The Israeli authorities in the West Bank have ruled that legal proceedings must be seen through before a Bedouin community east of Jerusalem can be evicted from prefab housing deemed illegal.
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Early this month, the Civil Administration replaced 15 eviction orders with stop-work orders, allowing for the reprieve.
The eviction orders stated that members of the Kaabneh Bedouin living in prefab homes in the community of Arara would have to leave their homes within 48 hours. These orders were issued in early January under a statute describing the inhabitants as “new squatters,” even though Kaabneh Bedouin have been living there for 30 years.
In this community, as in others east of Jerusalem, tin shacks have been replaced by sturdier prefab dwellings donated by European organizations.
The area taken up by each dwelling is no greater than that taken up by a shack, but the Civil Administration says the construction is illegal. The Bedouin at Arara are among those Israel wants to live, against their will, in one large town to be built north of Jericho.
“The eviction orders were issued in keeping with the information at our disposal at the time,” the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories told Haaretz in a statement. “After claims by the representative of the Kaabneh tribe were received, the case was examined and it was decided to issue stop-work orders against the illegal structures that were built in the area without a permit.”
The representative, attorney Shlomo Lecker, told Haaretz that the inspector who served the eviction order has known the Kaabneh community for many years and thus could have known that the term “new squatters” was wrong.
Lecker said inspectors were trying to follow the demands of MK Orit Strock (Habayit Hayehudi). In a meeting of the settlement subcommittee at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Strock suggested that the Civil Administration “show creativity” regarding procedures for demolishing Bedouin structures that would limit the possibility of petitioning the High Court.
As Lecker put it, “In the meeting she said: ‘I am sure that if you ask the legal advisers to find special orders that will permit expedited enforcement, they will invent them using their great talents. The question is: 'Why don’t you ask?’”
Referring to the West Bank, a spokeswoman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said: “The Civil Administration enforces illegal construction in Judea and Samaria against all populations equally and in keeping with its powers.”
Amira Hass tweets at @Hass_Haaretz