Rt. Honourable Gordon Brown, MP
10 Downing Street
London, SW1A 2AA
9 August 2007
Dear Prime Minister
RE: Being a patron of JNF-UK
The recent report in the Jewish Chronicle (27 July 2007) that you “are delighted to become a patron of JNF-UK” on invitation from its president Gail Seal, is disturbing. Ms Seal says she is “very proud” you have agreed to be a patron as it “will enhance what is already a close relationship with the Jewish community and help us progress in our tremendously successful campaign to bring new communities to the Negev”. JNF UK’s activities, both in its ‘charitable’ form of fighting poverty, and in its land acquisition, is for Jewish citizens of Israel, and not for its Arab-Israeli citizens and will not, as you say “encourage their work to promote charitable projects for everyone who lives in Israel”.
Your patronage comes at an unfortunate time when, despite a ruling in 2004 by the Israeli Supreme Court, in the Qa’adan case, that it was illegal for the Israeli Lands Authority to refuse to sell or lease land to an Arab, and the Attorney General held that this ruling also applied to the JNF, the Israeli Knesset last week passed the first stage of the Jewish National Fund law which reverses the Court’s ruling and allows the JNF to continue selling and leasing land only to Jews.
To quote Adalah (The legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights) regarding land ownership and the JNF.
“On 18 July 2007, the Israeli Knesset approved on preliminary reading a racist bill that prohibits the sale of lands registered in the name of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to Arab citizens of the state. According to the legislature’s logic, the JNF acquired these lands using Jewish money for the sake of Jews only. Firstly, this is untrue as the State of Israel transferred approximately two million dunams of land – seized and confiscated from Arab “absentee” owners – to the JNF in 1949 and 1953, via arbitrary laws. Secondly, the Knesset’s attempt to enact the JNF’s policy into law does not absolve Israel from its obligations under international law to refrain from legislating racist laws or including discriminatory bodies in official decision-making institutions. Israeli law allows the JNF to hold decision-making positions in the Israel Land Administration, for example. Significantly, two months ago the UN rejected the JNF’s application for consultative status on the ground that the JNF violates the principles of the UN Charter regarding human rights. Today, the JNF controls 13% of the land in the state, which allows for the establishment of Jewish-only towns. This new bill, alongside the racist Citizenship Law that forbids the unification of Arab families in Israel, are primarily and directly targeted against the native inhabitants of the country. They aim to preclude the development of the native inhabitants and to enable Israel to maintain control and ethnic supremacy for Jews in the fields of natural resources and entry into the state. Thus both possess the basic characteristics of colonial laws. ”
The planting of pine trees “to make the desert bloom” among the key operations of both the KKL-JNF and JNF UK is done in fact on parks planted over the ruins of destroyed Palestinian towns and villages. The new communities being created in the Negev, funds for which are being supplied by JNF UK, are for Jewish immigrants only. At present, as part of an on-going campaign to dispossess the Bedouin of the Negev (and also in the “Judaisation” drive in the Galilee and Jordan valley), brutal destruction of their “unrecognised” villages are being carried out. These villages are denied services and social and educational support, and even in ‘recognised’ towns, land supplies are limited, so that the inhabitants are repeatedly made homeless on land they had existed on long before the foundation of the Jewish State. These actions are carried out by the Israel Land Administration, sometimes even against decisions by the High Court after being petitioned by Bedouin land-owners, that demolitions should not go ahead.
Please refer this link for graphic evidence of these demolitions.
We are Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP), an organisation that considers the importance of professional ethics of architects and planners in Israel and their compliance with the International Union of Architects Code of Conduct. They design the new settlements and towns being funded by the JNF and JNF UK, set up for only one privileged section of society on the basis of race and religion, and perpetuate the continual injustice of the living conditions for the Arab-Israelis and the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Architects and planners in Israel will be designing these new towns and housing areas in the Negev and Galilee, which include the ethnic cleansing of Bedouin "unrecognised villages".
We wish to express our concern and hope for international pressure to reverse this unjust situation.
Your becoming a patron of JNF-UK can be seen as tacit acceptance of an unacceptable status quo, and also places you in the position of not being an unbiased mediator in the peace process.
