If you are a follower of this blog you will have read a lot about the Jordan Valley -an area that comprises almost 30% of the West Bank. Because of its fertile land and border with Jordan, it is under urgent threat of annexation by Israel, who are issuing statements about their claim to the land with alarming frequency. In March this year Benjamin Netanyahu officially announced that “Israel will never cede the Jordan Valley” and since then the Palestinians there have been met with increasing repression. Only during the last few weeks, the Israeli Occupation Forces entered the Palestinian village of Al Farisiya and demolished 23 houses, leaving over 100 people homeless. When the villagers rebuild some of the destroyed structures the army returned to the area and yet again razed it to the ground
44% of the land in the Jordan Valley is controlled by closed military zones and 50% by the 37 illegal settlements -leaving the indigenous Palestinian population in control of a mere 6% of their land. Around 7000 illegal Israeli settlers and 50.000 Palestinians live in the parts of the valley which are on the Palestinian side of the Green Line. An uninformed visitor could be forgiven for thinking that the numbers were reversed; It is entirely possible to take a bus straight from inside Israel and along the Israeli controlled Road 90 through the valley, seeing only settler greenhouses with their lush, irrigated crops. This is a façade that Israel work cold-heartedly to promote.
Visiting the Jordan Valley Meeting Point – an Israeli run rest stop and tourist centre along Road 90- is a disturbing and slightly surreal experience for anybody who knows what the real Jordan Valley, and life for its Palestinian communities, is like. Entering the meeting point area feels like joining some ethnically cleansed zone in a Zionist alternative universe, as everything Palestinian has been removed from view. Any tourist, or conscripted Israeli teenage soldier, stopping off there for a Coke and falafel will be presented with a version of the truth designed to brainwash them and airbrush anything Palestinian from the valley. The information points provided describe historical and archaeological sites, attractions and tour routes, state of the art agricultural technologies and Israel’s “battle legacies” in the area. Inviting tourists to join settler organised Jeep trips and walking tours, they highlight the possibilities to follow migrating birds and appreciate blossoming wild flowers in a stunning landscape. What they fail to mention, however, is that no Palestinian has the freedom to enjoy any of these things as all their villages are surrounded by closed military zones and they are prevented from taking a step out of line.
In the centre of the meeting point stands the most shameless example of Israel’s pride in its apartheid system: a sculpture of the Jordan Valley. It is the Jordan Valley of the Zionist dream -and the Palestinians’ nightmares- with all the illegal settlements represented, but no sign of any Palestinian village at all. To the visitors of the Jordan Valley Meeting Point Palestine has, literally, been wiped off the map. At the time that we visited the area, this sculpture was in the process of being repaired. The work was done by a sixteen year old Palestinian boy, who for 100NIS a day (about 66% of the minimum wage) was being asked to completely deny his people’s existence.
The Jordan Valley Meeting Point project is proudly sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) whose sign at the entrance openly states that the site is a part of their “Land Reclamation” project. The JNF (or KKL Keren Keyemet LeYisrael) are at the very centre of Israel’s openly racist policies. When the JNF were established in 1901, its aim was to appropriate land in Ottoman Palestine specifically for Jewish settlement. After the creation of Israel in 1948, the JNF took control over a lot of properties belonging to Palestinians who had been forced to flee during the Nakba. The organisation states that their purpose is to reclaim land for the settlement of Jews only. Throughout the years they have planted millions of pine trees across Israel and Palestine -mainly funded through international “charity collections”- as a strategy to lay claim to land and prevent it from being used by Palestinians. This tree planting was also used as a way of burying the evidence of destroyed Palestinian villages after the Nakba, as many ruins are now hidden beneath Israel’s artificial forests. Their involvement in the occupied Jordan Valley is clear evidence of the attempted ethnic cleansing of the area. The JNF work closely with the Israeli Land Administration and its work in the West Bank is often carried out by subsidiaries such as their sister company Hemnutah.
The JNF states that today ‘…the long term vision for Israel’s future is being realised through “Blueprint Negev”, JNF’s 10 year, $600 million initiative to revitalize, develop and preserve the Negev desert’. Incidentally, house demolitions of “unrecognised” Bedouin villages in the area have massively intensified. At the end of last month, the whole village of Al-Araqib in the Negev was demolished in an attempt by the Israeli’s to drive the inhabitants out of the area and into established reservations – leaving the land free for future JNF funded apartheid projects. There are around 36 unrecognised Bedouin villages in the Negev which are under constant threat from these plans.
JNF has been registered in Britain since 1907 and is a registered charity (Registered Charity Number 225910). There are various groups working in campaigns against the JNF and their charity status, see http://stopthejnf.bdsmovement.net/
JNF House, Spring Villa Park, Edgware, Middlesex HA8 7ED
Phone: 02087326100 Fax: 02087326111
The JNF have offices across the world – see, for example, http://www.jnf.org/about-jnf/in-your-area/
For a good article about the JNF, the ILA and their connection to Israeli Apartheid, see http://www.uridavis.info/jewish_national_fund_apartheid_israel.htm