By Uri Davis
My first introduction to Canada Park was in the wake of the 1967 war as a second or third year BA Student of Philosophy and Arabic language and literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem commuting on weekends between my family home at Kefar Shemaryahu and my student accommodation at the Salesian Monastery in the Musrara Quarter of Jerusalem travelling by bus on the Jerusalem/Tel Aviv road.
As the bus passed-by the Latrun semi-enclave I witnessed workers collecting stones and loading them on trucks. The workers were removing the stones of the 1967 ethnically cleansed and destroyed Palestinian-Arab village of ‘Imwas …
First academic/political engagement
My first engagement with Canada Park as a 1976 PhD Graduate of the Department of Anthropology, the New School for Social Research, New York, NY took place some 15 years later, when the then Najah University Canadian scholar the later Professor of Linguistics Walter Lehn contacted me for assistance with his research of the Jewish National Fund (prompted by the late Professor Ibrahim Abu Lughod) and by the publication of his seminal article entitled “West Bank Sojourn” in the Journal of Palestine Studies(Vol. 9, No. 4, Summer 1980).
The Lehn-Davis partnership eventually culminated a decade odd later with the publication of Walter Lehn in Association with Uri Davis, The Jewish National Fund, Kegan Paul International, London 1988, underwritten to the tune of some GBP£6,000 I was able to raise (assisted by the recommendation of the late FATEH Central Committee member, the Khalid al-Hasan), having joined in the UK the PLO and the Palestinian National Liberation Movement/FATEH two years earlier (in 1984) sponsored respectively by the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat/Abu Ammar (believed to be most probably assassinated by order of the Government of the war-criminal Ariel Sharon in 2004) and his FATEH second in command Khalil al-Wazir/Abu Jihad (whose assassination in 1988 was masterminded by the then Deputy Chief of the General Staff, the war-criminal Ehud Barak).
To me [Walter Lehn] as a Canadian, one of the most unsettling experiences in the West Bank was a visit to Canada Park, just north of Latrun. A large sign at the entrance notes that the park was dedicated by the president of Israel on March 30, 1976, and identifies it as "a project of the Jewish National Fund of Canada," hence Canada Park. Inside the park, on a stone retaining wall, are mounted a large number of brass plates giving the names and location of the Canadian contributors; the vast majority are from the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. I wondered how many of the contributors knew (or cared) that the park they helped to build was in the occupied West Bank and on the site of the Palestinian village of Imwas (probable site of the biblical Emmaus), one of several villages in the area north of Latrun totally destroyed in the Israeli invasion and occupation in June 1967. But I knew, and could only feel shame that the name of my country was identified with such an enterprise. In fact the only time in my life I recall being ashamed of being a Canadian was when I was in Canada Park in June 1978.
The developed part of Canada Park is a large, beautiful area with many trees, well-planned roads and pathways, playgrounds for children, benches in the shade of large trees, and sites with facilities for outdoor cooking and eating. There are also quite a few, mostly small caves, which can be safely explored to the delight of children. The rolling terrain of the park is actually the crest of a large hill, providing a splendid view in all directions of the surrounding fields, villages, towns and a Trappist monastery famous for its wines. In general the park appears well maintained. Thus the casual and generally not-too-well informed visitor will leave Canada Park with a distinctly positive and favourable impression.
The more observant visitor, however, may notice several rather curious details. In a park opened only a few years ago, there are, as expected, a large number of small trees, mostly pine and juniper, clearly not many years old. However, in addition there are quite a few larger and much older fruit trees – predominantly olive, fig and almond, but also plum, pomegranate, apple, orange and peach. Curiously there appear to be no young fruit trees. None of these trees grows wild in the West Bank; all are the result of planting and care. Indeed, the age of some of the olive trees – with trunks near the ground of close to a metre in diameter – is statable obviously in centuries, not decades. Given the size of some of these fruit trees, and the structure of the ground (rock under a shallow layer of topsoil), they could not possibly have been recently transplanted, an explanation provided by some tour guides, but credible only to an uninformed urban dweller.
