Saturday, December 29, 2012

Does SPD spell "Stupid"? Planting Trees to Displace People.

AGAINST demolition of Bedouin homes in Negev. Does Germany's Social Democrat party want to help bury the evidence? 

What is the German Social-Democratic party (SPD) thinking of? When the Israeli government, fresh from its Gaza war, is holding up two fingers to the UN, never mind the Palestinians, by expanding West Bank settlements, and evicting Palestinians both in Jerusalem and the Negev, the German party has come up with its own contribution to the problem.

It is raising funds for a forest, the German States Forest, being planted on land taken from the Bedouin.

Allow me to confess an interest.  Somewhere in Israel there are seven trees planted in my name back in my misspent youth as a Zionist. It started when I was about twelve and we were given collecting cards at school, on which to stick stamps showing the transformation of the Huleh valley from swamp to fertile land (a scheme which has since been criticised by some environmentalists). Then there were the bob a job weeks, going errands and gardening, the expeditions to collect Jewish National Fund(JNF) blue box contributions, and the day spent with chaverim(comrades) clearing hedges on a farm in Sussex, when we carried on working in torrential rain. All proceeds to the JNF for planting trees in the hills around Jerusalem.

In those days it fitted our idealism to see all this as positive work, helping develop a country and settle it. It didn't occur to us that one people were being settled to displace others. I doubt if we knew about the JNF's rules discriminating as to who could live and work on "national" land, or whether we'd have thought about it.

Nowadays the Zionist state is not only fully established (with much of what then was public or co-operative economy privatised), but it has maintained an occupation for 45 years, planting settlers to consolidate its grip on Palestinian territory, and with the participation of the JNF it is taking land from the Negev Bedouin. All that stuff we used to take pride in about planting trees and "making the desert blossom as a rose" echoes a bit sick when we see bulldozers ripping up olive groves or wrecking homes, and hear about Bedouin crops being destroyed.

The old Zionist slogan was "A Land without People, for a People without a Land". That long ago became an obsolete fantasy when it became clear that the land came with people. The strategy then became to separate the two. At al Arakib in the Negev the bulldozers have been backward and forward over 14 times, destroying Bedouin homes.  Each time the Bedouin came back to rebuild anew. You may say that is stubborness. They might prefer to say steadfastness, samed.            

As for what the Social Democrat Party is doing in placing itself behind the ethnic cleansers, the word might be "stupid", whatever misguided and anachronistic historical and moral motives might have led them to this.

The Negev Co-existence Forum for Civil Equality, formed by Arab and Jewish citizens living in the Negev area has called on the SPD to withdraw from this project. A statement on the Forum's website says:

The German Social-Democratic party (SPD) published a call for donations for trees planting in the German States Forest last week. The German States Forest is located in the Israeli Negev, and it was planted on lands of Bedouin citizens of the country. Negev Coexistence Forum wrote a letter to the party’s members, urging them to stop the donations project, and explaining the complex reality in the Negev. In addition, NCF produced a video in cooperation with Dr. Awad Abu Freich, one of the owners of the lands where the forest is planted. In the video, Dr. Abu Freich describes the injustice caused to his family and to him, as a result of the planting of the German States Forest, and explains how expulsion of Bedouin from their land is being done through practices of forestation.

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