UN Sec. Council Votes to Condemn israel’s Illegal Settlements

UN Sec. Council Votes to Condemn Settlements

Vote Is 14-0 With the United States Abstaining

Netanyahu: Obama ‘Colluded’ Against Israel With UN

For the first time in 36 years, the United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution criticizing the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, calling them an obstacle to the two-state solution, and calling on Israel to reverse the expansions of the settlements. The vote was unanimous, 14-0, with only the United States abstaining.

The resolution was initially scheduled for vote on Thursday as an Egypt-sponsored measure, but Egypt withdrew it in the face of Israeli lobbying, and a push from US President-elect Donald Trump. The identical resolution was raised today by Malaysia, Senegal, Venezuela, and New Zealand, and finally got its vote.

Israeli officials again scrambled to try to block the resolution, suggesting the US owed them a veto, though that ultimately did not happen. Egypt voted in favor of the resolution despite blocking it yesterday, insisting that the delay was just a “procedural” matter and that Egypt supports Palestinian statehood more than anyone.

US Ambassador Samantha Power insisted that abstaining from the vote was in keeping with long-standing US policy, saying that they agreed with the language of the resolution, and that’s why they didn’t veto it. She also railed against the United Nations in general for not being sufficiently pro-Israel, saying the legitimacy of the UN is at stake in allowing such resolutions.

Israeli officials have indicated that the resolution will not effect any of their policies, and that they will continue with the expansion of settlements, irrespective of what the UN vote says.

Stolen Palestinian land will never belong to israel

The ways of making seized Palestinian land ‘legally’ Israeli

Land Takeover Practices Employed by Israel in the West Bank

Press release on position paper by Yesh Din
September 27, 2016

The position paper titled “Land Takeover Practices Employed by Israel in the West Bank”, published by Yesh Din, reviews and analyzes some of the methods used by various official Israeli bodies to take over land in the West Bank, as well as the results of legal proceedings undertaken by Palestinian residents, with Yesh Din’s help, in order to fight the land grab.

A survey of the proceedings in which Yesh Din represented Palestinian residents of the West Bank before the courts and various Civil Administration committees provides an overall picture of the practices and manoeuvres the Israeli authorities use in order to increase the reservoir of land meant to serve Israeli interests in the West Bank.

International law prohibits the exploitation of the occupied territory to serve the needs of the occupier. Therefore, increasing the amount of land Israel builds on requires either legal acrobatics designed to create the appearance of the rule of law, or brazen defiance of the law while law enforcement authorities turn a blind eye.

The legal proceedings led by Yesh Din, and others, have challenged the state, especially with respect to unauthorized outposts in the OPT. These proceedings have forced Israel to expose its policy regarding the issue. One example is that after many years of claiming that any illegal construction must be removed, regardless of the status of the land, more recently, Israel’s official position has been that illegal construction on privately owned Palestinian land must be removed, but, any illegal construction on public land would be retroactively authorized.

As a result of the new position presented by the state, illegal construction on privately owned Palestinian land has stopped almost completely. However, there is a trend of declaring land in the West Bank as public land, or as it is commonly referred to, state land. Though public land is meant to serve the needs of the local population of the occupied territory – in practice, the Civil Administration allocates public land almost exclusively for the use of the settlements.

In order to implement this new policy, all state authorities and Civil Administration bodies have been mobilized to favour offenders and find administrative and procedural solutions that would allow the retroactive authorization of structures or communities, instead of fulfilling their duty to enforce the law and protect the property of the local population in the occupied territory, as required under international law and according to the rulings of Israel’s High Court of Justice.



Palestinian land south of Jericho, confiscated by Israel then retroactively legalised as Israeli state land, 2015. Photo by Bernat Armangue/AP

Land take-over practices employed by Israel in the West Bank (pdf file)
To read or download full report, click the headline above

Chapter 1, Background.

