Tel Aviv’s labor court has ruled that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) discriminated against a group of ten Palestinian employees when it wrongfully dismissed them in July 2020. The court ordered that the Palestinian workers, who had worked consecutively at the JNF for between five and ten years, be compensated and immediately rehired.
The JNF is was founded in 1901 by the World Zionist Organization for the purpose of purchasing lands for Jewish settlement in then Ottoman-ruled provinces of what would formally be termed Palestine following the end of the First World War. During the British military and mandatory rule of Palestine (1917-1948) and following the founding of the State of Israel (1948) in parts of that territory, the JNF has continued its activity as a quasi-governmental organization dedicated to the acquiring of lands “in the name of the Jewish people,” involving their dispossession from the country’s indigenous, colonized population.
The Communist Party of Israel organs, Zo Haderech and Al-Ittihad, have published reports detailing how, despite the Palestinian plaintiffs’ having worked side by side with Israeli employees for years, they had not received status as tenured workers because they live in the occupied Palestinian territories. While JNF employees are unionized under the Histadrut, Israel’s labor federation, the names of the ten Palestinian worker plaintiffs were not included in a series of collective bargaining agreements reached by the workers and the JNF regarding employment, tenure and dismissal.
The plaintiffs’ legal representatives claimed that their clients’ discrimination by the JNF is evinced by the Palestinian workers’ never having been given tenure; instead, they were purposely retained in temporary positions during the respective periods of their employment, contrary to the provisions of the applicable collective bargaining agreements between the JNF and Histadrut. In a separate but related action, the Palestinian worker plaintiffs have also sued the Histadrut Labor Federation which, they claim, repeatedly ignored the JNF’s discriminatory practices.
Last February, the directorate of the JNF decided that the organization would begin to directly purchase land in the occupied Palestinian West Bank for the potential expansion of settlements. According to the decision, the JNF would focus on acquiring lands privately owned by Palestinian residents, with priority being given to parcels within existing Jewish settlements in the West Bank where future construction is anticipated. However, the organization is also considering purchasing additional lands both in and outside of settlement blocs.
Until last month’s s decision, since the start of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the JNF had operated to acquire lands in the West Bank semi-clandestinely through a subsidiary named “Himanuta.”