Pages upon pages came out of the fax machine at the Civil Administration’s Central Planning Bureau last week. They contained objections to the establishment of a Bedouin township to be named Talet Nueima (in Hebrew, Ramat Nueima) north of Jericho, which is slated for 12,500 people. This comes on top of objections sent in by registered mail and email.
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The Civil Administration subcommittee that deals with such objections will have to read more than 200 objections. Opponents of the plan include Bedouin from the Kaabneh and Jahalin tribes, whom the Civil Administration plans to expel from their homes and resettle in the township together with the Rashaida tribe which is already based in the area. Jericho and nearby Palestinian villages object to the plan as well.
The objectors are represented by the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center; Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights; the Association for Civil Rights in Israel; and attorneys Sliman Shahin, Basem Karajeh, Tawfek Jabarin and Shlomo Lecker.
An oft-repeated objection is that the Civil Administration drafted the Talet Nueima plan without consulting the Bedouin or the Palestinian communities in the area, and without taking their needs into consideration.
Dozens of private individuals and activists in Israel/Palestine and abroad have also sent in standard objections to the plan.
The Hebrew standard objection states, among other things, that: “The plan disregards the cultural characteristics of Bedouin society – including the division of the family complex, to which entrance is highly restricted.” The objections note that the families “take great care to guard their privacy, and the privacy of women in particular.”
According to this argument: “Allowing this part of their culture to exist requires spatial planning that completely contradicts what the plan contains. Instead of small two-family lots of a half dunam each, the lots must be much larger and include a residential portion alongside a large area that will let family members keep their flocks near their places of residence.” This means at least three dunams (0.7 acres), instead of a quarter dunam, per family.
The plan was preceded by the state’s decades-old policy of uprooting the Bedouin in the West Bank (most of them refugees expelled from the Negev after 1948) by reducing the space available to them, demolishing their shacks and blocking their access to water and markets. The Civil Administration even considers the tarps that protect them from the rain illegal construction and confiscates them.
To solve the problem of the Bedouin’s subhuman living conditions, which as everybody knows came out of the blue, along comes the compassionate Talet Nueima plan (which is comprised of four detailed master plans and two additional plans for roads).
In a letter to attorney Shlomo Lecker, Capt. Yaniv Ya’ari, a consulting officer in the military legal adviser’s office in the West Bank, wrote: “The plan ... was prepared to create a suitable planning solution that took the population’s needs into account ... in accordance with proper planning principles .... Contrary to your claim, several meetings and hearings have taken place in recent years in which your clients and you were given full opportunity to have your say to present alternative solutions for the area’s inhabitants – the members of the Bedouin population.
According to Ya’ari, “As far as we are concerned, the fact that these talks did not result in agreements is no indication of unwillingness to include the community in the planning process, but only of the regional authorities’ position that the rationale and planning of the proposed programs was preferable to those that you proposed.”
The objection by Bimkom reveals significant shortcomings in planning (on top of the original sin of forced relocation).
It’s possible these shortcomings are innocent mistakes – such as the assumption that the Bedouin’s basic organizational unit is the nuclear, not the extended family, or that the size of the average Bedouin nuclear family is 5.6 people, not the actual 7.1. It’s also possible that because of human error, there are crude discrepancies in the various parts of the plan, which also includes the demolition of already-existing homes of the Rashaida tribe.
Plans ‘lack of sensitivity’
But is the planning of a very wide road right through a village, to be used mainly for military purposes (access to the nearby army base or training ground) a mistake?
Bimkom says this road “embodies the plan’s lack of sensitivity and brings into sharp focus the plan’s functionalist aspect, which justifies the substandard planning that forces the Bedouin, with their families and flocks, to crowd into closed and narrow boxes stuck close together, and puts a military road, on which weapons of war will be traveling, in the middle.”
Are the tiny lots allocated for the construction of public buildings a “mistake” as well? According to Bimkom experts, the plan allocates 3.4 square meters of public buildings per person: roughly one-third of the 10 square meters accepted for ultra-Orthodox Jewish families – and ultra-Orthodox and Bedouin families are about the same size.
By comparison, the new plans for the two settlements in the area has set aside several times more space for public buildings: 80.7 square meters per person in Beit Ha’arava and 449 (!) square meters per person in Almog’s new neighborhood.
This “mistake” reflects the Civil Administration’s raison d’etre and activity in the West Bank: to expel as many Palestinians as possible from as much Palestinian land as possible. Then crowd them into as tiny an area as possible to give Jews as much space, comfort, convenience and quality of life as possible.