By Stephen Lendman
In October, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, together with nine other human rights organizations, addressed a position paper on "The unconstitutionality of the state’s policy of demolishing Arab Bedouin unrecognized villages in the Negev" to three Israeli officials:
— Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
— Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, and
— Minister of Justice Yaakov Neeman.
Citing the illegality of home demolitions, in this case of Arab Israeli citizens, they urged halting them immediately and finding a durable solution for unrecognized village residents. In Salim Abu- Medeghem v. The Israel Land Administration (April 14, 2007), Israel’s High Court proposed replacing demolitions with solutions based on dialogue, Justice Arbel ruling:
"….the difficult reality the Bedouin population faces in the State of Israel requires a systemic, complete and comprehensive solution, and the sooner the better…The time has come to formulate and implement a truly comprehensive solution to this problem."
It explained that Israeli Arabs live mainly in all-Arab towns and villages in three heartlands – the Galilee in the north; what’s called the "Little Triangle" in the center along the Israeli side of the Green Line; and the Negev in the south.
Up to 150,000 Bedouin Arabs, Israeli citizens, live in so-called "unrecognized villages," mainly in the Galilee and Negev. They’re unrecognized because their residents are considered internal refugees, forced from their homes during Israel’s War of Independence and prevented from returning. Thereafter, they’ve been relentlessly mistreated, including by repressive zoning restrictions, prohibiting construction, agriculture, and other legal rights.
They’re also been denied essential services, including water, electricity, roads, transport, sanitation, education, healthcare, postal and telephone service, refuse removal and more because under Israel’s Planning and Construction Law they’re illegal. More recently, stepped up efforts to demolish their homes and villages are dispossessing them, making way for Jewish development, much like what’s ongoing throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Adalah and the other human rights organizations want it stopped. Negev Bedouins number around 80,000. After earlier concentrating them in the desert’s eastern portion, a policy of reducing their living space began in the 1990s. Today, Israel wants to remove as many as possible, disregarding their basic rights.
Since 1948, Israeli master plans completely ignored the unrecognized villages, denying their residents rights afforded Jews. The ongoing injustice continues relentlessly, today pursuing a policy of destroying entire villages, forcible displacements then following.
Examples include Al-Araqib. On July 27, 2010, at 4:30AM, the whole village was razed, its 45 homes demolished, illegal force used against men, women and children. Without warning, police stormed the village, wearing face masks and no IDs. Income Tax Authority representatives came with them, lawlessly seizing assets, purportedly to cover unverified debts.
The episode was appalling, leaving residents traumatized, their homes razed in front of their eyes, their possessions seized, and no alternative housing provided. After rebuilding four times, authorities again destroyed them.
Umm al-Hieran – Atir is home to about 1,100 Bedouins, evacuation and expulsion orders pending against them on grounds of trespassing. As a result, many village homes got demolition orders. Residents have lived there since 1956 after members of the Abu al-Qi’an tribe were expelled from Wadi Zuballa (today part of the Kibbutz Shoval). However, according to various master plans, part of their village is earmarked for a Jewish town to be called Hiran.
Al-Sura is another example, situated on Al-Nasasra tribe land, predating Israel’s creation. All village houses got demolition orders, their land to be stolen for industrial development excluding them.
In August 2010, demolitions occurred in Jarabe, Abda, Abu al-Sulab, Al-Shihabi (Abu Tulul) and Baqurnub. There and in other villages, the practice has been longstanding. However, 2010 saw a dramatic rise, by early October destroying over 200 homes, properties and other possessions confiscated. Moreover, hundreds of olive trees were uprooted and agricultural crops destroyed.
Israel’s Disregard for Its Arab Minority
Home demolitions violate their legal rights to dignity, housing, health and life, mistreatment Israel Jews don’t face. Loss of their homes also violates a Supreme Court ruling that the right to housing is part of their minimal subsistence. It’s therefore part of their legal right to dignity.
In Preminger v. Mor (1997), Justice Strasberg-Cohen held that:
"human dignity is a fundamental constitutional value in our society. No one would dispute that it is necessary to safeguard a person’s dignity even if he has failed or fallen into debt, and that he should not be left without a roof over his head."
In Ajouri v. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank (2002), the Court held that "A person’s home is not only a roof over his head, but also a means for the physical and social location of the person, of his private life and social relations."