One of the key aspects of Israel’s control over the West Bank is its effort towards the control of land. This effort takes place mostly in Area C, which is under full Israeli control, and it is partly manifested in the thriving settlement enterprise which Israel has established in this area. According to international humanitarian law, the establishment of Israeli communities inside the OPT– settlements and outposts alike – is forbidden.

Yet, despite this prohibition, Israel began building settlements in the West Bank almost immediately following its occupation of the area. Over the years of occupation, successive Israeli governments have initiated, approved, planned and funded settlements in the West Bank, and have instituted a system of benefits and financial incentives to encourage Israeli citizens to relocate to these settlements.

Twentyfour local and regional Israeli councils are currently active in the West Bank. These councils govern 126 settlements, where approximately 385,900 Israeli citizens live. In the 1990s, as a result of international pressure and obligations, the official building of new settlements stopped. At the same time, in order to sustain the West Bank settlement enterprise, beginning in the mid-1990s, settlements began being established without official support from the State of Israel, but with help and involvement (both directly and indirectly) from public bodies and authorities representing the State. These settlements were referred to as “unauthorized outposts”.

There are currently 100 unauthorized outposts in the West Bank, all in Area C, with an estimated population of 10,000. Eighty of the unauthorized outposts were either partially or completely built on privately owned Palestinian land. The jurisdiction areas of many settlements are much larger than the area they actually use.

In 2013, the total area under the jurisdiction of settlements, including regional councils, stood at 1.2 million dunams (roughly 120,000 hectares), or 63% of Area C.5 In practice, the area covered by the settlement enterprise is larger, as it also includes the unauthorized outposts, many of which are outside local council jurisdiction areas, as well as their farmland.


IDF soldiers on manoeuvres at a firing zone, Palestinian land seized in the West Bank. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi

Palestinians are barred from entering all of these areas, by virtue of a “closed military zone” order which prohibits entry without a permit. The settlements command an area that is larger than their residential, built-up portion. Each community has a system of access roads, and each is assigned vast areas intended to ensure the residents’ safety. Many settlements include farmland, industry and commerce zones, green areas and parks, and in many of them the distance between the houses is so large, that the space they take up has no direct correlation to the number of people living in them.


Fence enclosing the Israeli settlement of Tekoa built on seized Palestinian land in the West Bank. Photo by Emily Harris/NPR

Settlements and outposts are constantly expanding, which means constant efforts to take over more land. Israeli takeover of land in the West Bank is pursued in many different ways, including: building residential and public buildings on Palestinian land as a way of creating a “fait accompli”, agricultural invasions, putting up fences around certain areas, installing structures, building roads, declaring certain areas archeological sites or nature reserves, confiscating land, declaring land as public land, declaring land as a military firing zone, attempts to have land registered by the Primary Registration Committee and more. These takeover methods fit into two broad, and somewhat complementing, categories. One category involves invading Palestinian land and using it for Israeli purposes, the other involves denying Palestinians access to land, in order to prevent them from using it for their own needs.

Legal action has proved more effective than the dangerous protests always made by Palestinians about the seizure of their land. This protest marks the 40th anniversary of ‘Land Day’ demonstrations against land confiscations by the Israeli government.

Crowds marched from the Palestinian villages of Arraba and Deir Hanna to Sakhnin to commemorate the 1976 demonstrations in which six Palestinian citizens of Israel were shot dead by Israeli police and more than 100 people were injured.

The occasion marked one of the first displays of mass coordinated action by Palestinians inside Israel, after the government published plans to expropriate around 20,000 dunums (almost 5,000 acres) of land from Sakhnin and Arraba. The land was later used to establish Jewish settlements and a military training camp.

Some of the methods Israel uses to take over land involve breaking the law. These are cases in which there is no dispute that the land in question belongs to Palestinians (whether privately owned, or public land that belongs to the natural blocs of Palestinian villages), yet still, the land is used to build structures or roads, unlawfully, without permits and without any enforcement measures by the authorities.

