[Originally published in +972 Magazine] Over the past few decades, the Jewish National Fund (JNF-KKL), an organization known to many in the diaspora for its work planting trees in Israel (I gave a portion of […]
As we struggle against current injustices and feelings of despair, it is crucial that we remember and celebrate the victories we have achieved as a community.
Exactly one year ago today, the Sumarin family was supposed to be evicted from their home in Silwan by the Jewish Naitonal Fund, working in coordination with the schemes of Judaization of Silwan espoused by the City of David’s managers, the extremist ELAD settler organization. One year later, following one of the more powerful and intense campaigns I have ever been involved in, run by folks at Rabbis for Human Rights, Solidarity, Rabbis for Human Rights-NA, the Jewish Alliance for Change, in cooperation with Palestinian activists from the Wadi Hilweh Alternative Information Center and the Sumarins themselves, the Sumarin family is still in their home and the process remains frozen.
I wanted to take a moment brief history of the campaign (from my angle, at least- if folks see things differently, I’d be happy to hear how and change accordingly): On November 14th, the Sumarins were issued eviction orders by the JNF and its shady subsidiary company, Himanuta. The next day, Nir Hasson covered the story in Haaretz, and on November 17th, Hagit Ofran (an activist who I admire deeply, who I got to know through this campaign, and who is now a dear friend of mine) wrote a piece in Hebrew and in English on the Huffington Post in which she explained the story behind the planned eviction:
”Two months ago, the court scheduled their eviction for November 28, 2011 in a ruling handed down in the absence of defense by the Sumarins. Their house is considered by the authorities as a property of an absentee, and therefore, it was transferred to the hands of the Himanuta company which requested the eviction.”
Many of us began meeting and planning different courses of action, including a massive letter campaign- both international and within Israel- to the JNF and the JNF-KKL, telling them not to evict the Sumarin family.
On November 23rd, things kicked into action in earnest.
Rabbis for Human Rights launched a public letter campaign:
”As Israeli rabbis who are deeply concerned both with Israel’s security and with the human rights of all people living under Israel’s control, we in RHR urge you to take action to stop JNF’s Himnuta subsidiary from evicting the Sumarin family from their home. The family has been living in this house for more than four decades. JNF, as a group concerned with the well-being of the State of Israel, must act to prevent this injustice.”
A parallel, coordinated campaign was launched in the US by Rabbis for Human Rights- North America and the Jewish Alliance for Change, and yet another parallel campaign was launched in Israel by the Solidarity Movement, who also began organizing solidarity vigils at the Sumarin house, starting on the 28th, and a demonstration in Silwan/in front of ELAD’s City of David. In the UK, the Left-wing Jewish group, Yachad, picked up the call for justice and started a letter campaign of their own. (Working with both RHR and Solidarity at the time, and coordinating directly with Hagit and folks in RHR-NA, I helped organize different aspects of the campaign and wrote a piece that would serve as resource called JNF: Planting Trees or Uprooting Families).
Thousands of letters were sent in the first few days. Activists continued to pressure the JNF online, including on their Facebook page, and within a day, the JNF-KKL in the US issued the following statement (which is so stunningly bizarre, untrue and illustrative of so much, I cannot but include it in full):
This was a complete and boldfaced lie.