Guardian

Resistance: The JNF, and Harriet Sherwood’s continuing delegitimization of the Jewish state


“My Dear Sir, But you are proceeding upon the superstition that Moral Courage and a Hankering to Learn the Truth are ingredients in the human being’s makeup. Your premises being wild and foolish, you naturally and properly get wild and foolish results. If you will now reform, and in future proceed upon the sane and unchallengeable hypothesis that those two ingredients are on vacation in our race, and have been from the start, you will be able to account for some things which puzzle you now.” – Mark Twain

By 1922 the British Empire held sway over about 500 million people, one-quarter of the world’s population at the time, and covered more than 13 million square miles, almost a quarter of the earth’s total land area.

At the height of its power, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman Turkish Empire controlled territory in southeastern Europe, southwestern Asia, and North Africa. In 1680, under Mehmed IV, the empire controlled 5.5 million square miles of land.

Today, in the Middle East, a vast area previously controlled by the Ottoman Turks and then the British, 5.25 million square miles belongs to states of the Arab League. The one holdout in that hegemony is the 8,000 square mile Jewish state of Israel—the only Jewish homeland that ever was and ever will be. The population of Israel is 7.5 million. The ratio of Arab to Jewish land is 640:1.

In 1901, during the fifth Zionist Congress, delegates had spent the day debating a proposal for the establishment of a national fund to purchase land in Ottoman Empire-controlled Palestine (the name given by the Romans to ancient Israel).  The motion passed and the congress resolved that a fund to be called Jewish National Fund (JNF) should be established, and that “the fund shall be the property of the Jewish people as a whole.” JNF’s first undertaking was the collection of £200,000.

Theodore Herzl, who four years earlier had organized the First Zionist Congress, was inspired to galvanize world Jewry around the idea of returning to their ancient homeland in response to the anti-Semitism of the Dreyfuss Affair, the failure of European Jewish emancipation more broadly, and to his all too prescient sense of an impending catastrophe for European Jewry.

Throughout the years preceding Israel’s independence the JNF purchased additional land and, even during the British mandate when Jewish immigration to historic Palestine was severely restricted during the Holocaust and in the three years prior to statehood, developed previously uninhabitable land in anticipation of Israel’s rebirth – development which was, by any measure, wildly successful.

While the borders of the British and Ottoman Empires were drawn, as most modern nation states’ boundaries have been drawn (and defended), by the edge of a sword, Israel’s were formed by legally purchased land (by the JNF), and via international law (from legally binding decisions codified at the San Reno Conference, though the UN Partition plan and Israel’s admission into the UN).  

While it’s less than clear whether British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to resign as a patron of the JNF was due to pressure from anti-Israel activists such as Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), (David Cameron resigns as patron of the Jewish National Fund, Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, May 29), the story’s legitimization of the narrative of groups such as PSC and Stop the JNF Campaign that JNF has committed “war crimes” and has been complicit in “ethnic cleansing” represent, at best, unintelligible invectives – and are a testament to the truth that, for many, anti-Israel ideology has taken on an almost religious intensity, where nuance, complexity and doubt are subservient to ideological articles of faith.

The JNF, as was its goal, legally purchased the land that would become the State of Israel, then helped to develop that land into the thriving nation it would become – by planting trees (becoming the only nation in the world who entered the 21st century with a net gain in the number of trees), building dams and reservoirs, creating parks, and developing the infrastructure which supported the absorption of millions of immigrants to the Jewish state.

Growing up, in my assimilated secular Jewish family, what I most associated with Israel was the ubiquitous blue JNF box – the most iconic and non-political way Jews in the diaspora could support the continued development and continued success of the state of Israel.  Whether you were motivated by a desire to protect Israel’s environment, or a broader concern for the nation’s long-term viability in a hostile neighborhood,  the JNF was about as controversial as the United Way or American Red Cross.

