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Friday, December 10, 2010

Why you should support the JNF

You will recall that Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a post last week in which he urged us all not to support the JNF because it is paying for items that ought to be paid for out of the budget of the Israeli government. After all, argues Goldberg, Israel is a 'rich country.'

I took Goldberg to task as did many other bloggers. Over the last week, the controversy has not died down, with many bloggers weighing in either for or against Goldberg, and some of them attacking him personally. Goldberg has posted on the issue at least two more times, and I had those posts open on my screen for a while, but never got around to writing about them.

Jonathan Tobin does a great job in Commentary/Contentions in summing up why Goldberg is wrong.
But as much as foreign supporters of the Jewish state ought to share the frustration of Israelis about all this, Goldberg is still wrong about boycotting the JNF. The fund cannot guarantee that the trees Americans pay for won’t burn in a future fire, but that doesn’t mean that Israel’s forests shouldn’t be replanted. To punish the JNF because of governmental failures would be no different from a call to stop funding charities that served the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina because of the colossal failures of local government to protect their citizens as well as for the mistakes the Army Corps of Engineers made in estimating the damage that a storm might do to the city’s levees. Giving to the JNF is not, as Goldberg says, co-opting Diaspora Jews into supporting a cover-up of governmental failures. To the contrary, such donations will help fund the cleanup and recovery.

Goldberg is right when he says Israel should fully fund its fire-fighting capability, but the country’s mistakes on this issue will be rectified for the same reason that New Orleans’s flood prevention has been improved: it took a disaster and a bitter public backlash to force the government to prioritize this issue. This is the way with all democracies. Just as the defeats suffered during the Yom Kippur War and the Second Lebanon War prompted army reform in Israel, you can bet that Israel’s fire service will never be shorted again, or at least not anytime soon. This proves that for all its specific problems, Israeli democracy is not much different from the kind we practice here, where our leaders are just as guilty of fighting the last war rather than planning for the next one as they are in Jerusalem.
Jeffrey needs to calm down a little bit. Yes, the government should have dealt with this a long time ago - it's an issue that was raised in the aftermath of several fires started by Hezbullah missiles in the Second Lebanon War. But it's not the JNF's fault that the two governments since the War have not take the issue seriously enough. And given how little real influence Israelis have over their government, it's not really Israelis' fault either.

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At 5:10 AM, Blogger Sunlight said...

JNF is fabulous. Trees, yes, ok, that's their rep. But they've been doing water projects, also. And, really, I would go wild if they would work with Technion, or whoever, and do a demo pilot desalination system along your coast that would pull salt water straight out of the Med and *poof!* turn it into drinking and irrigation water. Crank it up, using solar or mini nuclear and really get some water going. Then get organized to put the systems all up and down Israel and California coasts. It is completely ridiculous at this point for the U.S. west and Israel to be scrounging for water. I've brought it up with JNF people before, but they just give me the "yes, dear" look. So I support the JNF because, if anybody can do this, they can. Fabulous organization...

At 5:34 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Exactly. When have governments in Israel ever listened to public opinion?

In any case, its not fair to punish average Israelis for their government's bungling and incompetence. The Mt. Carmel Forest will be restored, whether or not Jeffrey Goldberg approves of it.

At 6:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeffrey needs to calm down a little bit.

He needs to drop dead.


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