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Displacement of Negev Bedouin an 'attack on dignity'

December 11, 2019 at 3:46 pm

A Palestinian woman sits in front of her demolished house after Israeli forces destroyed it in the Negev on 15 February 2015 [Days of Palestine/Facebook]

Israeli rights group Adalah, which seeks legal justice for Palestinian citizens of Israel, issued an in-depth report on 10 December breaking down the illegality of Israel’s recent advancement in the forceful removal of thousands of Bedouin in the Negev (referred to as ‘Naqab’ by Bedouin) desert.

The report, issued on the International Day for Human Rights, dived into a discussion by Israel’s Southern District Planning and Building Committee which took place on Sunday, 6 October. Two plans – 652-0767921 and 624-0765792 – were submitted by the Bedouin Settlement Authority in the Negev and accepted by the Committee to proceed with official processing. This meeting was a greenlight for a proposal declared in January 2019 calling for the forceful displacement of 36,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel.

The advancement of the plan after the October meeting is meant to enable temporary and mobile housing structures to relocate the Bedouin of unrecognised villages in the Negev to recognised villages or townships. The plans indicated an “urgent” transfer of populations as the reason to which no immediate or adequate housing solution can be provided.

In effect, Israel plans to move forward with its economic and military development of the Negev as quickly as possible, with little regard to just housing solutions for thousands of citizens who will be displaced. These plans resemble an emergency situation which requires swift evacuation and temporary relocation, rather than a “civil, housing matter of vital importance,” Adalah points out.

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Adalah’s report highlighted the discriminatory nature of the Committee’s plan, creating “separate and unequal” planning systems for Israeli Jews and Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel in the Negev. The plans place “the Israeli Jewish citizen at the centre of the process,” the report reads, while the second system “subordinates the entire Palestinian Bedouin population to an oppressive reality without their consultation.”

The report explained how the temporary housing solutions will not provide adequate services to the displaced population and instead will strain the already impoverished Bedouin townships to which the population will be relocated.

“I am going to have a much more crowded ghetto town,” Rafa Abu Aish, Palestinian Bedouin journalist and activist from Lakiya, a recognised township created by Israel, described to MEMO. “My town today suffers from discrimination in planning and budgets when you compare it to Jewish towns.”

For example, he said, the recognised Bedouin village of Tel Sheva has one of the lowest welfare rates in Israel while the Jewish town Omer next door is among the wealthiest.

Myssana Morany, coordinator of Adalah’s Land and Planning Rights Unit, informed MEMO that once the Southern District Planning and Building Committee plan is officially submitted to the Israeli authorities, Adalah will submit an objection. Once in a legal battle, Adalah will argue that that the plan of forced transfer of people into segregated, unequal, and inadequate housing is unconstitutional based on human rights articles in Israeli law.

READ: Bedouin citizens of Israel fight plan for relocation in new Negev town

“We’re going to argue that segregation… is an attack on dignity,” Morany explained. “In the same way that you can’t play with people and move them around as if they are a game of chess.”

Adalah’s report directly contradicted claims made by Regavim, a pro-settler Israeli NGO, that plays a key role in the displacement of Palestinians inside Israel and the West Bank through their legal and policy advocacy.

Naomi Kahn, director of Regavim’s International Division, told MEMO, “the entire situation is out of control [in the Negev] because of ‘illegal Bedouin settlements’ [which] are not allowing normal development of the Negev and planning for the future.”

The illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the occupied West Bank [Wikicommons]

The illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank, 31 October 2019 [Wikicommons]

“These are citizens of Israel who aren’t getting any of the modern services of the state because they are not living in an organised fashion,” she continued, indicating how, “we created a plan to make sense of our land policy in the Negev that would benefit both the Bedouins and the state of Israel and the future generations of both communities.”

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Abu Aish confirms the status of the unrecognised Bedouin camps. “The unrecognised villages are much worse [than recognised townships like Lakiya]. They have no electricity, no water. They have demolition orders all the time.”

But Regavim’s claims merely cement their colonial mentality, Morany commented. Regavim’s work is based on the notation that Bedouin are “trespassers” or “illegal” rather than recognise their long history in the region and to the land.

“They need them to move in order to bring them the ‘modern way of life’,” Morany claimed about Regavim, “instead of bringing facilities to them or recognising the villages they are currently in.”

“We used to live in all the land,” Abu Aish exclaimed, referring to the boundaries of historic Palestine. “Our fathers and grandfathers were kicked into only 3.5 per cent of it during the time of Marshal Law.”

“The biggest issue with the plan is the amount of land they are taking;” Abu Aish noted how the advanced plan is set to take over nearly 400,000 dunams of Negev land. “This is what we are fighting for today, this 3.5 per cent of land that is left, which is nothing compared to the empty lands of the Negev.”

Israel’s plan to forcefully transfer 36,000 Bedouin in the Negev is meant to make way for economic development projects and the expansion of military training areas.

Some plans indicated in Adalah’s report are: an 11,000 dunam industrial zone in Ramat Beka, a 21,000 dunam expansion of Road 6 highway, a Be’er Sheva-Arad (4,700 dunams) and Dimona-Yeruham (3,400 dunam) railway system to facilitate transportation to new military training camps, a high-voltage power line extending across 18,200 dunams and a 26,000 dunam phosphate mining plant.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.