Human rights activists have handed in over 4000 letters from members of the public to the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox QC, calling on him to launch an immediate investigation into the charity status of JNF UK.
This comes months after a First Tier Tribunal (Charity) refused to grant legal “standing” (i.e. legal right) to the descendant of an expelled Palestinian, Kholoud al-Ajarma, to challenge the charitable status of the JNF UK, even though the Charity Commission’s barrister noted that JNF UK “may have infringed the legal rights” of her family.
The Attorney General is the only office holder with “standing” to require the Charity Commission to act further on this matter and to examine whether the JNF-UK has broken UK Charity laws.
JNF UK has strong financial and institutional ties to the Jewish National Fund in Israel, which was given expropriated land after the Nakba, the forced exodus of Palestinians in 1948. It continues to hold this land for the sole benefit of Israeli Jews, denying the lease or sale of the the land to Palestinians. Many of its forests and leisure facilities sit directly on top of dispossessed Palestinian villages. For example British Park, supported by JNF UK, sits on the sites of the villages of Kudna, Ajjur and Dayr al-Dubban.
The letters handed in today also drew attention to JNF UK’s provision of fund to the OR Movement, as stated in 2016 Annual Accounts (section 13: restricted funds). The OR movement, an Israeli organisation that supports Jewish settlement of the Negev, helped the construction of the Jewish-only town of Hiran, established to replace the Palestinian Bedouin village of Umm-al-Hiran, which has been subject to forcible evacuation. JNF-KKL’s own website states that “[F]riends of JNF UK have supported…. The Hiran Forest”, part of the attempt to replace the Palestinian village. Such demolitions are against international law.
Activists are also drawing attention to the JNF UK’s support for the Israeli military, with its accounts showing a remittance to Israel titled ‘Tzuk Eitan Gaza war effort’ in its 2014 and 2015 annual accounts. The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict found credible allegations that Israel had committed war crimes through its indiscriminate targeting of civilians.
Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign said, “JNF UK is complicit in the historic and ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. They should not receive financial benefits from their charity status. The Attorney General must launch an investigation immediately.”