02/09/2011 09:55

Bashar al-Masri claims “Israeli elements trying to manipulate issue”; follows scathing criticism of trees, Rawabi and JNF by Uri Davis.
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The developer of Rawabi, a new Palestinian city being built in the West Bank, said he will remove some 3,000 trees donated by the Jewish National Fund and replace them with indigenous olive trees, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported Tuesday.

Bashar al-Masri said that the city’s identity is meant to be Palestinian and that Israeli elements are trying “to manipulate the issue,” according to the report.

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Masri’s move came in response to a scathing op-ed published by Ma’an a day earlier by Jewish Israeli-born convert to Islam and member of Fatah, Uri Davis. In the op-ed, he slammed the decision to accept the trees from an organization whose mission “is the ‘redemption’ of lands in ‘Eretz Israel,’ including Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza and beyond for Jewish settlement.”

Davis further criticized the species chosen to be planted by the JNF. Non-indigenous pine trees, he said “add insult to injury.” “Rather than plant indigenous” trees, he added, “the tree saplings planted by the JNF in the area designated for the Rawabi projects are typically political-Zionist pinera (conifers).”

Construction of the Palestinian city has also caused controversy in Israel in recent months. In December, Army Radio ran a story that Israeli companies working at Rawabi, which lies north of Ramallah, had agreed not to use settlement products there.

A clause to this effect was included in the contract Israeli companies signed with the Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, which is developing Rawabi.

The clause reads, “the Seller is prohibited from using and/or employing goods and/or services and/or resources manufactured and/or originating from Israeli settlements towards achieving any of the objectives of this Agreement, or in relation thereto.”

It includes east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in its definition of settlements.

In early January, 48 MKs signed a petition to boycott 20 companies who were contracted to perform work in Rawabi and had signed the contract agreeing not to use settlement products.

Among the politicians who signed the petition were over a dozen Kadima MKs, including faction chairwoman Dalia Itzik. The MKs said in the circulated document: “Israeli companies sold the soul of Zionism and national solidarity for a handful of dollars.”