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JfJfP comments


06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics


23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo


15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014


29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011



Shattering Israel’s image of ‘democracy’

cifIn the Negev, an area targeted for so-called ‘development’, lies the Israel that its government does not want to be seen

Ben White, Guardian, 3 December 2009

A struggle over land, home demolitions, and an Israeli government working with Jewish agencies to “develop” the land for the benefit of one group at the expense of another. It could be a picture of the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, but in fact, it’s inside Israel – in the Negev.

The Negev, or al-Naqab in Arabic, is an area that since the inception of the state has been targeted by Israeli governments, along with agencies like the Jewish National Fund (JNF), for so-called “development”.

This investment in the country’s periphery is characterised by systematic discrimination against the Negev’s Bedouin population, many of whom live in “unrecognised” villages or townships. Recent developments bring these policies into sharper focus, as well as pointing to fundamental problems with Israel’s image as “the Middle East’s only democracy”.

First, three vital clinics serving Bedouin women and children have been shut down, with the result that the nearest equivalent facilities are now hours away. The official reason is a shortage of staff, but this does not sit well with the severity of the health problem among these Bedouin children, where the infant mortality rate is more than three times higher than in the Israeli Jewish community.

Second, in mid-November the Knesset passed an amendment to prevent around 25,000 Bedouins from voting for their mayor and regional councillors. Elections had already been postponed for two years, but now the law means “that as long as the minister of interior deems the residents not ready for elections, the elections will be postponed”.

Finally, six weeks ago, lawyers acting on behalf of the Bedouins who live in the unrecognised village of Umm al-Hieran appealed against a previous court decision ordering the eviction of the community’s residents.

Ironically, this village had been established by the Israeli military in the 1950s as part of a wider-scale forced relocation of Bedouins from territory intended for Jewish settlement. Now they are once again being targeted for removal, labelled “intruders”, to make way for the planned creation of a Jewish town, Hiran.

Meanwhile, there have been reports about a Bedouin “mini-intifada” in the Negev, with Israeli military personnel targeted on the roads near a key base. Such fears are not new: a Haaretz article in 2004 predicted that a “Bedouin intifada” was “on the way” – a conclusion supposedly shared by senior government and military leaders.

What then, is the wider context? As a Human Rights Watch report put it last year, “the state’s motives for these discriminatory, exclusionary and punitive policies can be elicited from policy documents and official rhetoric”. The Israeli state’s aim: “maximising its control over Negev land and increasing the Jewish population in the area for strategic, economic and demographic reasons”. Professor Oren Yifatchel of Ben-Gurion University has put it bluntly: “the government wants to de-Arabise the land”.

This is the common thread that runs through Israel’s approach to the Negev since 1948: from physical expulsions and the legislation used to exclude communities from official recognition, through to budget allocations, creating Bedouin townships, and the flipside of “development” – demolitions.

In 2003, then-PM Ariel Sharon announced a new initiative calling “for the establishment of some 30 new towns” in the Galilee and Negev. One of the PM’s advisers at the time, Uzi Keren, told a radio station that it was important to locate the new towns in “the places that are important to the state, that is, for Jewish settlement”, in order to “strengthen settlement in areas sparse in Jewish population”.

One of the groups helping the state is the Jewish Agency for Israel. A few years ago, the organisation’s foreign media liaison officer was quoted on the JTA news website as describing the goal of the joint venture with the Israeli government as “a Jewish majority in all parts of Israel”.

Another key organisation involved is the Jewish National Fund. Its UK website, for example, talks about how “the future of Israel lies in the Negev” and says the goal of the “major initiative” known as “Blueprint Negev” is to “revitalise Israel’s southern region”.

In January, the chief executive of JNF in the US, Russell Robinson, expressed his concern that “if we don’t get 500,000 people to move to the Negev in the next five years, we’re going to lose it”. To what – or who – went unsaid. In 2005, Robinson was clearer about the consequences of the JNF’s “project to remake” the demographics: “such an influx” of Jews would mean “a certain amount of displacement” for the Bedouin.

Robinson actually tried to present this as helping tackle Bedouin unemployment. With their slick focus on “environmentally friendly” initiatives and helping the disadvantaged Arabs, groups like the JNF do their best to make sure that scenes like this go unnoticed.

This is the Israel that its government and propagandists do not want to be seen, the Israel where non-Jews are a demographic “threat”, and the state works with agencies (often funded by western donors) to “secure” a Jewish majority. It is the reality behind the myth of Israel as the region’s only democracy, and away from the weekly twists and turns of the peace process, such policies shed light on the root problem preventing a resolution of the conflict just as well as, or better than, the number of housing units in Gilo.

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