Another type of land grab involves more systematic, institutionalized practices Israel uses in order to change the classification and use of West Bank land. This allows Israel to expropriate possession and use of this land from Palestinian residents, in order to serve Israeli interests. Using methods available within the law, such as issuing seizure orders for military purposes, issuing public land declarations, confiscating land for public use and using various planning tools, Israel uses its bureaucracy to transfer more and more land to Israeli control and possession.

These methods share a single purpose: reducing Palestinian access to, and use of, land around Palestinian villages and communities, for the ultimate goal of effecting the loss of Palestinian connection to the land and their ability to hold on to it. Through this gradual process, more and more land is handed over to Israeli control and use, mostly to the settlements and outposts that are scattered throughout the West Bank.

Land grabs limit Palestinians’ freedom of movement, their ability to live off the land and deprives them of their personal connection to the land, their history and their collective culture.

Aside from the clear land grab, Israeli takeover of land in the West Bank has additional grave repercussions, as it severely undermines Palestinians’ freedom of movement and their ability to live off their land. It also deprives them of their personal connection to the land, their history and their collective culture.

Over the past decades, Yesh Din has been working to protect Palestinian property rights, and help Palestinians handle various manifestations of land grab involving breaches of the law, or acts that exceed authority. This legal activity has been carried out in different instances in Israel and the West Bank, primarily the High Court of Justice. Other organizations and private lawyers work alongside Yesh Din to fight for the rights of Palestinians, and to challenge Israel’s land grab policy. The results and repercussions results and repercussions presented in this document are the fruit of these joint efforts.

This report is an interim summary of Yesh Din’s legal activity in this field. It offers a glimpse into the range of practices used to keep Palestinians off land in the West Bank and help Israel take over more and more land, both overtly and covertly. This report does not purport, nor can it purport, to cover all the practices used to drive Palestinians out of land located in the West Bank. However, after ten years of legal activity, it is broad enough to attest to the wide variety of measures used, and the degree of State involvement in these actions.

In addition, a summary and analysis of the State’s responses to petitions and other legal proceedings launched by Yesh Din, and a review of the decisions made in these cases, provides an indication as to the State’s willingness to give remedy to Palestinians who are faced with illegal attempts to dispossess them and drive them away from their land.

This document groups the scores of proceedings in which Yesh Din has helped Palestinian landowners, according to seven different practices used by Israel to take over land. An explanation is provided for the type of legal proceeding used to challenge each practice, together with information on how many such proceedings Yesh Din’s legal team has filed and what issues these proceedings have covered. We have also collated the results of proceedings that were concluded.

Since legal results do not always translate into access to land, in this section, we separate the formal results of the proceedings from the results on the ground, as well as further developments that arise from the discrepancy between the legal results and the situation on the ground. Even in cases in which the court ruled in favour of landowners, the reality in the West Bank being what it is, in practice, many of these landowners do not manage to exercise their rights to the land – to access it or to cultivate it.

In some cases, Israeli security forces deny or restrict Palestinians’ access to land. In other cases, although the military does permit access (either permanently or subject to prior arrangements), Palestinian landowners are fearful of entering land that is close to settlements or outposts, feeling that their mere presence on the land puts them in danger. In the sections relating to the results of proceedings, we have included references to the significance and ramifications attached both to the rulings themselves and to their implementation. In these sections, we have attempted to provide a wider context for the implementation of the court decisions, and the practices that have developed following the legal proceedings.

An overview of all proceedings reveals that the immediate, main outcome of the legal pressure put on the State as a result of the petitions was the near complete cessation of illegal construction on privately owned Palestinian land. This was previously the main method for developing and expanding settlements and outposts. Most construction currently takes place on public land or survey land.

The pressure created by the proceedings that challenged illegal construction has also led to an official, dramatic change in Israel’s policy regarding the outposts. Ever since the building of outposts began in the 1990s, Israel’s official position has been that the outposts were unlawful and should be dismantled. In 2011, a vivid shift took place, and the State is now actively seeking legal ways to retroactively authorize the outposts and turn them into official settlements, which are considered legal under Israeli law. One clear feature of the legal work is that the legal remedy is not necessarily dependent on a ruling. Though some petitions have led to precedent-setting decisions ordering the removal of illegally – constructed structures, many petitions were stricken in the early stages of the proceedings, without a judicial decision being handed down, because State authorities had taken action to restore landowners’ rights following the submission of the petition.

