New Report Reveals Israel Demolishes Over 2,000 Palestinian Bedouin Homes per Year

August 03rd, 2020

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By Miko Peled

A report published in June of 2020 states that in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the state of Israel demolished over two thousand homes of Palestinian citizens of Israel per year in the Naqab region alone. The report was put together by an Israeli Non-Governmental agency called, “The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality.”

History

The Naqab, called the Negev in Hebrew, makes up the entire southern half of Palestine, and while it is a desert, it is considered to be a fertile desert. The indigenous people of the Naqab, the Palestinian Bedouin, are a semi-nomadic people and historically cultivated these lands. Zionist mythology that claims the land was barren until the Zionist colonization “made the desert bloom,” is, in fact, a lie.

The British government, which occupied Palestine from 1917-1948, and the Ottoman Empire before that, recognized the rights of the Palestinian Bedouin in the Naqab to their lands. However, from the very beginning of the Zionist colonization of Palestine, the Naqab was targeted and once the State of Israel was established, Bedouin lands were taken.

According to Palestinian professor, Dr. Mansour Nasasra, when the British withdrew from the city of Bi’r Al-Saba in May of 1948, the Palestinian mayor of the city, Shafiq Mustafa raised the Palestinian flag, signaling what was expected to be the start of Palestinian rule over the city. However, the city fell to the Zionist forces on October 21, 1948, a day the Bedouin Palestinians refer to as “Kasret Al-Saba,” or the disaster of Bi’r Al-Saba. According to Dr. Nasasra, the fall of the city, which was considered the capital of the Naqab Bedouin, “meant the end of their economic, cultural and administrative center, as well as of their freedom.” (The Naqab Bedouins, Mansour Nasasra).

Prior to the Zionist conquest of Palestine, close to one hundred thousand Palestinian Bedouin lived in the Naqab. During 1948 all of Palestine was subjected to a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing and the Naqab was no exception. Once the Naqab was overtaken by Zionist forces the region was subjected to a fierce campaign of ethnic cleansing allowing less than 10 percent of the native population to remain. The ones who did remain were herded into the northern part of the Naqab called the “Siage” area or fenced area, and the state invested heavily in building modern Jewish-only colonies that provided an excellent lifestyle for the colonizers while depriving the Bedouin of their land and resources.

A Palestinian Bedouin family is pictured in the Bi’r Al-Saba area circa 1945. Photo | Zochrot

Unrecognized towns

The Bedouin communities in the Naqab today make up about 250,000 people, which is about one-third of the total population of the region. They are only permitted to live in 12 percent of the towns in the Naqab, in other words, only 12 percent of the towns in the Naqab are designated for the Palestinian Bedouin citizens. And while the standard of living in the Israeli settlements and cities in the Naqab is among the highest in the country, the Bedouin live mostly in townships and impoverished villages denied the basic most services the state offers Jewish citizens.

Half of the Bedouin Palestinians live in towns that are called “unrecognized.” This means that the state of Israel does not recognize them and provides them with no services. Some of these towns predate the state and others were created by the state. In both cases, the state arbitrarily decided that the areas where these people live are no longer designated for people to live but have been designated for military or other uses by the State.

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The state demands from the population that they vacate to other areas designated for them and they either refuse or are unable to do so. Since the state of Israel does not recognize the community’s right to their lands, it often relocates families onto land that belongs to other families, something the Bedouin quite often refuse to do. Furthermore, the state will often relocate several families to the same plot creating an impossible situation for them.

This lack of recognition is a violation of the rights of these communities. The unrecognized towns and villages receive no services like water, electricity, healthcare, or even roads, and they are constantly under threat of forced displacement, home demolition and land confiscation. When the state does relocate them, it is never to the highly developed wealthy Jewish-only towns but into impoverished overcrowded townships. It is also worth noting that although many of Jewish colonies in the Naqab are agricultural communities, land cultivation is not permitted for the Bedouins.

Relocation

The life of the Palestinian Bedouin is administered not like other citizens of the state of Israel but rather by governmental agencies like the Bedouin Administration Agency and the Ministry of Agriculture, which are run by Israeli Jews and in which the Bedouin Palestinians have no voice. The state wants to confiscate all the Bedouin lands in the Naqab and to relocate them into townships and uses the demolition of homes and other methods as a means to force these communities, which suffer from severe lack of housing and poverty already, into crowded townships where levels of poverty and unemployment are high.

