Saturday, November 26, 2011

JNF delays eviction of Palestinian family from East Jerusalem home (Ha'aretz)

Together, we stopped JNF from evicting a Palestinian family of 12 in East Jerusalem! Congrats to everyone who answered our call and sent the message to JNF leaders that American Jews and all who care about Israel won't sit idly by while JNF pushes Palestinians out so that Jewish settlers can take over their land and homes.

JNF had the chutzpah to deny their involvement after we launched this action together with Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and RHR in Israel, with Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement bringing activists to the house. We showed JNF was behind this - thanks to the intrepid work of Hagit Ofran of Peace Now's Settlement Watch - and JNF stepped back from causing what would have become a major international incident. You made a difference!

By Nir Hasson, Ha'aretz

Eviction order initially issued requiring the 12 members of the Sumarin family to be out of the property by Sunday; Jewish National Fund has been trying to evict them since 1991.

At the last minute on Thursday night, the Jewish National Fund announced a delay in the eviction of 12 members of a Palestinian family from the house where they've been living in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. An eviction order had initially been issued requiring the Sumarin family to be out of the property by Sunday.

Police and bailiff's office officials had already toured the house, preparing for the possibility that the family would have to be physically removed from the premises. A Jewish National Fund subsidiary, Himnuta, has been trying to get the family out of the house since 1991, saying it owns the premises having acquired it that same year. The house had previously been acquired by the Custodian of Absentee Properties, after original owner Musa Sumarin passed away in 1983 and his three heirs were all living abroad.

The Sumarin family in their Silwan home  - Michal Fattal  - November 2011

The Sumarin family in their contested Silwan home earlier this month.

Photo by: Michal Fattal

The JNF attempted to downplay its connection to the site, referring inquiries to Elad, a group that has been bringing Jews to live in East Jerusalem and obtaining leases for much of the property Himnuta acquired in Silwan.

Following an initial report on the matter ten days ago by Haaretz, the left-wing groups Rabbis for Human Rights and the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement launched a campaign against the JNF, including its American affiliate.

Following the campaign, the JNF announced that it was not a party to the eviction case, claiming that Elad had pursued the action without any connection to the Jewish National Fund.

Their announcement also took Rabbis for Human Rights to task for not checking the facts. The statement said the JNF had leased the property where the Sumarin family is living to Elad in the early 1990s, as a result of Elad's archaeological activities in the area. The JNF said it has no control or responsibility for what was done at the property and any issue is between the Sumarin family and Elad.

The legal documents in the eviction action, however, show that Himnuta, a wholly-owned JNF subsidiary, was the party that brought the current legal action.

The eviction action has been going on for 20 years, before four different courts, and in each case Himnuta was the plaintiff in the matter; Elad was never a legal party to the action. Himnuta is also pursuing two other eviction cases in the neighborhood. It should be noted, however, that the lawyers representing Himnuta represented Elad in other eviction actions in Silwan.

For its part, the JNF said the court ordered the Sumarin family to leave the premises in 2006 and family members have rebuffed efforts to seriously discuss a resolution of the case. Nonetheless, the JNF said, additional time would be granted to resolve the issue. Elad did not comment.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Facts show JNF behind eviction of Palestinian family in Silwan, East Jerusalem, despite denial, by Hagit Ofran

Following the Rabbis for Human Rights’ action alert, calling on JNF not to evict the Sumarin Palestinian family in Silwan, JNF published a response basically claiming: “It’s Not Us! It’s the Settlers!” Meanwhile, the Jewish group Yachad in the UK published a similar call.

According to JNF’s response, “KKL-JNF leased the land to Elad in the early ‘90’s … KKL-JNF has no rights, control, or responsibility in this issue at all. In fact, as the Eviction Order proves, all legal action against the Sumarin family has been taken by Himnuta (which is wholly owned by JNF). The Elad settlers were never mentioned in any of the lengthy legal proceedings against the Sumarin family. So even if Himnuta did lease the property to Elad in the 90′s, the eviction process is being done in Himnuta’s name.

The Announcement of Eviction that the family received from October 2, 2011, ordering the eviction of the Sumarin family, explicitly states that the eviction is "for the benefit of Himnuta, located in the KKL-JNF building in Jerusalem:"

For the full document click here

Worse still, if JNF honestly believes that nothing has been done in their name, they have in effect decided to let the settlers use their name and given up all responsibility for the public they represent. What would JNF say about all the other properties they gave to the settlers in Silwan: that they didn’t know?

There are other families in Silwan that are still under threat of eviction by Himnuta, fighting in courts against the well-funded lawyers working in JNF’s name. JNF can no longer say “we didn’t know.” JNF must take action and withdraw any legal action to evict Palestinians from their homes. I call on the JNF: Don’t let the settlers use your name against families to create facts on the ground that are morally wrong and could be politically disastrous for Israel.

Tell JNF not to evict Palestinians from East Jerusalem

Hagit Ofran, Peace Now, Settlement Watch: Eyes on the Ground in East Jerusalem

Israeli desert plan would uproot 30,000 Bedouin, by Allyn Fisher-Ilan, in Reuters

(Reuters) - Bulldozed by Israel more than two dozen times, a village known by Bedouin Arabs as Al-Arakib is one of many ramshackle desert communities whose names have never appeared on any official map.

If Israel's parliament adopts proposed new legislation, it never will.

The plan to demolish more Bedouin homes in the southern Negev region and move 30,000 people to government-authorized villages connected to power and water lines has been hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "historic opportunity" to improve Bedouin lives.

But Israeli Arab leaders, who have long complained about discrimination against their community in the Jewish state, call it "ethnic cleansing," and aim to thwart the project with protests, a general strike and appeals to the United Nations to intervene.

"I will never leave here, I intend to stay until I die," said Abu-Madyam, 46, a farmer from al-Arakib.

He and his family of nine live in a makeshift plastic-sided shack in a cemetery near the ruins of their wooden home, razed by Israeli authorities last year.

The project is the most ambitious attempt in decades by the government to resettle Negev Bedouin and free up land in the largely open spaces of southern Israel for development and construction of military bases to replace facilities in the crowded center of the country.

