Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Amos Oz: Situation of Bedouin in Negev is 'ticking time bomb'

Oz is the latest public figure to voice solidarity with the residents of Al-Arakib, a town torn down 4 times in the last month in order to plant forests.

By Jack Khoury and Maya Sela

The unrecognized Bedouin village of Al-Arakib was demolished yesterday for the fourth time in three weeks.

In late July, all of the village's 40 homes were razed and hundreds of orchards were uprooted, in response to pressure from the Jewish National Fund to plant a new forest in the area. The residents, along with volunteers, worked to erect new structures and provide themselves with cover from the sun, only to have the new shacks torn down twice more - the last time on the last evening before Ramadan.

Author Amos Oz is the latest public figure to voice solidarity with the residents of Al-Arakib. Oz, who visited the village yesterday, described the situation of the Bedouin in the Negev as a "ticking time bomb."

"This includes both the unrecognized and recognized villages and towns," said Oz. "Tens of thousands of people live in inhumane conditions, without running water, without electricity, without jobs. The state doesn't provide the Bedouin people the most basic infrastructure it gives to its citizens. The village I visited this morning is the most radical example of a ticking time bomb."

Later in the day yesterday, the villagers held an improvised Ramadan dinner, which they billed as an alternative to the official meal hosted last night by President Shimon Peres. The Al-Arakib dinner was attended by Arab members of Knesset, local authority heads, and Muslim and Christian clergy members from across the country, as well as Jewish activists supporting the rights of the Bedouin in the Negev.

The sheikh of the village and the Negev Coexistence Forum sent a letter to Peres, calling on him to cancel his official dinner and dine with the newly homeless villagers.

"How do you expect anyone to honor your invitation to dinner when the State of Israel and the Israeli government disrespect the holiest month for Islam and order the eradication of an entire village during the fast itself?" the letter said. "This is an unprecedented act. Israel has never before demolished homes during Ramadan."

Last night some 40 people demonstrated in front of the President's Residence, banging drums and trying to interrupt the official Ramadan dinner. The protest was dispersed by police and four protesters were detained.

This coming Saturday, the Negev Coexistence Forum, Culture Guerrilla and Zochrot are organizing a protest in the village. Jewish and Arab poets are expected to arrive in Al-Arakib, where they will read poetry as an expression of solidarity with the village.

The Culture Guerrilla poets released a statement yesterday, saying they "strongly opposed uprooting citizens and replacing them with trees. We are launching a campaign to have the JNF forest cut at the root, and to replant the poetry of the Bedouin on the Negev hills."

This story is by:
Jack Khoury

Published 18.08.10

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Uprooting Weeds, by Devorah Brous

On Thursday, March 11th, 2004, Bedouin fields were sprayed with Monsanto's toxic Roundup for the seventh time in 2 years as the Israel Lands Authority sent a fleet of planes to 'redeem' land near Mitzpe Ramon, in Abde and in Qatamat, unrecognized villages in the Southern Negev. In such cases, the State has rendered Bedouin cultivation of unused desert expanse, illegal. Twice in February, fruit trees (olives and dates) were uprooted from Bedouin villages, each time some 50 trees. Below please find an article analyzing this policy of uprooting, and destroying food crops. Bustan is collecting any information on crop-spraying operations around the world as a tactic to gain state control over lands.

In spite of Israel's depleted economy, the price of bread has recently been hiked up. In response, several NGO's are packing trucks with baskets of bread to distribute among hungry families up north and in neighborhoods throughout the country, as families can't afford to purchase bread or flour. Meanwhile, down south in the Negev desert Israeli authorities are destroying fields of wheat with toxic chemicals.

Zionism is the political process of creating and maintaining a Jewish majority in the Holy Land. Through the Zionist campaigns of the Jewish National Fund, Israel's successful settlement project to 'redeem a barren wasteland' is known worldwide. The process of Judaizing Israel's landscape is in response to the demographic threat of becoming an ethnic minority. It involves expanding Jewish territorial control over the maximum amount of land and breaking Arab territorial contiguity. Today, Sharon's government is waging a covert war to settle the next frontier by disrupting one of the country's most heavily concentrated

Arab areas: the Negev

This administrative war involves measures such as house demolitions and fumigation of food crops in the Bedouin sector to cleanse land that's been expropriated and reserve it for future Jewish use. While Sharon aims to 'redeem' lands that are not barren--justifying all activities as vital for the future of the Jewish State, such measures endanger the vitality and future of the State, as well as its present.