As well as old fruit trees, an even stranger fact are the clusters of huge cactus plants which yield the sweet prickly-pears, called sabar in Arabic, and the origin as a loanword of the Hebrew sabra meaning an indigenous (as distinguished from an immigrant) Israeli. Along with the cactus, one can also see many old grape vines, some on arbours, others spreading on the ground.
In addition to the variety and different ages of the trees in Canada Park, the location or pattern formed by some of the trees appears strange. The old fruit trees are not clustered or randomly located as the younger pines are, but are in definite patterns. A map plotting the location of the fruit trees would reveal a grid-like pattern flanking open and at times intersecting strips, as if the trees outlined lots in an urban area.
Within the park, a road at one point has been cut through a rather sharp slope; requiring a retaining wall some hundred metres in length on one side of the road. The wall is built of cut stones, some a distinct pink in colour and rough cut, others (apparently the same type of stone) are faded, look weathered and are smooth cut. These two types of stones are arranged in an artistic pattern. While walking along the wall and noticing the two differently appearing kinds of stones, one of the smooth and weathered ones caught my eye. It had an Arabic inscription carved into it, which seemed strange indeed! To make sure I had not missed others, I again walked the length of the wall; there was only one with an inscription. This stone had obviously not been cut for the wall. It was longer than the others and broken at one end. Indeed part of the last letter of the inscription was missing at the broken end, though there was no question whatsoever what the inscription was: Al-Mulk Ii-llah, "the ownership belongs to God," or, more freely translated, "God is the owner." There was also no question of where this stone came from; it had been over the main entrance of a house built 'by a devout Palestinian, probably a Muslim. Such inscriptions over the doorways of houses in the West Bank, and formerly throughout Palestine, are not;\ uncommon, and the sentence, "God is the owner," is often said in response to the question as to who is the owner of a house or other property.
As I stood and looked at the stone with the inscription, I wondered if there were other such stones, placed so that the inscriptions were not visible. It was now clear to me why some of the stones in the retaining wall were new-looking, others weathered – the latter had been salvaged from destroyed houses. I also wondered why this one had been placed so that the inscription was exposed. Had the stones in the wall been laid by Palestinian labourers (which was quite likely)? Had the man laying this stone placed it with the inscription facing out as a silent witness to the fact that God was the owner of the land of Canada Park, and not the Jewish people, as is true under law in Israel (and apparently also in the occupied West Bank) for property of the Jewish National Fund? Was this stone also a silent witness to the fact that the site of the park was that of a Palestinian village totally destroyed beginning on June 6, 1967?
Within the area of the park, but beyond the developed part, thus probably seen by few visitors, I noticed a small structure, topped by a dome. Inspection revealed that it was the grave-site of a contemporary of the Prophet Muhammad. According to an inscription, he had died of the plague shortly after the Muslim conquest of Palestine in the mid-seventh century. Why, of all of the buildings of the former village of Imwas, had this structure alone been preserved, when not even the village mosque had been spared? Was this structure judged to be of significant historical value and thus preserved, when not even the fact that the village of Imwas had existed was worthy of preservation?
The only other evidence within the park of what had been there earlier that I observed was a Muslim cemetery, again outside of the developed area. The cemetery was neglected, stone markers had been broken or toppled, and tracks showed that vehicles had driven across it. Since at this time much had been made in the Israeli press about how Jewish cemeteries had been neglected by the Jordanian authorities in East Jerusalem, I was surprised at the condition of this Muslim cemetery, now within the area of Canada Park.
Along the road flanking Canada Park I saw further evidence of the former village of ‘Imwas, though I suspect I saw it only because I was walking from the park to the nearby monastery. The road is new and does not appear to coincide with the old one through the village. At one point, near the entrance to the park, a knoll has been cut through to level the road. On the adjoining embankment one can see protruding from the soil the broken ends of galvanized water pipes (about 1 cm. in diameter) and of reinforcing rods used in concrete, and even the broken edge of a tile floor. Clearly the new, road surface is below the level of the floors of the former houses and has been cut through the built-up area of the village. This evidence is not conspicuous; I very much doubt that anyone in a passing car would observe it.