Some Israelis argue the Bedouin have grown too dominant in the Negev, a geographic area wedged between Hamas Islamist-ruled Gaza and the occupied West Bank where Palestinians want a state, and that they pose a possible security risk.

The area being restructured also abuts Israel's largest Negev city of Beersheba and is near several military bases.

For decades, Israeli governments have tried to attract Jewish Israelis to move to the Negev, offering mortgage and tax breaks, but the region has fewer opportunities for employment than in the heavily populated center of the country.

Only 20 percent of Israel's Jewish population lives in the Negev, which covers more than 60 percent of the nation's land area. Bedouin villages take up two percent of Negev land.

This month, Netanyahu sat down with Bedouin mayors at his office to urge them to accept the plan, which could take at least five years to implement at a cost of more than 1 billion shekels ($300 million) once legislation due to be introduced shortly becomes law.

"Our state is leaping toward the future and you need to be part of this future. We want to help you reach economic independence. This plan is designed to bring about development and prosperity," Netanyahu told the Bedouin officials.

Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel's population of seven million, 200,000 of them Bedouin citizens.

Most of Israel's Bedouin, who predominate in the desert area that accounts for two-thirds of its territory, are descendants of nomadic tribes that had wandered across the Middle East from Biblical times.

Half of the Bedouin live in towns and villages recognized as formal communities by the government. Others live rough, in tents and shacks on patches of desert.

"If everyone sat exactly where they felt their place was, then it wouldn't be possible to develop anything," said Yisrael Scop, a senior official at the Israel Lands Authority, which would bear responsibility for carrying out the Negev plan.


Some new villages will be built for displaced Bedouin, Scop told Reuters in an interview. He said about 60,000 acres would be affected, with 30,000 Bedouin called upon to abandon their homes in return for monetary compensation.

Another 2,000 Bedouin who have claims against Israel for past relocation would have their cases settled under the new project.

"We cannot have such a large population living in unorganized settlement," Scop said.

Bedouin leaders in the Negev say Israel has long discriminated against their communities, denying them public funds and services, in a bid to make their inhabitants leave.

Many of them were built, the officials said, because Israel had failed in the past to offer other housing options.

In a 2008 report on Israel's policy toward Bedouin in the Negev, Human Rights Watch said the government "appears intent on maximizing its control over Negev land and increasing the Jewish population in the area for strategic, economic and demographic reasons."

"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," the New York-based group said.

Khalil Alamour, a 42-year-old schoolteacher, plans to head to Geneva this month to a meeting of a U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as part of a delegation to protest against the resettlement project.

His village of Al-Sira, home to 500 Bedouin, has long been tagged by Israel for demolition. It is located near an airbase.

"I always thought we could be a bridge to peace but this has not happened because we don't feel involved," Alamour said about the Bedouin, some of whom serve as volunteers in Israel's military. Unlike Jewish men and women in Israel, members of its Arab minority are exempt from conscription at the age of 18.

Alamour called the Negev plan "a second Nakba," the Arabic word for "catastrophe" that Palestinians use to describe the displacement of hundreds of thousands of them in fighting over Israel's establishment in 1948.

"We've been around for so many years, yet they treat us as little more than numbers on a map. It's shameful," he said.

Like most unauthorized Bedouin villages, Al-Sira is not hooked up to Israel's elecLinktricity grid. Alamour and his neighbors have installed their own solar panels to generate electricity, supplementing the supply with power generators.

They have run their own pipes to hook up with a regional grid to provide running water for their homes.

In the ruins of al-Arakib, Abu-Madyam vowed to hang on to land which he said was once covered by lush grapevines and bought by his grandparents more than a century ago.

"I will seek justice until my last day. I don't have any objections to Jews living here, too, but why must I give up my own rights?" he said.

Read More: and

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bedouins Facing Expulsion From Villages, by Nathan Jeffay, in The Forward

To the Bedouins, the plan for a mass demolition of their villages is a cruel move that would expel them from land they say belongs to them; to the Israeli government it is a bold attempt to remedy this minority’s own complaints about its low living standard and bring it into the 21st century.

Israel’s government is poised to propose legislation to solve a dispute as old as the country itself. It will compensate 80,000 Bedouin Arabs for land in the Negev that they say they own. Israel considers them squatters, and will demand that they leave.

As the villages slated for evacuation are considered illegal by Israel, inhabitants do not receive services like sewage and connection to the country’s electricity grid —services they are to receive in the government’s mass resettlement plan. “You cannot say they don’t have the standard of living of other Israelis and criticize when we give that,” said Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Office.

In response, Bedouin activists and their supporters have turned to Washington. In late October, three Bedouin activists and one Jewish advocate for their cause flew to America from Israel to seek the administration’s intervention in an effort to avert the plan. They held meetings at the White House and lobbied Congress members. They tried to raise objections from civil society, briefing think tanks, meeting with faith groups and speaking at universities.

“This kind of action against the most disadvantaged community in Israel should be taken seriously by the American state and by Americans,” said delegation member Rawia Aburabia, a Bedouin attorney who deals with Bedouin-related cases at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. “America considers itself a friend of Israel, and we’re saying that to be a friend of Israel it needs to be a friend of Israel’s citizens, including the Bedouins.”

Doni Remba, co-director of the American-based Campaign for Bedouin-Jewish Justice in Israel, who participated in the Washington visit, said delegation members were told that the American ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, would soon travel to some of the Bedouin sites slated for demolition. Remba stressed that the trip would not be a solidarity visit but part of the effort of the United States to “learn about the situation.”

But if Washington is acting, it’s not in public. Asked if Shapiro had, in fact, since the Washington mission, visited any of the sites due to be demolished, embassy press attaché Kurt Hoyer replied, “The ambassador, as his predecessors did, visits communities all around Israel as a normal part of his portfolio, not in response to any particular event or actions of others.”

Israel’s plans for its Bedouin citizens, who live in Israel, parallel those it implemented in Israeli-occupied Gaza when troops evacuated Israeli Jews living in settlements there. “If the government evacuated 8,000 citizens living in legally authorized buildings, it can also evacuate those living in illegal buildings,” wrote Ehud Praver, head of the department for policy planning in the Prime Minister’s Office, shortly after the Gaza disengagement of 2005.

