PM Brown shows who's boss
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair - do their approaches to the Middle East
really face in opposite directions?
Although as Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown uttered not a word of criticism of Tony Blair during the invasion of Iraq, few commentators doubted that one of his first acts as Prime Minister would be to begin a subtle shift of British policy towards Iraq and the wider Middle East.
The strongest indication of such a shift so far has been the appointment of Mark Malloch Brown as a Foreign Office minister. Malloch Brown was previously deputy secretary general of the United Nations, where he established a reputation for robust criticism of the Bush White House.
Yet as is the way with politicians, Prime Minister Brown has now given a quite opposite indication of his intentions towards the Middle East, by accepting appointment as patron of the Jewish National Fund UK.
Gordon Brown laying a wreath in memory of Yitzhak Rabin,
Tel Aviv, 2005
So far this news has only been reported in a small paragraph in the Daily Telegraph's diary column and by the Jewish Chronicle, which quotes a Downing Street spokesman as follows:
The Prime Minister supports a number of charities and has agreed to become a patron of the JNF UK in order to encourage their work to promote charitable projects for everyone who lives in Israel.
These words should be sufficient to convince us that Tony Blair's departure did not signal the end of Downing Street twistspeak.
The spokesman referred to "charitable projects for everyone who lives in Israel". Let us take a closer look at the Jewish National Fund to see whether it meets these criteria.
JNF UK's own website states:
The letters ‘JNF’ stand for ‘Jewish National Fund’, a fund set up in the early days of Zionism to help to acquire a national homeland for the Jewish people. From its origins, therefore, the Fund had a worldwide significance.
Cherie Blair addressing JNF UK, whose motto seems as appropriate
for British politicians now as it ever was
In fact the JNF's origins date back to 1901, when the Fifth Zionist Congress meeting in Basel agreed to set up the fund as a mechanism for buying land in Palestine. Wealthy Jews such as the Rothschilds had already been buying Palestinian land as part of the long term Zionist project, but formation of the JNF formalised and accelerated this policy.
When Ben Gurion's forces seized Palestinian land during the 1948 war, the JNF provided a legal cover for the seizure of land. Their procedure involved paying the new Israeli government for land that was to be resettled by Jews. In theory the Israeli government would hold these payments in trust for the land's former Arab owners, who had of course been driven out or killed, and were most unlikely to return and make a legal claim for compensation!
An example of JNF land "purchased" from Palestinians ethnically cleansed from three former villages, 'Imwas, Yalu, and Bayt Nuba, destroyed by the Israeli Army in 1967
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz in an article on the JNF's history quite openly admits the truth:
The JNF purchased the land from the state starting in 1949 and early 1950. Then prime minister David Ben-Gurion initiated the sale of land to the JNF to prevent any possibility of international pressure forcing Israel to restore it to the Palestinian refugees.
The first transaction was carried out despite the opposition of then-attorney general Yaakov Shimshon Shapira, who had doubts regarding its legality.
Throughout its history the JNF has openly discriminated against non-Jews, who were not allowed to tender for JNF land.
Since 2004 there has been a political and legal dispute in Israel about this JNF policy, which at one stage was annulled by the courts. On July 19th 2007 the Knesset approved the first stage of a bill which overturns the court ruling and reaffirms that JNF land is for Jews only - quite the opposite of the claims by the British Prime Minister's official spokesman.
Knesset member Mohammed Barakeh denounced the new law's reaffirmation of JNF racism:
This is another expression of a series of racist laws that are passed every day in the state of the Jews. The Arab population won't accept the theft of their rights to the lands that have been expropriated from them for years.
The recruitment of Gordon Brown and other international politicians is a vital part of Israel's propaganda initiative. Typical of such lobbying was the effort in May 2007 to win consultative status for the JNF's US affiliate with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Hillary Clinton had led the JNF's lobby to win this status, which was lost by one vote.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been a
leading lobbyist for the JNF
In 1998 the UN's Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) condemned the JNF, noting
with grave concern that the Status Law of 1952 authorizes the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency and its subsidiaries, including the Jewish National Fund, to control most of the land in Israel, since these institutions are chartered to benefit Jews exclusively. Despite the fact that the institutions are chartered under private law, the State of Israel nevertheless has a decisive influence on their policies and thus remains responsible for their activities. A State party cannot divest itself of its obligations under the Covenant by privatizing governmental functions. The Committee takes the view that large-scale and systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and property by the State and the transfer of that property to these agencies constitute an institutionalized form of discrimination because these agencies by definition would deny the use of these properties to non-Jews. Thus, these practices constitute a breach of Israel's obligations under the Covenant.
Yet in the latest triumph of twistspeak, Britain's new Prime Minister says he "has agreed to become a patron of the JNF UK in order to encourage their work to promote charitable projects for everyone who lives in Israel."