Bleak Background

Most Negev Bedouin fled, or were dispossessed from their lands after the 1948 War. In the early days of statehood the remaining 11,000 Bedouin were placed under military rule until 1966, and relocated to the already populated Siyag reservation][1] into villages that to this day are unrecognized by the Israeli government. This maneuver enabled the authorities to expropriate the lands inhabited by Bedouin throughout the Negev.

In the late 1960s, the officials began building the 7 Bedouin Planned Townships to further sedentarize and contain the bedouin. Provision of basic amenities (water, health care, and electricity) was and still is contingent upon Bedouin relinquishing their land claims. Just less than ½ the Bedouin population (65,000)[2] has agreed to these terms and moved into Recognized Townships, which today have the lowest socio-economic ranking in the country. The contiguity of Bedouin land tracts in the reservation is split by some of the wealthiest Jewish suburbs. Hence, the gap between Bedouin and their Jewish neighbors is no less than staggering.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

The land war between the ILA and the Bedouin farmers has now moved inside the Siyag, in both recognized townships and unrecognized villages, in attempt to further contain this population, and extricate more Negev lands from Arab grasp. In many cases, the State has rendered Bedouin cultivation of unused desert expanse illegal for Bedouin. Land cultivated with food crops has been poisoned with toxic chemicals seven times over the past 2 years. Warnings are not issued to Bedouin villagers allowing them time to clear their children and animals from the vicinity before a fleet of Israel Land Authority (ILA) planes begin their operation to 'redeem land. The ILA maintains the Bedouin are guilty of trespassing State land. Their unannounced campaign was initiated in 2002, with toxic spraying operations occurring at random intervals.

ILA/ Green Patrol operations Date Amount of Cultivated Land Destroyed[3]

Food Crop

1st February 2002 12,000 dunams[4] wheat, barley
2nd March 2nd, 2003 1,000 dunams wheat, barley
3rd April 2nd, 2003 5,000 dunams lentil, barley, wheat fields
4th June 17th, 2003 1,500 dunams melons, wheat, corn
5th Jan. 15th, 2004 4,000 dunams wheat, barley, olive saplings
6th Feb.10th, 2004 3,500 dunams wheat 7th March 11th, 2004 3,500 dunams wheat, barley

For the Bedouin tribe of El Turi in the unrecognized village of Al Araqeeb, some 1,400 dunams of wheat crops were fumigated during the sixth ILA operation that directly affects their crops. Outrage tears through Al Araqeeb Village. Salah Abu Midi'an explains, "The spraying attack was done without giving us any advance notice. With a force of some 150 police, border guards, and green patrol, the planes circled above our fields at 10:30AM and turned green into yellow."

Why is El Turi's land coveted by the state authorities? Two reasons. First, it seems this land is too close to where the Jewish neighborhoods near the new settlement 'Giv'ot Bar' will be built and expanded as part of Sharon's Development Plan. For several years, the El Turi clan has engaged in the process of substantiating their claims over the now poisoned land. In an interview with representative Ahmad Abu Midi'an he stated, "We respect the law. We just want the law to respect us." Second, El Turi were moved off their lands at Araqeeb village and into the municipal boundaries of Rahat Township. Due to the impoverished conditions in the town, in 1995 they gave up and returned to their lands. According to Dr. Isaac (Yanni) Nevo from the Negev Coexistence Forum, "The conditions are reprehensible in the Townships. There is simply no available opportunity for them to develop, so they are beginning to leave. Perhaps the State is threatened by Bedouin breaking out of the fence of containment, and evidencing it is porous."