Praver went on to head the committee providing policy for the forthcoming legislation. Its report, released last May, does not specify the number of Bedouins that will be relocated, but Gendelman, the prime minister’s spokesman, revealed to the Forward that the legislation will propose evacuation of all 80,000 who live on disputed land — double the number estimated by critics of the new policy.

Gendelman said that the legislation will offer generous compensation to evacuees for land that they inhabit as well as for land over which they claim ownership. But while the Praver report says that compensation may be as high as 50% of the value of the land claimed, Bedouin activists say that the complicated structure for calculating compensation means that in the final reckoning it will be much lower.

The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages and the advocacy organization Bimkom — Planners for Planning Rights have released a rival master plan in which they argue that the state could legalize the unrecognized villages without violating any of its planning principles. They put forward “a diverse and agreed planning solution based on the existing Bedouin settlements, which would be integrated in the overall planning of the Beersheba metropolitan area.”

Many critics of the government’s plan think that planning rules and Bedouin community development are not the government’s real priorities. Aburabia considers the plan to be intentional “ethnic displacement.” She told the Forward: “If there were a plan that said we should concentrate 100 rural Jewish communities into 30 towns, nobody would think it reasonable. But the objective with Bedouins is to have the maximum number of Bedouins on the minimum amount of land possible, concentrated [just] in the northern Negev.”

Aburabia believes that the new legislation constitutes a push to reduce the footprint of the Bedouins while increasing the Jewish footprint in the Negev. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is open about the fact that he is deeply concerned about the demographics of the desert, keen to boost the Jewish population there to ensure a Jewish majority. On October 30, his Cabinet advanced plans for 10 new Jewish communities in the Negev. But his office insists that the two policy areas are unrelated. “The Bedouin issue is completely disconnected,” Gendelman said. “The plan is for the benefit of the Bedouins, period.”

As the villages slated for evacuation are considered illegal by Israel, inhabitants do not receive services like sewage and country’s electricity grid. “You cannot say they don’t have the standard of living of other Israelis and criticize when we give that,” Gendelman argued.

Bilha Givon, executive director of the Sustainable Development for the Negev, a not-for-profit organization that works with Jewish and Bedouin residents of that area, shares Gendelman’s frustration about Bedouin resistance to the plan. “Israel is not an apartheid country. [Bedouins] have the rights, but every time you offer something, [community] groups won’t accept it, so you can’t achieve anything,” said Givon, a member of the Goldberg Commission, the 2008 panel that came up with the original principles that Praver’s committee was asked to implement.

But another member of the Goldberg Commission, Faisal el-Huzayel, former deputy mayor of the Bedouin city of Rahat, told the Forward that his community is right to reject the plan. In his view, the final Goldberg report was too harsh on Bedouins, and the Praver report even more so. He believes that the new policy will accentuate tensions between Israel and Bedouins, a traditionally loyal minority, some of whom serve in the army. “Not giving land rights can cause conflict, can lead to violence,” he said. “The Bedouins will not agree to leave, and will say, ‘Why should I give up my home?’”

This theme was common during the Bedouins’ visit to the United States. “Ultimately it will accentuate the Jewish-Arab conflict in Israel,” said Remba, the Jewish Bedouin advocate. The plan creates a “security risk,” he said, because in the long run, the evacuees “will fight back.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How has Israeli law been used to unfairly expropriate homes and land from Palestinians in East Jerusalem?

Tell JNF CEO Russell Robinson: End JNF’s role in expulsions or demolitions of Palestinian and Bedouin homes, whether in the Negev or East Jerusalem.

Twenty years ago, an ultra-nationalist Israeli government bent on expanding Jewish control in East Jerusalem took legal possession of the Sumarin home under what is known as the Absentee Property Law. The owner of the house, Musa Sumarin, passed away in 1983. At the time of his death, all three of his sons, declared by the government to be his heirs to the property, were out of the country. Even though other members of the Sumarin family continued to live there, the State declared that the home should be considered Absentee Property, and turned it over to the Custodian for Absentee Properties.

The government then transferred the Sumarin home to JNF subsidiary Himnuta, along with seven other properties in Silwan, in exchange for other lands located in Wadi Ara. Himnuta, in turn, transferred many of the other properties to ELAD, which has been criticized as an extremist settler organization because of its aggressive role in expropriating Palestinian homes and land in Silwan and transferring them to the control of Jewish settlers. Himnuta then entered into a legal struggle to force the Sumarin family from their home in Silwan.

The Absentee Property Law had not been applied to houses that were inhabited by Palestinians in East Jerusalem until the 1980s, when settler groups, in cooperation with Israel’s Housing Ministry, then under Ariel Sharon, started to use the law to take control of Palestinian homes and lands in Silwan.

An investigative committee convened by the government of Yitzhak Rabin in 1992 (the Klugman Committee) found that the takeover of Arab property in East Jerusalem was conducted through the use of false affidavits, misapplication of the Absentee Property Law, and the transfer of public property and millions of shekels in public funds to private settler organizations.

In 2005, Himnuta filed suit to evict the Sumarin family. The court ordered the family to evacuate their home and to pay Himnuta damages of NIS 2 million. About two months ago Himnuta obtained an eviction order for November 28, 2011.

Attorney and expert on Jerusalem Danny Seidemann has written us privately as follows:

“Virtually all of the JNF/Himnuta lands in the Wadi Hilweh section of Silwan – almost 1/3 of the total area - have been handed over covertly to the settler organization ELAD. On May 5, 1998, senior JNF/Himnuta official Avraham Halleli testified before the Jerusalem District Court:

'To the best of my knowledge, all of the JNF areas [in Silwan] were leased by the ILA to the ELAD Association…it is the lands policy of JNF… that [its lands] be leased to Jews for the purposes of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel.'”

What is Himnuta?

JNF established Himnuta in the 1930s, mainly to circumvent legal restrictions on its own land dealings. Under Israeli law, Israel’s Development Authority and the Israel Land Administration are required to administer their assets without discrimination based on nationality. Himnuta was registered under Jordanian law in Ramallah in 1971 so that it could lawfully operate and buy land in the occupied territories, which JNF says it does not do.

