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Greenwashing by the Jewish National Fund, Israel


"When pine needles fall, they acidify the ground and make it inhabitable by any plant to grow there.” – Jonathan Cook. The Jewish National Fund has designated Sunday 5th February as ‘Green Sunday,’ when it encourages people to donate money to ‘plant trees in Israel.’

The Jewish National Fund is a non-profit organization founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in the Ottoman Palestine and later Israel territories or Jewish settlements. JNF is active in afforestation and reclamation of land. By 1935, JNF had planted 1.7 million trees over a total area of 1,750 acres (7.08 km²) and drained swamps, like those in the Hula Valley.

The JNF promotes an exclusionary, discriminatory brand of environmentalism. From its inception in 1901 – when the JNF controlled but a single olive grove in a land where 94% of its neighbors were Arab – to today, working closely with the Israel government, the JNF directly owns 13% of Israel’s land and effectively controls another 80%. The JNF’s constitution has explicitly stated that its land cannot be rented, leased, sold to or worked by non-Jews. [6]

Its founding mission and current constitution explicitly state its colonial purpose: the acquiring of the land and property of indigenous Palestinians held in reserve for exclusive settlement and use by Jews. These forestation projects serve two purposes: to hide the ethnic cleansing of those Palestinians whose home it was and to prevent Palestinians from returning to their homes.[12]

Throughout the rst half of the 20th century, the JNF – helping to exile hundreds of thousands of Palestinian families, bulldoze their homes and clear the land to make way for Jewish settlement – bought large tracts of land from absentee landowners, evicted local Arab tenant farmers, uprooted natural vegetation of olive, carob, and pistachio trees, and planted throughout the land, in place of indigenous arboreta, vast swaths of European pinera (conifers) and eucalyptus trees.[11]

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) centrally describes itself, on its home pages, as clean and green. However, the information tab on their website also contains political, nationalistic, and military subtexts. Susan Nathan, an Israeli National living in the Palestinian town of Tamra, writes that for Israel, “trees are a weapon of continuing dispossession.” First was the National Carmel Park Law in which the “state uprooted natural vegetation of olive, carob and fruit trees for which the area was renowned and which the villagers had cultivated for generations and surrounded them instead with useless pines.” These pines are aging, demanding more water and they are more prone to problems like pests, disease, and re.[5,6] One of the important reasons that some of Israel’s forests are burning, such as the wave in 2016, is because pine trees are well known for their high degree of flammability, especially in an arid environment like the climate of Palestine provides. The reason this type of tree was planted, rather than a more endemic species, is because of the role of the Ashkenazim in denying the Zionist imaginary over other Jewish ethnic groups (Sephardi, Mizrahi, Ethiopians, etc.). Planting ofِ European pine trees in Israel provides a visual representation of the Israeli claim of “exceptionalism” in the region, and was meant to make the land appears as an extension of Europe (the Swiss mountains are often cited as an example) in a geographical context that 19th-century orientalists mostly described as arid and deserted — Palestine was more often characterized by its southern desert than through its northern continuity with the fertile lands of Lebanon and the Golan Heights. The Pine forests were planted to guard and expand settlements built atop stolen land and, after 1967, to seize and divide Palestinian territory within east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.[9,4]

{Note that the stone pine (Pinus pinea) has been planted in the region for hundreds of years, and producing a rich pine nut that is used for cooking and for trade.  That is *not* the pine tree that is being planted by the JNF. Rather, exotic pine trees are being planted.}

After the Nakba and mass expulsion of more than 75% of the indigenous Palestinians in 1948, the JNF continued to violate international law by expropriating lands of Palestinian refugees and planting forests and parks over the ruins of their villages. In the 1950s, the JNF’s UK branch funded the planting of the ‘British Park’ over the ruins of two forcibly depopulated Palestinian villages, Ajjur and Zakariyya.  The JNF claims that the trees are growing in Israel, therefore expanding land confiscation around illegal Jewish settlements. Pine trees, which grow fast, destroy all other small plants because of their acidity and ultimately make the land unusable for Palestinian shepherds.[3]Max Bluthenthal in his piece "The Carmel wildfire is burning all illusions in Israel." put it as such: "The pine trees themselves were instruments of concealment, strategically planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) on the sites of the hundreds of Palestinian villages the Zionist militias evacuated and destroyed in 1948. With forests sprouting up where towns once stood, those who had been expelled would have nothing to come back to. Meanwhile, to outsiders beholding the strangely Alpine landscape of northern Israel for the first time, it seemed as though the Palestinians had never existed. And that was exactly the impression the JNF intended to create. The practice that David Ben Gurion and other prominent Zionists referred to as “redeeming the land” was, in fact, the ultimate form of greenwashing.”