In some cases, the State quickly provided the remedy sought in the petition, without a judicial decision, in order to avoid a judgment it would have to follow in similar cases in the future. In these cases, when remedy is given before a judgment is delivered, the specific remedy is obtained, but the achievement is lacking on the point of principle and does not preclude future use of the same injurious practice. In the cases in which the court did issue a judgment, the State’s attempts to delay, circumvent and even avoid upholding it have been rather conspicuous. Given these attempts, in recent years, the High Court has given the State extended periods of time to implement the court’s decisions, and stressed the obvious – the State must comply with the schedule set forth in these decisions. This document ends with a table of proceedings with references to all the petitions and judgments mentioned in it.

 

This only happens in occupied Palestine

This only happens in occupied Palestine

Dr Daud Abdullah | MEMO | October 7, 2016

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Dr Daud Abdullah | MEMO | October 7, 2016

After a visit to Hebron in 1996, the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said wrote, “The present situation cannot last, there are too many inequities and injustices at the heart of Palestinian life.” Two decades on, there is no end in sight to the wretched conditions he deplored back then. On the contrary, they have grown worse.

Not even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s controversial decision to attend the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres was enough to bring about a token suspension of the daily torment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Immediately after his return to Ramallah, Israel declared Tel Rumeida, a neighbourhood in the Governorate of Hebron, to be a closed military area.

As is always the case when such closures are imposed, Palestinian students and residents who attempted to attend classes or go about their daily affairs were told to return to their homes until the 600 illegal Jewish settlers living in Hebron had observed their religious festivities. These celebrations are expected to last several days and so the ancient Ibrahimi Mosque was also closed to Muslim worshippers for six days.

Like their Muslim compatriots who are routinely denied access to their mosques, Christian Palestinians in Bethlehem and Jerusalem must also have permits to worship in their churches from which they are separated by the eight-metre high “security” wall. Before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Christians made up 18 per cent of Palestine’s population. Today, they account for less than 1.5 per cent. For reasons of political correctness, western politicians and church leaders have turned a blind eye to the real causes of this exodus; they have chosen instead to look for a scapegoat in alleged “persecution by Muslims”. That is palpable nonsense and plays into Israel’s nefarious hands.

In Hebron, life is far from normal for its 200,000 Palestinian inhabitants at the best of times. Every aspect of their lives is overshadowed by the activities of the settlers who now live illegally among them, with full military protection courtesy of the Israel Defence Forces. Palestinians must contend with the hideous road blocks and military checkpoints that swamp the old city and its environs. Recent reports confirm that more than 1,000 residential apartments have been vacated because of the harassment affecting the local Palestinian population. This was entirely predictable; Israel’s closure of more than 800 commercial businesses was meant to do exactly that — make life so intolerable for the locals that they will leave “of their own accord”. In Zionist terminology this is known rather sinisterly as “silent transfer.”

Elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, the system of inequity and injustice described by Edward Said is no less punitive. The predominantly farming community in Qalqiliya has been virtually encircled by Israel’s apartheid wall, with farmers separated from their land. More than 170,000 men, women and children are similarly locked in by the wall in Bethlehem. Former US President Jimmy Carter found it appalling that they had to obtain “permanent resident” permits from the occupation authorities in order to continue living in their own homes.

It does not take much to recognise the similarities between the Israeli permit system and the hated South African Pass Laws. Just as it was illegal for black Africans to enter designated “white areas” in South Africa so too is it illegal for Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip to visit Jerusalem, for example, without military permission. At present, the general rule is that only those aged 45 years or over are considered for a permit. While there are, of course, subtle differences, the South African jurist John Dugard has pointed out that the common features between South African apartheid and Israel’s version are discrimination, repression and territorial fragmentation.

