Performance artists plant trees in luxury cosmetics store linked to Israeli land grabs
A group of international artists staged a performance today in a Turkish branch of luxury cosmetics store Clinique in protest against its chairman's involvement with Israeli ethnic cleansing and occupation in Palestine. This is the latest action in the growing campaign against the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a Zionist organisation which facilitates the transfer of Palestinian land to Jews while parading as an environmental charity.
Five members of performance arts group Rezoning Group entered the store in Istanbul dressed up as members of the JNF and proceeded to “plant” trees over the Clinique shop space on Friday 10th June, forcing the store to temporarily close.
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 Rezoning Group say they wish to highlight the very activity engaged in by the JNF on Palestinian lands.
Today’s action was taken in response to the call out from the 'Stop the JNF' campaign, in solidarity with Palestinian refugees from the Latrun area between Tel Aviv and Jerusaleum. These people lost their homes on June 5th, 1976, when 3 villages were destroyed by the Israeli military. The JNF subsequently took ownership of the land and planted 'Canada Park' where they once lived, erasing traces of the villages that once stood in their place. Each year on June 5th the refugees attempt to return home.(1)
The Clinique 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 Clinique as part of the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against companies involved with or profiting from the violation of Palestinian rights.(2)
This marks the second time in a month that a company linked to Ron Lauder has been targeted due to his involvement with the JNF. In May a Greek branch of cosmetics store Estee Lauder in the city of Thessanoliki was host to a similar performance by activists highlighting chairman Lauder’s activities with the JNF. This came two days after UK Prime Minister David Cameron stepped down as honorary patron due to parliamentary criticism of its activities.
Following the establishment of the state of Israel, the JNF was given responsibility for developing lands expropriated by the government - including 531 Palestinian villages destroyed in a campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Israeli state. According to the Stop The JNF campaign, parks and forests have been planted in order to cover the traces of villages destroyed in 1948 and 1967 . Additionally, it is accused of aiding the illegal confiscation of Palestinian lands on the basis that the owners were “absent”.(3)
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 (4). 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 (6).
Currently the JNF is involved in land and water theft from Bedouin communities in the Negev (7) and illegally acquiring lands and houses in occupied Jerusalem through its private subsidiary Hemnuta (8).
Toni Zigler of Rezoning Group said:
“Today, close to the anniversary of the attack on the Mavi Marmara peace flotilla by the Israeli military, we targeted a company due to its links with the JNF. This is an organisation that is an active partner in annexation of Palestinian lands.
“The JNF is instrumental in the Israeli authorities erasing the memory of the Palestinians who lived in the occupied territories. Adding insult to injury many of these sites are now redesignated as nature reserves or leisure parks which feeds into the JNF's projection of a benign image.
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