The spokesperson for the ILA, Ortal Tsabar, stated the chemical used to spray the agricultural fields is Monsanto's Roundup, a toxic defoliant used to kill weeds. The ILA maintains this herbicide doesn't harm animals or people; however small organic farmers, health professionals, and activists world-wide maintain otherwise. The active chemical found in RoundUp, glyphosate, has been identified as a cancer-causing agent, and a known hormone-disruptor causing increased birth defects in humans. The agro-chemical Monsanto Corporation, producer of Roundup, warns ocnsumers: after spraying on windless days, people and animals are to avoid the affected area for two weeks. To date, no Bedouin has been warned to stay off their lands for two weeks following an operation. The ILA finds it sufficient to bring police and an ambulance, and close the area off during the operations. Tsabar discloses, "Its only fluid, not a gas. We take all the necessary precautions."[5] The indiscriminate wind drifts resulting from aerial application has carried the defoliant much further than perhaps even the authorities had planned, subsequently affecting people, fields and third parties in a significant radius from a spraying site: "Even the mosquitoes and flies around me died," said Abu Gharibiyya, a Bedouin from a village some 15km from the spraying last April. Twelve people were subsequently rushed to a medical clinic near Mitzpe Ramon after the third ILA operation.

The burden of proof rests on the Bedouin to evidence land title were they've cultivated-otherwise, it is trespassed State land. This is no small task. If Bedouin landholders are given the opportunity to defend their land claims in court, this is an exceptionally rigorous, and expensive process, and not likely to occur before the State has fumigated crops. If land has not been adjudicated, why is the State using irreversible measures to penalize without proving their case inside a court of law?


What are the implications of spraying cultivated fields with toxic defoliant? When a news article about the ILA planes spraying Bedouin fields with toxic chemicals is sandwiched into a dense page in the newspaper; this policy appears an isolated event. For the scorekeepers that watch ethnic conflict like a sports competition, spraying an estimated 30,000 dunams of food crops at random intervals has no dramatic death tolls; therefore, it has no chance of making headlines. One sprays toxins in gardens to weed out unruly growth. It is becoming increasingly indisputable that this is how the government relates to the Bedouin.

Zionists fear becoming a demographic minority in Israel, this is predicted as early as 2010.[6] Israel is eager to limit the population growth of the Bedouin (which is significantly greater than the Jewish population).[7] The mechanisms Israeli planners and policy makers use to address this fear are familiar both inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories (OT): the aim is to control the maximum amount of land for future Jewish use, and girdle Arabs in the minimum amount of territory. The latter involves breaking up contiguous Arab land holdings with a Jewish presence. It is this mindset that engineers rampant house demolitions, crop destruction, land confiscation, and unequal allocation of resources. It is this mindset that is often overlooked when striving to understand the causal roots of the conflict.

Crop spraying is merely one part of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Negev Development Plan to counter the demographic threat in the Negev (where 25% of the population is non-Jewish). The Plan is a comprehensive strategy to relocate some 76,000 Bedouin of the unrecognized villages from their cultivated and inhabited Negev land and condense them into 5 government Planned Townships within a 5-year timeframe. The vacated land will then be converted into new Jewish neighborhoods and dozens of new heavily subsidized single-family farms[8] designed 'to prevent Bedouin encroachment.' The Plan's $250 million budget will fund lawyers to defend state land claims, to run ILA aerial patrols, and to fund police and paramilitary unit operations of the notorious Green Patrol in the destruction of Bedouin crops and homes. There is no viable timeframe/budget for constructing new Bedouin neighborhoods. New Jewish settlements continue to sprout.

Sharon's Plan was formulated without any input by the Bedouin and is not acceptable to their representatives. Although it is toted as a way to adjudicate land disputes between Bedouin and the government, it seems more like just another untimely settlement project.

