Jewish National Fund's Iconic Blue Box Sends One-State Israel Message

Map Includes Occupied West Bank in Jewish State


By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published January 02, 2014, issue of January 10, 2014.
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The ongoing blue box programming continues to be directed primarily at children. On its website, the JNF offers school visits by Blue Box Bob, a character shaped like a blue box. Like the current design of the blue box, the map on the front of “Bob” depicts Israel and the West Bank as a single entity without a Green Line.

While the JNF is best known for its much-publicized activities such as planting trees, the group has received more attention in recent years for displacing Palestinians inside Israel. In 2011, JNF board member Seth Morrison announced that he was quitting the group after learning that a subsidiary of the JNF’s Israeli organization was evicting Palestinians from homes in East Jerusalem and handing them over to a settler organization.

Meanwhile, in the Negev, the Israeli government has demolished the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib dozens of times in an effort to clear JNF-owned land for a JNF forestation project. This effort, part of the JNF’s Blueprint Negev initiative, has drawn criticism from U.S. activists. In a statement, the rabbinical human rights group T’ruah condemned JNF.

“As a quasi-governmental body responsible for the development and management of Israel’s forests… KKL-JNF’s activities violate basic human rights and contravene Jewish values by refusing to lease or sell land to non-Jews and by contributing to the forced displacement of Bedouin communities,” T’ruah said.

In a January 2013 video posted by the JNF, CEO Russell Robinson defended the group’s actions in Al-Arakib. “It’s illegal for us to bulldoze any property. It’s illegal for the Jewish National Fund to kick anybody off a piece of land. We don’t have those rights,” Robinson stated. He said that one Al-Arakib family that had challenged JNF in court had lost their legal suits and that JNF had, in any event, planted no trees there. “We plant trees in lands that do not have legal obligations to them,” he said.

The JNF continues to lease land only to Jews, though decisions by Israeli courts have forced a complex deal in which the JNF has traded their urban holdings to the Israeli government in return for undeveloped land. According to a December Haaretz report, Arab buyers are still having trouble purchasing the transferred property.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter @joshnathankazis


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