COP26 and the crisis in Israel-Palestine

JVL Introduction

There are two items below.

First, information from the campaign to “keep the Jewish National Fund out of COP26”.

That particular demand may have been lost, but the arguments raised by the campaign remain central: to expose the historical and ongoing role of the JNF in the dispossession of the Palestinians.

Second, a Morning Star report of British government complicity in silencing the voices of Palestinians at the COP.


Keep the JNF out of COP 26

A declaration of civil society organisations

We the undersigned civil society organisations and individuals declare that the Jewish National Fund (JNF), as an institutionalised form of racial discrimination responsible for ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people, has no place in COP26. The JNF is a relic of Europe’s colonial past, and today uses an environmental veneer to greenwash over 100 years of ethnic cleansing.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF, also known by its Hebrew name Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, KKL) is an Israeli para-statal company established in 1901 in Britain for the sole purpose of the colonisation of Palestine by obtaining Palestinian land and, as ‘custodian for the Jewish people’, making it available solely for Jewish settlers. It claims to be the oldest green organisation in the world. It has offices in over 70 countries, in many of which it enjoys charitable or tax-exempt status, thereby being subsidised by taxpayers, which it justifies by raising funds for ‘environmental improvements’ in Israel. It has been granted observer status by the United Nations to the Conferences of Parties (COP) to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC).

However, the JNF remains established for the primary purpose of ethnic cleansing – to replace the indigenous Palestinian population of all religions with an entirely Jewish settler population. Throughout its existence, events demonstrate that it has practiced ethnic cleansing resulting in apartheid – expelling and segregating Palestinians – often in collaboration with the Israeli military and other Zionist militias. Its manifestation as an environmental organisation is a recently adopted greenwash for its real purpose.

As civil society organisations concerned with climate change and promoting equity and social justice between people, and individuals, we condemn racism, ethnic cleansing and the destruction of the environment which results from such practices. We declare that the JNF is not welcome in COP26 and call on all civil society organisations to join our campaign and to have no association with the JNF.

KKL-JNF: An architect of Palestinians’ Nakba

From its creation in 1901, the Zionist Movement encouraged the JNF to acquire lands in Palestine to settle and colonise the acquired lands. This was fulfilled by purchasing vast swathes of lands from large landowners who were living abroad and dispossessing Palestinian peasant farmers in the process. It has also facilitated the planned, deliberate, forcible and violent dispossession of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland during Israel’s creation (1947-1948).

After the creation of Israel in 1948, aided by Israel Land Law, the JNF continued to acquire more lands belonging to Palestinians. The JNF leased the seized lands exclusively to Jewish settlers after destroying and ethnically cleansing over 500 Palestinian towns and villages and was accompanied by the destruction of indigenous trees both planted (like olives, figs, almonds, cactus) and wild (like hawthorn, oak, carob, Pistacia, Sumac).

The JNF is key actor in the establishment and perpetuation of Israel’s institutionalised system of racial discrimination and oppression over Palestinians, constitutive of the crime of apartheid. Ninety three percent of the land that came under Israeli control in 1948 is owned by the Israel Land Authority, which comprises the JNF, the Development Agency and the state.

Given that the JNF regards itself as ‘trustee and custodian’ of land on behalf of the Jewish people, its properties are only accessible to Jews. The JNF bars Palestinians, even if they are refugees and the rightful original owners of the land, from access to land it controls. Palestinians’ right of return to their homes and lands was recognised by the UN General Assembly in Resolution 194 in 1948.

Revealed archival documents show that one of the methods Israel used to prevent Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes was to ensure the JNF would densely plant trees within and surrounding the ethnically cleansed and ruined Palestinian villages. This made it impossible to rebuild or farm the villages.

KKL-JNF forests and parks are a way to erase memory, history and natural identity in Palestine and falsify Palestinians’ natural heritage.

KKL-JNF: Perpetuating Palestinians’ Nakba

Palestinians still endure an ongoing Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic) which peaked in the hostilities of 1948, due to the continuing policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid of the JNF. Criticising the JNF’s current practices, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) asserted in December 2019 that the JNF and other para-statal companies in Israel carry out material discrimination against non-Jewish persons.

The JNF is directly involved in the ongoing de facto annexation and looming de jure annexation of about 33% of the West Bank, including the illegal settlements Israel has started erecting since 1967.

  • On August 2019, the Israeli authorities demolished the property of the Qaisieh family in al-Makhrour, Bethlehem after the family lost a long battle in court that started in 2005. Himnuta, a subsidiary of the JNF, claimed ownership of the land where the Qaisieh family lives. A few days after the demolition, a settler outpost was established next to the site where the buildings of the Qaisieh family were bulldozed.
  • Himnuta, claims ownership of a further 525 dunums of land which the Israeli government confiscated from Palestinians living in Nahalin village, Bethlehem. This land is intended to serve the expansion of the illegal settlement of Gush Etzion.
  • The JNF has been pursuing legal measures to evict the Sumarin family as well as other Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers to settle in the city.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian survivors of earlier dispossession and displacement inhabiting five Bedouin communities in the Negev (Naqab) also face impending forcible dispossession. On the ruins of their homes, the JNF will be planting trees, its longstanding instrument of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

The JNF is also providing academic training for school students in collaboration with military cyber Unit 8200 and the Intelligence Department of the Israel Defense Forces General Staff, which oversees Unit 8200. This unit is responsible for surveillance on and persecution of Palestinians in the West Bank, is involved in the blockade of the Gaza strip, and is also responsible for selecting Palestinian targets for assassination.

