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Israel to force thousands of Bedouin citizens into refugee camps

By Yehudit Tzfat - October 16, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Bedouin] [forced transfer]

Israel plans to drive tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens from their homes in the Negev desert into refugee camps, according to Adalah, the Legal Justice Center for Arab Minority Rights. 

Israel intends to “urgently” displace the 36,000 Bedouins from unrecognised villages to make way for the state’s military and economic development projects. The projects include the Ramat Beka weapons development and testing zone and the Sde Barir phosphate mine. The plan was initially announced by Israel’s Bedouin Development and Settlement Authority in January. 

Israel's Southern District Planning and Building Committee discussed two plans titled "Temporary Residential and Public Building Solutions for the Bedouin Population in the Negev" on Sunday.

These initiatives are designed "to provide temporary housing solutions for the unregulated Bedouin population, in cases where the population is urgently required to move from their living sites before permanent buildings are established”. 

Under the plan, Israeli authorities can evict Bedouins from their homes and force them into displacement camps, where they can stay for up to six years. Yet Adalah does not see these temporary structures as viable housing solutions for the Bedouin people. 

Just days before the committee meeting, Adalah sent a letter on behalf of the Regional Council for the Unrecognised Villages in the Negev, Shatil, and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality to the committee’s chairman, David Leffler.

Attorney Suhad Bishara, director of Adalah's Land and Planning Rights Unit, denounced the plan as clearly violating Bedouins’ fundamental rights. 

"These plans continue to impose upon the residents of unrecognised villages the same reality to which they have been subject for decades: the reality of temporality as a result of forced relocation from one place of residence to another,” Bishara wrote in the letter. 

“It is unreasonable to again coerce displacement to temporary housing tens of thousands of residents who have been living in their villages for decades and, indeed, for generations – most of which are actually located on their traditional tribal lands.”

Attiya Al-Issam, chairman of the Regional Council for the Unrecognised Villages in the Negev, rejected the plan, saying its only goal is to expel the Bedouin community from their ancestral lands. 

“We see this as the embodiment of Israel's Prawer Plan, discussed in the Knesset in 2013, which was meant to expel tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens and destroy their villages,” Al-Issam said in a statement.

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