The Israeli Film Festival Obscures the Whole Picture

March 11, 2014

IMG_3082The 18th annual Israeli Film Festival, which is being sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel, is currently screening films at the International House in Philadelphia. The film festival, which runs from March 8th until April 6th, claims to be a celebration of Israeli culture aimed at enriching the American vision of Israeli society. Despite its self-portrayal as a purely cultural event, however, the Film Festival—which receives financial support from Israel—is helping to whitewash Israel’s appalling human rights record towards the Palestinian people.

On March 9th, the festival screened Sharon—An Inner Journey from War to Peace. This film, which focuses on Ariel Sharon’s ostensible journey from a military man to a peacemaker, transforms the late leader into a likeable and relatable Israeli nationalist hero. For many Palestinians, however, Sharon is remembered as a war criminal. During his long tenure in the Israeli military and government, he oversaw the bulldozing of homes and the massacre of Palestinian civilians in Jordan, Lebanon, and the occupied territories; helped to instigate the second Intifada; and spearheaded the Israeli settlement drive and the construction of the apartheid wall in Gaza and the West Bank. To counter the Israeli Film Festival’s attempt to rewrite history, the Philadelphia Coalition for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and their allies held a demonstration outside of International House on the day of the Sharon film’s screening. Protesters held signs that read “Free Palestine,” “Sabra,” “Shatila,” and “We will never forget,” and a banner that read “Boycott Israeli Apartheid.” Information was distributed enumerating Ariel Sharon’s history of war crimes against Palestinians.

Prior to the protest, Philly BDS sent a letter to the International House asking them not to screen Sharon, for which we received no response. The International House, however, did not advertise for the film festival nor did International House organizers attend the film screening.

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The protest was met by hostility by the film attendees, who were a largely non-diverse group who supported a Zionist Israeli state and the maintenance of the current status quo in Israel. A Palestinian member of Philly BDS, Noor, lamented: “I wish they would just talk to me. So that we could have a conversation.” Another supporter of BDS spoke with one of the organizers of the film festival—who reported not supporting the selection of the film Sharon for inclusion in the festival, but who had been outvoted.

Along with efforts like “Brand Israel,” films of this nature help to deflect blame and steer the conversation away from the pressing political issues standing in the way of a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The goal of the protest was to highlight this form of whitewashing and to focus on the importance of never forgetting events such as the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

Sharon’s complicity in these massacres solidified his image as the “Butcher of Beirut.” On the night of September 16, 1982—at the height of the polarizing Lebanese civil war—Israel’s Phalangist allies massacred unarmed Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The Israeli Defense Forces, which had earlier violated a ceasefire agreement between the various forces, facilitated the massacre by surrounding the camps, stationing troops at the exits of Sabra and Shatila to prevent camp residents from fleeing, and illuminating the area with flares. An Israeli Commission later concluded that the then Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, bore personal responsibility for the massacres, which a United Nations Commission referred to as a form of genocide.

In August 2005, Sharon oversaw the forcible eviction of some 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip—a decision that some welcomed as a surprising move for the elder statesman and a step towards reconciliation. Yet focusing on the late Prime Minister’s piecemeal decision to disengage from Gaza obscures the reality on the ground. The region—which some have called the world’s largest open-air prison—remains under the effective occupation of the Israeli government, which still controls its airspace, land passages, and coastline.

Many experts also believe that Sharon’s ultimate goal was to derail the roadmap towards peace and foreclose the possibility for a Palestinian state through this relatively small concession to the Palestinian and international communities. By painting an overly rosy picture of the late political and military leader, the Israeli film festival is helping to conceal Sharon’s human rights record and is obscuring the ongoing, lived reality for millions of Palestinians suffering in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Philadelphia Coalition for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) is calling on all those who stand in solidarity with Palestine not to attend the Israeli Film Festival. Due to its support from the Consulate General of Israel and its decision to screen Sharon—An Inner Journey from War to Peace, the Israeli Film Festival cannot be conceptualized as a wholly neutral, apolitical space of cultural expression. In fact, festivals and documentaries of this nature help shift the conversation away from the ongoing plight of the Palestinian people, the need for significant reforms of Israeli state policies, and the U.S. government’s complicity in these actions.