Under these repressive and degrading conditions it was only a matter of time before a third intifada erupted in the occupied territories. Israel’s determination to seize Palestinian land for its settlements; its closure and desecration of religious sites; and its extrajudicial killings have all provided the combustible mix that has fuelled the intifada for the past year. The sheer number of settlers (more than half-a-million) and military checkpoints scattered across the West Bank (more than 500) also make the conditions ripe for anger and disaffection to fester.

Throughout their long struggle against Zionist colonisation, Palestinians have staged several uprisings. Once in motion these have never been easy to suppress. Being the weaker of the two parties militarily and politically, the Palestinians have on every occasion suffered untold human and material losses. Yet, for every successive generation, it has been considered to be a price worth paying for their freedom from Israel’s brutal military occupation.

The nature and course of the uprisings have always been unpredictable. This is especially the case today since there is no single political faction that has emerged clearly to lead or coordinate events on the ground. In the absence of any serious political initiative, and given Israel’s determination to maintain its occupation and dominance over the Palestinians, it is only reasonable to expect the current intifada to continue well into the future. In this regard, Edward Said was right: there will be no end to Palestinian efforts to end the prevailing system of inequity and injustice of a kind which only happens in occupied Palestine.

israel ramps up house demolitions as an instrument of expropriation

Israel ramps up house demolitions as an instrument of expropriation

Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions–UK (ICAHD–UK) , Newsletter
16 September 2016

Demolitions and displacement
An increasing number of demolitions this summer

 

house-demolitions_btselem
This image is from a handy interactive map produced by B’tselem.

During July – August this year, at least 2,800 Palestinians had their livelihoods affected by displacement and demolitions, with 42 communities affected over the two months. The figures for demolitions over the first 8 months of the year have increased by 50% in comparison to all of 2015. In sharp contrast, it will have taken 7 years from an Israeli state ruling agreed in 2011 (on 17 illegal Israeli outposts built on Palestinian land since 2001) to be finally fully evacuated next year. Unfortunately this is but a small success when considered alongside the 463 illegal settlement units confirmed for advancement at the beginning of this month (out of a total 2,623 new units planned this year alone, according to Peace Now). This article also outlines the stark inequality in how Israel differentiates between the need for demolitions to be used as a deterrent for Jews and Palestinians.

This systematic destruction of Palestinian livelihoods is explicitly linked to the advancement of new settlements, many of which are illegal under Israeli as well as International law. As Amos Gvirtz, long-standing critical Israeli peace activist and former ICAHD Chair writes in a recent article, since the 1970’s the Palestinian “population has doubled itself… but permits to construct solutions for this natural increase in population are non-existent. And thus the army forces them to violate its laws when they claim their human right to shelter.“

11 of the 28 structures destroyed in just one fateful week in August, including residential shelters, latrines and a water cistern, had previously been provided as humanitarian assistance. This brings the number of aid items destroyed or confiscated since the beginning of 2016 to 223, more than double the figure for all of 2015. Yet Netanyahu repeatedly tries to negate the existence of the Occupation and settlers, and has attempted to reframe the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and turn it on its head. Read Jonathan Cook’s or Gideon Levy’s important articles concerning this, and remember that the next study tour in November will meet with Jonathan Cook for a briefing and field trip.

Here you can read the story of one man’s self-demolition first hand, making him, his wife and 3 young children homeless. Sometimes homes are also invaded with excessive damage caused before a demolition order is even issued, and this article documents the trend of night raids by soldiers as a method of granting the demolition orders which take a serious toll on the social and psychological well-being of Palestinians. Reactions can result in emotional numbness, feelings of anxiety, and troubled sleep, but could also extend to flashbacks, hyper-alertness, avoidance, and more. There are also others whose homes haven’t been issued a demolition notice, yet are collapsing in on them, as these pictures of cracks following Israeli excavation in Silwan near Jerusalem’s Old City testify.

cracks-in-silawan-house
One example of many of damge to houses in Silwan

This infographic (from OCHA) below referring to the beginning of 2016 in comparison to previous years is a great way to see the increase in scale we are looking at this year:

house-demolitons_stats

Additionally, for the first time we have seen Israel demolish a home in occupied Syrian Golan Heights, after denying building permits to locals as is traditional in I/P, and expanding settlement construction in the area. We believe that Israel will continue to act with impunity in such ways until the international community holds it to account, and this is our challenge!