“JNF and Himnuta operate according to a JNF memo that provides that its assets be leased or transferred to the possession of Jews only.” (Hagit Ofran, “The Eviction of One Palestinian Family Might Cause the Next Political Crisis Over East Jerusalem,” HuffPost World, Nov. 17, 2011.) “In order to bypass the requirement of equality, the authorities in the early 1990’s used the JNF and Himnuta to transfer property in Silwan [in East Jerusalem] to Jewish settlers.

Himnuta’s offices are located in the JNF’s Jerusalem headquarters. JNF owns 100% of Himnuta’s 30,000,000 company shares. The head of Himnuta, David Lazarus, also serves as KKL-JNF’s CFO.

What is the Absentee Property Law?

The Absentee Property Law is used by Israel to take over land belonging to Israeli Arabs or Palestinians. If an owner is not physically present, the land can be given to the Custodian. The Custodian almost always either transfers the property to Jewish ownership or allows the State to use it for Jewish needs. In violation of the Jewish principle prohibiting acting "eifah v'eifah (acting according to double standards), this law is not used to take over Jewish owned property, and the Custodian would never allow the land to be used by non-Jews.

The use of the Absentee Property Law in East Jerusalem, while technically within the government’s “legal” purview, is highly controversial. Following Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, according to Ir Amim, “then-Attorney General Meir Shamgar issued an opinion that there was no justification to apply the Absentee Property Law to East Jerusalem.”

Go here to see how the Israeli government has used the law to confiscate land from Bedouin in the Negev and Palestinians in the West Bank.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From Israel to Essex: Travellers Not Welcome, by James Brownsell and Pennie Quinton, in Al Jazeera English (Excerpt)

Though this article is good in that it provides international context, it also misleads in describing the Negev Bedouin as nomadic, as they have lived in Negev villages for generations since before Israel's founding.

Travel anywhere in the Middle East, and you are likely to be greeted with the words: Ahlan wa sahlan wa marhaban. Literally translated, the phrase means "Welcome to this flat piece of ground", a throwback to a time when Arab culture was traditionally more nomadic in nature, and visitors may have had a long, perilous journey before reaching friends on the plain.

But the romantic image of the wandering traveller is a far cry from the daily reality experienced by travelling communities. From east to west, theirs is a life more often filled with discrimination, violence and oppression carried out by state authorities attempting to force them to conform with the urban lifestyle.

"It was an experience I'll never forget; police attacking people, beating people, Tasering people," said Pearl, a member of the Dale Farm community.

She is one of a group of more than 200 Irish Travellers who were forced from their own land near Basildon in Essex, south east England, in a series of violent evictions reported to have cost up to £18m ($29m).

The isolation of their community, established in the 1970s, has eerie parallels with the experiences of the Bedouin residents of the Negev, who have faced frequent threats from Israeli state officials since that country's founding - with "unrecognised" villages denied infrastructure services and occasionally simply bulldozed...

Yet it is in Israel where the nomadic way of life has been most greatly criminalised under the pretence of "helping" travelling communities become more "civilised".

Khalil al-Amour is a 46-year-old maths teacher from al-Sira, one of the 45 "unrecognised" Bedouin villages in the Negev desert, southern Israel.

"They [Israeli officials] placed demolition orders on all the homes in my village in 2006," he told Al Jazeera. "There are about 70 families and there about 500 people in al-Sira."

Their homes have not yet been demolished (unlike other Bedouin villages), and are fighting their case through the court system. But their community remains without any of the state services that connect nearby villages, such as being connected to the electricity grid or having paved roads.

"People have been using generators for many years," he said. "Now I am trying to encourage more and more families to use solar systems and solar panels - which [are] very expensive. On the other hand, the fuel used for these generators is very expensive too."

There are some 80,000 Bedouin living in the "unrecognised" villages.

Their community has always been semi-nomadic; seasonally roaming with their herds in search of grazing pastures and returning to their home villages each year.

But when Israel passed its planning and development laws in 1965, it excluded the Bedouin villages of the Negev, "even though the Bedouin were an indigenous population and had been living there for centuries", said Doni Remba, co-director of the Campaign for Bedouin-Jewish Justice in Israel.

His campaign, a project of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and the Jewish Alliance for Change, points out that, in addition to not having any infrastructure services, the Bedouin live under constant threat of enforced expulsion, as Israeli officials "rely on a basically discriminatory law".

"The most recent instance of this has been the series of demolitions which has occurred in the Negev Bedouin village of al-Arakib," Remba told Al Jazeera.

"In that case, the Israeli government sent in as many as 1,300 paramilitary police to violently expel more than 300 men, women and children. The village has been rebuilt and demolished nearly 30 times over the past year and a half alone."

What's more, plans are afoot which Israeli officials claim will be a comprehensive resolution on the status of the Bedouin across the entire Negev.

"The Praver Plan [named after former Netanyahu aide Ehud Praver] involves demolishing 20 unrecognised villages and expelling as many as 20-40,000 of the residents if they do not accept a rather meagre and inadequate offer of compensation," said Remba.

The plan's goal, he said, was to concentrate the entire Bedouin community into the seven government-recognised Bedouin "townships" in the region, which are currently home to around 100,000 people - who had also been forced from their land, he added.

"Because the government has discriminated against them and neglected them so egregiously, the Bedouin are Israel's single most economically disadvantaged population on every socio-economic parameter.

"Even the government-approved towns, though they are 'legal' and not subject to demolition... rank as the seven most socio-economically disadvantaged communities in all of Israel, and that's on unemployment, on poverty, crime, education, even on infant mortality rates.

"The infant mortality rate [in Bedouin villages] is four times that of neighbouring Jewish communities, just a mile or two away - and it's all because of the extreme discrimination in living conditions."

- Doni Remba of Bedouin-Jewish Justice

"The infant mortality rate is four times that of neighbouring Jewish communities, just a mile or two away - and it's all because of the extreme discrimination in living conditions."