My guide on this visit to Canada Park was a Palestinian, whom I shall call Ali, ten years of age in 1967 and then an inhabitant of ‘Imwas. Ali told of how the Israeli troops on June 6, 1967 took the village and the surrounding area in the so-called Latrun bulge, that all the inhabitants had been ordered out of their homes – with no time or opportunity to remove anything from them – and that explosive charges were then laid and the village destroyed. There are reports, he said, of some elderly and ill people refusing to leave; the house was simply dynamited with them inside. The people were ordered to leave the area and told to go east; many headed for Ramallah. Ali showed me the cave, near his former home, where the family had spent the night of June 6, and told how on the next morning, before leaving on their eastward trek his father had told him to crawl into the partially collapsed wreckage of their home and to find a box with valuable papers.
There was one almost uncanny aspect to visiting Canada Park with Ali as my guide. He consistently spoke in the present tense. He would locate by the fruit trees, for example, an area where the house of a friend or relative had been, and then say: "This is the house of my uncle." At another point, he drew my attention to a cluster of large trees: "This is the school." As if for him the village and all its buildings still existed, as if psychologically he was unable to accept the fact that now there was no village, no houses, no school, no mosque, no church, not even any sign of their having been there. They had been totally and literally wiped out of existence, reminding me of Golda Meir's quip about the Palestinians: "They did not exist." Is this, I thought, what is meant by rewriting history? By creating (uncreating!) facts?
As I walked around Canada Park, I could not help but wonder if any of the tourists who came to visit noticed, or cared, or inquired about the fruit trees, or the stone with the Arabic inscription, or the Muslim cemetery, or what the site of the park was before it became Canada Park? And if they asked, what explanations were provided?
The fate of the village of ‘Imwas is sadly not unique. A number of nearby villages, Yalu and Beit Nuba, suffered exactly the same fate; they too no longer exist and are not found on Israeli maps, not even those purporting to provide historical information.
On the lands of the former village of Beit Nuba now stands a Jewish settlement called Mevo Horon. I went there once with a foreign journalist who wanted to visit it. As obvious foreigners – English-speaking – we were welcomed and shown around. Eventually we ended up in a cafeteria where we had coffee. While there a young woman, a resident of Mevo Horon, heard us speaking English and joined us; it turned out that she was an immigrant from the United States. My journalist companion asked her if it was true that the settlement was on the lands of a former Palestinian village, and what happened to the village; no such village was now in sight. She replied, yes, she had been told this. The village had been destroyed because the entire population (including the old women and children, I wondered?) had been terrorists. But she did not know what the name of the village had been or what had become of its inhabitants (assuming that any terrorists had been spared!). My companion then asked her about living there today: "Do you sometimes feel there are ghosts around? " "Yes," she replied, "but I try not to think of it."
I try not to think of it! Is the luxury of this option available also to the former Palestinian inhabitants of Beit Nuba? (Walter Lehn, Op. Cit.)
Second academic/political engagement
My third engagement with Canada Park took place some (yet again) 15 years later having been invited to submit a Paper entitled “Apartheid Israel and the Jewish National Fund of Canada: The Story of ‘Imwas Yalu, Beit Nuba and Canada Park” (inter alia) at the Azrieli Building, Room 101, Carleton University, 24 September 2004 in the context of which I was introduced to Jeanette Weinroth and Bruce Katz of the non-Governmental organization/NGO Palestinian and Jewish Unity/PAJU resulting in what I believe was the first formal the organizational exchange of correspondence with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency/CRA (below)
Derek Carlisle (Esq)
Director of Parliamentary Affairs
Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
28 September 2004
RE: Jewish National Fund of Canada
Dear Derek Carlisle,
Thank you for making the arrangements to meet with me this morning on the above subject with the view to discuss the Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Canada and its charitable registration and tax-exempt status.