We ask you to kindly withdraw this patronage and in fact use the UK’s position as a key member of the EU in Quartet to hold Israel to account in its activities that perpetuate not only the Occupation, but treats a large minority of its citizens in a way that no truly democratic state would accept. We recommend your patronage instead of some of the NGOs that bring Israelis and Palestinians together like ICAHD-UK (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), which is resisting the demolition of Palestinian house in occupied and illegally annexed Jerusalem. We would appreciate your response to this letter.
Abe Hayeem, RIBA, Chair Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
Haifa Hammami, Secretary APJP
Hans Haenlein, RIBA, Hanens Haenlein Architects
Eyal Weizman, Director Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths College
Mike Macrae, Architect
Kelvin Bland, Architect
Martin O’Shea. Architect
John Lynes, Architect and CPT Hebron
Zahira Nazer, Architect
John Hodge, Architect
Cc David Milliband , Secretary of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Lord Malloch Brown – Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN
Letter sent after negative response from the PM's office:
21 October 2007
Direct Communications Unit
10 Downing Street
London, SW1A 2AA
Dear Ms Davies
RE: The Prime Minister’s patronage of JNF-UK
Thanks for your acknowledgment of 22 August to my letter of 9 August regarding the Prime Minister’s patronage of JNF-UK. You say its contents were noted, hopefully by the Prime Minister himself.
We were expecting to hear some more about what the PM was going to do about this serious matter which, as can be seen from the latest report in the Jewish Chronicle (enclosed), has been raised by other individuals and organisations. The answer to this request, if the reports are accurate, is that there is “no question” that Mr Brown would stop being a patron of the fund, and that “the Prime Minister supports a number of charities, but does not necessarily support every policy or decision they make. He agreed to become a patron of JNF-UK in order to encourage their work to promote charitable projects for everyone (my italics) who lives in Israel”.
The Prime Minister’s adamant stance is disconcerting, since it appears that he has not taken note of the evidence in APJP’s letter that shows the controversial aspect of JNF-UK that he would seem to be encouraging. Although he may wish to support the charities of different communities, surely any elements of those charities that involve the result of ethnic cleansing, and a racist approach that benefits only Jewish residents of the State of Israel, and not everyone, should be a cause for concern?
Since Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP), an organisation that considers the importance of professional ethics of architects and planners in Israel, we would draw the Prime Minister’s attention to the EU’s Association Agreement with Israel that appears to being breached by the JNF’s and the State’s policies of forced removals, land expropriation and war crimes that were committed in taking over the land of destroyed Palestinian villages since 1947, and a housing policy that discriminates against non-Jewish citizens of Israel.
In line with the new generation of Association Agreements between the EU and its Mediterranean partners, the preamble and Article 2 emphasise the importance of the principles of the United Nations Charter, particularly observance of human rights, democratic principles and economic freedom… whose principles guide the internal and international policy of both Israel and the Community and constitutes an essential and positive element of the Agreement. At Israel's request, there is a Joint Declaration on the importance both parties attach to the struggle against xenophobia, anti-Semitism and racism.
The Prime Minister’s insistence (and those of other party leaders) to be patrons of JNF-UK and organisations like Labour Friends of Israel, which may be based on a traditional support of an Israel viewed as a plucky little state in 1948, must now be re-assessed in view of Israel’s continual breaches of human rights and international law that is well documented, and as such a breach of the Association Agreements. Such support can be seen as complicity in unacceptable activities of one side in this conflict, supporting terrible sanctions, collective punishment and humanitarian disaster inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel. It is indicative of the total lack of progress in the peace process due to inaction by the UK and western powers in the last forty years that has led to the resistance and acts of terror in response by Palestinians to state brutality and use of force, and exponential illegal settlement expansion. This land theft is ongoing, and the JNF is part of its process.
We again ask the Prime Minister to reconsider and kindly withdraw this patronage and instead show an unbiased and truly ethical approach in the UK’s position as a key member of the EU in the Quartet, to hold Israel to account in its activities that perpetuate not only the Occupation, the destruction and negation of a viable Palestinian state, but endangers world peace.
Chair, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine.