Netanyahu opens JNF classroom in illegal settlement

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Shai Piron last week attended the dedication of a Jewish National Fund classroom in the West Bank settlement of Barkan. The JNF — also known by its Hebrew acronym KKL — is an organization dedicated to taking over Palestinian land, so that it can be used for Jewish-only settlements, as well as to drumming up support for Israel among governments throughout the world. 

The visit was reported in the media at the time, but only with regard to Netanyahu’s dedication of an elementary school named after his father in the same settlement.

Senior JNF officials were in attendance, including JNF Director General Meir Shpigler, as well as settler leader Gershon Mesika. Barkan, located around seven miles from the Green Line (separating the West Bank from present-day Israel), is part of a cluster of settlements sometimes referred to as the “Ariel finger,” in reference to the bloc’s largest colony. 

Shpigler described the “leadership classroom” in Barkan settlement as “a central KKL-JNF project,” where children will receive “regular instruction” by counsellors “over at least three years, fully financed by KKL-JNF.” 

In addition to the classroom, the JNF reported that the organization’s officials signed a “covenant for educational cooperation” with the local settlers’ council. Israel’s settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. 

The JNF website posted photographs of the occasion, including examples of what “inculcating Zionist values” means when it comes to teaching children about the geography and political status of the land.

Given past controversy, even among JNF supporters, about the organization’s activities, the involvement of the JNF in building and funding projects in a settlement like Barkan is likely to only fuel campaigns aimed at challenging the role of the Zionist body in the colonization of Palestinian land.


Ben White

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Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian‘s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ (2009, Pluto Press) and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination & Democracy’ (2012, Pluto Press). Ben is a researcher/writer for the Journal of Palestine Studies.