Sunday, June 5, 2011

“Cabinet ministers will vote on the evacuation of 30,000 Bedouin from their homes" - translation from the Hebrew, with commentary

“Cabinet ministers will vote on the evacuation of 30,000 Bedouin from their homes,” Ha’aretz, June 2, 2011, Hebrew edition

“The Prime Minister’s Office has prepared a new report for resolution of Bedouin settlement in the Negev. 40% of the 71,000 residents of the “unrecognized” Bedouin villages will be relocated from their homes, at a cost of 6 – 8 billion shekels.”

“The new plan is the Praver Report for Implementing the Goldberg Commission Recommendations for Resolution of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, and will be presented for approval by the government in the coming weeks. The cost will come to 6 – 8 billion shekels, of which 1.2 billion will be allocated for economic development plans for the recognized Bedouin villages.

"Under the plan, residents who live or work land on which they claim ownership will receive replacement land equal to half the area they claim; residents who claim land of which they are not in actual possession will receive monetary compensation at double its value.” [However, Clinton Bailey, one of the leading experts on the Negev Bedouin, has pointed out in a Ha’aretz op-ed that the net value of the monetary compensation amounts to one-sixth to one-eighth of the market value per dunam of land in this area of the Negev.[1]]

“The report attributes great importance to law enforcement mechanisms, both in terms of significant augmentation of the police force and the legal system,” possibly including new courts. Many Bedouin leaders and heads of the Jewish municipalities in the area are unhappy with the plan and are planning to take legal action against it once it is approved.

“Dr. Awad Abu Freich, one of the most prominent Bedouin activists in the Negev, described the plan as a disaster that would lead to harsh conflict with the Bedouin residents of the Negev.”

The Netanyahu government’s new plan contradicts the findings of the Goldberg Commission: “The Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, together with Israeli human rights organizations, have stressed in an Open Letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Cabinet ministers, that the new plan stands in complete contradiction to the Goldberg Commission’s recommendations, thwarting entirely the Praver Committee’s purpose, which was to develop a plan to implement Goldberg’s recommendations.”

“They point out that the Praver Report runs contrary to the main principle of the Goldberg Commission’s recommendations, which was to ‘recognize [and develop] the unrecognized villages wherever possible.’ The Praver Plan also goes entirely against the norms of modern planning policy, by requiring the forced relocation of 20,000 – 30,000 citizens from their homes without valid reason and completely against their wishes.”

All of the following material is also omitted from the English version of the Ha’aretz article:

2. The government’s plan suffers from a democratic deficit: Razi Abu-Kaf, director-general of the Council of Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Negev, stated that “during the entire period during which the ‘Praver Implementation Committee’ in the Prime Minister’s Office worked on its plan, we asked them to enable us, along with other representatives from the Negev Bedouin community, to participate in the plan’s development. To our regret, we were ignored. The plan perpetuates the government’s unilateral, force-based approach of steam-rolling over the Bedouin, which has caused great suffering and failed to bring about a real solution.

Bedouin Israeli Attorney Rauya Abu Ravia added that “the Goldberg Commission found that the government has committed an ongoing injustice to the Bedouin that must be remedied….The Praver Plan cannot be implemented; it is cruel and perpetuates discrimination against the Bedouin” as a non-Jewish minority in Israel.

She continued: “There are today 112 Jewish communities in the Negev, with an average population of 350 per community. By contrast, the average population in 35 of the Bedouin unrecognized villages is 1,700. I ask the government to apply the same standards to the Bedouin that it uses for the Jewish population in the Negev.”

“This means recognizing and developing the unrecognized villages [as the government did with many originally unauthorized Jewish settlements and single-family farms in the Negev,] providing them with basic infrastructure and public buildings as the government does for Jewish communities in the Negev. The government’s failure to do so has caused environmental neglect and great harm to open areas in the Negev, polluting both water and land. The government’s proposed 1.2 billion shekel 5-year development plan, expected to be approved along with the Praver Plan, deals only with the recognized Bedouin villages.”

[Comment: No one objects to the government’s interest in providing economic development for the Bedouin. But the government can develop the unrecognized Bedouin villages, as the Goldberg Commission recommended, rather than uprooting tens of thousands of citizens against their will and attempting to concentrate them in urban townships in a limited space.

By contrast with Bedouin Israelis, Israeli Jews who live in the Negev can choose the type of community they wish to live in, including single-family farms, moshavim or towns; they can choose between agricultural, urban or village communities. The state established the seven Bedouin urban towns without consulting the Bedouin, without asking them how they wished to live, or how they perceive their needs. The government then pressured some 60% of the Negev Bedouin to relocate to these townships and to surrender their agricultural land, by denying recognition and essential services to their existing settlements, demolishing homes and consistently rejecting their claims to land ownership.]

“Dr. Sandy Kedar, a professor of law at the University of Haifa who specializes in land administration in Israel, said that it’s clear that the Praver Committee has committed a serious error by failing to include the Bedouin in the planning process. ‘I believe that the fact that Bedouin are being treated by the government as if they are not a party to the discussion, and that the entire process is being [imposed] on them without their participation, greatly harms its chances for success.’

