High Court Petition aims to stop state relocating 12,500 Bedouin to new town.
By Amira Hass 3 December 2014 Haaretz
Twenty-six Bedouin communities petitioned the High Court of Justice on Monday asking that a plan to build a new Bedouin town north of Jericho be frozen.
Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank, which is behind the plan, intends to forcibly relocate three Bedouin tribes there once the town, called Talet Nueima, is built.
Wednesday is the deadline for filing objections to the plan with the Civil Administration’s planning office. Dozens of objections have already been submitted, and dozens more are expected to arrive Wednesday, mainly from Bedouin communities and from Palestinian villages located near the proposed town.
The court petition, filed by Bedouin communities near Jerusalem that are slated to be relocated to Talet Nueima, argued that they were never consulted about the plan. The Bedouin say the plan gives no consideration to their traditional way of life or sources of livelihood. But unlike the objections filed with the planning office, the petition focused not on flaws in the plan itself, but on procedural flaws in the planning process.
The plan calls for relocating some 12,500 Bedouin from the Jahalin, Kaabneh and Rashaida tribes to Talet Nueima. This is the largest plan the Civil Administration has drafted for West Bank Palestinians since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.
If the plan comes to fruition, the evacuation of the Bedouin tribes would free up additional lands for settlement construction, especially in the E1 corridor between Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. Two of the tribes currently live east of Jerusalem and the third in the Jordan Valley.
The plan would force the three tribes to live together, in violation of their customs. Moreover, concentrating them north of Jericho would affect all the nearby Palestinian villages economically, environmentally, demographically and culturally.
Both Bedouin and Palestinians fear Talet Nueima would become an island of poverty whose residents would have no opportunities for employment in the area. They also fear there would be social friction and competition over scarce water resources.
The Bedouin are the weakest members of Palestinian society, with no influence over internal Palestinian politics. But because of this plan’s impact on nearby Palestinian communities, the battle against it is getting more support than usual from other Palestinians. The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, a Palestinian NGO, submitted objections to the plan on behalf of several Palestinian towns, and attorneys for the Palestinian Authority have also filed objections.
Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights submitted objections on behalf of the Bedouin, as did lawyers Shlomo Lecker and Michal Luft.
Luft and Lecker are the ones who filed Monday’s High Court petition. The Bedouin decided to file the petition, rather than making do with fighting the plan via objections to the planning office, after discovering by chance that the Civil Administration recently developed a procedure for involving the Palestinian population in its planning processes. The head of the Civil Administration signed off on that procedure on November 9, one day before the Talet Nueima plan was opened for objections. In the attorneys’ view, that constitutes an indirect admission that no such consultative process occurred regarding Talet Nueima.
In their petition, Luft and Lecker wrote that in the past few years, they have repeatedly sought to arrange meetings with Israeli planning authorities so the latter could hear the Bedouins’ views, but to no avail. They charged that the Civil Administration purposely hid the plan from the Bedouin until it had to be published to allow objections.
The Civil Administration insists that the Bedouin’s views were heard, and that the plan takes their needs into account.
The court gave the state 30 days to respond to the petition, but didn’t issue an injunction to freeze the plan.
Israeli plan to build houses for Bedouin gains traction
The state will also legalise existing homes in a Negev village as part of efforts to bolster recognised Bedouin communities.
by Shirley Seidler 9 December 2014 Haaretz
A plan to build 2,035 new houses in the Negev Bedouin village of Umm Batin and to legalize existing houses there was approved in principle Monday by an Interior Ministry planning committee.
Though Umm Batin, unlike many Bedouin villages, is legally recognized by the state, this would be the first authorized plan to build new housing there. Until now, permits were granted only for infrastructure projects and public buildings.
The plan would also legalize numerous houses that were built without permits, preventing their demolition and sparing residents the need to move to new houses.
Final approval of the plan will depend on compliance with conditions set by the planning committee – formally known as the Southern District National Housing Committee – and other government agencies.
The Bedouin Community Settlement Authority said this was the first plan approved under a new master plan for Umm Batin approved by the ministry in 2011.
The planning committee also approved a plan to build 170 new houses, plus public buildings, in the Negev Bedouin town of Lakiya.
“The success in Umm Batin is a result of cooperation with the Interior Ministry and the Al-Kasom Regional Council, along with a thorough process of involving Umm Batin residents,” said Bedouin Authority director Yehuda Bachar.