One example is the Palestinian Bedouin village of Ras Jabara, which sits within the municipal boundaries of the city of Dimona. The city was built on lands that historically belonged to this village. Today, there are only 600 people who live in the village and even though they are within the municipal boundaries of the city, they are denied basic rights and services that the Jewish residents of the city receive. They are not even allowed to vote in the municipal elections. In March of 2018, the residents of Ras Jabara received evacuation notices because the city wanted to build a neighborhood for Jews – once again Palestinians are removed because the state wants to build for Jews only. It is likely that this community too will be relocated to one of the nearby townships.

Self demolition

The Bedouin Administration Authority has its own enforcement apparatus which includes a militarized police unit called “Yoav.” They invade the towns in the early morning hours to demolish, destroy, detain, and generally intimidate the residents. When they come to enforce a demolition order the owner of the building is given the option of self-demolition.

Israeli security forces arrive at night to demolish homes in the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, Sept. 13, 2018. Majdi Mohammed | AP

Self-demolition is often the preferred option because it allows the owners of the property to salvage whatever equipment they may have inside the property and reuse whatever scrap material they have leftover. Because these communities are by and large impoverished, most of the homes and other structures are rudimentary.

Apartheid in the time of COVID

Even with COVID-19 hitting poor communities hard, the Israeli authorities have not let up on harassment of the Bedouin Palestinians. Throughout the Naqab Israeli “enforcing” agencies continue to harass, demolish, arrest and impose outrageous fines. Israel claims that the Palestinian Bedouin of the Naqab are its citizens – a “privilege” that they never sought but was imposed on them – yet they receive none of the privileges the Jewish citizens of the state enjoy.

Feature photo | Palestinian Bedouin children stand on the rubble of two classrooms destroyed by the Israeli army in the village of Abu Nuwar, West Bank. Israel demolished the school saying the EU-funded structure was built without proper permits. Mahmoud Illean | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

Susan Abulhawa Embodies the Spirit of Palestinian Resistance in Her New Book: Against the Loveless World

By Miko Peled

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Writer and political activist Susan Abulhawa weaves a daring tale of a Palestinian woman’s defiant experience in solitary confinement at an Israeli prison.

Book Review — “I don’t care to be accommodating,” Nahr, the lead character in Susan Abulhawa’s new novel, “Against the Loveless World,” tells us. Perhaps she says this to prepare us or even warn us of what lies ahead. Either way, the statement runs like a thread throughout the entire book.

As the pages of the novel turn and the story of Nahr’s life unfolds, we go through the ups and downs of this Palestinian woman’s unpredictable life. Slowly, as we are gripped by the power of her story, we come to realize that Nahr’s unwillingness to be accommodating is admirable but comes at a heavy price.

Susan Abulhawa is the author of the international bestseller, “Mornings in Jenin,” among other important works of prose and poetry. Personally, I found her newest novel to be daring, honest, and totally unaccommodating. Abulhawa is also a friend of mine, and reading her novel felt a lot like listening to her talk.

A cube

Nahr is an inmate held in solitary confinement at an Israeli prison and she tells us the story from her tiny cell. This is no ordinary cell, the Israeli authorities placed Nahr in a highly sophisticated cell where everything is automated: the light and the shower turn on and off on their own; the toilet flushes at set times and Nahr the inmate needs to accommodate herself to their schedule. She lives in this cell and is unable to tell if it is day or night or what time of day it is.

For reasons that she lays out in the story, Nahr is not permitted to have visitors of her choice but from time to time an international observer, a journalist, or a prison guard come into the cell. It is during these random visits that we see Nahr expressing her unwillingness to be accommodating for the first time.

Tatreez

I can’t decide which metaphor better describes Nahr’s story, so I will use two. The first is a piece of Tatreez, or Palestinian embroidery. The characters in the story are the colors and designs that represent the various towns, villages, and regions of Palestine. It is embroidered over a black cloth, which is Palestine, thus displaying both the immense beauty and unspeakable tragedy of Palestine.