The Israeli government intends to "erase" the Bedouin villages and replace them with Jewish communities, "to control the land... tied to the goal of what Prime Minister Netanyahu has called 'maintaining the Jewish majority in the Negev'," Remba told Al Jazeera.

As in the case of the Dale Farm residents, officials say that the relocation will "help" residents comply with planning laws. But, while praising his new plan, even Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted the Bedouin had been neglected in the land on which they had lived for generations.

"After years in which needs were insufficiently met, this government decided to take matters in hand and bring about a long-term solution of the issue," he said.

"Our state is leaping towards the future, and you need to be part of this future... This is an historic opportunity that must not be missed."

- Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel

"The plan will allow the Bedouin, for the first time, to realise their assets and turn them from dead capital into living capital - to receive ownership of the land, which will allow for home construction according to law and for the development of enterprises and employment. This will jump the population forward and provide it with economic independence.

"Our state is leaping towards the future and you need to be part of this future. We want to help you reach economic independence. This plan is designed to bring about development and prosperity. This is an historic opportunity that must not be missed."

This sort of rhetoric does not please many Bedouin, however.

"The problem with the plan is that it is going to uproot all of us from our ancestral land and relocate us into the poorest towns and cities," said al-Amour.

"We are going to be uprooted; we are going to lose our traditions, our life, our culture our values."

- Khalil al-Amour, resident of al-Sira

"We are going to be uprooted; we are going to lose our traditions, our life, our culture, our values - and going to these cities - this is the antithesis of our being, as Bedouin. That is why we oppose the plan. The Jewish people here have the right to choose where they want to live. They can live in a city, they can live in a village, they can live in a moshav, in a kibbutz. The Bedouin people have to be only in cities now. It is ridiculous, it is unbelievable."

Ridiculous, perhaps, but not unbelievable. In fact, many Bedouin and their supporters say the Praver Plan is merely a continuation of state policy that has been ongoing for decades.

In 1963, then-minister of agriculture Moshe Dayan showed his contempt for the Bedouin and their way of life, telling Haaretz:

"We must turn the Bedouin into urban labourers ... It means that the Bedouin will no longer live on his land with his flocks but will become an urbanite who comes home in the afternoon and puts his slippers on. His children will get used to a father who wears pants, without a dagger, and who does not pick out their nits in public. They will go to school, their hair combed and parted. This will be a revolution, but it can be achieved in two generations. Not by coercion, but with direction from the state. This reality that is known as the Bedouin will disappear."

Ongoing campaign

Al-Amour, the Bedouin leader in al-Sira, has been a teacher for 28 years, and is also a lecturer in computer network systems, holds a masters degree in education administration and has just finished his second year of studying law.

He told Al Jazeera that he would keep fighting for his community, and would never leave his nomadic lifestyle behind.

"I will be always moving, to represent my community and my people."

- Khalil al-Amour, resident of al-Sira

"I will be travelling to Geneva and I will attend the meeting of the UN's Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and then after that will be going to Berne and meet supporters in Lausanne. I will be always moving, to represent my community and my people."

Indeed, he - and the thousands like him - have supporters across the globe.

New York-based Doni Remba said that discrimination against Bedouin must end.

"If we believe that Israel is a democracy, as it is claiming to be, that is the minimum that it owes its Bedouin citizens - to give them the same rights and opportunities that it gives to its Jewish citizens.

"[The Praver plan] is a violation of Israel's basic democratic values, and its commitment to equality - and I see it as a violation of basic Jewish moral values."

- Doni Remba, of Bedouin-Jewish Justice

"That was what Israel promised in its declaration of independence - to develop the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants... [the Praver Plan] is a violation of Israel's basic democratic values, and its commitment to equality - and I see it as a violation of basic Jewish moral values.

"I also think it's extremely bad and inflames relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel - and that can't lead to a good end."

Back in Essex, outside Dale Farm, former residents paid tribute to their supporters and called for continued solidarity with travelling communities, as the bailiff company continued to destroy their homes:

"They’re doing things they are not supposed to do," said one resident named Clem. "They are smashing everything up, the bailiffs are making a big mess in the middle of the site. The residents are crying. But when you came to Dale Farm you came to support a cause, because you knew what was happening was wrong. I love you with all my heart. No-one ever stood up for Travellers before, you made history."

Pearl concluded: "I love every activist in the world, without them the world would be a hard, wicked place."

The full text of this article is available at:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

West Bank Settlement Is Outdoing Its Neighboring Bedouin Village, by Ilana Hammerman, in Haaretz

Dozens of people in Umm al-Khayr live in grinding poverty, next to a few hundred people to whom Israel has generously supplied, in the heart of the desert, the amenities for leading a comfortable modern life.

"And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats; and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail; and the woman was of good understanding, and of a beautiful form; but the man was churlish and evil in his doings ... " - 1 Samuel 25:2-3

A tall girl emerged from the doorway of the large one-story house and stood on the tiled space in front. Though palm trees and verdant bushes were all around, there was no shade and the girl stood under the broiling sun. Her clothes divided her lean figure into two: a dark blue blouse with a closed collar and long sleeves; this contrasted with the flaring white skirt that reached halfway down her shins. On her feet were rubber flip-flops. Apart from the skirt, everything about her was dark, including her long brown hair loosely gathered at the back, olive skin and large eyes. She reminded me of one of the girls I had seen in the morning in the village on the other side of the fence. We stared at each other.

"How old are you?" I asked her. "I will be 7 on the 23rd of Tamuz," she replied, lifting one shoulder and tilting her pretty oval head toward it, while charmingly arching her back. "You're cute," I told her. She was silent.

I knew I should explain to her my sudden appearance next to her house - a strange woman in this small settlement where everyone surely knows everyone else. "I'm just on an outing here," I said embarrassedly. "I wanted to see your place. I'm from Jerusalem."

She said nothing. "Do you live here?" I asked. "Yes," she replied. "And what's it like, do you feel good here?" Another stupid question. She gave me a quizzical look and said nothing. "Where do you go to school?" I asked her, trying to find a thread that would connect us across the garden and yard between us. "In Susya," she said - the neighboring settlement. Her reply reminded me where I was and snapped me out of the vacant state of mind I had fallen into after the electric gate of the settlement of Carmel, the little girl's home, let me in a little while before. "Shalom," I said, then went back to the car and hightailed it out of there, first along the access road leading from the house, then onto the street and out of the settlement.

