Video: Activists disrupt JNF fundraiser in Berlin, protest Israel’s “ethnic cleansing”

A group called Direct Action Berlin disrupted a fundraising event for the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in the German capital Berlin on 4 October, leading to scuffles with some of the attendees in the hall.

A video posted on YouTube shows the activists entering the hall where the fundraiser was taking place, shouting slogans, throwing leaflets and carrying banners condemning JNF complicity in “ethnic cleansing.”

One banner read “Stand with al-Araqib,” a reference to the Bedouin village whose land is being taken with the complicity of the JNF.

The video shows some attendees scuffling with protestors and knocking at least one to the ground.

A statement accompanying the video, posted on the group’s Facebook page says in part:

On the 4th of October a fundraising event in favor of the JNF (KKL) took place in Berlin. The JNF is one of the oldest and most effective instruments of Zionist apartheid and oppression in Palestine. Through the founding and funding of illegal settlements, the removal and displacement of non-jewish population and exploitative buying or taking away of land from its habitants, the JNF is implementing the zionistic ideals of discrimination and segregation “on the ground.” The JNF is not “just” an official israeli organization, it is one of the main executors of the racist policies of Israel against non-jewish people living in its territory.

Perhaps mindful of the still strong taboos against criticizing Israel in Germany, the statement added:

Our act of resistance was symbolic and non-violent. In turn, we were brutally charged by the spectators, a violent reaction which was uncalled for. The exaggerated response of the crowd and the Berlin police, which responded with our activists being followed by undercover police officers, detained and treated as criminals showed once again that the Israeli state and its german partner-in-crime are not capable to deal with non-violent resistance. Once again, the cries of antisemitism rose to the air. Resisting apartheid is not antisemitism. Resisting war crimes is not antisemitism. Critic against Israel is not antisemitism.

JNF: Israel’s tool for colonizing Palestinian land

The Jewish National Fund, a Zionist entity that predates the establishment of Israel, remains one of Israel’s main tools for colonizing and “judaizing” Palestinian land.

For example, the JNF currently uses “tree planting” initiatives as a cover for uprooting Palestinians from their land.

The JNF has faced increasing opposition to its fundraising efforts in several countries, especially in the United Kingdom where it has suffered a number of recent setbacks.

Earlier this year, the Green Party in England, following the lead of its counterpart in Scotland, called for the JNF’s charitable status to be revoked and condemned it “for its activities in excluding non-Jews from Israeli land and denounce[d] the organization for claiming to be an ecological agency.”

In September, Direct Action Berlin activists unfurled a banner in front of the booth of Israeli weapons manufacturer Rafael at the biennial air show in Berlin.

Last year, activists crashed a JNF fundraiser in New York.

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Why do you not mention that this group of people were mostly elderly Holocaust survivors? Is it because you are ashamed to admit that this activist organization, in its zeal, has targeted a group of unsuspecting people, who were (as you can see from this video) completely shocked and caught unaware?

This is the first time that the performer was targeted in its long history by political activism - why don't you mention why that is? It is because they are non-political and are enjoyed for their talent. The activists' use of force only supports those who condemn peace.

I do not support Israel's current policies and wish the atrocities to stop. But you cannot paint every action that calls itself 'anti Zionist' in the same light. This was not acceptable, and your article did not explore the other side of the issue - the people who suffered this attack on their establishment. If you prefer propaganda to journalism that is your choice.

Ali Abunimah's picture

I don’t have any information that the audience were “mostly elderly Holocaust survivors” and watching the video, most of the audience look quite young and not at all like “elderly Holocaust survivors.” None of the Israeli media reports I have seen have made the claim that the audience were Holocaust survivors, so unless you can provide evidence, this claim appears to be baseless.

Those who carried out the action explained their purpose and reasoning in their statement — and there’s a link to the full version. They were absolutely not targeting Holocaust survivors or Jews, but targeting a fundraising event by a quasi-state body, the JNF, that is actively engaged in ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Unfortunately it has long been the tactic of Israel’s JNF to claim it is committing its crimes in the name of “the Jewish people.” It’s important not to fall for this ruse, and to reiterate clearly and constantly that Jews are not responsible for the actions of the Israeli state or its agencies such as the JNF.

