The rocky desert of Negev, which makes up almost half of the historical Palestine, has been the scene of growing tensions since January 10, when diggers and bulldozers of the so-called Jewish National Fund (JNF) began flattening some Bedouin farming lands as part of a controversial tree planting program or afforestation. The much-condemned move triggered large protest rallies, which met with brutal crackdown and mass arrests by Israeli forces.
In a bid to raise awareness about the JNF’s provocative demolition campaign in the region and force the occupying regime to halt the move, Code Pink, a women’s organization that supports Palestinian rights, launched a petition drive, calling on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to urge the so-called JNF to “cease and desist their ethnic cleaning activities” and “destructive actions” in the Negev region.
“Since 1948, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) has been planting trees to displace Palestinians from their lands. They are currently carrying out an afforestation project in the Negev/Naqab (Southern Israel) on land used by Bedouin communities for agriculture. They aim to drive the Bedouins from their lands,” the petition said.
It also provided a brief account on how the JNF was established in 1901 for the purpose of buying and developing land for Jewish settlement in Palestine.
The JNF “played a central role in the plans to expel Palestinians from their lands. They meticulously charted topography, roads, land, and water sources and profiled the entire Palestinian population by age, political affiliations, and hostility to the Zionist project. Known as the Village Files, these documents became a crucial military tool for Jewish militias, who in 1948 burned villages, carried out massacres, and drove around 750,000 Palestinians out of their homes and villages, making them refugees,” Code Pink added in its petition.
It also said that the Israeli regime has been working tirelessly to expel Palestinian Bedouin populations from Negev, south of occupied Palestine.
The community of Al-Araqeeb has been demolished over 100 times since it is situated in Bedouin agricultural areas, where the JNF is currently carrying out its afforestation/ethnic cleansing program.
“The JNF is now carrying out its afforestation/ethnic cleansing project” on “Bedouin agricultural lands,” the petition further read, adding, “Throughout January 2021, Palestinian Bedouins, about a third of them children, have been arrested protesting the JNF’s afforestation/ethnic cleansing project.”
Since Israel seized East al-Quds in the 1967 war, Israeli settler organizations have claimed ownership of land in Sheikh Jarrah and have filed multiple lawsuits to force Palestinians from the area.
Most of the international community considers Israeli settlement construction illegal under international law and an obstacle to the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nearly 700,000 Israelis live in settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds. The UN Security Council has in several resolutions condemned the Tel Aviv regime’s settlement projects in the occupied Palestinian lands. Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent state with East al-Quds as its capital.