I didn't know anyone yet in Carmel, a gated community south of Hebron in the West Bank. I had entered alone, and after driving once and then twice through its three streets, or maybe four or five, I lapsed into a kind of reverie brought on by my increasingly surrealistic surroundings. No living creature - neither man, woman, nor child, neither dog nor even a stray cat - could be seen on the clean, tidy streets and tiled sidewalks that curve into convenient parking bays. The garbage bins, too, stand implacably in their appointed places, and on both sides are handsome homes with red-tile roofs, most of them nestling amid lush green lawns, trees and bushes.

The streets end at a no-man's-land that circles the settlement, demarcated by a barbed-wire fence. On the other, eastern side of one section of the fence, and almost abutting it, are large tents, tin shacks, lean-tos and makeshift goat pens. Between them, walking or running, were boys, girls, women and teenagers. They are from the Hadaleen Bedouin tribe, next to whose meager dwellings Carmel was established some 30 years ago.

Since then the settlement has taken root and grown. It is now expanding again and continuing to usurp the land of its neighbors, who lived at the site decades before the settlers arrived. Amid the desert vastness, the settlers craved precisely this piece of land. The charming little girl I encountered that day was born and raised there, and my faltering conversation with her next to her house - from which neither tin shacks nor tents are visible - hurtled me back to reality.

Right next to the stately country homes - complete with air-conditioning, drip-irrigation gardens and goldfish ponds - a few extended families including old men, old women and infants live in dwellings made of tin, cloth and plastic siding, though there are a few cinder-block structures, too. They tread on broken, barren ground. They have no running water. They are not connected to the power grid that lights up every settlement and outpost in this remote region. They have no access road.

To get to them, take the asphalt road leading to Carmel's large chicken coops that abut the Bedouin site on the north, and turn off amid the rocks and potholes. Then drive until you see them, "the two clusters of Bedouin," as they are described in an official Defense Ministry document (see box ). Dozens of people live here in grinding poverty, next to a few hundred people to whom Israel has generously supplied, in the heart of the desert, the amenities for leading a comfortable modern life.

Why were they connected in this way - that is, the settlers to the Bedouin? Are there no other places in these expanses for settlement? There is only one reason: They want the Bedouin to leave. They, the settlers. They, the State of Israel. They, us, the people of the State of Israel, all of us. Because the settlers are not alone: Behind them are the powerful, sophisticated forces of a whole country, our country, propelled by its army, laws and all the mechanisms of government that make the Bedouin's lives so unbearable that they will finally get out.

Demolition order for a stove

The families in the Bedouin hamlet of Umm al-Khayr came here more than 60 years ago after Israel expelled them from the Arad Rift to Jordan. After wandering about, they settled in this arid desert region known as the South Hebron Hills. They acquired the land from residents of the nearby town of Yata in return for camels or money - each family and its story, each family and the legal papers it has or doesn't have.

People have lived here like this for generations, and no government authority was ever strict with them about ownership. In any case, no one disputes the fact that they were here, in their desert home, when Israel reached them for the second time, after the war in 1967. Still, the state and its citizens didn't crave their land immediately.

The Bedouin went on living as before for 14 more years until in 1981, when, after decisions by officials, committees and ministers, Carmel arose next to them. As the settlement developed and expanded, so too did its hold on land where the Bedouin lived or grazed their sheep and goats. With the settlers came the infrastructure for electricity, water and sewage, reaching the fence. A few years later, military orders began to rain down on the other side of the fence.

Almost every structure here, even the small lavatories built recently, has a stop-work or demolition order hanging over it. All the orders are based on Article 38 of the Towns, Villages and Buildings Planning Law, which states: "If the local committee or the district planning committee discovers that the construction of any land [sic] or the construction of a building is being executed without a permit or contrary to what a permit stipulates or contrary to valid regulations, orders and directives, or contrary to any approved planning and/or construction project, the relevant committee or its chairman, or any official authorized to act in its name, shall issue an operative warning against the owner, the contractor, the possessor and the foreman .... In particular, the warning shall contain a demand to remove, demolish or change the building or work or to desist from using the said land and to desist from further construction activity."

In short, all the violations that the law - promulgated by a state that considers itself law-abiding, a properly administered state in a region of backward countries and despotic regimes - sought to terminate via demolitions, changes and stop-work orders were apparently perpetrated by the Bedouin. From tent to urinal, from lean-to to wood-burning outdoor stove, everything here was built illegally, without planning and contrary to regulations, orders and directives. Accordingly, the owners and/or holders of these "assets" received detailed orders citing section and plot numbers - even in this forlorn area there are lawfully measured parcels of land - along with type and size of structure.

One such order, for example, refers to "a tent made of iron poles with a cloth roof and a tent made of iron poles with a total area of 70 square meters." Another order challenges the legality of a lavatory - "a tin structure of two square meters" - and of two small tents "with an area of 12 square meters and six square meters." A third, incredibly, takes issue with "a structure made of stone that serves as a tabun," a wood-burning outdoor stove.

That last injunction, issued a year ago, was a stop-work order. But the tabun had been built many years earlier and had been in constant use by a family living nearby. So what did the order mean? According to the stove's owner, it was the family's bad luck that the baking aroma, which is sometimes carried by the wind, irritated the noses of the residents of the new neighborhood in Carmel.

So the settlers took a series of measures. First they threatened their neighbors and made demands, then they broke the structure's clay vessels, then they turned to the state. The state acceded and issued an order from "the Civil Administration for the Judea and Samaria region, Supreme Planning Council, subcommittee for supervision." In other words, a standard order representing a whole hierarchy of authorities that the state has ostensibly made responsible for maintaining law and order in the occupied territories. But these authorities, like the laws themselves, are designed to serve the material and ideological interests of a certain segment of the population who are the authorities' agents and who, for more than four decades, have been implementing every government's annexationist policies in the West Bank. In Umm al-Khayr the tabun and most structures are still standing because they are the subjects of legal proceedings - lengthy, expensive and absurd - that have been going on for years. But every so often the orders are carried out. The last time was two months ago, on the morning of September 8. People from the Civil Administration arrived at Umm al-Khayr with a bulldozer, and soldiers demolished three of the structures previously mentioned: the lavatory, a tent and a tin shack that was home to a family of 10. The wreckers told the villagers they would be back soon for another round of destruction.