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Let's just go back to your article for one moment. But before I do, let me again repeat that I do not support ethnic cleansing, or any type of racism or violence. With that said, I dislike biased journalism.

In regard to my original post, I cannot prove that they were Holocaust survivors at this moment because I cannot find the original source, if I do, I will post it. (I'm confident at this point I have read every news source online for this story, because of my interest in the event.)

Aside from our minor dispute on that issue, the activism in question was clearly violent in nature, but you did not provide the full picture. You wrote, "The video shows some attendees scuffling with protestors and knocking at least one to the ground." Is there a reason you did not mention that one of the attendees was also thrown on the ground? (1:16 in the video.) Also, as protestors were aiming objects directly at people (1:45 in the video) I would question its non-violent nature.

You posted the group's intent in full, in its own words, but did not provide any of your own analysis of their claims - was their claim of nonviolence correct? Were they 'brutally' charged by spectators?

I assumed you did not mention that this concert was organized to raise money for the benefit of Mount Carmel, which suffered the worst fire in Israel's history, one that left 44 people dead, because it does not fit your portrayal of JNF as a colonizer. In fact, if you spared even one sentence to describe JNF in its own terms, in order to maintain some semblance of balance, your readers would know that the JNF's mission spans many charitable fields, with some, as you mention, shrouded in controversy.

In effect, if I was writing the article, I would unpack what happened and analyze it objectively. Though I criticize this specific article, I still consider your website insightful and learn much about the conflict from your stories. Thank you.

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Initially, you accused Ali of willfully ignoring evidence that Direct Action Berlin targets "mostly elderly Holocaust survivors." Now you are unable to provide evidence supporting that claim. That is not a "minor" discrepancy; it is a bait-and-switch tactic.

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"this group of people were mostly elderly [sic] Holocaust survivors". You have still not sourced this. Could you retract your opening statement?

"unsuspecting people, who were completely shocked and caught unaware". How do you conclude they were unaware? People at a JNF meeting not knowing what JNF does, and how JNF does it? Anyway, since 1948 there has been time enough to take away any unawareness. Even better, if one visits a JNF meeting today and still does not know, this protest is surely needed. Incidentally, there is a saying in German: "Ich habe es nicht gewußt" (I did not know). To which the reply is: let's make sure you know this time. Since you write "I do not support ethnic cleansing, or any type of racism or violence", maybe you could *help* the protesters telling these visitors about JNF.

"[this was] the first time that the performer was targeted [...] by political activism [...], they are non-political". The performer was Gevatron, a choir from Geva kibbutz. Gevatron often performs abroad for the state of Israel (e.g. on May 14 celebrations) and so for JNF. Since both institutes are practicing a policy you and I despise, cooperating with them is political too. Even more: since Gevatron supports the Israeli occupation and JNF racism et cetera, their performances should be boycotted (see PACBI). This too should be known by visitors and performers.

You write: "the people who suffered this attack on their establishment", "the activism in question was clearly violent in nature", "when groups like Berlin Direct Action attack (literally)". You keep pushing the "violence" & "attack" conclusion, but the video does not show any of that. Best word to describe the physicalities I saw is *scuffle*, as Ali Abunimah did, twice.
"protestors were aiming objects directly at people (1:45 in the video)". Not true. They threw paper up in the air.

http://www.gevatron.co.il/engl...

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After some consideration, I think it is worthwhile to mention the underlying source of my outrage. You might think in the context of the larger conflict where innocent people on both sides are being murdered, and other atrocities committed, why even waste space commenting on this video?

Mr. Abinumah, you should understand something: like the US presidential election, the conflict in Palestine will be decided by the 'middle.' That is my belief.

How does that relate to me? Well, I can see both sides of the conflict. I can honestly say that, through challenging myself everyday through research and study, I can comfortably argue for the Israeli and the Palestinian causes (not necessarily all of either sides' actions though, some of which are appalling and beyond cruel). Beyond that, you may be surprised to know I am Jewish and American. Among my close friends and family, I may be the lone person who would raise a voice of protest against Israel's policies, because I am a student of the history of the region, and am not pulled in by superficial political statements.

When groups like Berlin Direct Action attack (literally, though you may disagree) a group of older people enjoying a benefit concert in support of reforestation of an area destroyed by forest fire, they are lumped in with the anti-Israel crowd. When I speak against Israel, do you know how much easier it is for the close members of my circle, to criticize me? To say these are the people you are supporting?