The Culture of Agriculture is Uprooted

Due to strict land laws; discriminatory water allocation policies; and fierce competition from subsidized ranchers, agri-businesses, and large-scale monoculture farming of the kibbutzim, most Bedouin farmers have been deprived of their productive capacity and moved off their fields - into wage labor. Occasionally, Bedouin still plant fields for sustenance, but their traditional agrarian society has largely been displaced and pauperized. For some villagers, planting is a landholding tactic aimed at resisting land seizure, an active form of protest wherein groves serve as de facto title to the land. This is widely referred to in Arabic as 'sumud' or cleaving to the land, a concept stemming from Torah and often cited today among ultra-nationalist religious settlers. [Since Ottoman times, planting an alienated field is a tactic used to protect land by demonstrating continuous cultivation. All land left uncultivated was traditionally subject to expropriation by government authorities.] For others, planting is an attempt to reclaim some form of economic independence. Once crops are poisoned, plants are killed and food security for many Bedouin families is lost, whereby devastating their already feeble local economy, endangering their health, and the health of Israel's civil society.

Manufacturing an Urban Proletariat "We should transform the Bedouin into an urban proletariat in industry, services, construction and agriculture. 88% of the Israeli population is not farmers, let the Bedouin be like them. Indeed, this will be a radical move, which means that the Bedouin would not live on his land with his herds, but would become an urban person who comes home in the afternoon and puts his slippers on. The children would go to school with their hair properly combed. This would be a revolution, but it may be fixed within two generations. Without coercion but with government direction...this phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear." --Moshe Dayan, Ha'aretz interview 31/7/63

While the Israeli government is intent on further containing the Bedouin population to transform it into an 'urban proletariat' -- this is against their will. Many shepherds and farmers object to being pushed into cramped Townships--subjected to herding their livestock underneath their apartment, and growing lentils from a window sill on the 3rd floor. Beyond being morally reprehensible for supporters of Israel to justify poisoning food crops or financing a program to dispossess Arab citizens and supplant Jewish settlers and entrepreneurs in their place, such acts are politically untenable--particularly during the heat of the current Intifada, and economically prohibitive in a time of massive welfare cuts and Israel's current budget crisis. This flagrantly discriminatory policy making will have an irreversible impact: Israel will have uprooted a culture and manufactured itself a new urban proletariat.

Unfortunately, indigenous land confiscation by government or corporate interests is a not a new phenomenon occurring to marginalized groups with little or no access to basic resources. But it may be a new phenomenon for Zionists who finance Israel's massive efforts to work the Holy Land and 'make the barren desert bloom' in politically strategic areas that are inhabited, and cultivated.

It has been frequently stated that Israel has enough external problems without making enemies of its own citizens. Policies of toxic aerial spraying, house and mosque demolition, land confiscation, and unequal distribution of resources to Israel's Arab citizens brings into question of the integrity of Israel's democracy. This is not a democratic garden in the dry desert of Middle East dictatorships, it is an ethnocratic government uprooting the connection between non-Jews and 'our Holy Land,' under the rubric of Zionism. Israel can now boast about learning from the Americans how to weed out our gardens of indigenous growth.

If the funds raised for the implementation of the Sharon Plan are redirected into proactive government measures to provide urgently needed health services and education--to counteract disease, poverty, drug abuse, and alienation among Bedouin, a crash may be avoided. Then, the Bedouin minority may eventually be recognized as full Israeli citizens with equal rights--not just our exoticized 'nomads' that serve in the IDF, a fifth column posing a threat to Israel's hegemony over State Lands.

To bolster democracy we should all be aware what the euphemism 'redeeming barren land' involves in the OT and inside Israel--and not just the hostile reaction such politicized policies generate. The impetus is on the public to read between the lines of the short articles on the back pages of the news, and wake-up before the alarm of an internal Intifada instigates serious unrest in the Negev.

*Devorah holds Masters degrees in Israel Studies and Conflict Resolution. An Israeli American, she is the founder and director of Bustan, an environmental justice NGO. She successfully spearheads planting and rebuilding campaigns, forging ties between Jews and Arabs to plant groves, and most recently to eco-build a solar powered medical clinic in Wadi el Na'am, unrecognized village #32, in the Negev.

[1]The Siyag is some 2% of the northern Negev, located between Beer Sheva, Arad and Dimona. Most Recognized Townships and Unrecognized Villages are located inside this reservation.

[2] Statistic extracted from the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages (RCUV), 2003.

[3] Adalah and Bustan estimate 30,000 dunams in total. Interview with Salem Abu Midian. All village and farmer names are available upon request.