Kindly find enclosed a copy of (1) Walter Lehn in association with Uri Davis, The Jewish National Fund, Kegan Paul International, London 1988, (2) the REPORT On the Legal Structure, Activities, Assets, Income and Liabilities of the Keren Kayameth Leisrael/Jewish National Fund, Jerusalem, 1973, and (3) the CBC 5th Estate documentary film Park With No Peace: Canada Park, 22 October, 1991.
The first reference is an academic critical historical study of the JNF from its inception to the 1980s, and will, I believe, provide you with an overview of JNF activities, including its activities in the post-1967 occupied territories. The second textual reference includes relevant JNF legal documents such as the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the JNF as registered in London, 1907 (“Jews only”); Keren Kayameth Leisrael/Jewish National Fund Law as legislated in the Parliament of the State of Israel in 1954; Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Keren Kayameth Leisrael/Jewish National Fund as registered in Jerusalem, 1953/54 (“Jews only”); Covenant Between the State of Israel and the Keren Kayaemeth Leisrael With the Sanction of the World Zionist Organization, 1961 (underpinning the “Jews only” JNF discrimination, enforced by the Israel Lands Administration and framed by the relevant Acts of the Parliament of the State of Israel (the Knesset). The third is a visual reference, namely, a documentary film detailing the activities, wholly illegal to my understanding, of the JNF in the territory known as the “Latrun Salient” in the post-1967 occupied West Bank.
I believe the documentation enclosed herewith provides sufficient prima facie grounds for your legal department to undertake an enquiry into the charitable registration and tax-exempt status of the Jewish National Fund of Canada.
I thank you again for making the arrangements to meet with me this morning on the above subject.
With all good wishes,
Uri Davis (Dr)
Third academic/political engagement
Subsequently some 5 years later my 2009, Lecture tour in Canada (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, London Ontario) again on the subject of the “Jewish National Fund of Canada”, sponsored by the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) culminated in the follow-up submission hereunder:
Ms Natalie Boileau
Canada Revenue Agency
555 MacKenzie Avenue
Ottawa K1N 1A1
26 June 2009
Dear Ms Natalie Boileau,
I write to thank you for sending your assistant Ms Magdala down to the lobby of Connaught Building to meet me and receive the file that I had brought with me for delivery in person at your office.
As my passport suggests I am, inter alia, a British Citizen, and it may therefore be the case that you are under no legal obligation to respond to my intervention.
I wonder, though, whether as a matter of courtesy, you would please respond to my intervention in writing at the address given in my signed cover letter (as well as perhaps contact me on my cellular telephone number given below) in addition to sending either a copy of your response or the original hard-copy of your response to Mr Bruce Katz (whose coordinates are given at the bottom of the copy of our letter addressed to your predecessor Mr Derek Carlisle and attached to my said cover letter) and to Mr Craig Smith (of Apartment #4, 195 James Street, Ottawa K1R 5M6) who has acted on my behalf in attempting to secure an face-to-face interview with yourself.
With all good wishes,
Uri Davis (Prof Dr)
However, it took yet another odd decade for the breakthrough to eventually materialie when in January the CRA was reported in the Global News website reported on that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) earlier this stripped the “Beth Oloth Charitable Organization” of its status for funding activities that are not charitable under Canadian law, including attempts at “increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Israeli armed forces” and that the Independent Jewish Voices/IJV “has been campaigning to have the JNF’s charitable status revoked”.(https://www.albawaba.com/news/canada-revokes-charity-status-jewish-body-it-funds-israeli-military-settlements-1245098)
The misrepresentation of apartheid Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East” is, in my opinion, not just a public relation necessity – but rather an existential necessity for the continued existence of Israel as an apartheid State, though not necessarily as a member State in the UN subject to the conditions of its admission as a “peace loving ” State in the UN; to all UN Resolutions on the question of Palestine (notably to UNGA Resolutions 181(ii) of 1947 and 194(iii) of 1948; and to such standards of international law as are informed by the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948).
