Friday, July 27, 2007

Gordon Brown backs racism and clearances

AS Tony 'Bomber' Blair gads about promising to bring peace to the Middle East, Gordon Brown has not just stepped into his job at No.10 but has taken over from Blair as leading patron of a dubious "charity" linked with racism in Israel. Has a precedent been established for it to go with the job?

This week's Jewish Chronicle reports:

JNF UK, one of Anglo-Jewry’s leading charities, has secured Gordon Brown as its latest patron, the JC can reveal. The Prime Minister accepted the role following an invitation from JNF UK president Gail Seal, who wrote conveying her good wishes the day after he took office. In a letter to Mrs Seal, the PM responded that “your congratulations and good wishes are very much appreciated” and that he was “delighted to accept your offer to become a patron of JNF UK”.

A spokesman for Mr Brown told the JC: “The Prime Minister supports a number of charities and has agreed to become a patron of the Jewish National Fund UK in order to encourage their work to promote charitable projects for everyone who lives in Israel.”

(Brown takes on JNF role, Daniella PeledJC July 27,2007

That last sentence is curious. Although described as an Anglo-Jewish charity and registered here as such, the Jewish National Fund channels its funds to Israel, where its aim since it was founded under Ottoman rule has been to promote exclusively Jewish settlement. Any arguments in early days, when immigrants might otherwise have been unable to find employment, and private capital wasn't interested in development, have long been overtaken by the negative aim, of thwarting Palestinian growth and excluding Arab labour. The Knesset has just given its first reading to a bill that declares it legal to discriminate, and forbids the sale of JNF land to non-Jews.

When Israel declared itself a State in 1948, it pledged to be open for Jewish immigration and "the Ingathering of the Exiles" (i.e. Jews, not Palestinians) but also promised "it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex ..."

The JNF, or Keren Kayemet le Israel ("everlasting fund for Israel") did not surrender its functions to the state, nor were its lands taken over. It was incorporated as a private company, under a special law, and was thus able not only to continue raising funds abroad as a charity, but to continue barring non-Jews, specifically Arabs, from leasing or renting property it owned, or working on its lands. Meanwhile the state and its defenders could assure anyone who asked that Israel did not have "Apartheid laws".

As Yitzhak Bam, who drafted the law before the Knesset explains, this informal arrangement was not everlasting. In 1960 the Knesset reorganized the land legislation, and passed laws under which the Israel Lands Administration was established to administer public, including JNF lands, while pledging to do so in accordance with JNF aims.

"But in the autumn of 2005, in the wake of an appeal by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the attorney general ruled in his reply to the High Court of Justice that the ILA was not permitted to administer JNF lands in the spirit of its goals and must lease all the lands it handles (including JNF lands) to anyone, ignoring the JNF's basic purpose and the agreement signed between the state and the JNF. The bill I formulated while taking part in the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, on the request of MK Uri Ariel and others, tries to restore the former situation and anchor in law what is self-evident: the ILA's moral obligation and authority to administer JNF lands in accordance with the fund's goals, so that lands purchased with Jewish donors' money will be devoted to Jewish settlement".

Bam is surprised that the left Zionist party Meretz sent an Arab as its representative to the JNF directorate: "His interests are not among the interests and goals of the fund. The representative would almost certainly support the dismantling of the JNF, and almost certainly his purpose for sitting on the board is to neutralize the JNF's basic purpose".

"According to the fundamentals of justice and equality, the State of Israel must act for the benefit of all its citizens. The JNF is not obligated to work for non-Jewish settlement. If that is racism, all of Zionism is racism. " Well, you said it, Mr.Bam.

What does Mr.Brown have to say? Joining Tony Blair, David Cameron and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (said to be a close friend, reports the JC) as patron of JNF-UK, the Prime Minister lends his name to a cause which many Jewish celebrities nowadays decline to help as they become aware of its character. JNF-UK has undergone an organisational split from the Israeli body, and was also subject of complaints to the Charity Commissionaires though these were not upheld.

But it continues to raise £15 million a year for its projects in Israel, and organisers are hoping high-level support will help boost projects in the Galil -where Zionists remain anxious to establish a Jewish majority, and the Negev, where the Bedouin are under increasing pressure to make way for new settlement.

The JC reporting Brown's support says "'n a speech to Labour Friends of Israel in April, he recounted how his late father, a Church of Scotland minister, had taught him about “the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people, about the enormous suffering and loss during the Holocaust, as well as the extraordinary struggle he described to me of people to create this magnificent homeland”. '

Pity the minister didn't tell his bairn about the inhumanity of the Highland Clearances, or even a Lowland Scot like Brown might see that such brutality today is unacceptable, whether in the West Bank or to the Negev Bedouin. But as we approach the 90th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, perhaps we must recognise that some learn nothing from history except to continue it; and a Labour imperialist who boasts of his lessons at the manse is just a moralising Labour imperialist.

Pity the trade unions who this year passed resolutions on Palestine were not able to pick a different candidate for Labour leadership.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home