BDS ACTIVISTS PROTEST THE JEWISH NATIONAL FUND

March 31, 2013

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“Ethnic cleansing is a crime – justice now in Palestine!” Chanting with great energy and exuberance, the Philadelphia Coalition for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel (Philly BDS) was once again a colorful and vocal presence in protest at the annual local fundraiser for The Jewish National Fund.

This year’s JNF fundraiser, “March Madness Poker Tournament” was held in Manayunk on Thursday, March 21. Under the banner “STOP THE JNF’s APARTHEID ROYALE,” members of Philly BDS and allies costumed themselves as playing cards bearing the words “Stop the JNF!” Carrying signs reinforcing their message “Land Theft is not Charity,” protesters positioned themselves strategically on both sides of the driveway entrance to the event. Informational postcards and conversation were available to attendees and passers-by.

Each year, the JNF raises over $60 million in the United States alone. The demonstration aimed to call attention to the human rights abuses against Palestinians by the Jewish National Fund and to encourage activists to work to revoke its tax-exempt charitable status.

Founded in 1901 for the purpose of acquiring land in Palestine for Jewish settlement, the JNF has provided the infrastructure for the historic and ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.  The organization’s mandate is the acquisition of land and property rights for the exclusive use of Jews and its charter stipulates that only Jews can buy or lease its land. After 1948, the JNF was re-branded as an environmental organization focused on forestation. One of its major projects was to plant forests over Palestinian villages destroyed in the Nakba, in an attempt to erase any sign of a Palestinian presence in the land. Now, the JNF is the main driver of Israel’s “Greenwashing” campaign to disguise its crimes as progressive environmentalist policies. The JNF claims to be working in the interests of Bedouin living in the Negev, when in fact it works to displace and dispossess them, demolishing their villages and appropriating the land for state forestation projects.

The protest by Philly BDS and its allies contributes to the international “Stop the JNF” campaign that has been gaining ground in the UK, Europe and elsewhere. It also connects directly to Philly BDS’s campaign to boycott Tribe Hummus, which is owned by Osem, a company whose profits contribute to the JNF.

BDS Activists Demand Accountability from G4S: Private Security Corporation Linked with Human Rights Violations against Palestinians

September 12, 2012

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Members of Philly Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) coalition arrived at 7:45 am on September 12, 2012 at the Philadelphia Convention Center, current site of the 58th annual seminar and expo by the ASIS International Foundation, a global organization formerly known as the American Society for Industrial Security. Philly BDS activists displayed a banner which read “G4S: Enforcing Israeli Apartheid” to protest and demand accountability from G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation, for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law. G 4S helps to maintain and profits from Israel’s prison system.

Palestinian political prisoners face systematic torture and ill-treatment during their arrest and detention at the hands of the Israeli military. The severity of injustice and abuse suffered by Palestinian political prisoners has recently been the drive for many prisoners to use hunger strikes as a protest against harsh prison conditions, torture and ill treatment and Israel’s arbitrary use of administrative detention. Hunger strikes continue today, as Samer al Barq entered his 114th day of hunger strike, Hassan Safadi his 84th, and Ayman Sharawna his 74th.

G4S’s involvement in Israeli apartheid and occupation goes beyond the prison walls. It has provided equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal Wall and to the terminals isolating Gaza. G4S has also signed contracts for equipment and services for the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters and to private businesses based in illegal Israeli settlements.

In response to pressure from Palestine solidarity activists, the European Union has announced that it has not renewed its contract for security services with G4S.  Edinburgh University Student Association also blocked its contract with G4S.

As part of the global movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law, Philly BDS today calls upon public and civil society institutions and also on private companies to end their relationships with G4S.

