On 2 January, Scottish members of a “Stop the JNF” delegation joined trade unionists and Stop the Wall campaigners to re-plant trees as part of a new project in a previously devastated area of Palestine.
The group, which included people from a nearby refugee camp, planted 111 trees, representing the number of years since the foundation of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) which plays a key role in Israel’s policy of displacing and dispossessing Palestinians.
Non-Jewish people are not allowed to live on the 13% of Israel owned by the the JNF. This racist principle remains central to Israeli land administration.
The tree-planting took place in Tulkarem district, formerly one of the richest and most important districts of Palestine.
In 1948, most of its lands were taken and dozens of villages destroyed; the JNF played a central role.
In 2002, the Israeli military bulldozed the entire stretch of land, supposedly for “security reasons”. Tulkarem is also affected by Israel’s illegal separation wall which has led to the destruction of orchards, water networks and roads, as well as irrigated agricultural land.
Despite poor weather, the turnout was large and the event was welcomed by those involved. A representative from the Palestinian Farmers’ Union described the importance of events that bring different groups together: “the participation of farmers, youth groups, friends from various organisations and others increases belief in the justice of our cause and the belief that we are not working alone against the Occupation. The land, that was so important to us was uprooted by the Occupation”.
He also added that the event was timely because of the ongoing attacks by settlers on Palestinians.
The Stop the JNF delegation included members of Palestine Solidarity and campaign groups in Scotland, England, the United States and Europe, and a representative of Midlothian Trade Unions Council. There were five days of fact-finding and educational visits around Israel and the West Bank, followed by the tree-planting.
The group visited Al-Araqib, a Bedouin village which has been destroyed 33 times since 22 July 2010 as well as British Park and Canada Park where the JNF are responsible for building on top of Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948 and 1967.
Some of the devastating effects of the illegal separation wall were witnessed in Al-Walaja, a town that was re-established on the West Bank after the original was destroyed.
When the wall is complete, Al-Walaja will be completely encircled and access controlled by the Israeli military, cutting residents off from agricultural land and making viable employment impossible.
The locations visited by the delegation left us in no doubt of the JNF’s complicity in crimes against Palestinians, past and present.
The Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project is one way in which we can resist these injustices, though its resources are weak compared to those of the JNF – which has planted 240 million trees on occupied land.
Stop the Wall Co-ordinator Jamal Juma said: “Awareness has been raised about the organisation that has done so much to make the Palestinian people suffer. This is why this project is invaluable and worth taking forward, in Palestine and internationally.”