The JNF and the Environment

Ruins of the Palestinian village of Biram, declared as a national park open to the Israeli public on December 29, 2012. Residents of the village were forced out by the Israeli army in 1949 and have not been allowed to return since even though in 1951, a Supreme Court decision upheld their right to return 29/12/12. Photo by Oren Ziv activestills.org

Ruins of the Palestinian village of Biram, declared as a national park open to the Israeli public on December 29, 2012. Residents of the village were forced out by the Israeli army in 1949 and have not been allowed to return since, despite, a 1951 Supreme Court decision upholding their right to return 29/12/12. Photo by Oren Ziv activestills.org

 

The JNF claims to be an organisation dedicated to ‘Greening the State of Israel through the creation, improvement and maintenance of forests and the preservation of natural landscapes and open spaces’. 1 The reality, however, is often very different.

The non-indigenous trees that the JNF have historically planted are poorly suited to the Israeli/Palestinian environment.  They are often planted in areas exposed to extreme dry heat, where “the JNF’s trees go up like tinder,” 2 contributing to devastating forest fires, such as the Carmel wildfires of 2010. Additionally, while animals indigenous to the desert landscape have historically lived off only native shrubs, tree plantings have caused invading species such as mice, rats, crows and birds of prey including shrikes and kestrels, to come to the area and destroy the local fauna. One threatened species is the leopard fringe-fingered lizard, a rare species that lives only in the Be’er Sheva area. 3 The introduced specieas take advantage of the comfortable conditions provided by the trees to prey on local animals and dominate the food sources. An example of this is taking place in the Yatir area at the edge of the Negev desert.

According to Yoav Perlman, an ecologist with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel:

“The Yatir area  is one of the last remnants of an area of plants and animals typical to the edge of the desert. All the animals that developed there have gotten used to an environment in which there are only shrubs. When trees are planted there, birds of prey like shrikes or kestrels come in and finish off the local animals. Everything that’s special about the area is hit.” 4

Through its promotion of a European conception of environmentalism centred on creating forests, the JNF’s practices have not only contributed to the destruction of indigenous ecosystems, but have also undermined and undervalued the knowledge and land management practices of Palestine’s indigenous peoples. 5

The ecological justification for tree planting by the JNF in areas such as the Negev is thus highly spurious, leading many to conclude that its real purpose is to prevent so-called ‘illegal’ building by Bedouin communities. 6

Read more about the JNF and the Bedouins here

JNF promotes itself as a green charity, fundraising in Jewish communities around the word to support tree planting, and other environmental initiatives in Israel. But what is the JNF really doing with your money?

 

JNF and Settlements in the West Bank The JNF and ongoing Dispossession JNF and Bedouin Communities The JNF in Australia

Notes:

  1. Jewish National Fund of Australia inc., 2014, About Us, JNF Australia, accessed 03/06/2014, ‘http://www.jnf.org.au/Page/637/About-Us.cfm
  2. Blumenthal, M. 2010, The Carmel wildfire is burning all illusions in Israel, Electronic Intifada, 6 December, accesed 16/07/14, http://electronicintifada.net/content/carmel-wildfire-burning-all-illusions-israel/9130
  3. Rinat, Z. 2008, ‘JNF using trees to thwart Bedouin growth in Negev’, Haaretz, December 8, accessed 17/08/14, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/jnf-using-trees-to-thwart-bedouin-growth-in-negev-1.259038
  4. Rinat, Z. 2008, ‘JNF using trees to thwart Bedouin growth in Negev’, Haaretz, December 8, accessed 17/08/14, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/jnf-using-trees-to-thwart-bedouin-growth-in-negev-1.259038
  5. Braverman, I. 2009. ‘Planting the Promised Landscape: Zionism, Nature, and Resistance in Israel/Palestine’, Natural Resources Journal, vol.49 Spring.
  6. Rinat, Z. 2008, ‘JNF using trees to thwart Bedouin growth in Negev’, Haaretz, December 8, accessed 17/08/14, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/jnf-using-trees-to-thwart-bedouin-growth-in-negev-1.259038

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *