JNF board member quits over e. J'lem evictions

Seth Morrison says cooperation of organization subsidiary with settler group Elad endangers a "peaceful, democratic Israel."

Proposed site of a national park in east Jerusalem 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Proposed site of a national park in east Jerusalem 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
A member of the US Jewish National Fund’s board has resigned in protest of efforts to evict Palestinians from property it owns in east Jerusalem.
In a letter published by The Forward on Tuesday, Seth Morrison said the cooperation of a JNF subsidiary with Elad – an organization that helps Jews move into predominantly Palestinian neighborhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah – tarnished its mission of bolstering a “peaceful and democratic Israel.”
“By supporting right-wing settlers in ‘Judaizing’ Palestinian neighborhoods, JNF makes this vision harder to achieve,” Morrison wrote. “I fear that such actions endanger Israel’s future as a secure and democratic state.”
Morrison said his decision to severe ties with JNF –whose little blue donation boxes he remembers fondly from childhood – was hard but necessary given the sense of “betrayal” he felt.
According to Morrison, JNF has transferred property in east Jerusalem that came under its ownership to Jewish settler groups for decades. He said the most recent such case involves the Sumarins, a Palestinian family living in Silwan. According to the JNF the family is squatting on land that it does not own.
Leftist groups however say it was unlawfully taken from the Sumarins.
The family awaits a court decision on whether it will be evicted.
Morrison, who is also involved in J Street, a left-leaning lobby group in Washington, said JNF officials “made clear to me that they still plan to get the Sumarin family out and transfer the property to Elad.” Their decision, he said, made it impossible for him to continue to be involved with JNF.
“My commitment to Israel remains strong,” he wrote. “But I will invest my time and financial resources in organizations committed to peace, democracy and coexistence between peoples.”
Members of Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity, who oppose efforts by Elad to fill neighborhoods in east Jerusalem with Jews, celebrated Morrison’s decision.
“The involvement of the Jewish National Fund in the dubious activity of Elad evicting families from their houses in favor of expanding a dangerous extremist settlement in Silwan is a sign of shame for the Foundation, its supporters and donors,” it said in a statement released by the organization.
“We call on the JNF to immediately cease cooperating with an extremist settler organization and release its hands off the houses of the citizens of Silwan.”
The US JNF lamented Morrison’s decision.
“We are sorry that Seth has chosen to go in the direction he has,” the spokesman wrote in an e-mail.
She enclosed a letter sent by Russell F. Robinson, JNF CEO, asking Morrison to reconsider his position.