Some structures have been demolished once, twice or three times and then rebuilt. The inhabitants refuse to leave. The settlers, acting as if the Bedouin aren't there, continue to create facts on the ground. And it's all sanctioned by law - the state has allotted the settlers large tracts, marked by blue lines on the maps as the regulations require, and the state and its army help the settlers entrench their grip on the land.

So the Bedouin are brutally victimized. Their homes are demolished, the concrete sides of their water cistern are cracked, their fence around a meager plot they are working despite the drought is ripped out, and their shepherds are driven off. Some of these acts are perpetrated by the authorities and the army, some by the settlers. Everything is done openly and is documented on film, though few eyes seek to view the results.

Closed military area

At the settlement of Carmel, why is it that on one side of the fence, roads, homes and public institutions have been built and gardens planted, while on the other side even a stone stove and tin-hut lavatory are fated to be destroyed? Is everything built on one side legal and everything built on the other side illegal? In a word, yes. Precisely for this reason, during Israel's rule in the West Bank, an array of judicial, legislative and planning tools have been perfected: to legalize - in advance or retroactively - Israel's civilian takeover of 43 percent of the West Bank. No less, maybe more.

Carmel is just one example, a good one. First the land was grabbed in a "military seizure" order; then, in January 1981, a Nahal paramilitary outpost was set up there. Then the outpost was "civilianized." The land itself had already been "civilianized" earlier. At the end of 1979, assessors and surveyors assigned the area a new status - "state land" - which, in total contradiction to the international law that applies to occupied territories, koshered Israeli civilian settlement in an area in which the army is sovereign. Most settlements in the West Bank then received the same validation.

The areas designated as state land are made available only to Jews, and they are distributed generously. The land controlled by the settlements extends far beyond their built-up areas and is many times the size of the settlement itself. In Carmel, for example, the built-up area constitutes only one-eighth of the land allotted to the settlement. This "jurisdiction area" has long, grasping tentacles - as can be seen in Civil Administration data - all of it classified in a special order as a "closed military zone."

Closed to civilians? No. Like all Israeli settlements in the West Bank, it's open to every Israeli, civilian or soldier, and to whoever "is eligible to immigrate to Israel under the provisions of the Law of Return or possesses a valid entry visa to Israel." It's closed to all other human beings. Above all, it's closed to the Bedouin of Umm al-Khayr, who are not Israelis and are not eligible to immigrate under the Law of Return and don't have an entry visa to the Jewish state. So these people, who have lived here all their lives, are having more and more problems residing in their dwellings - which are designated for demolition. And they're also having problems grazing their sheep, their main source of livelihood. The last time I visited the village I saw a herd of goats returning in the heat of day from pasture. I watched them from afar as they took a very long, twisting path. The shorter route passed the spot where I was standing, but here, in the middle of nowhere, there is a standard, albeit tilting, road sign that states: "No entry." To whom is the sign conveying this information in this wasteland? Someone who must have wondered the same thing pasted the picture of a goat on the sign. In other words, from this point on there is no passage for herders and their animals.

Yes, this empty zone, a long way from Carmel's latest new homes, is in the settlement's area of jurisdiction. This year, on Tu Bishvat (Jewish Arbor Day ), the settlers planted a few trees and set out wooden tables and benches for anyone who wished to relax here, precisely here. The result is that the shepherds and goatherds must take another wider bypass in addition to the bypasses the built-up area and fence already impose on them.

It's here that the main violent confrontations have been taking place. Because there is no fence in this zone, the settlers and army show the Bedouin their limits by shouting, pushing and kicking. These actions can be seen in visits to the area or in photos and videos on the Internet.

An idyllic situation, at first

I returned to Carmel a week later - this time, at my request, as an invited guest. My host, Ron Tzurel, received me with genuine cordiality. He has lived in the settlement from its inception and in 1979 worked for a short time with the surveyors who delineated the "state land" where his home was later built. His house is one of the closest to the fence and thus to the Bedouin's tents and tin shacks. Their desolate soil abuts his garden and he is friendly with a few of them, speaks their language and helps them out occasionally. He says he is grieved by their plight and wants to see their conditions improved.

In the beginning the situation was idyllic, Tzurel told me. The Bedouin worked in the settlement and earned a decent wage; the settlers even hooked them up to their water system. But long ago something bad happened. A Bedouin man named Ibrahim was arrested on suspicion of doing something prohibited. He never returned to his family in Umm al-Khayr, and to this day Tzurel doesn't know what Ibrahim allegedly did. In any event, the water supply to the Bedouin was cut off and that was the end of the neighborly relations.

Now, years later, all we hear - and see - from the Bedouin across the fence are complaints about harassment by the army and settlers. But Tzurel is a believing Jew and the return of the Jewish people to their land is for him an auspicious development, a great and joyful event. So it's inconceivable, he says, that it should entail injustice - there is room here for both Carmel's residents and the Bedouin.

Indeed, from his big living-room door that opens onto the garden, the desert's endless vistas are visible beyond the Bedouin's nearby hovels. He didn't ask why the Bedouin don't move there and I didn't ask him why he had come to this particular place. I did ask him about the settlement's new neighborhood, which is also visible from his house and which is causing the Bedouin further problems. He replied by citing a fact about which there's no doubt: The neighborhood was built legally, within Carmel's area of jurisdiction.

Tzurel is both a law-abiding man and a visionary; the two traits sit very well together here, from his viewpoint and to his satisfaction. The state gave the settlement this land and it must be settled with as many Jews as possible. That's the great vision, the dream that is coming true. And it's coming true here on both sides of the Green Line, which is unmarked and unknown in this part of the country.

