If it weren’t so appalling and ominous, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Negev Campaign Kickoff in Toronto on September 15, 2014 could almost seem like a satire of itself. This was the scene when we — a small group of protesters from different organizations, who challenged the lies and propaganda — were met with physical assaults and shocked indignation, and were threatened with detainment by Toronto’s “security” police.
The JNF’s featured speaker was Shaul Mofaz, Member of the Knesset, former Israeli Minister of Defense and former military Chief of Staff. Short videos about JNF Canada (Canada’s fundraising arm for the JNF) and about Shaul Mofaz were set to a string orchestra score, with generic classical music alternately pastoral and thumpingly urgent and epic. The Mofaz video featured him as a heroic soldier at Entebbe, in the 1967 Six Day War, the 1973 war, and 1982 Lebanon, but failed to mention the Second Intifada or the Jenin refugee camp, where Mofaz orchestrated the slaughter there. In a briefing to Israeli army officials in May 2001, Mofaz ordered a daily quota of Palestinian deaths. He actually called for a Palestinian death toll of seventy per day.
The JNF video’s map of Israel showed Gaza and the West Bank completely absorbed into Israel. Is this the one-state solution, or the final chapter of the 1948 ethnic cleansing, now euphemistically called “mowing the lawn”?
The JNF often portrays itself as a green, humanitarian charity, but in truth it is instrumental in massive population transfers, ethnic cleansing and land confiscation. The JNF actively supports Israel’s military state, with “security” a central component of the JNF’s fundraising initiatives.
The September 15 event was a showcase of the JNF’s contributions to the Israeli military establishment through its propaganda, through building bomb shelters, and through one-sided depiction of Israel’s citizens traumatized by Palestinian aggression. The JNF deliberately failed to mention that fatalities are hugely disproportionate, and that approximately 77 per cent of the Palestinians killed were civilians, while approximately 9 per cent of the Israeli fatalities were civilians. Nor did it mention that Israel, for the fourth time since 2006, has destroyed Gaza’s water and power infrastructure, hospitals, schools, mosques and homes. Israel has used unconventional weapons like white phosphorus and DIME, and has gotten away with it all.
So where was the satire? Mofaz stating as fact that Hamas killed the three teenage boys? Even top Israeli officials have officially exonerated Hamas in these murders. When Mofaz expostulated that ISIS is identical to Hamas and Hezbollah? When the young professional Jewish woman spoke of their four-day delegation to Israel to witness and support Israeli soldiers because of the hard work of killing? And how they provided cold drinks and slushies to the soldiers? “A cold drink makes a difference on a hot day, and the soldiers were appreciative. They thanked the Canadian visitors and answered all their questions about life in Israel.”
Shaul Mofaz spoke of promoting the demilitarization of Gaza. He said that Israel needs to first try some kind of negotiated settlement, and if that doesn’t work, to do so “by force.” To rebuild Gaza, Mofaz indicated that a $50 billion investment would be required — a “Canadian estimate.” However, the details of this effort were not elaborated. Nor was there any history provided of reconstruction money in the past going to Israeli contractors, or of Israel’s innumerable and well-documented breaches of previous agreements.
What’s appalling? Not only was there zero mention of the massacres in Gaza, but the four-day delegation of Canadian young professionals stood in stark contrast to another four days thirty-two years ago: September 15 to September 18 1982, the massacres at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. On September 15, 1982, the Israeli military killed another group of professionals — sixty-three Palestinian intellectuals, lawyers and doctors, followed the next day by Ariel Sharon overseeing the horrific massacre, called an “act of genocide” by the UN General Assembly, and verified by the UN MacBride Commission as being Israel’s responsibility. And now on September 15 2014, the JNF honours Shaul Mofaz, who was responsible for the murder of innocents in Jenin, as identified by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch’s reports.
Appalling too were the JNF videos of happy Israeli children in the pristine well-equipped parks and play centres provided by the JNF. Where was the fundamental human decency that would acknowledge the conditions for Gaza’s children, the dead, the injured, the orphaned, and their destroyed schools and health services?
What’s especially ominous in Mofaz’s talk is his conflation of ISIS with Hezbollah and Hamas. From a member of the Knesset who’s a military leader, was this a harbinger of another war against Lebanon and Gaza? A warning about the next conflagration and the destruction of more civilian infrastructure, along with the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people?
Ben, a young Jewish professional, was the first to speak up inside the event. “We are Jews. Shame on you. End the siege on Gaza now!” This was met with turmoil and shouts of rage as men chased him out of the synagogue auditorium.
Judy, a Jewish grandmother, was second: “I am Jewish. You do not speak in my name: 519 children killed….” A number of men pushed and shoved her towards the exit. One grabbed her neck. She continued to shout “519 children.”
Sue, a Jewish anti-Zionist artist, was third. “Genocide begins with the silence of the world, and we will not be silent.” Again turmoil and chaos as men jumped up and rushed towards her. She was “escorted” out by two men holding her arms.
A Palestinian woman who was present at that event remarked, “Zionism and violence often go hand in hand. The use of force per se did not surprise me so much as its excessive use. Barely two words had left Judy’s mouth when a man more than twice her size leaped at her with bare hands reaching for her neck. It did not matter that she was not Palestinian. It did not matter that she is Jewish. She had verbally objected to Zionism and that was enough justification to threaten her life without a second thought.”
We were detained by Toronto police, who paid no attention to the physical assaults on us. They said something about violations of private property, though we had paid to get in; there was some implication that freedom of speech was only for public places, but why, we asked, were public police in the private synagogue protecting some but not others? They couldn’t answer.
After the protest a sizeable number of people left. Were they afraid of the protesters? Were there any twinges of uncertainty? Shame about what was done in their name?
Those of us who oppose the JNF’s ongoing agenda of Palestinian dispossession will continue to expose its historic role in ethnic cleansing, and its current role in the continuation of ethnically cleansing non-Jews from land it controls.