Wingnut Welfare Greenwashes the JNF

Ever since Tommy Franks called Doug Feith “the stupidest f*cking guy on the face of the earth,” it’s been a pretty sure bet not to expect too much from the family. Good thing, too.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Feith’s son David Feith writes a horrible piece on the Jewish National Fund. (I’m not sure David is Doug’s son, but it sure seems like it: he looks like him, and like Feith the elder, he’s from Bethesda, MD.) Feith ignores one of the central ideological issues that JNF has had over the last decade, namely, whether its policy of only leasing land to Jews violates Israel’s democratic system. Israel’s Attorney General ruled that it did. Feith doesn’t have to agree, and one could make arguments on both sides. But surely it is relevant.

Not only that, in a piece theoretically about environmentalism in Israel, Feith ignores a huge development this week: Israel enacted the first comprehensive clean air legislation in its history. About 20 years too late, and one reason is that the JNF, the “steward of the land, air and water” of Israel was driving the environmental bus and it got thrown off the highway into a ditch. They never focused on good public policy. They did focus on EXCELLENT marketing. If you were to talk to someone in Israel about JNF’s role in enacting the new legislation, I think it would be a pretty short conversation.

JNF is better now–but that is in large part due to a lawsuit that the Israel Union for Environmental Defense. (Full disclosure: I’m on IUED’s American supporting board). Seven years ago, IUED had to sue JNF because the Fund’s activities, while being promoted as environment-friendly, were actually destroying Israel’s landscape. The Fund’s insistence on pine tree monoculture was ruining the country’s biodiversity, and its activities threatened water resources by using pesticides, bulldozers, and controlled burns to clear lands. So IUED sued them, and they agreed to follow a master plan–which it then promptly violated, and IUED had to haul them into court and clean their clock again.

None of that seems to matter to Feith, who blandly states that “the fund’s environmental bona fides are strong.” And part of the evidence for this? It has built over 150 dams! Who could possibly be against that? And then there are all those trees–that were part of the problem in the first place.

By the way–why is Feith writing for the Journal anyway? Oh yes–he’s the “Robert L. Bartley Fellow at the Journal this summer.” A very appropriate title.

This is how it works in wingnut land. It doesn’t matter how wrong you get things: there’s always a cushy job, scholarship, internship, fellowship waiting for you. I’m sure Feith will be editing the Journal’s op-ed page soon.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.