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(En)planting Israel : Jewish national fund forestry and the naturalisation of Zionism Long, Joanna Claire

Abstract

This thesis discusses Jewish National Fund (JNF) forestry initiatives and the ways in which they have worked to naturalise the Zionist colonisation of Palestine by constructing the discursive and physical invisibility of the Palestinians in the landscape. Trees are widely perceived as being sources of incontrovertible good, ideas which JNF has played on and actively mobilised to garner support for its activities and to conceal their deeply ideological and political work. Afforestation schemes have been central to Zionist settlement in Palestine since the early twentieth century, with tree-planting promoted as central to 'developing' the 'barren and neglected landscape.' Through primary analysis of Jewish children's literature, historical newspaper articles published in Jerusalem, and literature produced by JNF and its representatives, I demonstrate how the previously marginal Jewish holiday of Tu B'Shvat was resurrected and co-opted in order to mobilise moral and financial support for these afforestation initiatives, particularly among children. With the declaration of Israel and the opening of the Knesset, I also show how imagery surrounding trees and the Tu B'Shvat themes of 'rooting' and 'awakening' resonate with other notions of the Jewish people being rooted in the soil of Palestine and in History, as well as being awakened from Diaspora dormancy along with the Middle East, which is perceived as awakening from pre-modern ignorance. Finally I argue that the trees themselves, particularly those planted over the. remains of Palestinian villages depopulated and demolished during the 1948 war, construct the physical invisibility of the Palestinians by literally obscuring evidence of their previous existence on the same land. I suggest that all of this work is undertaken out of a desire to resurrect an idealised, fetishised, ancient Israeli subject using the tree as a fetish object.

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