Palestine solidarity activists in Thessaloniki, Greece, engaged in a creative action in support of the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing on 28 May when they entered an Estee Lauder cosmetics store with tree saplings in tow.
According to a press release from an activist performance group calling itself the Land Annexation Society, six participants dressed in suits as members of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and “proceeded to ‘plant’ trees over the Estee Lauder shop space … flyers were distributed to shoppers and staff informing them that ‘this Estee Lauder space is currently being rezoned.’”
The JNF is an Israeli quasi-governmental institution which has facilitated ethnic cleansing operations since 1948 and continues to administer land-grabs for Jewish-only use in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, and in places like al-Araqib in the Naqab (Negev) desert. It was tasked with literally covering up the destruction of approximately 500 Palestinian villages beginning in the late 1940s by planting trees and forests over the ruins of Palestinian homes. The JNF has currently re-branded itself as an environmental charity organization, and has implemented its land confiscation policies as ones under a benign-sounding “re-greening” project in the Naqab.
The press release continued:
This was to draw a parallel with the actions of the JNF, which has been involved in forcibly appropriating Palestinian homes and ”rezoning” them under an ecological reforestation scheme. By this “planting” of trees without prior announcement or permission, the Land Annexation Society say they wish to highlight the very activity engaged in by the JNF on Palestinian lands.
The action comes a day after the JNF hit the headlines in the UK, with British Prime Minister stepping down from his honorary patronage of the organisation following a letter from the Stop The JNF. This followed calls in the UK Parliament for the JNF’s charitable status to be revoked.
The Estee Lauder cosmetics retailer was chosen as a target due to its chairman, Ron Lauder, who also sits as the chairman of the JNF. Activists called on customers to boycott Estee Lauder as part of the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against companies involved with or profiting from the violation of Palestinian rights.
Today the JNF holds over half of the seats on the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) Council, a state institution that sets policy for 93% of Israeli land held in the public domain, while the JNF itself directly holds 13% of such land. In recent years there have been legislative attempts to bring into law the JNF policy of preserving land exclusively for Jews while a bill calling for equal allocation of land among Jews and Arabs was last year rejected.
A video of the Estee Lauder action can be viewed here. The action comes just weeks after a similar tree-filled protest took place against the JNF at their fundraiser in New York City.