The Israeli government approves a plan for five new settlements in the Negev/Naqab. Rights group says the plan, like Israel’s overall policy regarding its Bedouin citizens, is discriminatory.
Two of the settlements are due to be built where Bedouin villages already exist, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). The new town of Daya is to be established on top of the unrecognized village of Katamat, which would displace its 1,500 Bedouin residents. Neve Gurion, meanwhile, is meant to be built on part of the land of the recognized village of Be’er Hadaj, home to 6,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel.
“This decision is a mere continuation of the government’s unequal planning policy, which attempts to move the inhabitants of Bedouin villages to urban or semi-urban settlements or existing townships, which are ranked at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder and are already under significant stress,” ACRI wrote in a statement on Sunday.
The government’s announcement comes just weeks after the unrecognized Bedouin village of Al-Araqib in the Negev was demolished for the 90th time. Israel’s continual razing of Al Araqib began in 2010, and the village has become a symbol of the ethnic discrimination that characterizes the state’s policies in the Negev.
Since the founding of the State of Israel, Jewish settlement in the Negev has been considered Zionism’s final frontier — an impression largely instilled by the vision of David Ben-Gurion, the country’s first prime minister. “It is in the Negev that the people of Israel will be tested,” Ben-Gurion said in the 1950s.
“Only with a united effort … will we accomplish the great mission of populating the wilderness and bringing it to flourish. This effort will determine the fate of the State of Israel and the standing of our people in the history of mankind.” Several years later, he reiterated: “The Negev is a great Zionist asset, with no substitute anywhere in the country.”
Sixty years later, the wheels of Ben-Gurion’s dream have been firmly set in motion. The Prawer Plan, a government framework for forcibly moving thousands of Bedouin living in unrecognized villages in the Negev into impoverished townships, seemed dead in the water until the last elections. During coalition negotiations, the plan was resuscitated as a bargaining chip between the Likud and Jewish Home, with Naftali Bennett leveraging its revival as a condition for joining the government.
Israeli is also expropriating large tracts of Bedouin land – either for “greening” (i.e. planting forests on top of the ruins of demolished villages) under the auspices of the JNF, or for building new Jewish settlements on top of Bedouin towns, as is the state’s wont.
Israel has systematically refused to recognize many of the Negev villages and towns in which Bedouin citizens live, meaning that they have no connections to electricity, water or sewage infrastructure, and are in constant danger of demolition. The new suburban settlements the state builds in the Negev are generally designated for Jews, whereas Bedouin are encouraged to move to Bedouin-only townships that lack economic opportunities and are not designed with Bedouin social structures in mind.
The Negev village of Umm el-Hiran is perhaps the most blatant example of how the state hopes to displace Bedouin citizens for the benefit of Jewish citizens. The Israeli Supreme Court recently upheld plans to demolish Umm el-Hiran and build a Jewish town, named Hiran, in its place. Umm el-Hiran’s Bedouin residents would be forcibly relocated to the nearby township of Hura, according to the state’s plans.
Adjacent to Umm el-Hiran is the village of Atir, which also faces destruction — so that the JNF can expand a manmade forest, named Yatir, over its ruins. (Notice the pattern of only slightly altering names to Hebraize them?)
Housing Minister Galant on Sunday evoked Ben-Gurion when praising the government’s passing of his plan [Heb]: “It is our responsibility to settle the Negev … to turn it into a desirable and thriving area, in keeping with the Zionist vision,” he said.
Originally published at +972 on Nov. 23, 2015
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By Jack Khoury and Shirly Seidler, Ha'aretz Jun 09, 2015
The residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court for another hearing, following its previous ruling that they could be evacuated and the village demolished to make way for the construction of a Jewish community, named Hiran.
The residents, who are represented by the legal aid NGO Adalah, argued in their petition that last month’s ruling constituted a “new and historic law,” requiring another hearing before an expanded Supreme Court bench.
In terms of the “new and historic law,” according to the petition states, “the state may, as owner of the land, instruct that the residents be evacuated at any time it wants, even if the state itself gave them permission to use the land and live there, as it gave the residents of Umm al-Hiran.”
In so doing, according to the petition, the state “utterly ignored the lengthy period of time the citizens lived on the land,” and made it impossible for them to protect themselves constitutionally.
“The state is the owner of the disputed land, which was registered to it in the framework of an arrangement process,” Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote in the verdict that has been challenged by Umm al-Hiram residents. “The residents did not buy the right to the land but rather lived on it for free with permission, which has been legally abrogated by the state. Under such circumstances there is no justification for the intervention of the courts in previous verdicts.”
Justice Daphne Barak-Erez, who did not accept Rubinstein’s decision in its entirety, was critical of the state’s actions. “The petitioners cannot receive all the redress they seek, but we cannot accept the faults in the actions of the authorities regarding the decision on evacuation and compensation,” she said.
“It has been noted that the petitioners were authorized to live in the place for some 60 years and the fact that the state insists that the new settlement is not restricted and is open to every person, including the petitioners themselves should they want to [live there.] Thus, for example, the state can consider the possibility, besides moving them to Hura [another Negev Bedouin town], of providing them with lots in the new community of Hiran.”
Adalah acknowledges that the chances of legal success are slim and intends focusing its main effort on a public struggle. In a petition published by the Umbrella Organization of Human Rights and Social Organizations in Israel, the evacuation was defined as an “unjust, racist and discriminatory step.”
The steering committee of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee announced that thousands of residents of the unrecognized villages in the Negev would come to Be’er Sheva next Thursday to protest against the house demolitions. The intention is to march from market square to the government buildings.
Another protest against house demolitions will be held at the entrance to the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm in Wadi Ara this evening.
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