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SAJFP to go forward with Palestinian Tree Planting Ceremony, despite objections

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In a bid to highlight the Nakhba and the accompanying oppression of the Palestinian peoples, on September 1, 2016, the South African Jews for Free Palestine (SAJFP), was scheduled to host a tree planting ceremony at the Weinberg Family Park, in Johannesburgs Savoy Estate. While Johannesburg City Parks had previously okayed the event, this week the City denied the application, following objections by residents. The ceremony was planned to include the planting of trees and the erection of a bench, accompanied by a memorial plaque to Lubya and the other 500 Palestinian villages that were destroyed in the Nakhba. The Weinberg Park was chosen due the courageous battle that the family, after which the park was named, fought in the war against Apartheid.

The SAJFP today hosted a meeting to discuss the way forward and despite objections has indicated that it will proceed with the ceremony.

In 2015, a group of Jewish South African activists visited the village of Lubya, in Palestine that following the 1948 war, was transformed into a forest. The activists took with them a pledge of 200 names of South African Jews, who had contributed to the Jewish National Fund. The fund was used to develop a forest over demolished Palestinian homes during the war, an event commonly referred to as the Nakhba – ‘the great catastrophy’. For decades there has been a concerted effort by the Zionist lobby, both in South Africa and abroad, to conceal the history of Lubya and the broader Palestine.

Speaking to VOC, member of SAJFP, Merlynn Edelstein explains that the organisers decided to host the event as means to acknowledge the past and find a way to move forward.

While the Weinberg family and the City supported the initiative, Edelstein says that a number of Zionist residents within the surroundings of the park apposed the event.

“We were told that the councillor had received numerous complaints and, verbally at least, the representative of Johannesburg Parks withdrew the permission to go ahead. We did not hand in a formal application…We were reassured a number of times that there would not be any problems with that,” Edelstein stated.

She says that the destruction of Lubya displayed a complete detachment by Zionist authorities by the callus manner in which they transformed the homes of families into a forest.

“They were not turning dry desert, where there was not anything, into something special. What happened was that there were war crimes in this region and it is being concealed.

In light of the fact that numerous indivduals funded the development of the forets, Edelstein says that an entire community is growing up with a false narrative about their history and contributing to something that they would otherwise not contribute towards.

In a bid to rework the narrative of the Nakhba within Zionist communities, various campaigns was scheduled to join the SAJFP in their tree planting ceremony.

The organizations include Zochrot, which is devoted to keeping alive the memory of the Nakhba, and Adalah, which defends minority rights within Israel.

“One of the delegates that joined us is a direct decedent of the village of Lubya and we wanted to bring the group here to speak about the Nakhba. Because, the efforts made to conceal what happened in Lubya in Israel needs to be matched by an effort to reveal what happened,” Edelstein continued.


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