Over the last year, Umm Batin has undergone significant development. Last month, the Environmental Protection Ministry stationed hundreds of dumpsters there, making it the first Bedouin village to receive trash-collection services from the state. Previously, residents had been forced to burn their garbage, causing severe air pollution.
Work has also begun on cleaning up the Hebron stream, which runs right through the village and has been badly polluted by sewage from the city of Hebron.
Despite the state’s efforts to bolster recognized Bedouin villages, over the last year the state demolished 859 buildings in the Negev, of which 54 percent were in recognized Bedouin villages and only 46 percent in unrecognized ones, according to a report by the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality.
The report adds that 78 percent of these buildings were razed by the owners themselves, which the authors say reflects the heavy pressure on owners from state authorities. The report was released in honor of Human Rights Day, which is marked on Wednesday.
“On international Human Rights Day, the rights of the Bedouin community continue to be violated daily,” said the forum’s executive director, Haia Noach.
“Israel should be ashamed of a situation in which it pushes its citizens, who have no housing solutions, to raze their own houses. The enormous resources invested in demolishing houses and financing a variety of enforcement agencies should be diverted into fair, sustainable planning for the Bedouin community in the Negev and recognition of the unrecognized villages.”
A Bedouin community's last-ditch effort to remain on its land
Residents of Umm Al Hiran are staging a legal battle to remain in their vollage where they removed by the state in the 1950s
by Gideon Levy 22 November 2013 Haaretz
On Monday, a lamb was born in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the northeastern Negev. The tiny creature tried to stand up and take its first steps. As it faltered, its mother licked its body, her hindquarters still dripping with blood.
It is very doubtful this lamb will spend its days in this village. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court − sitting in its capacity as a court of appeals − began deliberating a petition from two of the villagers, Ibrahim Farhud and Atwa Abu al-Qi’an, through lawyers from Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, appealing the demolition and eviction orders that were issued against them by the state. The Supreme Court has not yet reached a verdict. At the exact same time, the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee was discussing the so-called Prawer-Begin bill, which would relocate an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Bedouin from their homes in the Negev to centralized government townships.
It was noon in Umm al-Hiran. The skies darkened as the children returned from their school in the adjacent Bedouin village of Hura, descending the sandy path that leads to their homes, their schoolbags on their backs and lollipops in their mouths. They, too, may not grow up here, if their country’s intentions are carried out. The road that leads to the village is strewn with concrete blocks, planted next to each shepherds’ community. They warn about a firing zone, entrance forbidden − written in Hebrew and English, but not in the local language of Arabic.
From the road, scarred with one pothole after another, a stink rose from the garbage of Hura. This road leads from Bedouin country in the Negev to the southern Hebron Hills. Here and also there, on both sides of the Green Line, a systematic Israeli effort is now under way to clear the area of its non-Jewish inhabitants, raze villages and shepherds communities and drive the residents into towns.
In Umm al-Hiran, the government wants to raze the village − whose residents have lived there since 1956, when the authorities expelled them from their lands near Kibbutz Shoval − and build in its place an Orthodox Jewish community (to be called Hiran).
Expelled for a second time, the residents here have put up a fight. For now, it is taking the form of a legal battle, but it might turn violent. Meanwhile, Silvan Shalom, Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, has already termed the residents − expelled here by the authorities more than half a century ago − “squatters.”
Here is what it says on the website of Garin Hiran, the group waiting to advance on the ruins: “Hiran is a young and developing community, which arose some place in the northeastern Negev, between Meitar and Arad, not far from the rustling pine trees of Yatir Forest.”
We did not hear the “rustling pine trees” the other day in Umm al-Hiran; only the noontime sounds of women and children in a community where there is life but no electricity or running water, only a quarter of an hour from Be’er Sheva.
Garin Hiran continues unruffled: “The core group consists of families that understand the present need ... to contribute significantly to the demographic balance, out of a sense of Zionist calling ... In view of this, the core group set as its goal to build a faith-based community, which aspires to become filled, to strengthen and become strengthened, in spirit and matter.” In the best tradition of the nationalist-religious jargon.
Expensive satellite dishes and solar panels, generators and water tankers, make life possible somehow for Umm al-Hiran’s 600 or so residents. Permanent buildings and tin shacks piled together, sheep pens and residential homes, skeletons of cars and scattered garbage, with some effort to give the place a semi-tidy appearance.
A majority of the people who live here are employed outside the village. Some hold academic degrees, quite a few are teachers and three are lawyers. They want a house in the country, not a house in a backward town. They are willing to relocate to their original lands, near Shoval, but not to bulging Hura, as the authorities want.