While these effects may seem completely irrelevant, you should know that long-term solutions, at least in this region, are not built on extremism. That is true for tribal/ethnic disputes in Arab countries, the confessional disputes in Lebanon, and will certainly be true for Israel, if and when it signs a peace agreement. My question to you is - are you educating your readers, I assume, most are pro-PL, to learn to live peacefully with Jews, or are you part of the problem?

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"Our act of resistance was symbolic and non-violent. In turn, we were brutally charged by the spectators, a violent reaction which was uncalled for." - you made me laugh. Your clip shows that you participated in a calm concert in a violent way, screamed at elderly people and requested gently to leave the place. Not only they were not violent, they allowed you to scream for 2-3 min. and let you demonstrate as long as you were there. If at all, your demand "from the river to sea Palestine will be free" is an old/new call for violance.

Ali Abunimah's picture

It seems that the definition of “violence” is infinitely expanded when it comes to protesting Israeli actions. As the video shows, the protestors were loud and disruptive, but not violent. There were scuffles when — as the video shows — some of the attendees assaulted protestors knocking one to the ground. Disruption was the point, as I understand it, to say no to business as usual and no to fundraising for ethnic cleansing in the genteel setting of a concert. One may debate the merit of the tactic, but one may not just make things up.

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Thank you Oded, you bring up a very good point that the author again failed to mention, what was heard being pronounced by protestors ""from the river to sea Palestine will be free"" This is not a call for tolerance, or acceptance, it means "From the River to the Jordan to the Mediterranean sea Palestine will be established at the expense of the state of Israel." I ask, are these the values you believe? Why was this ignored in your report of the video.

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Well Eugene it is after all Palestinian land that the Zionist forced 750,000 Palestinians from in the years leading up to and since 1948 so I don't know why that comment upset you but the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian land to make way for Jewish only settlements does not. What hipocrisy.

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Thank you Eugene for clarifying.
However, it is pretty clear that the direct action group wished to disrupt the JNF fundraising, which is constantly presented as something other than it is, so maybe it was for Mount Carmel, maybe not (hardly the point). What is important, is to know that these groups are very committed to non-violence. That doesn't mean they allow themselves to be attacked in silence. It must also be clear to you that the relatively new movement in many countries to protest in supermarkets and in front of theaters where Israeli state-funded groups perform runs parallel to the growing realization amongst many better-informed world citizens that Israel's government is not looking for peace (they just want to do as they wish), that their treatment of Palestinians is literally horrific, that they intend to take even more of Palestine, that they are attempting to draw us all into an insane war against Iran and so on....the list is literally endless. I would also say that these same groups are against ANY violence and are working, for instance, to help kids in Palestine grow up without hate and resentment in their hearts... it is extremely important that they do not only know Israeli citizens as the one who arrests them, beats them, imprisons their fathers and brothers, and makes life unlivable. The enormous abusive power that Israel wields, backed by the US, is being contested by such small courageous groups, whose vision, as far as I know, is that Israelis and Palestinians will one day live together without borders, be they physical, racial, religious, mental.
I also happen to know that at least one of the main protesters was a Jewish Israeli citizen, many of whom are moving to Berlin out of disgust for Israel's policies against their neighbours or/and the cost of living. And I would imagine that most readers here are not simply pro-PL, but pro justice and rights for all.

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"so maybe it was for Mount Carmel, maybe not (hardly the point)."

There is a large point - if you believe that the attendees did not know about the JNF's other policies, education was always an option. They did not win any friends in that room, by doing so, and if anything, only strengthened JNF's appeal.

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Your description of the JNF also failed to mention that, whether you agree or not, it is a UN-recognized environmental Non-Governmental Organization.

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Not by UN judgement, but by their own description they are "environmental". See http://esango.un.org/civilsoci...

Under "Sustainable Development" there is listed "Human settlements".
And there is this "Mission statement: Jewish National Fund is the caretakers of the Land of Israel, on behalf of its owners, Jewish people everywhere."

Of course they do not publish their Apartheid agenda on a UN related website. Surely JNF does not bother with the panel "Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations". Now Eugene, it appears that you are the one here who is unaware, by choice even.

