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Op-Ed: The campaign against JNF is misplaced

NEW YORK (JTA) — The Jewish National Fund plants trees, builds a nation and unifies a people.

As a child growing up in a small town in Texas, I dropped my coins in the Blue Box in Hebrew school. My parents and grandparents raised me on the importance and the power of the Blue Box. My grandfather would say to me, “If only we had been stronger and more unified, we could have bought more land and had a place for 6 million Jews to go home to.”

Never did I think that rabbis and organizations would use this iconic symbol of our unity and success for the promotion of propaganda using politically motivated, destructive language.

JNF began doing lifesaving work 110 years ago by buying land for our people to have a place to call home. Those who use the term “judaizing” insult the men and women who perished fighting for our democratic Jewish State of Israel. There is nowhere else on earth that Jews have been able to call home.

The British voted in 1939 to limit Jewish migration to Palestine under pressure from Arabs, even though they knew many of these Jews would go to their deaths. The United States sent back the USS St. Louis to the ovens of the Holocaust because it could not absorb one ship of Jews. These acts show that the safety of the Jewish people lies in our land of Israel and depends on our unity. Destructive language and personal attacks hurt all of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs and her flock at Rabbis for Human Rights-North America sadly do not know the facts or respect the rule of law.

This week, after 16 years on Israel’s Supreme Court — the last six as president — Dorit Beinisch is stepping down. Her main contributions to the court have been strong protection of human rights and promotion of Israel’s values as a liberal society. This is the same court whose rulings Rabbi Jacobs dismisses — unless, of course, she agrees with them. They are only wrong if she doesn’t like the outcome.

More than 10,000 court cases have ruled in favor of Palestinians for property ownership — are those good rulings? The ones that Rabbi Jacobs disagrees with are the bad ones? I don’t hear Rabbis for Human Rights protesting evictions of Jews carried out by rule of law in the Migron outpost or eastern Jerusalem.

JNF respects the legal processes of the democratic State of Israel. Asking us to make a declaration against any evictions — of Arabs or Jews — is beyond our mission. The money we raise is used only for the purpose of making Israel a better place.  Everything about us is “neutral,” as Rabbi Jacobs states. Like helping children reach their potential at a therapeutic riding center, or supporting a Bedouin in starting a new tourist business at Project Wadi Attir, or allowing a Reform movement kibbutz to grow and prosper, or turning historical sites into world-class destinations.  

Rabbi Jacobs loosely uses terms like “moral and ethical soul of the Jewish people.” Is that the same ethical soul that publicized a picture of a JNF tractor and said it was knocking down homes when in fact the picture was of a tractor miles away doing no such thing? When Rabbis for Human Rights flaunts its version of the “facts,” unchecked and unfounded, it is are only adding to the disunity of the Jewish people.

We at JNF care about all of the people of Israel, and I will match the moral and ethical standard of our 600,000 contributors against anyone. They are directly donating their dollars to enhance the quality of life of all of Israel’s residents, to improve the environment for the next generation of pioneers and, yes, to plant millions of trees a year. We are proud that Israel makes the world a better place and that JNF makes Israel a little better every day.

There are great opportunities for the 1,500 email protesters to be part of building and creating. That’s the humans rights cause in which JNF is involved.

(Russell F. Robinson is the chief executive officer of the Jewish National Fund of America.)

 

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