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UN Votes Against JNF

Denies Status That Would Help Under-Developed Countries

Tuesday, May 29, 2007 -- New York, NY -- Despite the efforts of 57 members of Congress (see listing below) and several large Jewish organizations that pulled out all the stops to lobby on its behalf, as well as a century of environmental work that is recognized internationally, Jewish National Fund-U.S. (JNF-US) was denied consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Voted on by the 19 countries that comprise the Committee on NGOs of ECOSOC, the result which was announced on Friday, May 18, was 8-7 with 3 abstentions; 1 country was not present.

“I am deeply disappointed to learn that Jewish National Fund was denied general consultative status to the United Nations,” said Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), who led the effort in Congress. "Jewish National Fund is a global environmental leader and would have used their environmental expertise to help the international community focus on environmental issues. I will continue to fight on behalf of Jewish National Fund and I look forward to the day when they are granted consultative status.”

“The eight countries who voted against us weren't voting against the significance of our work," said Rabbi Dr. Eric M. Lankin, Chief of Institutional Advancement and Education at JNF. "Not a single delegation complained about the quality of our work. Quite the opposite -- they looked at it with great admiration."

“This was about denying Israel’s right to exist and because JNF of America equals Israel, we took the hit," said Joseph Hess, JNF National Vice President of Government Relations. "Because JNF is inextricably linked to the land of Israel --the coins we collected purchased it and ever since our work has developed it -- they cannot separate us from their desire to de-legitimize the State of Israel."

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues, and for formulating policy recommendations addressed to Member States and the United Nations system. It is responsible for promoting higher standards of living, full employment, and economic and social progress; identifying solutions to international economic, social and health problems; facilitating international cultural and educational cooperation; and encouraging universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It has the power to make or initiate studies and reports on these issues. It also has the power to assist the preparations and organization of major international conferences in the economic and social and related fields and to facilitate a coordinated follow-up to these conferences. With its broad mandate the Council's purview extends to over 70% of the human and financial resources of the entire UN system.

Currently a non-governmental organization (NGO) registered with the Department of Public Information of the UN, JNF can only participate in various meetings open to NGOs. JNF sought this upgraded status so that it could testify at ECOSOC meetings and programs in areas of its expertise including water reclamation, sustainable development, and forestation. These issues are key components of the U.N. Millennium Developmental Goals of 2015.

Currently, 2,800 NGOs enjoy consultative status at the UN.

The countries with voting status on the committee on NGOs are: Angola, Burundi, China, Columbia, Cuba, Dominica, Egypt, Guinea, India, Israel, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Sudan, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA.

The following countries voted in favor of JNF: US, UK, Israel, Colombia, Romania, Turkey, and Peru.

Qatar, Egypt, Sudan, Burundi, Russia, China, Guinea, and Cuba voted against JNF.

Pakistan, India, and Angola abstained; Dominica was not present.

Stiff opposition to JNF’s application was made by the Palestinian and Syrian Missions who are not on the commmittee but allowed to testify and ask questions. They claimed JNF did not provide adequate proof that it was not active in the "Palestinian territories."

“This was not about a specific project or a specific area," said Lankin. "This was a geo-political fight which has nothing to do with who JNF is and what we do. We just wanted the opportunity to present our expertise, but they argued against our legitimacy. Every question they brought forth for opposing our application was answered but we could never satisfy their need to de-legitimize Israel through us."

JNF now needs to wait three years before re-applying.

The worldwide family of JNF agencies was founded in 1901. Through coins collected in blue boxes, Jews the world over donated funds to purchase the land of Israel. Formed in 1926, JNF of America took on the task of sustaining the land. Since Israel achieved its independence in 1948, JNF-US has dedicated its efforts in Israel to support six major areas: ecology and forestation, water, community development within the June 4, 1967 boundaries, research and development, tourism and recreation, and education. JNF-US is a registered 501(c)(3) organization in the United States and it has received the highest ratings by Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau.

Today, JNF-US is a global environmental leader with an extraordinary record of planting 240 million trees and building 192 reservoirs throughout Israel which provide 10 percent of the country's water needs. JNF-US’s founding in 1991 of the International Arid Lands Consortium enabled it to work closely with Israel’s neighbors, including Jordan and Egypt, on multilateral research focused on water supply and land reclamation projects.

"I am very disappointed that JNF-US was two votes shy of gaining consultative status at the United Nations," said U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). "JNF is a global environmental leader with an extraordinary record. Gaining consultative status at the United Nations would have allowed JNF to share their environmental expertise with the entire international community. I will continue to work with JNF and my colleagues in Congress to assist them in any future effort to gain consultative status."

JNF-US recognizes the role that cooperation and research on environmental issues can play in fostering regional peace in the Middle East. “But if the people who build reservoirs and plant trees are the enemy," said Lankin, "with whom will the Arabs make peace?"

Signatories include: U.S. Senators, Robert Casey (D-PA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Joseph Biden (D-DE), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), John Kerry (D-MA), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), George Voinovich (R-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Gordon Smith (R-OR), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Norm Coleman (R-MN).

U.S. Congressmen, Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Steve Israel (D-NY), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Robert Brady (D-PA), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), John Linder (R-GA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Michael Honda (D-CA), Bill Pascrell, JR.(D-NJ), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), John Lewis (D-GA), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Mike Ferguson (R-NJ), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Henry Waxman (D-CA), John Hall (D-NY), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Howard Berman (D-CA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Barney Frank (D-MA), Ron Klein (D-FL), James McGovern (D-MA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), and Jim Saxton (R-NJ).

The AJC, JCPA, Hadassah, and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, are also to be thanked for their support.

Said Lankin: “We are disappointed but our friends stood by us. And we go forward proud of the work we do in building our homeland and as our role as caretakers of the land of Israel. We will continue to provide our expertise and experience in water management and sustainable development to countries that ask for our assistance."

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The Jewish National Fund family of non-profit agencies was founded in 1901 to serve as caretaker of the land of Israel. Over the past century, JNF has planted over 240 million trees, built over 190 reservoirs and dams, developed over 250,000 acres of land, created more than 1,000 parks, provided the infrastructure for 1,000 communities and educated students around the world about Israel and the environment. Today, JNF is restoring northern Israel, making it home again to its residents, and is putting its century of experience to work with Blueprint Negev, supporting Israel’s newest generation of pioneers in developing the Negev Desert, Israel’s last frontier. For more information on JNF or to plant trees in Israel, call 800-542-TREE (8733) or visit www.jnf.org/trees. To contact your local office, please call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.

 

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