After the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel took over Palestinian villages in the area between No man’s Land and the West Bank, which were then razed on the orders of Israeli general Yitzhak Rabin, with 7,000–10,000 inhabitants expelled and 1,464 homes demolished.[Oren, 2002] The Israeli army, after razing Imwas and Yalo villages to the ground, refused to let the refugees return home for “security reasons.” The JNF got funded from Canadian taxpayers to build Canada Park which rests on Imwas and Yalo, which are in the Palestinian territory. However, JNF Canada has always advertised the park to be in Israel. In a fundraising letter from September 1984, JNF Canada wrote: “Income tax receipts will be issued for all your contributions and your donation will help complete the Grove in Canada Park, in Israel…” according to a report by the Canadian human rights group Independent Jewish Voices (IJV).  The JNF uses this tactic to further dispossess land by using trees to cover up destroyed villages then claim they are part of Israel and not the Palestinian territory.[7,3]

An ongoing $600-million, 10-year JNF program called Blueprint Negev seeks to develop reservoirs, pine afforestation and water conservation programs in the Negev desert at the expense of more than 150,000 Palestinian Bedouin, whose ‘unrecognised’ villages, as a direct result of Israel’s policies, already lack electricity, running water and sewage disposal.[8]

The use of trees by JNF is a type of ethnic cleansing and have become akin to occupation soldiers, removing the main image of the land’s heritage to something else to make it look like Palestinian heritage doesn’t belong here. Revealed documents describe the ways Israel prevented Arabs from returning to villages they had left in 1948, even after the restrictions on them had been lifted.  At a meeting held in November 1965 at the oce of Shmuel Toledano, the prime minister’s adviser on Arab affairs, there was a discussion about villages that had been left behind and that Israel did not want to be repopulated, according to one document. To ensure that, the state had the Jewish National Fund plant trees around and in them.[14]once the structures on them had been razed, and the land had been parceled out, forested and subject to proper supervision – their definition as closed military zones could be lifted. Also, most of the parks the JNF has built are over the remains of Palestinian villages that were razed and pushed out of their land [11]. The parallels with European colonization of the American continent are obvious, and in a cruel twist of historical irony, the construction, by JNF Canada, of Israel’s Canada National Park, covering over the destroyed Palestinian village of ‘Imwas in the mid-1980s, was initiated as a simultaneous twinning project along with Toronto’s Downsview Park, which sits atop unacknowledged First Nations territory.[8]

Over the years, many organisations and people have lead resistance based campaigns against the atrocities of the Jewish National Fund. Most notably the works of the BDS have revealed the works of the JNF inside Palestine and have continually pressured a lot of countries to boycott the works of the JNF or keeping them exempt from taxes, such as in the United States, Canada, and over 50 other countries. Recently Canada has accused the JNF of funding the Israeli military. Also in 2018, Cologne-based bank, Bank for Social Economy, is alleged to cut ties with the JNF.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Greenwashing by the Jewish National Fund, Israel

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Military installations
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Biological resources

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Jewish National Fund functions as a quasi-governmental charity fund. It functions in many countries around the world where you donate to helping the country of Israel. Its role in Israel is an alleged environmental NGO where it grows trees, and it has been accused of aiding in war crime by growing trees over destroyed Palestinian villages.

Type of populationUnknown
Start of the conflict:01/01/1901
Company names or state enterprises:Jewish National Fund from Israel
Relevant government actors:Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
Israeli Ministry of Interior
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Boycotts of companies-products


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Genetic contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Pressured by human rights activists and a Palestinian refugee, the Canada Revenue Agency has begun an investigation into the Jewish National Fund of Canada over its use of charitable donations to build projects for the Israeli military and illegal settlements. In addition to the formal complaint, activists have initiated a petition through parliament calling for JNF Canada’s charitable status to be revoked. Yet the JNF enjoys charitable status in over 50 countries.
The issue is that by planting these trees, the Palestinian villages are then deemed nature parks and nature reserves, and the original inhabitants are denied access and return. If the refugees return, by doing so, then there wouldn’t be a need to have trees acting as occupation soldiers.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The petition will be presented to parliament and the government will have to respond. Yet that might only revoke JNF Canada's status and not the whole association. It doesn't seem it will change anytime soon.
JNF retains its tax-exempt in the US.
Furthermore, and most critically, the expropriation of Palestinian lands continues and the denial of the enshrined right of return of the refugees continues.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[9]Greenwashing Apartheid:

The Jewish National Fund's Environmental Cover Up

JNF eBook (Volume 4, May 15, 2011)

[10]War, peace and land seizure in Palestine's border area

[11]Architecture of Erasure


[1]Stop the “Jewish National Fund” from stealing Palestinian land

[2]Stop the Jewish National Fund Greenwashing

[3]Canada investigates Jewish National Fund for funding Israel’s crimes

[4]Jewish National Fund’s War Crimes Mission

[5]Israel fires: Tens of thousands flee as fires hit Haifa

[13]Declassified: Israel Made Sure Arabs Couldn't Return to Their Villages

The JNF-KKL and the politics of planting

By Ruth Edmonds.

Canada Park, a popular picnicking spot for Israelis, created upon the rubble of Palestinian homes

Israel’s Environmental Colonialism and Ecoapartheid

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Palestinian Villages Hidden Under Israeli Forests

Meta information

Contributor:Bahaa Zaatiti and Rania Masri
Last update30/05/2019
Conflict ID:4001



Growth of Canada Park

Arc House in Canada House

Canada Park Ruins

Canada Park Entrance

Uprooting of olive trees.

Stop JNF campaign

Growth of Canada Park

Uprooting of olive trees.

Arc House in Canada House

Canada Park Ruins

Canada Park Entrance

Stop JNF campaign