Contact:  Matt Graber

757-268-5284

World’s Largest Security Conference in Philadelphia

September 10, 2012

By Matt Graber

On September 10 – 13, up to twenty-five thousand private security professionals will gather at the Philadelphia Convention Center for the 58th annual seminar and expo hosted by the ASIS International Foundation – a global organization formerly known as the American Society for Industrial Security. [1]

The seminar brings together private security employees and employers offering surveillance systems and security operations internationally to police forces, militaries, and private corporations. It features more than 200 workshops for security professionals, and closed-door sessions between former government officials and Corporate Security Officers (CSOs). Muhammed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1997 to 2009 will speak on Tuesday, and Robert Gates, former US Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1991 to 1993, will speak on Wednesday. *

The lack of public awareness, scrutiny, and participation in the seminar, coupled with the proposed agenda, raises a number of compelling questions.

Consider, for example, the workshops that make connections between social media, surveillance, and law enforcement. In this age of surveillance, Smart Phones function as tracking devices [2], the Patriot Act authorizes government surveillance without public scrutiny [3], and social media provides insight into the private details of our lives. With workshops such as, “Using Social Networking Sites, Search Engines, and Web 2.0 to Screen Applicants,” “Trends in Law Enforcement and Private Security Partnerships,” “New School Security Risks and Solutions,” and hundreds of others, what is the relationship between people, private security firms, corporations, and the government?

As new social movements emerge world-wide such as the Occupy Movement, the Arab Spring, and the demonstrations across Europe, how will private security firms and corporations respond to social movements calling for a more equitable distribution of resources [4]? One workshop led by CIKR Protection, a security firm that has been working in New York City, will teach attendees how to predict and prepare for demonstrations utilizing social media, and will present cost-effective measures to alleviate the impacts of protests on business. Do private security firms comply with, support, and/or actively suppress free speech and popular dissent? If so, how?

With droughts ravaging the United States’ corn supply this year, international experts have predicted a forthcoming global food crisis [5]. What are the implications of a workshop between private security companies and corporations in the agriculture industry such as General Mills on defending the global food supply? Is there a contradiction between private security and the equitable distribution of essential resources? With a global food crisis, will the seminar address ways and means of feeding the impoverished among us?

The United States has a prison population of over two million people, the largest in the world [6]. This has proven to be a lucrative market for private security firms, which are able to profit from partnerships with public police departments. For example, in New York, private security firms partner with the New York Police Department [7], which enforces “Stop and Frisk” policies disproportionately targeting Black and Latino youth [8], and has spied on mosques and other Muslim and Arab communities throughout the East Coast [9]. One security firm, Nice Systems, partners with the police department in Maricopa County, Arizona [10], which, according to a Department of Justice investigation, is guilty of flagrant racial profiling [11]. How do private and public programs of surveillance, criminalization, and militarization relate to people on the basis of their racial, ethnic, religious, gender, class, and other identities?

What is the significance of a workshop entitled ‘Corporate Manslaughter. Be prepared!’ which considers the subject of laws in England, Wales, Hong Kong, and elsewhere which hold corporations accountable for homicide [12]? The session description asks attendees, ‘Do you know how corporate manslaughter could affect you and your corporation?’, and the session proposes to teach attendees how to “mitigate” Corporate Criminal Liability. Does this mean that corporations are actively organizing ways of avoiding accountability when they are responsible for homicide? What are the precedents and possibilities for people to hold corporations accountable for homicide and other crimes?

Finally, the global scope of the seminar is breath-taking. One workshop is entitled, “Africa: Open for Business,” and is led by Jeffrey Gruber of The World Bank Group, Charlie Sellens of the US Department of Defense, and others. What implications may this have on the principles of sovereignty and self-determination for the people of Africa? Muhammed El Baradei, the former head of the IAEA who led UN nuclear inspections in the lead-up to the 2003 US-led war in Iraq [13], and who has been a prominent part of the negotiations and inspections of the nuclear energy program of Iran [14][15], will deliver a keynote address on Tuesday morning.

Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will deliver a keynote address on Wednesday morning providing insight gleaned from his four and a half decades of experience in the United States’ intelligence and defense departments. In 2008, Gates – who was Secretary of Defense under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations – fired the top two leaders of the US Air Force in an effort to expand the US drone policy [16]. The United States has killed up to 4,389 people (including up to 1,104 civilians) by drones in Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen since the inauguration of the program in 2001, according to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism [17]. In addition to a keynote address, Robert Gates will meet with Corporate Security Officers for a close-door roundtable discussion on Wednesday morning. What may Robert Gates and the leaders of corporate America discuss? Why is the session not open to the press?