My affable host showed me this clearly when he drove me in his pickup to see the area's agricultural wonders, from the cowshed run jointly by the settlements of Carmel and Ma'on, to the crops grown jointly by the settlements of Carmel, Ma'on and Beit Yatir. The cowshed is to the north of the vanished Green Line, atop a hill between Ma'on and Carmel; the fields stretch out to the south of the line in the Arad Rift.

The settlers have developed a model farm on both sides of the irrelevant line. The cowshed - clean, spacious and state-of-the-art - produces millions of liters of milk a year. Using an innovative method that treats the cows' solid and liquid wastes, it also produces high-quality compost to be used as fertilizer. The milk is marketed by Israel's giant Tnuva cooperative. The compost is used mainly to fertilize the fields of the three settlements in the Arad Rift. The fields are worked magnificently and are saturation-irrigated with water from purified ponds, originating in the liquid sewage of the nearby city of Arad.

Tzurel showed me all this during the long tour he gave me. He was proud but not arrogant. He's a dyed-in-the-wool farmer and highly knowledgeable, and his explanations were clear and interesting. In the Arad Rift he also pointed out the Bedouin tent encampments scattered at the fields' edges. With his accustomed sincerity he told me that the fields had been given to him and his colleagues in the Nahal group back at the end of the 1970s, to place these areas in Jewish hands and prevent the Bedouin from taking them over. They were then also given the land on the other side of the Green Line, because that's where they chose to settle, where they believe to be the site of the biblical settlement of Carmel. They chose to build their homes in the conquered territories, which they believe were given to the Jewish people, together with the whole land.

The result, as I could clearly see, is that they now have a hold, to their hearts' and spirits' content, on both sides of the Green Line. As for the deceptive, abstract line, it has been erased, it no longer exists - not only in their view but in the situation on the ground.

The dairy products and the fruit of the land are marketed by Israeli companies, and no boycott can separate them from the rest of the fruit of the land, while the Bedouin are being evicted. It's all part of one policy, consistent and systematic. One state rules here in full and its ways have not changed over the years. They are constantly fine-tuned and have long since made a laughingstock of the "peace process" and its stages, from Oslo to the various road maps.

On that day, in the company of Ron Tzurel, I felt defeated, but above all, I was forced to open my eyes. What you see in the land of the settlers, you don't have to see from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. And even if you know what's there it's easy and convenient to ignore it. That was the main lesson I learned that day.

The second lesson is much harder to articulate. It came to me gradually, without coming fully into focus, when, after the tour, we chatted in Tzurel's living room. We listened to each other politely and patiently. Ron and two of his daughters, who at some point hesitatingly joined us, tried to persuade me in pleasant tones that, contrary to my hard-and-fast opinion, no gulf separates us. They are good, decent folk and advocate the same humane values as I do.

They are not racists, they are not Arab haters, and most of all, they are not extremists or zealots. This they took pains to emphasize. It's clear that they're genuinely sorry that I and many other Israelis refuse to see this and instead denounce and shun them.

I told them about the injustice against civilians in the West Bank that I have witnessed and documented for many years. They listened. Occasionally it seemed that Tzurel even grimaced with sorrow. In any event, they didn't justify those actions and didn't dispute what I said. They said something else: They simply don't know about all that. Nor does it especially interest them, Tzurel admitted. In this they are like most Israelis, he said, echoing something I had said a moment earlier. I had said that most Israelis don't know and don't want to know about these things. Well, they too are Israelis, so why do I think that the settlers are different from most Israelis? They too don't know and don't really want to know.

And I, who all this time could see from the corner of my eye the barbed-wire fence, the tents and the tin shacks on the other side, and also did not forget the military orders, the settlers and the soldiers who kick the goats and chase away the goatherds - I did not find the words to answer him on this. Because I couldn't see evil and wickedness in him, in this polite person sitting across from me at the family dining table and looking at me with his smiling, honest eyes. Suddenly I wasn't so sure I had a moral advantage over him: From my home in West Jerusalem I can't see what's happening in Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah, Ras al-Amud and Qalandiyah - an urban version of the things happening in the South Hebron Hills.

Like him, I too am responsible for the illegal laws of the state whose legislative and executive branches were elected by a majority of the members of my nation. The fact that he supports them and benefits from them directly, whereas I benefit indirectly, is not enough to create a moral buffer between us. He is not one of the shooters, kickers and rampagers under the army's protection, and he denounces them too.

True, those people are members of his settlement, but by the same token the dispossessors and harassers in the neighborhoods annexed to Jerusalem are residents of my city. And the Jews who turned the center of Hebron into a desolate ghost town, strewn with fences and roadblocks and filled with soldiers, bases and guard positions, are members of my nation and his nation. They're citizens of my country and his country.

So are the inhabitants of the settlements of Yitzhar and Har Bracha, outside Nablus, for whom infrastructure was built and roads paved on "state land" by the decision of an elected Israeli government "to expand settlement in Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Rift Valley, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights by increasing the population of the existing communities and by establishing additional communities on state-owned land."

All according to the law, in a law-abiding state.


Source of name: Biblical

Type of settlement and organizational affiliation: Cooperative moshav, Amana (the settlement arm of the Gush Emunim movement)

Population: 417

District: Hebron

Municipal affiliation: Hebron Hills

Local government decisions:
1. September 14, 1980 − approval to establish the settlement
2. July 5, 1981 − approval for a civilian settlement
Date of establishment: As a Nahal outpost, January 1981; civilian status, May 1981
Land status: State domain lands, previously under military seizure order ‏(issued jointly with the Ma’on outpost‏)

Nearby outposts: None

Execution of valid detailed plans:
Plan No. 507 allows for construction of 81 residential units. Many structures do not conform to authorized plan ‏(residential structures in a green area and trailer homes in industrial zone‏). There are also 15 lots.
Builder: Housing and Construction Ministry, Rural Construction Directorate, Amana

1. There are five chicken coops and agricultural structures northeast of the settlement. They are not classified as irregular because they are agricultural structures consistent with provisions of Mandatory plan that applies to this area.
2. There are two clusters of Bedouin east of the settlement.

Source: Database compiled by Brig. Gen. ‏(res.‏) Baruch Spiegel

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