Harriet Sherwood’s efforts to paint the JNF as some sort of instrument of oppression is but another form of delegitimization – an effort to pry those susceptible to such facile and intellectually unserious ideas away from support for the Jewish state.  In short, it’s an attack on Zionism itself – an assault on our rights to finally, as Herzl dreamed, “be a free people in our land.” 

The word “resistance” is one that’s sadly been co-opted by the radical (Guardian-style) left, anti-Zionists, and Islamists to denote resistance to “Western oppression”.  Yet the word, in its true sense, uncorrupted by its explicit defense of violence and politically reactionary movements, conveys what is desperately needed in our post-modern, post-colonial world – an appeal to garner the strength necessary to defeat the enemies of the Jewish people, and not to submit to moral relativism, cynicism or defeatism.

Resistance to the allure of intellectual fads of our day, which serve to weaken our resolve to defend progressive democracies more broadly, and the Jewish democratic state in particular – the radical chic pose which Harriet Sherwood and her political fellow travelers have so cravenly succumb to – represents “resistance” that true progressives should rightfully be engaged in, and is the broader objective of the fierce battles our blog (me and my loyal colleagues) are engaged in daily.

20 replies »

    • That comment reminds me of the fervour of the so-called liberal intelligentsia with which they greeted the Iranian revolution in 1979.
      Mindless ignorance from those who cannot distinguish between those who uphold freedom, and those whose actions extinguish it.

      Carry on brainless, and one day you might find that you will be unable to post your comments with the freedom and impunity that you enjoy today.

      • And there were Jews who voted for Hitler, and Jews who support the murder of Jews in Israel, and Jews who generally hate other Jews.

        Would that we could swap even just a few of those millions of wonderful Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust for the Jewish traitors on the left.

    • David Cameron? George Galloway? You’ll go with anyone, Armless, you little slut, won’t you? Just so long as you get a dose of anti-Jewish nationalism…

    • Because he is as thick as bricks and probably cowardly to boot, and he’s scared of losing the vote of a certain section of the population.

      And if moistly intends to vote for him then he really is doomed.

    • I think Dave can see the bigger picture. In 4 years time he wants to be on the right side of the argument. He’s not just pandering to one segment of the population like some here have suggested but to the general population whose views have been moving towards a more balanced approach to the issue.

      • During the 1930s the vast majority of politicians in Britain thought just like you and we are all well aware of the results of that.

  1. David Cameron has been parading his ignorance of history or trying to re-write it since his Gaza is a concentration camp speech in Istanbul, much like his new chum Obama. So he’s getting himself into a worsening pickle of his own making over Libya but, hey, no problem. Let British taxpayers pay for the Muslim Brotherhood to assume power democratically, I say, Jews must accept they can’t own land. Arthur Balfour? He never was a real Conservative. As for that Meshaal, I’ve heard he flips a mean burger.

      • It was Obama’s Cairo University speech I was thinking of, pretzelberg, where he made claims such as that the world owes its mastery of printing to Islamic culture, drew false analogies such as that Palestinians are in a situation similar to that once faced by the US Civil Rights movement and, in his abject passion to please his hosts, expunged much of Arab and Islam-inspired violence and intimidation from his account, re-writing the pages of history. On Gaza, thinking of Cardinal Martino and scores of Hamas advocates who call the place a “concentration camp”, I slipped-up with Cameron, attributing to him the same words, when he actually said “prison camp”. Thinking of Gaza’s fundamendalist self-government, its arsenal of rocketry, the supermarkets that they choose to hide, swimming pools that they choose to close, the human shields that they glory in and the young whom they bring up in the cult of martyrdom, I have no doubt that it was “prison camp” that Cameron meant. Had he realised the prison is self-governing, it might not have excited his pity to the same extent, though.

  2. I don’t think this is centrally about David Cameron or his supposed fear of losing the UK Muslim vote. It’s about the fact that EU foreign policy is increasingly determining the foreign policies of the member states.

