How about this Parade of Shame?
(photo by Brian Robinson,
THIS was the road leading up to Windsor Castle yesterday,
as the guests began to arrive for a £1,000 a head dinner hosted by the Royal Family, in aid of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel.
The Duke of Edinburgh had been due to preside, but because of his illness, his place was taken by the Duke of York.
For Palestinians of course this is the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, the catastrophe which turned them into a people without a home, in a continuous process of expropriation to which the JNF has been an important part.
Israel's declaration of independence pledged it to treat all its citizens as equal, regardless of ethnicity or faith. But to get around that, it has maintained the pre-state JNF, in its Israeli incarnation Keren Kayemet le Yisrael (Everlasting Fund for Israel), a colonising instrument whose articles rule that no non-Jew has the right to reside, work, or rent property on land which the fund has acquired. Taken on top of the Law of Return, which permits Jews from anywhere in the world to immigrate, but denies Palestinians the right to come home, by allocating land to the JNF, the state has simply delegated its right to discriminate.
Enjoying the status of a charity in the UK, the JNF raises funds here and in other countries to fund developments whose design is far from charitable, such as the afforestation of land in the Judean hills concealing where Palestinian villages formerly stood.
Maybe at one time it managed to conceal its character behind romantic ideas of development and progress, 'making the desert blossom as a rose". As youngsters many of us were encouraged to work and collect money to drain swamps, and plant trees and so on. Now people ask how that image squares with bulldozers tearing up Palestinian olive trees, and planes spraying Bedouin crops to poison them.
Here's what one group, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, had to say, in its protest letter over the Windsor Castle feast:
"Since 1948, the JNF was the beneficiary of land that was taken from the 530 Palestinian villages and a dozen large towns that were deliberately destroyed, its inhabitants having fled in fear and even killed under order by Israel's leaders, creating 750,000 refugees.
"Contrary to the JNF’s benign image, huge tracts of Palestinian agriculture, farmland and orchards were uprooted to make way for the sterilizing impact of pine forests. This ethnic cleansing has been well documented by the new Israeli historians like Ilan Pappe, and Israeli human rights organizations, which reveal the myths of ‘making the desert bloom’ that the JNF has tried to project. This confiscation without compensation is now ongoing in the Negev, within Israel.
"The JNF, through its ‘Blueprint Negev’ plan, intends to create 25 new towns over the coming years, bringing 250,000 new Jewish-only residents to the region, according to its website. To make way for new JNF communities, ‘unrecognized’ Bedouin villages were destroyed during 2007 in military-style operations displacing hundreds of families, all citizens of Israel. The JNF is also planting forests on Bedouin land, such as the Ambassador Forest on the lands of the Elokbi Tribe north of Beersheba".
Buckinghamshire and Berkshire branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign called yesterday's demonstration outside the castle gates, but it was supported also by some PSC members from London and elsewhere. Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG) serenaded those arriving with some melodious but irreverent songs about royalty and the JNF, and the Jewish Socialists' Group banner was also there.
Having earlier been sitting in a Windsor pub when police came in, with a camera, asking the guvnor if he'd seen "any unusual characters" about, I appreciated him assuring them we were just his regular customers (I'd never been in there before in my life). When the Neturei Karta with their beards and peyot(sidecurls) and distinctive black garb arrived at the castle to join the demonstrators, I hoped they looked unusual enough in that setting to give police cameramen something to do. Of course Thames Valley Police may have been nervously recalling the event five years ago when "terror comedian" Aaron Barschak, wearing a big black beard and peach-pink dress (into which he had apparently changed in the Highlander pub) got through security and gatecrashed Prince William's party in the castle to publicise his act. Good job Neturei Karta don't wear pink, you don't fool the Thames Valley finest twice.
Monday evening's protest was serious, feelings were strong, but it remained peaceful. Meanwhile, back in town, the papers were running headlines about a "Parade of Shame".
But they meant the Olympic torch being carried through London, harried by protests about Tibet. The Tibetans, it seems, want independence and object to their lands being occupied.
At least, unlike the Palestinians, they don't have to face a media denouncing them as the aggressors, or as yet anything like a Zionist Lobby mounted by overseas Chinese. Our British media and respectable British liberals always know with which oppressed people it is OK to take sides.