This week at the Philadelphia Convention Center, questions must be raised. How will Gates, El Baradei, and executives from major corporations engage with the private security industry?

Moreover, what is the relationship between people, private security firms, corporations, and the government? What impact does public opinion and welfare have on the compelling issues being considered at the seminar?

What do you think?

Citations:

[1] Information on the conference gleaned from the conference websites ASIS2012 and ISC2.org.
[2] That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker. Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan, The New York Times, July 13, 2012. Online at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/sunday-review/thats-not-my-phone-its-my-tracker.html.
[3] Full text of the American Patriot Act [H.R. 3162] available via Thomas.gov.
[4] The Arab Spring was sparked in December of 2010 when a poor man in Tunisia, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in an act of self-immolation. Bouazizi, who supported his family by selling fruits on the street, had his food cart taken by the police, and thus embodied for millions of people through North Africa and the Middle East the desperate conditions forced upon them by the police and the ruling classes. In Europe, Greece, Great Britain, Spain, and other countries have seen riots and social protest movements demonstrating against similarly deplorable conditions enforced by police and the ruling classes in stark conditions of economic disparity. In the United States, the call of ‘We are the 99%’ of the Occupy Movement highlights the economic disparity in our country.
5] Global Food Crisis May Hit Us ‘Very Soon,’ IFPRI’s Fan Says. Luzi Ann Javier. Bloomberg News, August 13, 2012. Available online at

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-14/food-crisis-may-hit-us-very-soon-ifpri-s-fan-says.html.

[6] Correctional Population in the United States, 2010. Lauren E. Glaze. Bulletin by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the US Department of Justice. December, 2011. Online at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpus10.pdf.
[7] The NYPD Shield program is the department’s private-public collaboration project. Online at www.NYPDShield.org.
[8] Report: NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Activity in 2011. Published by the New York Civil Liberties Union, 2012. Online at http://www.nyclu.org/files/publications/NYCLU_2011_Stop-and-Frisk_Report.pdf.
[9] Matt Apuzzo and Adam Gold of the Associated Press have a long series of investigative reports detailing the NYPD intelligence program available online at http://www.ap.org/Index/AP-In-The-News/NYPD.
[10] Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Installs NiceVision in Madison Street Jail. Nice Systems press release, September 12, 2000. Available online at http://www.nice.com/maricopa-county-sheriffs-office-installs-nicevision-madison-street-jail.
[11] Re: United States’ Investigation of the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Department. Letter from US Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the County Attorney of Mariposa County Bill Montgomery. December 15, 2011. Available as public record online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/75822856/1215arpaioletter.
[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_manslaughter
[13] El Baradei, who led the UN weapons inspections, testified before the UN that there had been no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq thirteen days prior to the US-led invasion.
[14] ‘No credible evidence’ of Iranian nuclear weapons, says UN Inspector. Julian Borger and Richard Norton-Taylor. The Guardian, September 30, 2009.
[15] El Baradei Says Iran to Develop Atomic Weapons If Israel Attacks. Albing Guo. Bloomberg News, March 21, 2012. Available online at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-21/elbaradei-says-iran-to-develop-atomic-weapons-if-israel-attacks.html.
[16] Less Ego, More UAVs. Richard Gasperre. airforce-technology.com, July 17, 2008. Available online at http://www.airforce-technology.com/features/feature2104/.
[17] All of the data for the Bureau of Investigative Reporting is available online at http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drone-data/.

Land Theft is Not Charity: Philadelphia Activists Protest Jewish National Fund’s ‘Tree of Life’ Fundraiser

March 29, 2012

The Philadelphia Coalition for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel staged a creative protest outside the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Tree of Life fundraiser at Vie,  600 N Broad St., on Thursday, March 29th from 5pm-7pm.  The gala honored David Cohen, the Executive Vice President of the Comcast Corporation and the chairman of the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.

