Thursday, July 28, 2011

Israel sues 34 Bedouin for costs of repeated demolitions of their homes (Ha'aretz)

Unprecedented law suit seeks NIS 1.8 million in damages from Negev Bedouin; Israel Lands Administration says defendants built homes on land belonging to the state. By Jack Khoury

The state filed an unprecedented suit against 34 Negev Bedouin in Be'er Sheva Magistrate's Court on Tuesday, seeking NIS 1.8 million in damages for the expense repeatedly incurred in evicting the defendants from state land and demolishing their homes.

The state, through the Israel Lands Administration, told the court that the defendants had built homes in the Al-Arakib area, northeast of Be'er Sheva, on what had been state land since the time of Ottoman rule.

"The squatters against whom the suit was brought, of the Abu Madigham and the Abu Jaber families, already have houses built on land the state gave them in the area of Rahat," the court was told by the ILA, representing the state. The ILA said the defendants keep returning to the disputed land, despite court orders prohibiting them from doing so.

The agency's representative told the court the fact that the Bedouin have homes in Rahat, some distance from Al-Arakib, shows they have no lack of housing, and that they are using public relations activities to accuse the state of repression, while they are the ones in breach of the law.

The ILA said that it had leased the lands in question until 1998 for seasonal agricultural activities for Bedouin in the area. But, in 1998, members of the defendants' families ousted the leasees and began squatting on the land.

In 1999, the state took action to evict the squatters, according to the prosecution.

In March 2000, the parties consented to a judgment in which a permanent injunction was issued barring the squatters from the land except to visit a cemetery and a small mosque, the only structures on the land at that time.

A source in the ILA said that suing for damages "can be an efficient way to deal with squatters and illegal construction."

Sheikh Siyah Abu Madigham al-Turi, the leader of the village of Al-Arakib, said neither he nor any of his family was told about the lawsuit, and that he first heard about it from the media.

"We also submit a lot of complaints but no one listens to us, about all the buildings of ours that they destroyed - and the state does not care. The first demolition cost us NIS 4 million. The trees that were uprooted in the village cost us NIS 500,000. They destroyed the village 27 times; that cost us NIS 150,000 each time.

The sheikh said the land belonged to them - and that the matter is still under consideration by the courts.

Dr. Awad Abu-Frih, a resident of Al-Arakib and an activist in the campaign against its demolition, told Haaretz the residents expect compensation from the state, not the other way around. "The state is afraid of a precedent over Al-Arakib, and so they talk to us in a language reserved for enemies who must be defeated, so the hold over the land won't be an inspiration to other Bedouin in the Negev."

Abu-Frih said hundreds of Bedouin, who are joined by Jewish and foreign volunteers, come to rebuild the village every time it is demolished.

The residents and activists are to hold a march Wednesday night from the Lehavim junction north of Be'er Sheva to Al-Arakib.

Dr. Thabet Abu Ras of the human rights group Adalah also said the matter is still before the courts. "The state recognizes ownership rights over the lands of Al-Arakib and is constantly offering them [the Bedouin residents] meager compensation for the land. What's more, a law requiring the builder of a house to pay for its demolition was not passed by the Knesset."

The state has demanded compensation for the demolition of illegally built houses in the past in the Galilee and the Arab communities of central Israel; those cases are still before the courts. However, most of those claims are against homes built on private land, not state land, for sums between NIS 300,000 and NIS 400,000. This is the first time such a large suit for damages has been brought against such a large number of defendants.

Published in Ha'aretz, July 27, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Netanyahu gov't plans to build new Jewish settlement on the land of two Negev Bedouin villages, after forcibly expelling 1,000 Bedouin residents

Click here to view the map of the Negev showing the location of the two Bedouin villages the Netanyahu government plans to demolish for a new Jewish settlement, and to view their proximity to JNF's Wadi Attir Project.

Excerpts translated from Ha'aretz, June 3, 2011:

"The government is expected to approve in the coming weeks the [Praver] ‘Implementation Plan for the Goldberg Report’ and the evacuation of 30,000 Negev Bedouin to new neighborhoods in recognized settlements. From documents uncovered by the Adallah Legal Center which have reached Ha’aretz it is clear that in one of the areas of the Bedouin villages slated for evacuation, the government is planning a new Jewish settlement. This is despite the fact that the Prime Minister’s Office has claimed that the Bedouin who will be evacuated are living in settlements that are not appropriate for infrastructure and public buildings, or that this land is not included in the Development Plan for Metropolitan Beer Sheva.