KKL-JNF: False environmentalism

While claiming on its official website ( that it “is Israel’s largest green organization and the oldest green organization in the world,” the JNF’s forestry operations amount to a shrubland ecosystem which has caused environmental destruction.

The JNF has a long history of planting trees to mark boundaries against Palestinian communities, to absorb Jewish settler labour and to prevent exiled Palestinians from returning. It drained the Hula wetlands with disastrous ecological consequences. It has facilitated the diversion of water courses Critics of the afforestation project of the Negev (Naqab) argue that “the dark canopies of trees it has planted in arid regions such as the Negev, in Israel’s south, absorb heat unlike the unforested, light-coloured soil. Short of water, the slow-growing trees capture little carbon.” The afforestation of the Negev has also threatened the existence of native species of brush and animals.

The JNF is also complicit in Israel’s water apartheid.

The JNF is “part of Israel’s official delegation to COP every year, as part of its mission to exchange knowledge and expertise with other countries.” The JNF held fringe events at the COPs in Paris in 2015 and Bonn in 2017 and used the conferences to greenwash its racist objectives and encourage collaboration with unsuspecting international partners. The UN and member states should not tolerate this abuse of privileges, and should withdraw the observer status granted to the JNF for the Conferences of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP26 will be hosted by the UK and held in Glasgow in November 2021. JNF Scotland (aka KKL (Scotland)) has its headquarters in Glasgow, and both JNF UK and KKL (Scotland) enjoy charitable status. This is the time to say Keep the JNF out of COP 26.



British government accused of silencing Palestinian climate activists at Cop26

Bethany Rielly, Morning Star, 9 November 2021

PALESTINIAN climate activists have accused the British government of complicity in silencing their voices at Cop26 after they were effectively barred from the United Nations summit.

Strict visa rules and Covid-19 restrictions prevented the entire Palestinian civil society delegation from attending the international conference in Glasgow, despite the Middle East being one of the regions most vulnerable to the climate crisis.

West Bank climate activist Manal Shqair told the Morning Star today that, since the British government does not recognise Palestinian vaccination certificates, she and others would have been required to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks, which they could not afford.

In contrast, Israeli vaccine certificates are recognised, so delegates from that country were able to enter Britain without needing to quarantine or to obtain a visa.

“Instead of making it possible for us Palestinians, who are bearing the brunt of the climate change, to be part of … Cop, the UK government are complicit in perpetuating the constructed silencing of Palestinians,” Ms Shqair said.

Ms Shqair and fellow delegate Abeer al-Butmeh, director of Friends of the Earth Palestine, were only able to participate in meetings in Glasgow via video link.

Speaking to the Morning Star ahead of a People’s Summit event, she said that their absence made it more difficult to challenge Israeli claims to be leading the fight against climate change.

Ms Shqair, a campaigner with the Stop the Wall group, stressed that Israel is harming the environment and making the occupied territories more vulnerable to climate change through its monopoly control of water sources.

In one case, the dumping of sewage water from a settlement into a village in the Salfit area of the West Bank forced more than 50 Palestinian families to leave their lands, she said.

“The destruction of the environment is used by Israel as a tool to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the areas it want to occupy or build settlements on,” Ms Shqair argued.

“There should be a clear message that Israeli apartheid and the climate crisis are intertwined.”

A Palestinian Authority delegation was present at Cop26, but Ms Shqair stressed that politicians were not able to “convey the message of the entire Palestinian civil society.”

Anger at the exclusion of Palestinian civil society delegates has been heightened by the presence of Israeli NGO the Jewish National Fund (JNF) as an observer at the conference.

Established in 1901, the JNF was set up to purchase swathes of Palestinian land and make it available to Jewish settlers. Campaign group Stop the JNF has called for it to be removed from Cop26.

“The JNF claims to be the oldest green organisation in the world, but its credentials are phoney,” Stop the JNF spokesperson Annie O’Gara told the Morning Star.

The NGO, whose British branch has charitable status, has been blamed for damaging the environment through planting millions of non-native pine trees, which have made the soil inhospitable to other species.

“The presence of the JNF is offensive, given its racist nature, its toxic history and the damage it is doing to the land of historic Palestine,” Ms O’Gara added.

Speaking during the People’s Summit event, Ms Butmeh said: “The Israeli occupation exacerbates the climate risks by denying Palestinians the right to manage and administer their land and the natural resources.

“We cannot achieve climate justice under occupation in Palestine.”


Comments (3)

  • Jimmy Cooper says:

    Here! Here!
    It should come as no surprise that the British Government uses administrative obstacles to effectively bar Palestinians from putting forward their case against Israeli Occupation and destruction of their livelyhood. Allowing the JNF status as an observer is further demonstration of the Governments overt validation and complicity with everything Zionist Apartheid stands for.

  • Betty Hales says:

    Thank you for providing this information. It makes me frustrated and angry to read it and I wonder how best it could be more widely known. We live in a cruel and unjust world but so many people would like to make it a better one if only we knew how to achieve this rather than spending our time fighting seemingly unwinnable battles. Overcoming ignorance is key.

  • Linda P says:

    Sadly the only way to fight this disgraceful situation is to shine a light on it instead of keeping it away from the public. With this government, the Labour Party and the msm being complicit with the Israeli government this is unlikely to happen.

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