History of the Jewish National Fund (JNF)

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was founded as a subsidiary of the Zionist Organisation (ZO) at the fifth Zionist Congress in 1901 in Basel, Switzerland. The JNF is also referred to as the Keren Keyemeth le Israel (KKL), which literally means “Perpetual Fund for Israel.” Its original German title was “Judischer Nationalfonds.” In its Memorandum of Association, the JNF’s stated purpose is to “acquire lands in Palestine and Syria” for use by “persons of Jewish race, religion or origin.” This is the beginning of the formula for institutional discrimination. Further, in article 6 of the Memorandum of Association, it says that should the JNF dissolve, all lands in its holdings would be transferred to the state of Israel. [1]

The JNF opened its first office in Vienna in 1902, was incorporated in the UK in 1907, in Canada in 1910, and in the U.S. 1926.

However, the idea for an organization like the JNF to gain land for “Jews” in Palestine was first voiced by Canadian Henry Wentworth Monk, in 1881. Monk, a millenarian and Christian Zionist, called for a Palestine Restoration Fund, and dedicated much of his life to setting up a Jewish state in Palestine to help secure the “second coming” of Christ. [2]


The JNF acquired its first lands in 1903 with the purchase of 50 acres in Hadera, a Jewish settlement that was founded in 1891. Between 1936-1939, the JNF began “Operation Tower and Stockade,” an overnight action on land purchased by the KKL/JNF. Under Ottoman law, if a settlement had a roof on it, it could not be dismantled. So despite the British attempts to curb Zionist settlement at that time — primarily to keep everything copacetic in Mandate Palestine and not out of any concern for Palestinians. The objective of these actions was “seize control of land that had been officially purchased by the KKL-JNF,” to establish “facts on the ground,” and to create as many contiguous Jewish-controlled areas as possible. In all, 53 settlements went up, including one in 1942, with the help of the Kibbutzim and Moshavim. [3]

Beginning in 1940, the JNF initiated a plan to gather information on Palestinian towns and villages in what came to be called the “Village files.” Special units were organized to put together intelligence on population, topography, and detailed information on the inhabitants, including age, marital status, religious and political affiliations. Aerial photographs, maps, lists of people to be targeted were drawn up — people were to be “targeted” primarily for actions taken against the British and the Zionists, including involvement in the 1936 uprising. These files were continually updated and were utilized in al-Nakba to gain control of the land. Yigael Yadin, who later became Israel’s second chief of staff, once admitted that it was the details in these files that enabled Zionist militias in November of 1947 to sweep through the Palestinian landscape with incredible efficiency and speed, allowing little time for Palestinian resistance.

By 1948, the JNF owned less than 7% of the land in Palestine. The day before Israel declared itself a state on Palestinian land, the Israeli Declaration of Independence was voted on in the Tel Aviv headquarters of the KKL/JNF. Once the state of Israel was declared, on 15 May 1948, the JNF intensified its afforestation projects, planting primarily non-indigenous trees. The rubble of 86 destroyed Palestinian villages lie under JNF forests. [4]

After 1948 the JNF’s land holdings increased to 13%. The JNF was a private corporation with public powers in the newly declared state. In 1960 Israel passed a series of laws that form the legal basis of its land policies:

Basic Law [5]: Israel Lands, which states that all lands owned by the state of Israel will remain in state ownership, and cannot be sold or given away.

Israel Lands Law details exceptions to the above law.

Israel Land Administration Law describes the details of establishing and operating the Israel Land Administration (ILA, now known as the Israel Land Authority). ILA policy is determined by the Israeli Land Council (ILC). The ILC has 22 members, 12 of whom are Israeli government members; the remaining 10 are members of the Jewish National Fund. The ILA controls 80% of Israeli lands, effectively giving the JNF control over 93% since they constitute almost half of the governing council. [6]

Covenant between the State of Israel and the World Zionist Organization (establishing the Jewish National Fund), which codifies the relationship between Israel and the JNF.

Covenant between the State of Israel and the World Zionist Organization (establishing the Jewish National Fund), which codifies the relationship between Israel and the JNF.

[1] http://www.badil.org/article74/item/429-the-jewish-national-fund-jnf
[2] http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/monk_henry_wentworth_12E.html
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_and_stockade#Settlements
[4] http://zochrot.org/en/content/out-sight-maybe-not-out-mind
[5] Israel has no formal constitution. One of the main impediments to developing a constitution was Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion (for more info. on this: http://tiny.cc/kr23mx). In place of a constitution, Basic Laws were developed. See http://tiny.cc/e033mx for more on the lack of a constitution.
[6] For more on the ILA: http://tiny.cc/a843mx and http://mondoweiss.net/2013/03/historical-israeli-planning