October 29, 2006

A rebuttal from the JNF

Folks, with permission I am reprinting a letter from Russell F. Robinson, CEO, Jewish National Fund to Helen Freedman regarding this post, which is a letter of complaint from Helen Freedman to the JNF:
An Open Letter to Helen Freedman

By Russell F. Robinson, CEO, Jewish National Fund

Since the destruction of the Second Temple , dispersed Jews prayed to return to their homeland – the Land of Israel.

One hundred six years ago, Jewish National Fund (JNF) was founded at the Fifth Zionist Congress to redeem land in Israel and answer those prayers. For generations since, millions of Jews the world over contributed large and small sums to purchase that land.

JNF, this organization that you attacked, gave reality to the 2000-year-old dream and from that first day 106 years ago has given the Jews their homeland. We have built communities, developed water projects, made travel safe for citizens, planted 240 million trees, propelled the country forward with research and development, and boosted the economy with our tourist and recreation sites.

We believe deeply and emotionally in our mission statement -- that we are the caretakers of the land of Israel on behalf of its owners – Jewish people everywhere. In your unfair representation of “facts” your attack on JNF is an attack on the soil, which is the soul of the Jewish people. You, Helen Freedman, have attacked the soul of the Jewish people.

Most recently, JNF was in a legal battle with the government of Israel over a piece of land. I stress government, because it is unfair of you not to recognize that the people of Israel live, vote, and prosper in a land of laws and justice, whether they agree with each and every decision or not. For you to defame those acts is an insult to the Jews in Israel who have built a nation for Jews everywhere.

As a United States citizen I may not agree with every decision my government makes but as a U.S. citizen I am obligated to follow those laws. That is what we call democracy.

In JNF’s legal battle with the government of Israel, the attorney general of the State of Israel made a recommendation to the Supreme Court to separate Israel Land Authority lands from JNF-owned lands so that we can protect the covenant we made with the Jewish people and continue to act in accordance with that covenant.

In your attack on JNF you refer to 193 acres near Bethlehem that are “now unavailable to Jews.” You said Mr. Binder explained to you that the military, the Israel Defense Force, have overriding rights over that land. The very military that protects, defends, and secures the land for Jewish people everywhere. Who are we, who are you, who is anybody to take that safeguard lightly?

You refer to plots in north Jerusalem , that according to documents are legally registered as belonging to the State of Israel. Yet you go on to say it is not true; they really belong to JNF. How can you write that a legal registration of the State of Israel is illegal? I didn’t know that a citizen by the name of Aryeh King trumps the government.

You want to talk about the removal of people from our lands? JNF was attacked by Peace Now over a land case in Silwan, claiming JNF serves as a tool for the Israeli settler movement. We went through an arduous legal process and have retained ownership of the land in question. It’s remarkable that the very organization attacked for fighting for land is being attacked now by you.

By attacking the soul of the Jewish people, it puts you in some interesting company. You now join the ranks of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and others who attack us for our work as a Zionist organization. I ask you, Helen Freedman, what safe Israel are you talking about?

As an organization established in 1901, established by a people who had nothing but hope and determination, we have made a land blue and green where once there was only brown. We have planted 240 million trees, built 180 reservoirs, developed over 250,000 acres of land, created more than 1,000 parks, provided the infrastructure for 1,000 communities and educated students around the world about Israel and the environment. We are bringing 500,000 people to the Negev so that all the land of Israel is strong and we are likewise committed to making the North home again.

I ask you, Helen Freedman, start seeing the forest for the trees!