Green Sunday Melbourne
A handful of protesters disseminating pamphlets condemning the Jewish National Fund (JNF) attracted a fair amount of attention but failed to make a significant impact on the organisation’s annual fundraising campaign on Sunday.
JNF’s Green Sunday telethon, which was held at Beth Weizmann, raised funds for the ‘Beer Sheva Green Belt’ project that supports communities in Israel’s South who have come under rocket fire from Gaza.
The seven protesters, all of whom were Jewish, accused the environmental organisation of displacing Bedouin from their homes in the Negev, and of causing environmental damage through planting non-native species such as pine trees. Further, in their pamphlet they called upon members of the community not to donate money to an organisation that “co-opts Jewish values to justify social and environmental injustice”.
But the protesters appeared to have little impact on Green Sunday, with JNF General Manager David Beder reporting that “hundreds of volunteers” came to man the phones and solicit donations.
“I don’t think our volunteers were intimidated by the demonstration,” he said. While it was too early to conclusively determine the day’s success, Beder believes that for the most part the volunteers were well received by the community.
The protesters were initially rumoured to be from the Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS), although this was refuted by AJDS co-President Harold Zwier. “I know there were some AJDS people who may have taken part in it but it wasn’t an AJDS event,” said Zwier.
Dr Jordy Silverstein, a historian and executive member of AJDS, was one of the organisers of the protest and said that they were not an official group but a group of people who are concerned about the actions of the JNF. She denied any affiliation with international group Stop the JNF, although the latter is referred to in their pamphlet as source of further information, along with the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality and Rabbis for Human Rights.
“We’re all Jewish and some of us have been to villages in Israel and seen the destruction caused by the JNF. We just thought the people who got the flyer might want to find more information,” she said.
Dr Silverstein added that people had generally been quite happy to take their flyers, but that one individual had called them “anti-Semites” and “kappos”, and said they should be shot. She added that she felt their efforts had been successful.
JNF Federal president Michael Naphtali told J-Wire.
“This is not a new story. No Bedouin has been displaced.No tree planted is not on crown land and the Government of Israel tells JNF where it can plant trees. We live with a covenant that certain land in Israel is for Jewish people. I agree there are matters wsuch as Al-Ariqib which are disputive but those are currently under consideration. JNF Australia plants nothing outside the Green Line.” He added that pine trees are indigenous to Israel but agreed that non-native species had been planted. He added: “but that was in 1950s and 1960s and the practice was stopped when it was realised that it might prove harmful”.
The JNF will publish a Q&A on its web site