Today marks the 66th anniversary of the Nakba, the term used to describe the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian people when Israel declared independence. Leading up to and following Israel's Declaration of Independence, approximately 780,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled out of fear of atrocities, after Jewish forces committed several massacres in Palestine. The Jewish National Fund (JNF), a quasi-governmental organization, has been used by the Israeli state to appropriate the property of these refugees, and to cover up the sites of more than 90 depopulated and demolished Palestinian villages with parks and forest.
The JNF was founded in 1901 at the Fifth Zionist Congress. Its primary purpose has been to acquire land in historic Palestine -- land that can only ever be owned or leased to Jews. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that restricting ownership of land to a certain ethnic group is illegal. Yet, despite its ongoing and flagrant disregard for international law, an organization whose activities would be illegal in Canada is supported by the Canadian government through its charitable tax status, among other means.
The JNF presents itself as an environmental organization, working to "make the desert bloom" and "redeem the Land of Israel." To help support its "charitable" work in Israel/Palestine, the JNF hosts gala dinners in cities across Canada where it has affiliates. The fund was able to raise over $15 million for the building of Canada Park, and through its fundraising galas, it is still investing money in the park. Canada Park was built over the ruins of three destroyed Palestinian villages: Imwas, Yalu, and Beit Nuba, and it displaced over 5,500 Palestinians who called those villages home. Expelling villagers and demolishing their homes violates the fourth Geneva Convention. Canada Park also sits within occupied territory, which goes against official Canadian government policy. Annual tax-deductible donations of between $10 and 13 million flow to the JNF. We think that needs to stop.
As part of IJV's campaign to expose the JNF in Canada, recent actions have been held with allies in Toronto, where the JNF "honoured" Prime Minster Stephen Harper, who has had the Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary named after him, as well as in Vancouver, with a protest against the JNF's fundraising gala. IJV-Halifax will be protesting the JNF Negev Gala "honouring" Dalhousie University's Chair of the Board of Governors Jim Spatz on May 22nd, and IJV-Winnipeg is currently planning an action to coincide with the JNF's Negev Gala on May 27. The Winnipeg Gala will feature Montreal-born jazz star Nikki Yanofsky. Nikki performed at the Vancouver Olympics, and has been described by Quincy Jones as having "it."
Well, we have had it with the JNF. Its green veneer should be stripped off in Canada, as it is continually being exposed abroad. IJV Canada has partnered with Change.org to launch a petition campaign asking Nikki to cancel her performances. We encourage you to show your support by going there now and signing it. The petition has links to Facebook and Twitter for you to share. We asked Nikki's management team nicely to cancel her performances, and they ignored us. While ignorance may be bliss for Nikki and her profiting management, it means continued house demolitions, ethnic cleansing, and racial discrimination for Palestinians on the ground.
Harold Shuster is a member of Independent Jewish Voices – Winnipeg, and an active member of the campaign to Expose the JNF.
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