A half-a-century odd will have elapsed since I witnessed (in the wake of the 1967 war as a second or third year BA Student of Philosophy and Arabic language and literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem)workers collecting the stones of the ethnically cleansed and destroyed Palestinian village of ‘Imwas and loading them on trucks before it seems that I get to witness the JNF is to be stripped of its of its charitable registration in Canada.
When that happens we shall witness the commencement of the collapse of the JNF veil covering the core of Israeli apartheid; the classification of Israel as an apartheid State in the UN General Assembly; and the long delayed application of the binding International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 1973 – the harbinger of the end of political-Zionist hegemony in historical Palestine – a necessary condition for a Palestine freed from apartheid Israel political-Zionist/settler colonialism.
Perseverance is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for getting to where one aims to get.
A dissident citizen of apartheid Israel notwithstanding, this particular crime-against-humanity of the 1967 ethnic cleansing of the villages of ‘Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba (as the overall crime-against-humanity of the progressive ethnic cleansing of Palestine officially beginning with the 1948-1949 war) was perpetrated in my name. Hence, until the hegemony of settler-colonial/political-Zionist/apartheid Israel in historical Palestine is collapsed - the basic moral and political imperative informing the journey of my life will have hopefully consistently been: stepping forward, raising my hand as high as I can and shouting in protest at the top of my voice: NOT IN MY NAME!
The only meaningful possession that I leave behind me when I die is my name.
It better be a good name …
Summary Biographical Note 2018
Dr. Uri Davis is a Palestinian of the Hebrew language group, citizen of the alleged constitutional monarchy of the UK and of the apartheid State of Israel, born in Jerusalem in 1943. He has been at the forefront of the defence of human rights in Israel, notably Palestinian rights, since 1965 and has pioneered critical research on Zionism and the State of Israel since the mid-1970. As a PhD Graduate of the Department of Anthropology, the New School for Social Research, he has published extensively in these fields (additional to numerous research and conference papers), including Israel: An Apartheid State(Zed Books, London 1987 & 1990; abridged edition, MRN, Laudium, 2001); (associate author with Walter Lehn, author), The Jewish National Fund. Kegan Paul International, London and New York, 1988; Citizenship and the State: Comparative Study of Citizenship Legislation in Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon(Ithaca Press, Reading, 1997); Citizenship and the State in the Middle East: Approaches and Applications(co-ed) (Syracuse University Press, 2000) and most recently Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within(Zed Books, London, 2003; abridged Arabic edition, Dar al-Sorok, Amman & Ramallah, 2015); JNF: A Charity Complicit with Ethnic Cleansing & Other Essays/ An Alternative Guide-Book to JNF Forests & Recreational Areas(forthcoming); (with Ricky Romain), A Secular Anti-Zionist COMPANION of an Abridged Passover Haggadah(www.uridavis-official-website.info).
Dr Uri Davis is member of the Revolutionary Council (Majlis Thawri) of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (FATEH) and Rapporteur of its Majlis Thawri Political Committee; Member of the Palestine National Council (PNC); Deputy Commissioner-General for Political Affairs of FATEH International Relations Commission (FIRC); 2016 Nominee, Yasser Arafat Award; erstwhile Associate Professor at AL-QUDS University, Institute of Area Studies (IAS), Israel Studies Programme, Jerusalem/Abu Dis, Palestine; co-Founder of the Exeter-based Palestine Studies Trust and Honorary Research Fellow, Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies (IAIS)/European Center for Palestine Studies (ECPS), University of Exeter, UK; member of the Middle East Regional Committee of the printed edition of the international Journal Citizenship Studies; critical member of the Israeli and American Anthropological Associations; Honorary Member of the Mental Health Families and Friends Society, Ramallah, Palestine; and Chairperson of (since his election to FATH Revolutionary Council the now latent) AL-BEIT: Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Israel.
#StopJNFCanada campaign blog
#StopJNFCanada is a campaign to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund of Canada due to its egregious violations of Canadian law, and for its complicity in violations of international law.