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JNF and Kahanist Leader: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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An anti-annexation demonstration in Jerusalem last September
An anti-annexation demonstration in Jerusalem last SeptemberCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

Anyone who thinks that a Palestinian inhabitant of the occupied territories cares much whether he is uprooted by extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir or the Jewish National Fund, pride and joy of the Zionist vision, would be wrong. The Iraqi poet Muthaffar al-Nawab wrote: “The sheep cares not for the shape of the blade in the slaughterhouse.”

What’s the difference between the JNF’s “redeeming the land” and Ben-Gvir’s “it’s us or them – expel the Arab enemy”? In fact, the first slogan is more dangerous because the call for expulsion is wrapped in a glittering package – “redemption.”

But actually this is about redeeming the land from its soul, the Arabs. Thus the land that we will have left will be without soul, whose new inhabitants instill fear in Israeli society. Look and see who’s moving the wheels of state in the corridors of power. But those in charge at the JNF have no sense of natural justice. At the moment their target is “redeeming” lands around settlements and passing them on to the caressing hands of the settlers’ bulldozers, which will ruin the land, flatten hills and wound mountains. When the redemption of the occupied territories is complete we may presume that the operation will gallop onward toward Jordan. It is inconceivable for the JNF, with all the money in its coffers, to be dismantled.

The cynicism of the JNF only grows: It asks the Jews of the world to contribute to the forestation of the Negev, and in the promised shade of the greenery the Arabs are expelled from their land. It’s interesting that even 70 years after the establishment of the state, redemption is still conducted clandestinely.

I thought naïvely that the time had come to rejoice and be glad for every particle of land that is redeemed. It turns out that the redeemers know deep down that their work is tainted. Their actions contravene international law and the laws of morality because below the lovely word “redemption” is an explosion of defilement called “uprooting.” And then rise the chilling words “ethnic cleansing.” And if uprooting a tree evokes sorrow among sane folk, all the more so when native people are uprooted.

When Danny Atar was director of the JNF, until a few months ago, the organization tried to purchase (excuse me, to redeem) land in the Jordan Valley at a cost of 100 million shekels ($30.7 million), without even obtaining the approval of the board of directors; the representative of the Reform Movement on the board stopped the move. I mention this because Atar is the flesh and blood of the “moderate” Labor movement. If I’m asked whom I prefer at the helm of the JNF – Ben-Gvir or Atar – I’ll say I prefer someone who works publicly and not someone who hides behind whitewashed words; it’s easier to expose his true face and fight his actions.

The outcry against the surplus-votes agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir’s party is a healthy thing. But it’s important to say that here we’re only dealing with the fruit of the tree, not with its roots. The poisonous tree – the occupation, the takeover of the land, expulsion – is still growing, developing and being supported by the mainstream in Israel.

We note only that under crisis conditions, the fruit of the poisonous tree can poison other parts of society, not only the Arab parts. The prime minister’s trial is a crisis in governing. When all the muses have fallen silent, and especially the Supreme Court, which legitimized an individual accused of criminal offenses leading the country, the survival instinct of the resident at the prime minister’s Balfour Street house is capable of anything. Among other things, to join together with far-right leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is the legitimate offspring of the gluttony of the Labor movement, which, by its actions, for example the Jewish National Fund, paved the way for the growth of a mutation called Otzma Yehudit – Jewish Power –  sheltering under the wing of a more dangerous mutation named Netanyahu.

And so, with the outcry – which unfortunately is not earth-shattering enough – against the agreement with Ben-Gvir, it is important to dry up the wellsprings of racist doctrine, even under its beautiful names.

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