[4] Four dunams are equivalent to one acre.

[5] The legality of such operations will be examined in Israel's High Court in the coming months as a coalition of organizations represented by Adalah is prosecuting the ILA.

[6] Professor Sergio Della Pergola, an Israeli demographer as referenced in Jerusalem Report, 10/20/03, p.5. However, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, as of September 2003, Jews account for nearly 77% of the population of Israel.

[7] The Bedouin death rate is also significantly higher than among Jewish citizens.

[8] One of PM Ariel Sharon's more provocative land holdings is such a farm, the 5,000 dunam large Sycamore Farm in the Negev.

Originally published at in March 2004

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Off the Map: Land and Housing Rights Violations in Israel’s Unrecognized Bedouin Villages, Human Rights Watch Report, March 2008

I. Summary

Tens of thousands of Palestinian Arab Bedouin, the indigenous inhabitants of the
Negev region, live in informal shanty towns, or “unrecognized villages,” in the south
of Israel. Discriminatory land and planning policies have made it virtually impossible
for Bedouin to build legally where they live, and also exclude them from the state’s
development plans for the region. The state implements forced evictions, home
demolitions, and other punitive measures disproportionately against Bedouin as
compared with actions taken regarding structures owned by Jewish Israelis that do
not conform to planning law.

In this report, Human Rights Watch examines these discriminatory policies and their
impact on the life of Bedouin in the Negev. It calls on Israel to place an immediate
moratorium on home demolitions in the Negev and establish an independent
mechanism to investigate the discriminatory and often unlawful way in which land
allocation, planning, and home demolitions are implemented.

The state controls 93 percent of the land in Israel, and a government agency, the
Israel Land Administration (ILA), manages and allocates this land. The ILA lacks any
mandate to disburse land in a fair and just fashion, and members of the Jewish
National Fund, which has an explicit mandate to develop land for Jewish use only,
constitute almost half of the ILA’s governing council, occupying all the seats not held
by Israeli government ministries. While the Bedouin were traditionally a nomadic
people, roaming the Negev in search of grazing land for their livestock, they had
already adopted a largely sedentary way of life prior to 1948, settling in distinct
villages with a well defined traditional system of communal and individual land
ownership. Today they comprise 25 percent of the population of the northern Negev,
but have jurisdiction over less than 2 percent of the land there.

Planning in Israel is highly centralized, and state planners fail to include the
Palestinian Arab population, especially the Bedouin, in decision making and in
developing the master plans that govern zoning, construction, and development in
Israel. Even though Bedouin villages in the Negev pre-date Israel’s first master plan
in the late 1960s, state planners did not include these villages in their original plans,
rendering these longstanding communities “unrecognized.” As a result, according to
Israel’s Planning and Building Law, all buildings in these communities are illegal,
and state authorities refuse to connect the communities to the national electricity
and water grids, or provide even basic infrastructure such as paved roads. Israeli
policies have created a situation whereby tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens in
the Negev have little or no alternative but to live in ramshackle villages and build
illegally in order to meet their most basic shelter needs.

While the Bedouin suffer an acute need for adequate housing and for new (or
recognized) residential communities, the state rarely provides these opportunities.
Meanwhile, even though some of the more than one hundred existing Jewish rural
communities in the Negev sit half empty, the government is developing new ones.
While in theory anyone can apply to live in these rural Negev communities, in
practice selection committees screen applicants and accept people based on
undefined notions of “suitability,” which exclude Bedouin. The ILA recently defended
the role of the selection committees, saying “social cohesion in small communities
is important.”1 (1) “Living in Sophisticated Rakefet,” Haaretz (Tel Aviv), February 16, 2007.

Israel’s planning authorities have taken this discriminatory logic to an extreme with
the creation of 59 individual farms in the Negev over the past 10 years. The state has allocated vast land tracts almost exclusively to individual Jewish families and fenced off the land at government expense in a bid to “preserve state land.” Often,
government ministries and the ILA allow individuals to establish the farms before
they have secured building permits, on land zoned for other purposes, and local
authorities connect these illegal outposts to water and electricity grids without
hesitation. Meanwhile, the same officials claim that they cannot provide
unrecognized Bedouin villages, with hundreds or even thousands of residents, with
utilities because the villages are built illegally and the population is too dispersed.