Moreover, since Bedouin life is especially harsh, authorities have an added responsibility to ensure shelter. In Commitment to Peace and Social Justice NGO v. The Minister of Finance (2005), the Court ruled that dignity included the right to minimal living conditions to ensure protection for human life. As such, the state is duty bound to care for those with meager means. Retired Chief Justice Barak ruled:
"The basic laws protect the right to dignity, including the aspect of material subsistence required for the exercise of (this right). From this viewpoint, (that entails) the right to conduct his normal life as a human being without his distress defeating him and bringing him to a state of intolerable impoverishment."
International laws also affirm these rights, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. ICESCR’s Article 11 defines elements to adequate housing to include:
— affordability, so that obtaining it doesn’t jeopardize other essential needs;
— a prohibition against discriminatory laws;
— the right to privacy;
— protection from arbitrary eviction;
— accessibility to infrastructure and services, including health, education, and employment;
— the right to choose residency locations; and
— to live in culturally adaptable housing.
Other international laws specify rights for women and children, and for authorities to assure them. Evicting Bedouin Arabs and demolishing the homes and villages, based on their nationality and religion, clearly violates their rights under Israeli and international law. Worse still, it’s being done solely for Jewish development, showing contempt for Arab citizens, violating basic human rights and freedoms.
Jewish Hiran will replace Umm al-Hieran. Al-Araqib will be demolished for Givot Barr. In addition, individual Jewish settlements are being approved, some in violation of planning policy. For example, in July 2010, a Negev Development Authority Law amendment passed, recognizing Negev Jewish settlers, master plans for them to follow. As a result, Bedouin rights will be trashed, fundamental laws violated, even though as Dr. Sandy Kedar explains:
Negev Bedouins are a recognized indigenous minority, their historical existence and presence predating Israel’s existence. Their land and property rights are indisputable. Israel’s Basic Law affirms them, requiring authorities to protect them as well as other basic rights.
Israel’s Or Commission, established in October 2000, recommended that Bedouin villages be recognized and developed, saying:
"The land conflict has existed since the first days of the state….The Arab public strongly supports and identifies with the Bedouin’s stance." Though Israeli citizens, their "villages are not recognized (and) have not been provided with infrastructure and services….The vast majority of residents of the unrecognized villages were required to move to a number of central towns that were planned for them….Several public associations have formed to" protect them." They deserve equitable conflict resolution.
In 2007, Israel’s Housing and Construction minister appointed the Goldberg Committee to resolve this issue. On November 11, 2008, the Committee recommended that all Negev Bedouin villages be recognized. In addition, Bedouin citizens should be granted land ownership rights.
On January 18, 2009, authorities then approved Decision No. 4411, deciding that it "regards the outline proposed by the committee as a basis for resolving the settlement of the Bedouin in the Negev." Then, in June 2010, the "Investigator’s Recommendations Regarding the Objections to District Master Plan 23-1404 – A Partial District Master Plan for the Beersheva Metropolitan Area" was published. It also recommended recognition.
In July 2010, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) issued its "Concluding Observations" on Israel’s third periodic report, expressing concern about home demolitions and forced evictions. HRC called on Israel to respect Bedouin rights to their land and agricultural livelihoods on it.
The UN CERD Committee, responsible for monitoring the state’s implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination expressed concern in June 2007 over Israeli violations, saying Bedouin village and land rights must be recognized.
In 2005, the UN CEDAW Committee, responsible for monitoring states’ implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women expressed outrage over how Bedouin women were being treated.
In 2002, the UN CAT Committee, responsible for monitoring the state’s implementation of the International Convention Against Torture (CAT), determined that Israel’s home demolition and displacement policy constituted, in some cases, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, violating the statute.
Adalah attorney Sawsan Zaher asked the above addressed officials to halt their aggressive policies, replacing them with constructive dialogue for acceptable solutions. International and Israeli law demand it. As in the past on all Jewish/Muslim issues, they were unresponsive. As a result, Israeli lawlessness continues relentlessly, the rule of law a non-starter, Bedouin Arab citizens victimized like other Israeli Arabs and Occupied Palestinians, justice for them still denied.
– Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his blog at: sjlendman.blogspot.com.