“If the state is sorry it brought us here, if it wants to declare null the deal it made with us in 1956 − then let it restore us to our lands in Shoval,” says the leader of the village’s campaign, Salim Abu al-Qi’an.
Abu al-Qi’an, 54, is a furniture merchant and manufacturer whose business is located in Hura, because his village has no electricity. He speaks thoroughly Israeli Hebrew, has 11 children and three houses in the village, for his three wives. He lives with the youngest of them, 28-year-old Hitam, in a dolled-up dream house where the color pink dominates his living room, festooned with lace and decorations, and countless photographs of the young couple adorn the walls of the white bedroom. He drives a smallish Mercedes SUV.
He first married when he was 15, and his eldest son was born a year later. The son, Ra’ad, served three years in the Israel Defense Forces’ Givati Brigade, most of the time in the Gaza Strip. One time, Ra’ad came to the Knesset with both a draft order and demolition order in his hands.
Salim’s parents were expelled to here in 1956, and he was born in Umm al-Hiran. The hitchhiking post at the Beit Kama junction was built on his father’s lands. Since the 1980s, they have not been allowed to work their old farmlands.
In the winter of 1997, the Negev was hit by a terrible storm. Three children from the village were swept to their deaths in the nearby wadi, and most of the village’s homes were destroyed. Abu al-Qi’an says that after the disaster, Ariel Sharon visited the place (in his capacity as national infrastructure minister) and called on the residents “to rebuild their homes.” The state also extended financial aid.
A few years later, in the early 2000s, the state began handing out demolition and eviction orders. “They said we were squatters and that we had no right to be here,” recalls Abu al-Qi’an. “They issued orders [for about 30 families in the village] and tossed them into the hands of an old man, Mohammed Abu al-Qi’an, without telling him what for and why.”
Within a few months, they understood from the police that their fate was sealed. The villagers turned to Adalah, which agreed to help them fight the eviction. To date, orders have been issued against some 30 families, two of which were the subject of Wednesday’s hearing. Two lower courts, the Kiryat Gat Magistrate’s Court and the Be’er Sheva District Court, already approved the demolition and eviction. Now the inhabitants are appealing to the Supreme Court.
The facts are not in dispute. The district court in Be’er Sheva ruled in its verdict: “The factual outline that emerges is that of relocation of the families’ place of residence to the site in question, decades ago, with the permission and even demand of the proper authorities. In time, for various considerations, it was decided to cancel the authorization and vacate the area.”
Do we know of any Jewish community, within the sovereign territory of the State of Israel, that has been treated in this manner, “for various considerations”?
“We are helpless in the face of the legal system,” Abu al-Qi’an says. “I could have written the Kiryat Gat verdict before the judge wrote it. I am sorry the judicial system does not recognize my existence. But the matter is not in the hands of the judges. It is a political matter, not a legal one. That is obvious: They want to expel us because we are Bedouin and not Jews. I told the judge, ‘Do you want me to change my name to Abraham or Isaac?’ For the past few years, we’ve been living in the courts. The authorities are looking for ways to break us. They suggest to the court an alternative in Hura − but Hura doesn’t have a single available lot. In neighborhood number 12 [in Hura], 350 people are waiting for a lot. Eligible people are being told to wait. That means there is no alternative in Hura, despite the state’s claims.
“We don’t want to move to Hura,” he adds. “In Hura, every week there’s a murder and trouble between the clans. Why would I want to go to a disaster? Smell the garbage in Hura. Hura is a town. We were born in a rural village, and we want to go on living in a rural village. The state says it wants to turn our village into a Jewish village. They can go ahead and build a Jewish village, there is no lack of space, but they should recognize us, too. Give us a water point and we’ll take care of all the rest. Just recognize us and let us stay. We are not against the state and will not fight it. We are citizens of the state. We are merely requesting equal citizenship. Enough of racism and hate. My sister Fatma was kidnapped in 1968 by infiltrators from Jordan. My son served in the IDF. We defended the country.”
Will there be an intifada?
“I don’t want to name the thing before it is here. I hope not. But if they contemplate evicting the village, the whole world will come here. Back in 2003, 850 people arrived here from all over the country because of a demolition order for the mosque. Umm al-Hiran is now the talk of the [Bedouin] community. You want to kill the mother, Umm, and bring the child, Garin Hiran. You brought us here, so what do you want now?”
Just then, the voice of the muezzin summoning the faithful to afternoon prayers sounded from one end of the village to the other.