West Bank Bedouin Leaders Reject Relocation Plan

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Bedouin ride donkeys in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, December 3, 2012. Credit: Reuters

Representatives of Bedouin communities in the eastern West Bank convened two emergency meetings on Tuesday to discuss their stance against a Civil Administration decision to forcibly settle them north of Jericho. The meeting was initiated by a Bedouin community defense council founded a few years ago in the West Bank.

At the meetings architect and planner Alon Cohen Lifshitz from the organization Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights explained all aspects of the relocation plan to the community members (as they were published separately), and created a map.

“From the start we’ve opposed the plan to expel us from the places where we live and settle us unwillingly in one town, but we didn’t know just how bad this plan was until we heard and understood the details,” one participant at the first meeting in Anata told Haaretz. “We decided to express our opposition to the principles of the plan,” he said, “and not this or that aspect of it. We know that we have a tough time ahead of us, and there is a chance that the Civil Administration will exert pressure on us in the form of more demolition orders and attempts to expel us from various places.”

He also stated that on Tuesday morning four more stop-work orders were issued against four buildings under construction in the Bedouin community of Jabal al Baba, west of Ma’aleh Adumim.

In late August, and last weekend, details about the plan to relocate the Bedouin to a town north of Jericho in Area C, adjacent to Area A where the Palestinian Authority governs, were published. The town will be called Talet Nueima, and will house 12,500 people from three different Bedouin tribes: Jahalin, Kaabneh and Rashaida.

The Bedouin representatives’ meetings took place simultaneously in Anata and Jericho, due to the distance between the two places, and also because members of various tribes are embroiled in long-term family or personal disputes. These tensions, according to Cohen Lifshitz, are just a small example of the “great difficulty in gathering together people from various tribes, in close proximity that goes against their way of life.”

He told Haaretz that he asked various representatives of the Bedouin communities what the ideal distance between families would be, and was answered that the common law stipulates that adjacent families “should not be able to hear or smell” one another. One participant at the meeting in Anata told Haaretz that some of the community’s primary concerns include not only tribal difficulties but also conflicts with the nearby Palestinian village of Nueima over the site of the new town, as well as nearby agricultural land.

Cohen Lifshitz also told Haaretz that both meetings were divided into two groups: members of the Jahalin and Kaabneh tribes that live east of Jerusalem and near the road between Jericho and Ramallah, and members of the Rashaida tribes that already live north of Jericho and previously agreed in principle to building a permanent town. The first group is opposed to the plan in principle, though the Rashaida tribe is opposed to the plan as it is being carried out, claiming that it does not meet their needs, and have demanded that an alternative plan be formulated.

“A member of the Rashaida tribe found out,” said Cohen Lifshitz, “that his house will be in the center of a future traffic circle. Another discovered that his house will be on the border between two plots of land, and that he will never receive a building permit on either.”

At the meetings, the participants found out that according to the plan, they will not be allowed to build sheep pens in the manner they are used to, as each structure must be covered by a stone roof. “They raised their eyebrows when I said that,” said Cohen Lifshitz. He also explained that the allocation of lands does not allow each family to build as they wish. “They must submit updated building plans, at their own expense. Speaking with them, I understood that aside from uprooting them, one of the most difficult aspects of the plan is that they are being sent as a group into a single place, without taking into account where they will put their flocks, how they can feed them, how much room they’ll have and where they will keep their livelihood.”

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