The other metaphor is a cluster of vines that twist and grow around the trunk of a large tree. In Palestine, one sees this often. They are particularly beautiful when they are in full bloom, wrapped around large trunks of tall trees. The stories of Nahr and the people around her are the vines wrapping around Palestine.

Nahr is surrounded by several strong characters, many of whom represent the breadth of the Palestinian experience. Their stories are told through Nahr’s story and together they evoke the powerful emotions that we experience together with her:  innocence, passion, love, and hate, sadness and anger as well as delicately threaded tenderness, yearning, and even compassion. Abulhawa seamlessly weaves Nahr’s personal story and the stories of the other characters into the greater story of Palestine.

The story takes us into two of the largest Palestinian refugee communities in the world, Kuwait and Jordan. We come face to face with Palestinians who became refugees in 1948, and then again in 1967, and then brutally kicked out of Kuwait and turned into refugees again as a result of the first Gulf War. Each time they think they can finally rest, something happens and they are forced to move again. Yet throughout this painful and seemingly endless odyssey their anchor continues to be Palestine.

A story of love

Nahr experiences the full scope of cruelty meted out to women by men, by the patriarchy. Since men’s brutality towards women is not unique to a particular race, nationality, or culture, her experience is universal. And yet, although she suffers greatly at the hands of men, she is capable of feeling and expressing a deep, sincere love for a man.

Against the Loveless World A Novel By Susan AbulhawaThough she speaks to us from a cold, lonely cell in which she is held by Israel, Nahr is able to relay her feelings to one man who she truly loves and who loves her completely. She admits to “a sexual yearning made insatiable by love so vast, as if a sky.”

In one scene Nahr watches the man she loves and describes what she sees, “the guilt, the impotence of seeing those settlements, the anguish over his brother, his mother, the years in prison, the torture, the inability to move.” Then, reflecting on her own sense of helplessness she says, “I wanted to take him in my arms and fix everything,” but, Nahr sums it up “all I could do was help carry the tea glasses.”

Palestine, for those who were torn away from her and for those who care for her, is like a loved one dying of terminal cancer. Hard as we may try, all we can do is watch as she is being eaten away by the cancer of Zionist brutality, and make her as comfortable as possible as she slips away.

Nahr’s pain is deep and real and reading this novel one often forgets that it is, in fact, fiction. She experiences pain as a woman, as a Palestinian, and as a human being. In Nahr’s own words, it is “a cloistered, unreachable, immutable ache.”

The spirit of resistance

Nahr tells us about “the epic fabrication of a Jewish nation returning to its homeland.” She goes on to say that the deceit, “had grown into a living, breathing narrative that shaped lives as if it were truth.”

She describes the Jewish-only settlements that she sees spreading all over Palestine. Entire cities, neighborhoods, and homes of people she knows and loves who were forced to flee their homeland, taken over by Jewish settlers. She describes the silences of older Palestinians who cannot bear to talk about their loss.

But the spirit of resistance is alive in Palestine and Nahr will not stand idly by as others prepare to act. Nahr is enraged by the ruthlessness of settlers and soldiers, tucked away safely in their exclusive, Arab-free colonies. They live on stolen Palestinian land and come out periodically to attack Palestinians with impunity.

Once she realizes that people around her are engaged in acts of resistance, she wants in on the action. Here, once again, we see Nahr unaccommodating, fierce, and willing to face the consequences.

From her solitary cell in an Israeli prison, Nahr recalls Ghassan Kanafani and James Baldwin, two great writers, who, like her, were unwilling to be accommodating. They suffered greatly because of who they were, one a Palestinian, the other a Black American. They both wrote and spoke with unmatched courage and clarity, and although dead for decades, (Kanafani was murdered by Israel in 1972, Baldwin died of cancer in 1987), they remain icons of the struggle against racism, oppression, and colonialism.

Feeling the pulse

Along with Ghassan Kanafani and Ibrahim Nasrallah, Susan Abulhawa’s writing has the rare quality of allowing us to taste the flavor, to smell the fragrance, and to feel the pulse of Palestine. A  true understanding of the Palestinian experience is not possible without reading the work of these three writers.

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