorating righteous people such as the late Willy Brandt (zum 70. geburtstag), the Danish resistance fighters and the Queen Beatrix of Holland?
Where would my anger be first directed towards the primary villain, the JNF or towards the hypocrisy of the righteous people and their heirs who allowed their names be used, or rather abused, in this way to cover up this massive crime against humanity?
Edward Said is reported to have thrown a stone at the Israeli border fence when visiting south Lebanon. It should surprise no-one, especially not the JNF officials at the JNF Afforestation Division, Golani Centre, Lower Galilee and Southern Golan Regional Office or the descendents of the late Willy Brandt, the Danish resistance fighters and the Queen Beatrix of Holland that the Palestinian survivors of the Nakba tear down the memorial stones erected by the JNF in their respective names, and with their complicity, at the Righteous Gentiles Forest or try and set the forest on fire.
All of us, including the descendents of the late Willy Brandt, the Danish resistance fighters and the Queen Beatrix of Holland would be well advised to recognize the humanity and the generosity of the Palestinian Arab people concerned. Unlike mainstream settler colonial political Zionism, predicating the establishment and the consolidation of the "Jewish state" on the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian Arab people and continuing colonization the colonized and occupied people, including the 1948 Palestine refugees and "present absentees", by and large view any suggestion of ethnically cleansing the Jewish pupolation, or any population for that matter, as morally repugnant.
All of us, including the descendents of the late Willy Brandt, the Danish resistance fighters and the Queen Beatrix of Holland would do well to appreciate that if they want to protect the integrity of the memorial stones of their forebears at the JNF Righteous Gentiles Forest they ought to contact the 1948 Palestine refugees of Shajara outside the State of Israel and internally displaced persons of Shajara inside the State of Israel with the view to lend their support to the restoration of their rights in Shajara, notably their property rights and their right to return, including reparations, repatriation and compensation, not instead of, but as next door neighbours of the "Jewish" settler families of Ilaniyyah.
All of us, including the descendents of the late Willy Brandt, the Danish resistance fighters and the Queen Beatrix of Holland such as are working toward peace and reconciliation in Palestine/Israel based on equality of rights to all would be further well advised to recognize that the terms of the restitution, reparation and compensation accords on behalf of the Jewish survivors of the Nazi colonization and occupation of Europe agreed between the State of Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany, known as the Luxembourg Agreements of 1952, apply also to the survivors of the Zionist colonization and Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Question to the Authorities of the Federal Republic 0f Germany:
I would have though that the case of the Willy Brandt Wald (zum 70. Geburtstag), planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to cover-up, inter alia, the remains of the 1948 destroyed Palestinian Arab villages of Shajara above would constitute sufficient grounds for the Government of Germany to commence a process of systematic enquiry into the activities of the Zionist organizations in Germany with the view to question such tax deductible status of Zionist fund-raising as it may enjoy in Germany and elsewhere, specifically tax deductions such as may be granted to contributions to the Jewish National Fund (JNF).
The enquiry could begin by putting the following questions to the JNF in Germany:
* Is the dispossession of the indigenous people of Shajara; the razing down of their homes; the planting of forests on the ruins of their houses; and the appropriation of their properties to build recreational and memorial facilities on their properties regulated through Acts of the Israel Parliament (the Knesset)?;
* Is the JNF an official partner and beneficiary to the Government of Israel in the application of such instruments of Israeli legislation as the Absentees' Property Law of 1950?;
* Is the JNF committed to purchase, take on lease or in exchange, or otherwise acquire any lands, forests, rights of possession and other rights, easements and other immovable property (including 1948 Palestine refugees property) for the purpose of settling Jews AND ONLY JEWS on these lands.
* Are the Articles of Association of the JNF legal under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany and European Union law?
And take it from there
Uri Davis (Dr) Sakhnin June 2004
Shukri Arraf, Palestinian Localities in Two Periods: Two Maps [Pre- and Post-1948], Dar al-Shafq, Kafr Qara', 1992
Uri Davis, Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, Zed Books, London, 2003
Encyclopaedia Mapa: A Comprehensive Gazatteer of Israel Today, Tel Aviv, 2000
Walid Khalidi All That remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington DC, 1992
George Mikes, How to Be an Alien, Penguin Books, Hammondsworth, 1966
Walter Lehn (author) and Uri Davis (associate author), The Jewish National Fund, Kegan Paul International, London, 1988
Yeshaayahu Press, Encylopaedia Eretz Israel, Rubin Mass, Jerusalem, 1946
Dr Uri Davis was born in Jerusalem in 1943. He has been at the forefront of the defence of human rights, notably Palestinian rights, since 1965 and has pioneered critical research on Zionism and Israel since the mid-1970. He has published extensively in these fields, including Israel: An Apartheid State (Zed Books, London 1987 & 1990; abridged edition, MRN, Laudium, 2001); Citizenship and the State: Comparative Study of Citizenship Legislation in Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon (Ithaca Press, Reading, 1997); Citizenship and the State in the Middle East: Approaches and Applications (co-ed) (Syracuse University Press, 2000) and most recently Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, Zed Books, London, 2003..
Dr Davis is an Observer-Member of the Palestine National Council (PNC); member of the Middle East Regional Committee of the international journal Citizenship Studies; Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute for Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies (IMEIS), University of Durham and Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies (IAIS), University of Exeter; Chairperson of AL-BEIT: Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Israel and MAIAP: Movement Against Israeli Apartheid in Palestine; founding member of Mosaic Communities: Multinational Housing Cooperative in Israel.
Uri Davis can be contacted at MIFTAH: Consultancy Office, specializing, inter alia, in alternative tours to Israel, P O Box 99 Sakhnin 20173, Israel; tel: +972 54 452 3838; fax: 00 972 4 674 7028; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;