By Lia Tarachansky
When I was in second grade growing up in Israel our school sent our class to plant a JNF tree for Shavuot. After I planted mine, I received a certificate from the JNF celebrating my contribution to greening Israel. To get a certificate for anything in Grade 2 is a big deal and I treasured that piece of paper all through my school years. When I grew up I learned that the JNF did not only work to plant forests and groves but that it did so in large part to erase the remains of the hundreds of villages destroyed following the War of 1948. As Israeli historian Noga Kadmon revealed from transcripts of JNF meetings in 1949/1950s, it’s leaders were well aware of the “national and historic role their forests can play” and encouraged their colleagues in government to allow them to “beautify” the landscape in order to “erase it’s Arab roots”.
This form of historic editing may have worked in the past but in an era when many of the victims of the mass expulsion campaigns of 1948 are still alive, their voices, unlike their villages cannot be erased. This is why I made the film On The Side Of The Road (www.naretivproductions.com).
Today, the JNF is a semi-governmental yet secretive organization, accountable to no one and with a long reputation of corruption and land-laundering. To this day it discriminated between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens in its allocation of lands bestowed upon it by the Israeli government, despite a successful Supreme Court challenge that legally forbids it from doing so. This is why I believe the JNF should be stripped of its charitable status abroad and why the Israeli government must impose transparency on its operations and budget.