“Mr. War (Palestine)”

Posted on September 2, 2016

 

Fantastic poem!

Very, very fine poem.  The poet’s name is Pola Fanous. The Bankstown Poetry Slam, by the way, is an organization in West Sydney, Australia, which holds a poetry event usually on the last Tuesday of each month. You can visit their website here.

The myth of israeli democracy

The usurped rights of Israel’s Palestinian citizens

The myth of Israeli democracy

Israeli apartheid - by Carlos Latuff

By Jamal Kanj

Palestinian civic organisations inside Israel have declared 30 January the Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Israeli Citizens.

Israel was established in 1948 on the ruins of more than 500 native towns and villages and the forceful displacement of approximately 780,000 Palestinians. Only 153,000 Palestinians remained under what became Israel. Of those, approximately 25 per cent became refugees in their own country when their homes were destroyed and their land was expropriated by the new state.

The myth of Israeli democracy

Military rule, restricted travel, curfews

Palestinians who continued to live in what became Israel were governed until 1966 by martial laws under appointed Jewish military governors. Unlike Jews, Palestinians couldn’t travel inside Israel without special military permits, and lived under the threat of curfew, administrative detention and expulsions. Israel expropriated their land, allegedly for military use, but then it was turned over for the exclusive civilian use of Jewish citizens.

Land theft

In 1948 Palestinians owned 80 per cent of the land. Following the establishment of Israel, their land had shrunk to less than 3.5 per cent. The same laws were used extensively in the West Bank to confiscate Palestinian land, which was later handed over to Israeli settlers to build Jew-only colonies.

Apartheid in education

Israel has two systems: one for its Jewish citizens and another for Palestinian, non-Jewish citizens. In education, a 2001 report by Human Rights Watch described Israeli-run Palestinian schools “a world apart from government-run Jewish schools”. A Committee on Arab Education inside Israel found in 2005 that Israel spent an average of USD192 a year on each Palestinian student compared with USD 1,100 for each Jewish student.

Economic disparity

These discriminatory policies are translated into great economic disparity between Jews and non-Jews. As a result, non-Jewish Palestinian citizens of Israel are under-represented in the civil service, high technology and the financial sectors but are over-represented in meagrely paid, low-skilled trades. For example, out of 150,000 employees in the high-tech sector, only 460 are Palestinians.

Palestinian citizens of Israel represent 20 per cent of the population. However, they account for more than 50 per cent of impoverished families in Israel. In fact, out of the 40 communities in Israel with the highest unemployment rates, 36 are Palestinian towns.

Discrimination in health care and housing

Discrimination in health care at an early age is equally striking. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in December 2014, the infant mortality rate per thousand among Palestinians is more than double that of Jewish babies – 2.5 for Jewish babies and 6.3 for Palestinians.

On the housing front, discrimination is more blatant. Since 1948, Israel has established more than 1,000 new Jewish cities and towns on the land expropriated from it indigenous Palestinian owners. On the other hand, Israel did not build one single new (non-Jewish) Palestinian community despite the fact that the Palestinian population grew 10-fold.

Israeli building policies choke Palestinian communities by restricting construction permits and demolishing the homes of Palestinians, as in the case of 15 December 2015 in the town of Tamra. Currently, there are active official orders to demolish 50,000 homes purportedly built without government permits.

Dispossession

Another salient case of Israeli discrimination against non-Jewish Israeli citizens is the Prawer-Begin plan to depopulate 35 unrecognised Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Negev Desert. In one instance, Israel demolished and Palestinians rebuilt the village of Al Araqeeb 93 times in the last five years.

