Despite the fact that it was the seventh demolition since last July, this time the destruction of the Bedouin village Al-Arakib in the Israeli Negev was different. The difference is not because the homeless residents have to deal this time with the harsh desert winter; nor in the fact that the bulldozers began razing the homes just minutes before the forty children left for school, thus engraving another violent scene in their memory. Rather, the demolition was different because this time Christian evangelists from the United States and England were involved.
I know this for a fact because right next to the demolished homes, the Jewish National Fund put up a big sign that reads: “GOD-TV FOREST, A Generous donation by God-TV made 1,000,000 tree saplings available to be planted in the land of Israel and also provided for the creation of water projects throughout the Negev.” GOD-TV justifies this contribution by citing the book of Isaiah: “I will turn the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into springs.”
The Jewish National Fund’s objective, however, is not altruistic, but rather to plant a pine or eucalyptus forest on the desert land so that the Bedouins cannot return to their ancestral homes. The practice of planting forests in an attempt to Judaize more territory is by no means new. Right after Israel’s establishment in 1948, the JNF planted millions of trees to cover up the remains of Palestinian villages that had been destroyed during or after the war. The objective was to help ensure that the 750,000 Palestinian residents who either fled or were expelled during the war would never return to their villages and to suppress the fact that they had been the rightful owners of the land before the State of Israel was created. Scores of Palestinian villages disappeared from the landscape in this way, and the grounds were converted into picnic parks, thus helping engender a national amnesia regarding the Palestinian Nakba.
For several years, I thought this practice had been discontinued, but thanks to the JNF’s new bedfellows and the generous donation of Rory and Wendy Alec, who established the international evangelical television channel GOD-TV, within the next few months a million saplings will be planted on land belonging to uprooted Bedouins.
God-TV can afford such lavish gifts, since it boasts a viewership of nearly half a billion people, with 20 million in the United States and 14 million in Britain. The television channel regularly features evangelical leaders such as Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and John Hagee, at least some of whom espouse Christian Dispensationalism and believe that all Jews must convert to Christianity before the Second Coming.
The viewers are asked to open their wallets in order to “sow a seed for God.” In this case, the donations seem to have actually been allocated toward sowing seeds, but these seeds are ones of hate and strife. They are antithetical to Isaiah’s prophecy about the people beating their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Indeed, if Isaiah were alive today, he would probably be among the first to lie in front of the bulldozers in an effort to stop the destruction of the Bedouin homes.