“The Bedouin villages of Atir and Um Al-Hiran, on whose land the government plans to establish a Jewish settlement, are located in the area of Wadi Atir, near Road 316, east of Hura. The 1,000 residents of the village…are from the Bedouin tribe that has lived in a nearby agricultural area northwest of Beer Sheva since before 1948…In 1956, they were evacuated by the Israel Defense Forces so that the area could be used for military training, and were moved to the area in which they live now in Wadi Atir.

“In recent years, the government began planning the new Jewish settlement, to be called Hiran, which will have 2,400 residential units by 2030, and a population of 10,000. Based on these development plans, the government initiated demolition orders for the Bedouin homes in the two villages and the eviction of the Bedouin residents.

“Despite the fact that a professional Construction and Planning Committee of the local municipal authority in the area recommended that the two Bedouin villages be recognized, Ha’aretz reported in November 2010 that the Prime Minister’s Office intervened to prevent recognition for Atir and Um Al-Hiran.

“The Bedouin residents are currently engaged in a legal struggle against the evacuation and demolition orders…in the Beer Sheva District Court, the Kiryat Gat District Court and the Supreme Court…According to the new development plan for Hiran, the new Jewish residential units will be built in the area where Bedouin homes are currently situated in Um Al-Hiran…”

The article goes on to say that unlike many other Bedouin homes in unrecognized villages, the homes in Um Al-Hiran and Atir are built from stone (suggesting that the residents expected the village would be recognized and that their homes would be permanent and not subject to demolition; hence the use of more costly building material.)

It quotes Salim Abu Al-Kayan, a Bedouin resident of Um Al-Hiran, who describes the strong opposition of the residents to being forced out of their homes and lands again after having been compelled to move there by the IDF in 1956: “They are planning to build a Jewish settlement called Hiran here. There is no reason why we [the village of Um Al-Hiran] shouldn’t be annexed to the new Jewish settlement and allowed to remain on our land.” Salim’s brother, Najah, agreed: “We’re happy to become a neighborhood in the new Jewish settlement, or to be considered a neighborhood of Hura.”

Said Salim, “I have children serving in the IDF. What am I supposed to tell them when their country destroys the home in which they live?”

Translation of excerpts from an article which appeared only in the Hebrew edition of Ha’aretz, June 3, 2011, titled “Netanyahu government plans to build a Jewish settlement on the land of a Bedouin village that will be ‘evacuated.’” English translation by Gidon D. Remba, Co-Director, Campaign for Bedouin-Jewish Justice in Israel.

Adalah, Bimkom and Residents of the Unrecognized Village of Umm al-Hieran in the Negev/Naqab Submit Objection to Plan to Build Jewish Town of “Hiran” after Demolishing Arab Bedouin Residents’ Homes and Evacuating them from their Village:

The plan is another component of the discrimination against the Bedouin in the Negev/Naqab

On 12 January 2011, Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel who are residents of Umm al-Hieran, the southern area of the unrecognized village of Atir-Umm al-Hieran, in cooperation with Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights and Adalah submitted an objection to the National Council for Planning and Building (NCPB) against the building of a new exclusively Jewish town to be called “Hiran” on the land on which Atir-Umm al-Hieran is located (the Nahal Yatir area).

The master plan (Plan 15/02/107) aims to build the Jewish town of ‘Hiran’ after demolishing the homes of the 500 Arab residents of Umm al-Hieran and evacuating them from the area that falls within the plan's boundaries. According to the Hiran master plan, most of the Arab Bedouin residents’ homes are located in the zone designated for residential buildings, while others are situated on land designated for public use, including a proposed forest.

The objection argues that the plan would entail the demolition of Arab Bedouin homes and the forced eviction of the residents who have lived in the area for more than 55 years, resulting in gross violations of the constitutional rights of the residents to property, dignity and equality. In addition, the planners and planning authorities did not examine alternatives that would have avoided the violation of these rights, such as recognizing Umm al-Hieran and providing a planning solution that would regularize its status.