    In the case of the UK, the key issue is that it wants to maximise its trade and existing privileges vis a vis the Arab nations. There is a recent UK government national strategy paper on foreign policy and defence which acknowledges that the UK has now very limited military power (not even one working aircraft carrier, armed forces way down and barely enough aircraft to keep our contribution to NATO operations in Afghanistan and LIbya going.)

    In the strategy paper, the UK govt says that its strategy is now therefore to use soft power and to focus almost entirely on working with or within groups rather than unilaterally. So the Arab League is actually named as a target partner, and of course the EU is anyway the primary partnership group.

    The strategy paper also highlights maximising low cost gestures that get easy political mileage (only of course it doesn’t say openly that that’s what they are); they name such techniques as sending out junior or even senior ministers to visit countries that previously would never have been visited.

    During the first days of the Arab Spring, what was Cameron actually doing? He actually led a party of diplomats and businessmen to Bahrein and to Cairo. And the real purpose was not to put out messages about the desirability of western style democracy– it was about oil and defence contracts.

    Taking himself off the JNF patrons list is a very easy political gesture which will have endeared him to his Arab League target group. Gordon Brown would probably have done the same had his family not been historically directly connected to the JNF cause. He’s also made some equivalent gestures to the Israeli & Jewish constituencies, by putting through Parliament the new legislation to restrict the power of BDS groups to bring lawfare “war crimes” arrest stunts against visiting Israeli politicians and military, which Gordon Brown and David Miliband held off doing; Labour did much more pandering to the UK Muslim vote, which is high in many of its own inner city marginal constituencies.

    The future of UK policy is now to follow in the wake of EU foreign policy, and that’s always been pro Palestinian. Baroness Ashton was actually present at the signing of the Fatah-Hamas agreement.

    All these considerations have rather more impact than the home Muslim vote– which is anyway much more of a Labour vote. And the influence of any Muslim vote (which anyway is far from being a block vote) is going to be greatly diminished by the ending of the long standing Labour gerrymandering of Parliamentary constituency boundaries which has kept lots of small inner city constituencies whilst major suburban constituencies, which are more representative of English/Welsh ethnic groups, had huge ones. The new boundaries of 2012 are said to be likely to result in the loss of at least 20 seats by Labour.

    • “In the case of the UK, the key issue is that it wants to maximise its trade and existing privileges vis a vis the Arab nations.”

      Hence the “compassionate” release of the convicted (dead within 3 months – yet still alive 21 months after release) bomber of Pan Am 103 – which won bp libyan oil contracts.

      That’s BLOOD for OIL, cravenly british style.

  3. Lobby your MP to sign Early Day Motion 1677, tabled by MPs Jeremy Corbyn & Sir Gerald Kaufman – see more at http://www.stopthejnf.org.

    That this House welcomes the Stop the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Campaign launched on 30 March 2011 by the Palestinian Boycott National Committee, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others to inform the public about the JNF – Karen Kayemet L’Yisrael, its ongoing illegal expropriation of Palestinian land, concealing of destroyed Palestinian villages beneath parks and forests, and prevention of refugees from returning to their homes; notes that the JNF’s constitution is explicitly discriminatory by stating that land and property will never be rented, leased or sold to non-Jews; further notes that the UN rejected the JNF USA’s application for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council on the ground that it violates the principles of the UN Charter on Human Rights; regrets that the Prime Minister is a JNF honorary patron; and believes that there is just cause to consider revocation of the JNF’s charitable status in the UK.

    • …its ongoing illegal expropriation of Palestinian land…

      Illegal… says the same Gerald Kaufman:

      “Veteran Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman yesterday blamed a self-diagnosed “obsessive compulsive disorder” for making bizarre and extravagant claims on the public purse including £8,865 for a 40in LCD Bang & Olufsen television.
      Sir Gerald also said his condition led him to purchase a pair of Waterford Crystal grapefruit bowls for £220 on his parliamentary expenses.”

      Morally bankrupt asajew thieves are preaching moral to the JNF.