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Bedouin face displacement in West Bank corridor, regardless of Israel's constructions plans

Whether recently approved plans for construction in the E-1 area materialize or not, Israel plans to the relocate the local Bedouin population - against their will.

By Amira Hass | Dec 5, 2012 | 10:57 AM |  Haaretz

A Bedouin camp is seen in the E1 area, between Jerusalem and the Israeli West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, on December 3, 2012.    Photo by AFP

Ten Palestinian Bedouin communities living in the West Bank corridor connecting Ma'ale Adumim and Jerusalem  are concerned that if recently approved plans for construction in the area materialize, they will be the first to be harmed by the move, a member of the local Bedouin council told Haaretz on Tuesday.

But even if Israel continues the freeze on the development plans in the area known as E-1, these ten communities and another approximately ten communities living in the area - some 2,300 people - face displacement. Israel has been planning to resettle the Bedouin communities living in the West Bank, starting with the areas surrounding Jerusalem, in permanent settlements, against their will.

E1 Area Map

In October this year, the state told the High Court that it intends to complete this resettling process in the outskirts of Jerusalem, including the E1 area, within a year. Members of the Jihalin tribe, who are residents of Khan al-Ahmar, told Haaretz Tuesday that the Civil Administration informed them of their intention to relocate them to an already existing village near Jericho, which, according to them, is home to Palestinians from across the West Bank.

"We oppose moving there. If we cannot return to the Negev then at least we should be permitted to stay in the place where we have been living for decades. The place earmarked for us is already occupied by people. The Civil Administration told us that the residents are living there illegally, and that their homes (two stories high) will be demolished. We do not agree with other people being relocated because of us, and at any rate the proposed location doesn't suit us. The Civil Administrations' plan will put an end to our traditional way of life and will lead to internal disintegration," one of the residents said.

The local Bedouin council, established two years ago, expects the European Union, which has expressed its opposition to the displacement of the Bedouin communities in the past, will intervene.

Some 80 percent of Bedouin who live on the eastern periphery of Jerusalem are registered as refugees, from families that Israel exiled at the beginning of the 1950s from Tel Arad in the Negev. Until 1967 they continued to live a traditional lifestyle, of raising and herding livestock in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. Since the occupation of the West Bank in 1967 the areas in which the Bedouin are allowed to move and herd has been greatly reduced, as Israel has declared certain areas of the land as fire zones, and set aside other areas for settlements. Over the past twenty years, the situation of the Bedouin has gotten worse as West Bank settlements have expanded, access to Jerusalem - the main market for their produce – has been blocked, the West Bank separation barrier has been built and the, Jerusalem-Jericho road expanded.

Israel does not allow the Bedouin to build or connect to infrastructure, and does not even allow them to put up tents to match the natural growth of their population. For the expansion of Ma'ale Adumim in 1997, some 150 families from the Jihalin tribe were forced to move to an area in Abu Dis that is next to a landfill site.

Last year, the Civil Authority was forced to suspend plans to build an additional neighborhood near the landfill, and to move families from other tribes to the area. This followed diplomatic pressure and a legal battle undertaken by the families' attorney, Shlomo Lecker, who showed evidence that living close to a garbage dump carries a health risk.


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