Ms. Roseann Runte, President and Vice-Chancellor, Carleton University,Ottawa, Canada
November 1, 2011
Dear Ms. Runte,
Re: Carleton should dissociate itself from the Jewish National Fund and the Negev Dinner
I am writing to express my dismay and disappointment with your decision to be a co-chair of this year’s National Jewish Fund Negev dinner on November 8th in Ottawa.
Carleton University is one of Canada’s premier institutions of higher learning. Its reputation for research, scholarship and teaching is very high. It has also has a reputation for independence and academic freedom.
As I am sure you will agree, maintaining this reputation requires that while encouraging vigorous debate and discussion among professors and students, the university itself should have no political opinion – other than to courageously defend human and civil rights including the right to free inquiry and free speech.
Lamentably, your decision to associate yourself with the Jewish National Fund fundamentally violates this neutrality.
The Jewish National Fund, while it raises money in Canada and elsewhere, is principally an Israeli institution. (In fact, its advertising for the event boldly addresses itself to “friends of Israel”.) By associating yourself and Carleton with the JNF, you have taken sides in a contentious political issue in a foreign country.
When the JNF was created in 1901, its objective was to buy land in Palestine to allow Jews to immigrate there. However, after the 1948 Israeli victory, the nature of the JNF fundamentally changed. Today, JNF funds are used to take over Palestinian land. JNF lands, which constitute 14% of Israel, are reserved exclusively for Jews.
Here are a few examples of the work of the JNF in Israel.
The role of the JNF in funding Canada Park – a “recreational park” built on the ruins of three vibrant Palestinian villages completely bulldozed by the Israeli army, has been well documented, including by the CTV television network.
The JNF is currently involved in a project to expropriate Palestinian homes in the village of Silwan, located in East Jerusalem, (on ground that Canada does not recognize as part of Israel) to build a Jewish historical park.
The JNF is also actively promoting a project to plant trees on land that has been taken from Palestinian Bedouins in the Negev desert. While visiting the Negev two years ago, I could see that while publicly promoting “environmentalism”, the impact of the project is to further expropriate Palestinian Bedouins from lands that they have used from time immemorial.
Ms. Runte, these are only three examples of how the JNF is deeply involved in a highly disputed conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, in which each side claims that its rights have been violated. By accepting to co-chair this year’s JNF dinner, you have associated yourself, and Carleton, with Israel against the Palestinians.
This is unwise and a disservice to a great institution. I think you should reconsider your decision.
If you would like more information on the role of the JNF in Israel, it would be my pleasure to provide it to you, by email or in person.
(an individual Canadian concerned about human rights for all – Jews, Muslims and Christians - in the middle east)
cc. Ms. Gisèle Samson-Verreault, Chair, Board of Governors
(also bcc’d to about 150 Canadian community leaders)