The Prawer-Begin plan is part of a larger racist strategy aimed at increasing the sparse Jewish population in the Negev by building 22 new Jewish communities. This is while eradicating Palestinian villages that predated the establishment of the state Israel.

In the face of the unmitigated wave of additional, formalised discrimination by the current ultra-right-wing Israeli government of Binyamion Netanyahu, Palestinians inside Israel are bringing their grievances to the attention of the international community. Israel can’t continue to use the Jewish victims of the holocaust to justify its racist and malevolent policies against the non-Jewish citizens of Israel.


A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Digital News. The version here is published by permission of Jamal Kanj.

Rabbis Arik Ascherman and Michael Lerner needs your help to save Bedouins from israel’s government

Save the Bedouins of the Negev from the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Israeli Government

ArikAscherman

Note from the editor of Tikkun.org: Rabbi Arik Ascherman [pictured left] is one of our great contemporary heroes. His work to save the Israeli Bedouins from being obliterated by the Israeil government deserves your full support.

Please read his call to you below! Standing up for the humanity of everyone on the planet is part of the goal of Tikkun magazine and our interfaith and secular-humanist welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives. To keep up with developments in the US and around the world, you are invited to receive (for FREE) updates through our Tikkun Daily Blog at www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/join-tikkun-daily/Rabbi Michael Lerner

As you read this, JNF bulldozers are preparing the first stage of building the Jewish community of “Hiran” on the rubble of the Israeli Negev Bedouin community of “Umm Al-Hiran.”  The government plans to expand the Yatir forest to overrun Atir.  A week ago, the Israeli High Court removed the last legal hurdle preventing the immediate expulsion of over 1,000 men, women and children from their homes. The mayor of the artificial Bedouin township of Hura, where the Israeli government wishes to move them, says he has that Hura’s inadequate zoning plan leaves no place to put them. 

You can act, and also read more background regarding Umm Al-Hiran and Atir, at www.dontdemolish.com.  Here is some more general background about the Negev Bedouin.

While the world focuses on the Occupied Territories, the plight of Israel’s Bedouin citizens goes unnoticed, or is deemed an “internal matter.”  For people of conscience, there can be no “internal matter,” and these approximately 250,000 Israeli citizens are also created in God’s Image.

Until 1948 the Negev served as home to 65,000-100,000 Bedouin who inhabited, worked and claimed ownership to somewhere between 2 and 3 million dunams of land (four dunam to an acre), as documented by the pre-State Zionist movement in 1920 In almost every case, the proofs of ownership cited were traditional Bedouin documents based on their internal system of land ownership. Although the Ottomans, British, pre-State Zionist movement and the early State recognized these claims, today the State does not. Israeli courts do not accept Bedouin documents as proof of ownership. Whether one chooses to view this dispute as a boldfaced attempt to take over Bedouin lands, and/or as cultural imperialism unwilling to recognize the land ownership system of a traditional culture, the end result has been massive dispossession.

When I am in the Negev, I often reflect upon the Biblical story of Abraham and his nephew Lot recounted in Genesis 13: 5-12. A conflict arises between Abraham’s shepherds and Lot’s shepherds because they were living together and there wasn’t enough pasture. Abraham is the senior, and can clearly lay down the law.  He doesn’t.  Rather, he bends over backwards to avoid conflict within the family.  “Let there be no strife between you and me, between my shepherds and ours, for we are brothers.  Is not the whole land before you? Let us separate if you go north, I will go south, and if you go south, I will go north.” We, the descendents of Abraham struggle mightily to claim the land he bequeathed us. Were we to exert a fraction of the efforts we invest in fighting over that physical inheritance in living up to the moral example Abraham bequeathed us, Israel/Palestine would look much different than it does today.

After the 1948 War only about 10% of the Bedouin population remained, living under a military regime unti 1966. The Bedouin were moved out of the Western Negev in the 1950′s, and into a triangle between Beersheva, Arad and Yeroham.  In the 1960′s-1980′s Israel created 7 townships that radically alter the Bedouin lifestyle and destroy their social fabric.  These townships have become magnets for poverty, crime, drugs and despair.

