WATCH: The dark past and present of the Jewish National Fund

A new video challenges the myths of the JNF, an organization that has played a central role in dispossessing Palestinians from its inception until today.

In 2021 the Jewish National Fund (JNF) celebrated its 120th anniversary. The celebrations were comprised of dozens of events, including tours and shows, the launch of a JNF postage stamp, the inauguration of a new entrance to Mount Herzl, the selection of a national tree, among many others. The abundance of events, publications, and media campaigns sought to emphasize the JNF’s role as a “trustee in the name of the Jewish people over the Jewish lands of Israel,” working to purchase land, plant trees, build recreation sites and strengthen Jewish and Zionist and environmental values.

Yet, last year exposed darker sides of the organization. Massive wildfires in the Jerusalem hills uncovered both the ecological dangers of the JNF’s afforestation project and the vestiges of Palestinian life from before 1948, which the organization deliberately buried under those forests after Israel’s founding. Protests against the deportation of families in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan have once again sparked the JNF’s involvement in pursuing eviction lawsuits against Palestinian families and leasing their properties to Jewish settlers and right-wing organizations.

Just in the last few weeks, the JNF’s afforestation activity in the Naqab/Negev sparked mass protests by Bedouin citizens, which were met with police brutality.

A new video Plant a tree in Israel: The truth about JNF, created by a group of independent activists and content creators in Israel, outlines the common myths about JNF on the one hand, and its actual methods and impact on the other.

The video dismantles widely held assumptions about the JNF, including that the organization raised funds and purchased lands legitimately and legally; that its activities benefit nature and the environment; and that right-wing parties have taken over the JNF and turned West Bank land purchases of land into a new policy. Faced with these assumptions, the video presents an overview of dozens of studies, archival materials, and quotes from senior members of the JNF and the Zionist movement, all of which reveal a different picture.