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The 60 Hawaled clan members living near Nofit are threatening the “Jewish character” of that Lower Galilee community of 2,500. At least, that’s what the two slates that ran a few weeks ago for the committee governing the community said of their Bedouin neighbors, as they vied to prove who would better protect the area’s character. That sense of threat, fueled by racism and fear, led a good many of Nofit’s residents to oppose a plan that would have solved the housing problem of the Hawaled clan, which since Turkish times has owned the land on which it lives.

For most of the residents of Nofit, the members of the Hawaled clan are invisible. Their cluster of shacks is reached via Nofit’s access road, which thousands of residents drive daily, and yet only a few have ever visited the area or are even aware of the conditions there.

The Bedouin clan lives in about 10 tin or wooden shacks hooked up neither to the electricity grid nor to a sewage main. Practically the only Jews who visit the compound are those drivers who have taken a wrong turn from the main road. Shielding their eyes from the reality there makes it possible for them to see the Hawaled clan as an imaginary enemy.

But there are a few in Nofit who will not give in to hatred and the desire of others to get rid of their Bedoiun neighbors. “Like some of the fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, there are some people in Nofit who would like to see it pure forever,” the linguist Prof. Uzzi Ornan wrote in Friday’s Hebrew edition of Haaretz. “I do not want to part with my excellent neighbors, and I don’t care whether they are Jewish or not.”

Since May 2003, members of the Hawaled clan have filed numerous proposals to rezone their land from farming to residential use. The latest was filed with the assistance of Bimkom, a nonprofit group of planning professionals, and it proposed building similar houses on nine dunams of land ‏(2.25 acres‏) a few hundred meters away in Nofit. All of their requests were denied.

The most consistent opponent of the Bedouin’s proposals is the Zevulon Regional Council, under whose aegis Nofit and its Bedouin neighbors fall. The council is in no hurry to act on the recommendations of national planning bodies, which have called in the past for a local plan that addresses the needs of the Hawaled clan. It seems that the regional council, headed by a member of nearby Kibbutz Yagur, would prefer for the Hawaled clan to give up or magically disappear, as if it hadn’t lived there for decades.

This attitude is unacceptable, certainly on the part of government bodies. The Interior Ministry must instruct the regional council to mend its ways and properly plan for housing for the Hawaled clan adjacent to Nofit.