British Prime Minister David Cameron has removed his name from a list of patrons of the British branch of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which is also known in Hebrew as Keren Kayemet LeYisrael, or KKL. The move was immediately hailed by pro-Palestinian campaigners. Cameron's decision to drop his link with the non-profit organization was explained by his office as simply having to do with "time constraints." In a statement, Downing Street reiterated the explanation without going into details. "The prime minister stepped down from a number of charities, including the JNF," Cameron’s office declared.
Downing Street declined to comment on the fact that the ‘Stop the JNF’ campaign had actively lobbied for Cameron to withdraw as JNF patron. The prime minister – who has headed a coalition government since May 2010 – became an honorary patron of the organization five years ago, after being elected leader of the Conservative Party.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign Director Sarah Colborne said in a statement that Cameron's decision "reflects the fact that it is now impossible for any serious party leader to lend their public support to racism." She added: "The Jewish National Fund plays a critical role in facilitating the continued dispossession and suffering of Palestinians."
Founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine for Jewish settlement, the JNF is a quasi-governmental, non-profit organization. By 2007, it owned 13 percent of the total land in Israel. Since its inception, it has planted over 240 million trees in Israel, built 180 dams and reservoirs, developed 250,000 acres of land and established more than 1,000 parks.
Cameron’s decision to leave as JNF patron is a break with convention, as his predecessors Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both stayed on as patrons while serving as prime ministers. Cameron already experienced controversy when it comes to affairs in the Middle East – on a trip to Turkey last July he caused huge offence by calling Gaza a “prison camp”.