Several Bedouin told Human Rights Watch that the state had allocated their
ancestral land to individual farms. Mohamed Abu Solb, an Israel Defense Forces
veteran, took Human Rights Watch to the site of the village where he had grown up,
from which the authorities had evicted him and his family in 1991, ostensibly for
military purposes. Sixteen years later there are no signs of the army, but one of the
individual farms, a lush cactus ranch, prospers on this confiscated land next to the
Abu Solb clan’s destroyed village of Kornub.

Since the 1970s Israeli authorities have demolished thousands of Bedouin homes in
the unrecognized villages, many of them comprising no more than tents or shacks. In
the past year alone Israeli officials have demolished hundreds of structures, and
placed warnings of intended demolition on hundreds more. Israeli officials contend
that they are merely enforcing zoning and building codes, but the state
systematically demolishes Bedouin homes while overlooking or retroactively
legalizing illegal construction by Jewish citizens. According to Ministry of Interior
records, in January 2005 all 242 outstanding judicial demolition orders in the
southern region of Israel were against Bedouin structures. Israel denies security of
land tenure to the Bedouin and then exploits this insecurity to destroy their homes.

Planning officials carry out “administrative” home demolitions without any judicial
oversight. Even in cases where, by law, officials must obtain a judicial warrant for
demolition, judges issue the warrants during court proceedings without the presence
of the Bedouin home owner, who is almost never identified or notified of the
proceedings. In recent years, most Bedouin have given up any attempt to appeal
home demolition orders in court since historically no Israeli judge has overturned a
home demolition order in the unrecognized villages. Bedouin and their lawyers claim
that they have no effective right to appeal: bringing such court cases is costly and
futile, they say, and judges may add criminal charges for building or maintaining an
“illegal” dwelling that can have consequences such as jail time or a hefty fine for the
homeowner. Some Bedouin have demolished their own homes in an attempt to
avoid such charges and to salvage as much as possible from their homes.

Israel’s systematic violation of Bedouin land and housing rights appears to be
increasing. Ministry of Interior records show that governmental demolitions in the
Negev region more than doubled from 143 in 2005 to 367 in 2006. On May 8, 2007,
Israeli authorities demolished 30 structures in the unrecognized village of Twayil Abu
Jarwal, the largest single demolition to date and the sixth time homes in this village
were demolished in the past year. In some villages, Israeli authorities have delivered
warning notices or demolition orders to entire neighborhoods or the whole village,
such as in al-Sira, next to the Nevatim air base, where on September 7, 2006,
officials distributed six judicial demolition orders, and demolition warnings to the
rest of the village. In July 2007 all the homes with warnings received demolition

Israeli officials insist that Bedouin can relocate to seven existing governmentplanned
townships. But in fact alternative housing there is not readily available, and
these towns are currently ill-equipped to handle a further influx of residents. Most
Bedouin reject the idea of relocating to the townships, where poverty and crime rates
are high, basic socioeconomic infrastructure is lacking, and they cannot continue
traditional means of livelihood such as herding and grazing. Most important, the
state requires Bedouin who move to the townships to renounce their ancestral land
claims, which is unthinkable for most Bedouin who have such claims to land. This
land has often been passed down from parent to child over several generations. In
recent years the government and planning authorities have officially recognized six
Bedouin villages that were previously unrecognized, and established three new
villages/townships. However, these communities are suffering from bureaucratic
foot dragging, poor financing, and borders that do not provide sufficient agricultural
land for villagers’ livelihoods or land reserves to allow the next generation to remain
in the villages. Planning authorities continue to demolish the existing Bedouin
homes that, unfortunately for their owners, fall outside the new officially (and
arbitrarily) drawn village borders. In addition, the government has offered no
housing solution to tens of thousands of Bedouin in the 39 remaining unrecognized