Cesar Yeudkin, an urban planner with BIMKOM, stated that: “The plan completely ignores the situation on the ground and the rights of the Bedouin residents. It is evidence of the government’s policy to concentrate the Bedouin into a few recognized towns. Furthermore, this plan represents another instance of discrimination against the Bedouin community in the Naqab in the division of land and resources .”

The objection recalls that after a seven year-long planning process, the NCPB decided, on 20 July 2010, to recognize the northern area of the village of Atir-Umm al-Hieran, where the residents of Atir live; and accepted the proposal that the residents of Umm al-Hieran would move to Atir, according to a specific time-line and process. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's office intervened in the decision and requested that the NCPB reconsider its decision. The NCPB committee members complied with the request and withdrew the recognition. It did so without hearing the position of the residents and in contravention of the rules of good governance.

Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara argued: “All the facts included in the objection lead us clearly to conclude that the plan was designed to give preference to the interests of the Jewish residents over and above the interests of the Arab Bedouin who have lived in this village for more than 55 years. This is a blatant violation of the people’s right to equality. The practical consequences of evacuating a certain group of residents in favor of another, based on nationality and/or religion, are very harsh. This constitutes a policy of segregation which is reminiscent of dark regimes from the past.”

For further details: Shani Sokol, Spokesperson for Bimkom, 052-429334
Attorney Suhad Bishara, Adalah, 052-2490669

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How does the Israeli government use the law to confiscate land from Bedouin in Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank?

An Ottoman law dating from 1858 allows uncultivated land to be declared by the Israeli government as state land. Israeli Supreme Court rulings in 1961 (Badaran) and 1984 (Al-Hawashli) defined "uncultivated land" so narrowly that areas not within 1.5 miles of an inhabited settlement that existed before 1858 can be declared by the Israeli government as state land.

These rulings, together with other discriminatory laws passed by the Knesset, enabled the Israeli government to render all Negev Bedouin villages "illegal" and turned the Bedouin into "trespassers on state land," subject to forcible expulsion and their homes and villages to demolition.

The rulings have also enabled the Israeli government to "legally" confiscate land from Palestinian villages in the West Bank, making it available for "lawful" development (under Israeli law) for Jewish settlements - despite the fact that such settlements are universally regarded as violating international law.

Map of the Unrecognized Negev Bedouin Villages and JNF/Israeli Government Forestation Plans

Click on the map to enlarge image

The two unrecognized Bedouin villages of Atir and Um Al-Hiran (spelled here "Um El Chiran"), slated for demolition by the Netanyahu government with the expulsion of 1,000 Bedouin to make way for a new Jewish settlement called Hiran, are located in the upper right within the blue-colored line, marked by red dots.
JNF's Wadi Attir project is located near Chura (also spelled Hura), just to the West (left) of the Bedouin villages of Atir and Um El Chiran.

Map provided courtesy of Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights, and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality

Call JNF: Tell the Israeli gov't to cancel plans to expel 1,000 Bedouin and demolish 2 villages near JNF's Wadi Attir Project for a Jewish settlement

Scroll down to find the Jewish National Fund office near you and the national headquarters, and call to give JNF the message:

  • Tell Israeli government leaders to stop demolishing Bedouin villages and displacing Bedouin Israeli citizens to make way for Jewish settlements and forests.
  • Stop developing and foresting Negev land where the Israeli government has expelled Bedouin and demolished their villages.

Sample call script: "My name is ______ , [I'm an American Jew] and I care deeply about Israel and its increasingly eroding democracy. I’m calling today to urge you to tell Israeli government leaders that JNF is opposed to the Netanyahu government’s plan to forcibly expel 1,000 Bedouin men, women and children from their homes and demolish the Negev Bedouin villages of Atir and Um Al-Hiran, so that a new Jewish settlement called Hiran can be built on their land.

"Tell Israeli government leaders that these terrible acts are slated to take place near JNF’s Wadi Attir Project, and that JNF will not stand idly by as the Netanyahu government prepares to blatantly discriminate against Israel's Bedouin Arab citizens. These actions further undermine democracy in Israel and violate Israel’s commitment to equal rights for all citizens, Jewish and Arab alike, as enshrined in its Declaration of Independence and in human rights treaties which Israel has signed.

Please pass on my message to JNF CEO Russell Robinson and Chairman Ronald Lauder."