In the 1970’s the State of Israel allowed the Bedouin to submit claims of land ownership. Perhaps there were those who thought that Bedouin know nothing about land ownership, and that the results would be so jumbled that it would be easy to dismiss them.  The some 3,100 claims submitted fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The Bedouin asserted they owned about 1,250,000 dunams of land. Of those, about 500,000 dunams of communal pastureland were immediately taken off the table. Subsequently somewhere between 200,000 to 350,000 dunams have been resolved in court or through arbitration. They Bedouin have always lost because their proofs of ownership aren’t recognized.  About 650,000 dunams of land remain unresolved.

Today  approximately  120,000 live in the seven Bedouin townships. The rest of the community lives in 11 “recognized” villages and 35 “unrecognized” villages.  While most of the unrecognized villages existed before the State of Israel, and the remainder are located where the State moved them, they are literally not on the map.  For the most part they have no water, electricity, schools or master building plans allowing them to build legally.  Over 1,000 homes are demolished every year. Crops are destroyed.  When the village Khassim Zannih went to court to stop a planned highway from destroying it, the State’s response was “What village? There is no village there.”

A series of plans of how to deal with the Bedouin have been promulgated since 2008.  The latest was the Begin Bill,  that we believe would have led to the demolition of tens of villages, the transfer of some 40,000 additional Bedouin into the townships, and the loss of most of their remaining lands. It was frozen in 2013 not only because the Bedouin and their supporters opposed it, but because the Israeli right thought it to be too generous!

Subsequently, the Israeli government has been implementing elements of the Begin Bill without legislation. Over 1,000 Bedouin homes are demolished yearly, even as the State plans tens of new Jewish communities in the Negev and intends to move most of Israel’s army bases there.

“Hiran” is one of ten new planned Jewish communities that are part of the “Arad Area Development Plan.’ It is the first that was literally planned on the rubble of an existing Bedouin community, but not the only one. Again, you can find more information about Umm Al-Hiran and Atir, and send a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, at www.dontdemolish.com.

The tensions created by this injustice are harmful to both the Jewish and Bedouin residents of the Negev. Mistreatment also sends a message to Palestinians that they have nothing to expect from Israel if this is the way Israel treats her own citizens.  There is another way. An Israeli television movie documented the identification of Bedouin with the State in the mostly recognized villages in northern Israel, versus the anger and rage in the Negev.  You can click here for a brief clip from the movie with subtitles

In 2013, Rabbis For Human Rights conducted a poll demonstrating showing that 90% of Israeli Jews subscribe to the statement that “The Bedouin are taking over the Negev.” Some 70% believed that the Bedouin claimed at least 25% of the Negev. The median was 43/9%.  When informed that if remaining Bedouin land claims were recognized and honored, they come to only 5.4% of the Negev, the majority said, “We are not sure we believe you, because that is not what we have heard in the media.  However, if that is the case, that sounds fair.”

Have we Israelis all too often in our short history been oppressors, transferors and dispossessors? Sadly, yes.  Is it who we are in our souls? No.  This poll is one of the pieces of evidence that gives me hope, and allows me to maintain my faith in the goodness and decency of my fellow Israelis, even as my job is to deal on a daily basis with the darkest corners of the society I am a part of and the people I love.  It teaches me that our job is not to rub the nose of the naughty puppy in the mess they have made, but to hold up a mirror and say, “We know that you are good and decent people striving to do justly. However, you need to look in the mirror, in order to get back on track.” Our word in Hebrew for prayer is “tefillah,” a reflexive verb meaning to “judge one’s self.” Created in God’s Image, God is in the mirror into which we gaze in order to look deeply into ourselves, and understand what we must do in order to return to our highest and truest selves.  Tikkun Olam is partnering with God by helping to hold up the mirror.

Please help hold up the mirror by sending a letter now. You can use the letter we’ve prepared at www.dontdemolish.com

For more information, please go to the Bedouin section on the RHR website

Or to the website of the Negev Coexistence Forum

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