“Kedar’s proposal for resolving the conflict between the Bedouin and the state is, among other things, to provide the Bedouin with fair compensation comparable to the market value compensation that the [Jewish settler] evacuees from Gush Katif [in Gaza] received. They should also be provided with agricultural land on which to live, like all other Israelis who wish to live in the Negev. It’s unreasonable that every Tel Avivi who decides that his great life’s wish is to raise goats in the Negev, receives land for this purpose without any problem, whereas the government ‘proposes’ to the Bedouin, whose connection to the land is part of their identity, to move to urban townships.”

A substantially abridged and re-written version of this article also appeared in the English online edition of Ha’aretz under the headline “Netanyahu's office promoting plan to relocate 30,000 Bedouin,”, which attempts to present the plan so as to make it appear justified, inserting a pro-government slant into its reportage. The more complete Hebrew article, which is twice as long as the English version, is considerably more critical of the plan. We have provided an English translation of key passages from the Hebrew article.

Ha’aretz English edition rectified the omission of the many criticisms of the plan in the original Hebrew article by publishing a separate piece in a different section of the paper (The Marker): Bottom shekel / Civil rights groups: Prawer plan for Bedouin won't work; The Association for Civil Rights in Israel argues that the conditions the Prawer Report sets for recognizing Bedouin villages are prejudicial, June 2, 2011, English.

Text is above is a translation by the Campaign for Bedouin-Jewish Justice of the Hebrew article: “Cabinet ministers will vote on the evacuation of 30,000 Bedouin from their homes,” Ha’aretz, June 2, 2011, Hebrew edition

[1]Clinton Bailey, “Time to Settle Bedouin Claims,” Ha’aretz, April 8, 2011, English.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Israel and the Polarization of American Jews, by Gidon D. Remba, Jerusalem Report

In “Israel and the Polarization of American Jews,” (The Jerusalem Report, June 20, 2011), I suggest that the controversy over Tony Kushner’s views on Israel highlight the ways in which the gap between liberal and conservative Jews regarding Israel is becoming an unbridgeable chasm. At the same time, I question the value of defining who is “inside the Jewish communal tent” and who is “outside,” as leaders in the organized Jewish community have suggested, on the basis of whether a person or organization “recognizes Israel as a democratic Jewish state.”

Today, many human rights activists and groups which are not avowedly Zionist work closely with pro-Israel groups like ours that are fighting for justice and equality in Israel. Our Campaign for Bedouin-Jewish Justice (a project of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and the Jewish Alliance for Change), for example, has brought together American Jewish and Israeli Arab groups across the ideological spectrum, including some in Israel and the U.S. who would be defined as “outside the tent” by the conventional definition. Acting in concert has enabled us all to be more effective in our efforts to stop the demolition of homes in unrecognized Negev Bedouin villages and the violent expulsion of Bedouin Israeli men, women and children by the Israeli government.

By working together to advance equal citizenship for both Arab and Jewish Israelis, aren’t non-Zionist human rights activists doing more to secure Israel’s future as a democratic Jewish state than some Zionists who pass the conventional test of “kashrut” for membership in the “communal tent”? The misbegotten controversy in Israel’s Knesset and at the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council over whether J Street is “pro-Israel” enough to be included in Jewish communal institutions is another case in point.

Perhaps the time has come to do away with the impulse to excommunicate Jewish groups engaged in activism for peace, human rights and justice in Israel if they take unorthodox political stands or do not speak in ways that representatives of the mainstream community deem politically correct.

Click here to read “Israel and the Polarization of American Jews.”

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bedouin Israeli Human Rights Attorney Sana Ibn Bari Statement at the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues

Tenth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
(New York, 16 to 27 May 2011)
Presented by Sana Ibn Bari on behalf of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality

Thank you Mr Chairman. I am Sana Ibn Bari and I will speak on behalf of Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality. I wish to draw your attention to State of Israel’s efforts to displace the indigenous Bedouin from their ancestral land. Since the creation of the sate in 1948, Bedouins have lived as internally displaced citizens within Israel.

Today nearly 80,000 indigenous Bedouin live in so-called “unrecognized villages” which are characterized by a lack of basic services. They are denied running water, electricity, telephone lines, paved roads, schools, medical services and other public institutions.

Further, the Bedouin are not secure in their own homes. All buildings in these villages (about 50,000 structures) are considered illegal by the government even though it is impossible for the Bedouin to apply for building permits. Thus homes can be demolished by the government at any moment, increasing poverty levels and inflicting great hardship on the most vulnerable who are the women and children. In the last 12 months alone, the unrecognized village of Al Arakib has been demolished 21 times, leaving 300 residents exposed to the hot days and bitterly cold desert nights. The recent spike in the number of homes lost this year seems to be in line with the government’s policy decision early last year to triple the demolition rate.

As a Bedouin myself, I am compelled to remind the Committee about these challenges facing the unrecognized villages and the seriousness of the state’s action against its own people. The Arab-Bedouin face the harshest consequences of discrimination through laws as well as policy and practice.

I draw your attention in particular to a new government plan to deal with the Bedouin. The plan resulting from the Praver Commission, established to implement the recommendations of a previous commission, is yet to be publicly released. However, portions of the leaked document reveal that the government will recognize less than a third of the area claimed by the Bedouin under the Israeli legal system to be recognized as their traditional land. Additionally, thousands of Bedouin will be displaced when their villages are transferred to new locations. The implementation of this Praver Commission will have a serious detrimental impact on the Bedouin population in southern Israel. It has become clear to us that the government is moving to disinherit the Bedouin from their ancestral land.

Thank you for turning your attention to these issues.