Let us know how it went! After your call, email us at and let us know how your call went. Your feedback will be most valuable in planning the next steps in our campaign to persuade the JNF and the Israeli government to do the right thing. Please copy and paste the following into your email and provide us with your responses:

First Name:

Last Name:


Zip/Postal Code:

Date of Call:

Which offices did you call?

Tell us about how your call went.

What was the response?

JNF-US and JNF-Israel Phone numbers:

National Office (NY) 212-879-9300 (For international callers to the US, please add 001 before the number)

Jerusalem Office: 972-2-563-5638

Regional Offices:
Florida West Coast, Central, and Northern Florida: (727) 536-5263 or (813) 960-5263 Tampa: (407) 804-5568 South Florida (561) 447-9733 Miami/Dade (800) 211-1502 or (561) 447-9733
Greater New York (212) 879-9300
Greater Los Angeles (323)964-1400
MidAtlantic Baltimore/ Delaware: (410) 486-3317 Washington, DC (301) 589-8565
Midwest Chicagoland (847) 656-8880 Michigan (248)324-3080
Midwest States (Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) (888) 563-0099 Northern Ohio (216) 464-3888 Southern Ohio (513) 794-1300 or (888) 563-0099 Western Pennsylvania (412) 521-3200 Wisconsin (414) 963-8733
Northeast New England (617) 423-0999 Eastern Pennsylvania (215) 832-0690 New Jersey (973) 593-0095
West Arizona (602) 277-4800 Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming & Utah (303) 573-7095 Northern California and Pacific Northwest (415) 677-9600 or (888) JNF-0099 Orange County, CA (949)-260-0400 San Diego (858) 824-9178 Palm Springs (760)864-6208 Las Vegas (702) 434-6505
South (404) 236-8990

For background on this issue see:

Israel expropriates Palestinian land in order to legalize West Bank settlement: Ha'aretz

Move is Netanyahu government's first confiscation of land in the territories.

By Chaim Levinson

For the first time in three years, the state has confiscated uncultivated land in the West Bank. The land will be used to legalize a nearby settlement outpost.

Last week, acting on orders from the government, the Civil Administration declared 189 dunams of land belonging to the Palestinian village of Karyut to be state land, so as to retroactively legalize houses and a road in the Hayovel neighborhood of the settlement of Eli. This would seem to violate Israel's long-standing commitment to the United States not to expropriate Palestinian lands for settlement expansion.

An Ottoman land law dating from 1858 allows uncultivated land to be declared state land. This law, which is still in force in the West Bank, is what was used to carry out the expropriation.

According to last Sunday's decree, the lands in question belong to the village of Karyut. Hayovel was built on these lands in 1998 as a temporary outpost, and later permanent houses and an access road were built. A 2005 report on the outposts by attorney Talia Sasson concluded that Hayovel was built on private Palestinian land.

After the Peace Now and Yesh Din organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice against the construction in 2005 and 2009, the Civil Administration reviewed the land's legal status. Since Jordan, which ruled the West Bank from 1948-67, had never registered them in its land registry, the Civil Administration reclassified them as under review. This meant that any place that was still cultivated in the late 1990s would remain private land, but the rest could be declared state land.

In 2004, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised U.S. President George W. Bush to stop this practice, and this promise was later reiterated by his successor, Ehud Olmert. In his speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "We have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements. But there is a need to have people live normal lives and let mothers and fathers raise their children like everyone in the world."

This is the current government's first such expropriation of lands. The last lands to be similarly expropriated were 20 dunams near Betar Ilit that were declared state land in November 2008 to allow the construction of a gas station.

The declaration is another move toward retroactively legalizing Hayovel. The Palestinians now have 45 days to appeal to the military appeals committee. But the road to full legalization is still long, as the entire settlement of Eli lacks an approved master plan.

Peace Now chairman Yariv Oppenheimer said Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were going to great lengths to legalize isolated outposts deep in the territories, even if this involves land expropriations, but "as far as evictions are concerned, the state is dragging its feet." He said this will encourage settlers to keep building illegally.

Eli's mayor, Kobi Eliraz, said he is glad the state is making progress toward formalizing the status of the Hayovel neighborhood.

Published in Ha’aretz, July 8, 2011

For background on the state-funded building of the illegal settlement outpost of Hayovel near the West Bank settlement Eli, on privately-owned Palestinian land, see "New Support for West Bank Outpost," BBC, March 26, 2009