The government has made developing the Negev region one of its strategic goals. In
November 2005, the government adopted the Negev 2015 plan, a US$3.6 billion 10-
year scheme aimed at increasing the Jewish population of the Negev by 200,000 by
developing upscale residential neighborhoods, fast transportation networks for
commuters, high tech establishments, and better educational facilities. While the
plan does propose upgrades to the appalling infrastructure and educational facilities
in the government-planned Bedouin townships, it completely ignores the needs of
the Bedouin living in unrecognized villages in the Negev. Bedouin advocates point
out that while Israel created fast-track measures to accommodate a million new
immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, the state still refuses to
address the longstanding land and housing needs of the Negev’s indigenous

The state’s motives for these discriminatory, exclusionary and punitive policies can
be elicited from policy documents and official rhetoric. The state appears intent on
maximizing its control over Negev land and increasing the Jewish population in the
area for strategic, economic and demographic reasons. For example, while
promoting the building of new Jewish towns in the Negev in 2003 government
officials stated that their aim was “creating a buffer between the Bedouin
communities,” “preventing a Bedouin takeover,” and ensuring the security of the
(Jewish) residents of the Negev.2 The government has been able to exploit Jewish
Israelis’ suspicion of and prejudice against the Bedouin population to engender
support for these policies. The state and the media often perpetuate images of the
Bedouin as criminals, trespassers, and a potential third column, who should be
controlled, cracked down upon and forced off the land of the unrecognized villages
which they are deemed to have “stolen” from the state. In December 2000 Ariel
Sharon, then leader of the Likud party, wrote “The Bedouin are grabbing new territory.
They are gnawing away at the country’s land reserves.”3

International law permits governments to expropriate land and carry out evictions
only in “the most exceptional circumstances.” Even in these exceptional
circumstances, human rights principles require the government to consult with the
affected individuals or communities, identify a clear public interest for the eviction,
and ensure that the eviction is carried out with due process that allows those
affected a meaningful opportunity to challenge the eviction. The government must
also provide appropriate compensation and adequate alternative land and housing
arrangements. In almost all the cases Human Rights Watch investigated for this
report, the state has met none of these criteria. Instead, the authorities typically left
families to the charity of relatives or community organizations, who provided

2 Oren Yiftachel, “Inappropriate and Unjust: Planning for Private Farms in the Naqab,” Adalah Newsletter, vol. 24, April 2006.
3 Ariel Sharon, “Land as an Economic Tool for Developing Infrastructure and Significantly Reducing Social Gaps,” Land, December 2000, quoted in Abu Ras, “Land Disputes in Israel,” Adalah Newsletter.

temporary shelter. In some cases, as quickly as Bedouin rebuilt, the authorities
returned to demolish the new structures. Even in cases of threatened wide-scale
demolitions or evictions, the authorities did not inform the Bedouin about the future
use of their village land or attempt to justify the necessity of the evictions.

Key Recommendations
To the Government of Israel

• Establish an independent mechanism, such as a special commission, to
investigate the ways in which land allocation, planning, and home
demolitions are implemented with regard to the rights and entitlements of the
Bedouin population. The commission’s work should be guided by the right to
housing as defined in Israel’s international human rights obligations and
should give special regard to any discriminatory and arbitrary impact that
current policies and practices have on the Bedouin population.
• Conduct a comprehensive examination of Bedouin citizens’ residential needs,
in consultation with the communities, and create a national master plan and
corresponding regional and local outline plans to address their housing and
community needs.
• Impose a moratorium on all Bedouin home demolitions and evictions until
the aforementioned review has taken place and appropriate measures have
been taken to ensure that the rights and interests of the Bedouin will be fully
respected and protected in future implementation of planning and
development policy.
• Enact legislation that provides the greatest possible security of tenure to
residents of houses and land, and ensures that any evictions are carried out
in a non-discriminatory way and in accordance with international human
rights norms.

To the United States and other international donors

• Ensure that any aid funds allocated to, or used by, Israel for development of
the Negev region are not used for further home demolitions and are
conditioned on non-discrimination in planning, land allocation, and

To the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing and the special
rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of
indigenous people

• Request an invitation to conduct a visit to the Negev to study the problem in
more depth and make recommendations addressing indigenous land claims.

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