On 18 May 2007, the United Nations’ Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) rejected the application of the Jewish National Fund (JNF)-USA for consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) by a vote of eight to seven with three abstentions.
Consultative status enables NGOs to circulate statements and participate in relevant international conferences convened by the UN and in the meetings of their preparatory bodies. The Committee on NGOs, which is comprised of 19 Member States, decides upon whether or not to afford NGO-applicants consultative status. Over 2,700 NGOs from all over the world have been awarded consultative status.
The eight countries voting against the granting of status to the JNF-USA were Burundi, China, Cuba, Egypt, Guinea, Russian Federation, Qatar, and Sudan; the seven countries voting in favor were Colombia, Israel, Peru, Romania, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States; and the three countries abstaining were Angola, India, and Pakistan.
The JNF-USA lobbied hard to gain ECOSOC status and provided letters of support for its application from powerful members of the US Congress, such as Senator Hillary Clinton. However, country representatives and the Palestine Observer Mission to the UN expressed concern about the affiliation between the JNF-USA and the JNF-KKL (Keren Keyemeth LeIsrael), which carries out land development and settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). While the JNF-USA told the Committee that it was independent and involved in water, environmental and development projects in the Middle East, country representatives stated that they were unable to distinguish between the activities of the JNF-USA and JNF-KKL. Another main reason cited for why the application should be rejected was that the JNF’s work violated the principles of the UN Charter, which emphasize respect for human rights and equality.
Adalah and its partner organizations, the Habitat International Coalition and Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, have been closely monitoring these developments before the Committee on NGOs. The human rights organizations have also been advocating strenuously before UN human rights bodies to urge Israel to cease discriminatory land allocation practices using institutions such as the JNF, which controls 13% of the land in Israel exclusively for the benefit of the Jewish population. In the JNF’s own words:
“The JNF is not the trustee of the general public in Israel. Its loyalty is given to the Jewish people in the Diaspora and in the state of Israel... The JNF, in relation to being an owner of land, is not a public body that works for the benefit of all citizens of the state. The loyalty of the JNF is given to the Jewish people and only to them is the JNF obligated. The JNF, as the owner of the JNF land, does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state” (Response of the JNF, dated December 2004, to a petition filed by Adalah to the Supreme Court of Israel – HC 9205/04).
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), for example, in its concluding observations on Israel from March 2007, urged Israel to ensure that the JNF, the World Zionist Organization, and the Jewish Agency are “bound by the principle of non-discrimination in the exercise of their functions.”
UN Economic and Social Council, Department of Public Information, News and Media, 18 May 2007
NGO Reports and the Concluding Observations of the CERD
Habitat International Coalition and Adalah, UN Commission on Human Rights, 62nd Session, 13 March - 21 April 2006 (statement on the Israel Land Administration and the JNF’s discriminatory land policies)