Carrying signs reading “Land Theft is Not Charity,” about forty protesters, who included members of Philly BDS, students from both Temple Students for Justice in Palestine and Penn BDS, and other activists from the Philadelphia Palestine solidarity community chanted as part of a spirited picket of the event that included puppets and street theater.  The protesters’ “Bulldozing homes, stealing land; it’s all part of the JNF plan!”, called attention to the past and present role of the Jewish National in the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians from Israel-Palestine.  At issue is the fact that the JNF enjoys tax-exempt status as a charitable organization in the  U.S.

Founded in 1901, the Jewish National Fund originally collected money from Jews throughout the world to “redeem the land of Israel” by purchasing land in historic Palestine.  Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the JNF has raised tens of millions of dollars for planting JNF forests, many of which are built on top of former Palestinian Arab villages.

Penn BDS stands with Philly BDS and Temple SJP, stating “We denounce the actions of the Jewish National Fund, which has been an integral part of the strategy of the State of Israel to evict Palestinian families from their homes, destroy Palestinian and Bedouin villages and remove traces of the Palestinian people. The Jewish National Fund is a full participant in Israel’s system of apartheid by restricting the use of its land to exclusively Jewish settlers, and the JNF should not be allowed to hide behind its current status as a charitable and environmental organization. Land theft is not charity.”

Temple Students for Justice in Palestine add, “We deplore the JNF for ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their land since the organization’s inception. The organization humiliates Palestinians and ultimately supports the ruin of an entire people. Additionally the JNF upholds segregationist’s policies by favoring land ownership for Jewish settlers over the indigenous population!”

“Why are American taxpayers granting tax-exempt status to an organization whose expressed mission is in violation of U.S. foreign policy regarding Israeli settlement expansion and military occupation?   Most conversations about peace in Israel-Palestine overlooks the facts on the ground as well as the role of the United States government in maintaining the status quo,” said Susan Landau, a Jewish member of Philly BDS.   “The JNF wants to be thought of as an environmental organization, but works hand-in-hand with the Israeli government to keep the land available only to Jews.”   The Negev Desert and the Galilee are two current focal points for JNF ‘greenwashing’—the use of environmentalist propaganda and projects to veil efforts in stripping Palestinians of their homes and land.

(Additional information about the Jewish National Fund can be found at www.stopthejnf.org, the website of the global Campaign to Stop the JNF.)

CONTACT: Susan Landau

267-250-5711

sjlandau@aol.com

Joseph Dana: Thursday November 3rd, 7pm

October 29, 2011

Joseph Dana (1)

Hold Israel accountable with Leahy law

August 19, 2011

Read this article on the BDS Movement web site on recent efforts by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy to apply to Israel U.S. legislation that prohibits U.S. military aid to divisions of foreign forces that engage in human rights abuses:

http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011/hold-israel-accountable-with-leahy-law-7870

Philly BDS is teaming up with the Defenestrator for a film screening and dance party!

July 15, 2011

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More Than 50 Human Rights Activists Protest Greek Government Detention of U.S. Boat to Gaza

July 3, 2011

Philly BDS | No Justice, No (Chick)peas

Philadelphia, PA, July 2, 2011 – More than fifty human rights protesters came out onto the streets today in response to recent action by the Greek government preventing the US Boat to Gaza from leaving port at Athens.  The protesters held signs, chanted and talked to holiday vacationers in front of the Federal Building at 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.

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Scheduled to sail as part of an international flotilla to break the blockade of Gaza, the U.S. Boat to Gaza—The Audacity of Hope—was stopped on Friday by the Greek Coast Guard.  After a stand off that unfolded over several hours a second Greek Coast Guard boat arrived carrying heavily armed Greek commandos. The boat was eventually taken back to dock in Athens and the captain arrested.

Protesters carried signs that read “Free Gaza,” “End the Blockade of Gaza,” “Let our Citizens Sail,” and “End the Siege of Gaza.”  The crowd of fifty, sometimes joined by passersby, repeated chants like “The whole world is watching Gaza, let the boats sail!” and “Justice will prevail; let the boats sail!”  Protesters also chanted “Hey, hey Barack Obama, Let our people sail to Gaza!” Today’s protest drew cheers from passersby and honks of support from passing cars.