Adri Nieuwhof's picture

The JNF applied for consultative status with ECOSOC in 2007. The application for NGO status under the UN Charter was rejected by ECOSOC’s NGO Committee. The Committee rejected the application because:

  1. JNF is not an NGO but a parastatal institution which carries out essential government functions.

  2. JNF does not uphold the principles of the UN Charter: the organization constitutionally discriminates on the basis of religion and ethnicity to the deprivation of others.

More info about the JNF http://www.hic-mena.org/documents/JNF%20factsheet.pdf

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That website is biased - one of the articles (the one about olive trees on its homepage) even says "This vandalism is clear evidence that settlers are devoid of any human characteristic." Do you really think I should trust their reports?

Adri Nieuwhof's picture

The rejection of JNF’s application for consultative status by the UN ECOSOC Committee on NGOs was announced  in a UN press release.

See: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/ecosoc6270.doc.htm

Moreover,  the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged Israel in 2007 to ensure that the JNF applies the principle of non-discrimination in the exercise of its functions instead of  providing services exclusively to the Jewish population.

See: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G07/424/79/PDF/G0742479.pdf?O…

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Eugene, you are just splitting hairs now, but still, a good reference. The UN should promptly be presented with details of JNF's actual activities, so they can rescind that recognition.
In the UK Prime Minister Cameron dropped his status as Honorary Patron of the JNF charity (which will probably lose that status - as someone said, "The planting of the British Park over the lands of destroyed Palestinian villages, including Ajjur and Zakariyya, can in no way be described as ‘charitable’. "):
http://stopthejnf.org/greatbri...
Incidentally - on a placard in the video can be read: "Stand by Al Araqib" - and here
http://972mag.com/a-week-in-ph...
you can see a photo of a week after the 42nd destruction of the village Al Araqib within 2 years, with information about the role of the JNF there.
In other words, plant trees to disappear your crimes of dispossession and destruction. What do photographs of green parks and nature reserves in Israel tell us? Besides trying to make the land more 'European' - the JNF initiatives are actually accused of destroying the natural environment - and they use a lot of water, while Palestinians get hardly any.
Anyone studying the archeology of photographs taken by the Wehrmacht (what has taken place, but is not visible or identifiable) during the second world war can make interesting parallels. In a twisted version of the future, Israeli schoolchildren will be taken to these parks to view the excavated remains of former Palestinian villages.
And you think these activists were being too rowdy and that such information should be disseminated differently? Without making any suggestions? And complain about "from the river to the sea"? Krikey, Palestinians aren't even allowed to move around freely within their own territories, let alone travel between the West Bank and Gaza, and we have people here whining about that being a call for violence? Please!

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Compared to the murder, violence and repression Zionists and the state of Israel visit, and have historically visited, upon Palestinians, it is absurd to suggest there's anything approaching violence exhibited by the protesters. Let the state of Israel cease it's exponentially more evil ways - illegal occupation, violation of hundreds of UN Resolutions, extrajudicial assassinations and their wanton murder of the innocent, checkpoints, home demolitions, uprooting of orchards, and illegal wars of aggression like Operation Cast Lead - and protests such as this one will become unnecessary.

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Do not attempt to force me into defending Israel's policies. I oppose them. However, I do not see how the participants of this concert should be the targets of any physical aggression, however much it may pale in comparison.

And if you expect anyone to take your arguments seriously, aside from the regular readers of this website, I suggest that you develop a small skill called objectivity. Last time I checked, neither side had an absolute monopoly over violence against innocent people. When was the last time you spoke out against the murder of innocent Israelis? How many words, comparatively, have you devoted to the topic? I doubt it was very many.

As far as I'm concerned, violence and/or abuse against innocent people is always wrong, whether that violence is threats, insults, physical aggression or murder. This was an excellent post to test the limits of some people's 'non-violence' mantra. I guess that superficial belief of yours doesn't apply to innocent people who *appear* to support Israel.

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Zionism's record of ethnic cleansing of Palestine by unindicted war criminals is well-documented by many Jewish authors. Any meaningful discussion of the issue would, could, and should be preceded by a careful reading of: ( 1 ) The Hidden History of Zionism by Ralph Shoenman; ( 2 ) Original Sins by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi; ( 3 ) The Ethnic Cleansing of Palaetine by IIan Pappe. All doubts that Zionism is not prophetic, ethical Judaism disappear with each reading.