Also during the protest, Alice Walker’s poem written aboard the Audacity of Hope was read aloud by the father of a local Jewish American activist who was violently arrested in a Jerusalem Day protest while traveling with an Interfaith Peace Builders delegation last month in East Jerusalem.

Passengers aboard The Audacity of Hope include 36 Americans, among them Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein. Four crew and ten reporters are also on board.

Susan Landau of Philly BDS commented:  “The Greek government is caving into pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The activists on the boat are peaceful human rights activists.  The Israeli government is going to great lengths to prevent their journey and maintain an illegal naval blockade that violates Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. And Greece is trumping up charges against the boat’s captain because it is bowing to pressure from the U.S. and the Israeli government.  All the support we’ve gotten today shows that freedom-loving people here and elsewhere won’t be fooled.”

Similar protests are being held in other cities, such as New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Dallas, Seattle, and Toronto.

Philadelphians Protest Jewish National Fund’s Poker Tournament Fundraiser

May 5, 2011

May 4, 2011

Philadelphians Protest Jewish National Fund’s Poker Tournament Fundraiser

JNF protest May 2011 More than two dozen local residents gathered outside Del Frisco’s restaurant in Center City on Wednesday evening for a noisy picket of the Jewish National Fund’s “Philadelphia Poker & Blackjack Tournament.”   Proceeds from the annual fundraising event, which is co-sponsored by prominent Philadelphia corporations and firms, support the Jewish National Fund’s activities in Israel.  The protesters oppose the organization’s treatment of Palestinian land and people.

As the poker players arrived at the restaurant on the corner of 15th and Chestnut Streets, they were greeted by a vocal picket line denouncing the JNF’s role in the ongoing destruction of Palestinian villages.  Carrying signs reading “Land Theft is Not Charity,” the protesters took aim at the JNF’s status as a charity that pays no taxes under U.S. law.  “It’s absurd that an organization involved in ethnic cleansing gets to count as a charity,” said Susan Landau, who took part in the protest.  “Why are American taxpayers subsidizing an organization whose mission is to support land acquisition for one ethnic group only?  I’m Jewish, it’s my ethnic group, but I don’t support what they do.”

“The JNF is at the heart of Israel’s ongoing dispossession of Palestinians from their land,” said Elliott batTzedek, another picketer.  “For over 60 years, the JNF has been destroying Palestinian homes and villages. They cover up the destruction by planting forests over the ruins and calling them parks.  One village in the Negev desert has been leveled over a dozen times in the last year to make room for a JNF forest.”

Founded in 1901, the Jewish National Fund originally collected money from Jews throughout the world to “redeem the land of Israel” by purchasing land in Palestine.   Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the JNF has raised tens of millions of dollars for planting trees in Israel, many of which are planted on the ruins of demolished Palestinian Arab villages.  For example, after the Israeli army’s 1967 capture of the Palestinian village of Imwas – which was the town of Emmaus in Biblical times – the population was forcibly expelled and the town was bulldozed.  The Jewish National Fund’s “Canada Park” was built over the ruins.

The protesters said that much of the land controlled by the JNF was never actually purchased at all. “After 1948, the Israelis didn’t have to buy land, the state just took it and then sold it to the JNF,” explained batTzedek.  “Under Israeli law, any land that comes under the control of the Jewish National Fund then becomes available only to Jews forever.  So while Israel claims to be a democracy that respects equality and justice, in fact more than 90 percent of its land is inaccessible to Palestinians, who make up more than 20 percent of the population in Israel.”

“The JNF wants to be thought of as an environmental organization, but what they planted were non-native trees that actually hurt the natural environment,” noted Landau.   “A long time ago, I believed the Jewish National Fund did good things.  I hope some of the people who came to play poker tonight will eventually understand that the JNF exists in order to maintain an apartheid system in Israel and Palestine.”

Some of the poker players seemed disturbed by the protest.  A few stopped to argue, with a few using epithets.  One man denounced the picketers as “Nazis.”   Most paused briefly to watch and listen before entering the restaurant for an evening of festivities and high rolling.

Outside, the protesters distributed postcards explaining their action and continued their chant:  “Dirty money, dirty dealing:  Palestine is what you’re stealing!”