Israel Threatens to Demolish Bedouin Homes Despite High Court Order

In legal spat, Civil Administration says Bedouin groups are playing for time and not addressing the issue in disputed E1 area near Ma’aleh Adumim

A Bedouin community in the West Bank.
Emil Salman

The High Court of Justice has forbidden the demolition of Bedouin homes in the E1 area near Ma’aleh Adumim until it is determined whether they can be legalized. However, the Israeli army’s Civil Administration in the West Bank is threatening to destroy them.

A group of Bedouin from Jabal Baba and Bir Al-Maskub are waging a legal battle after the Oversight Subcommittee in Judea and Samaria – a Civil Administration body – threatened to destroy their homes. The group submitted a request last Thursday to declare the Civil Administration in contempt of court, with their lawyer, Shlomo Lecker, asking the court to make it clear that the homes cannot be demolished at this time.

In February, after lengthy legal proceedings, the High Court issued interim restraining orders as part of a compromise agreement under which the Bedouin would approach the Civil Administration’s inspection unit with a request “to examine whether their issues can be corrected, and if it’s possible to delay implementing the [demolition] orders until after the arrangement.” In the event that the Civil Administration could not regularize the Bedouin structures at the site, residents would be given 30 days’ warning before demolition.

The High Court demanded that the Bedouin give power of attorney to Lecker, plus a detailed description of every structure and copies of their identity cards. These documents were submitted in early July, but shortly afterward they received a letter from the oversight subcommittee demanding another form.

This form asked them to give details about their employers and the number of sheep and goats they own. In the accompanying letter, the subcommittee coordinator, Annie Dahan, threatened that if the forms were not returned within seven days, the demolition orders would be implemented immediately, with no 30-day notice.

Dahan says this form had been sent to the petitioners in March and was never returned. Lecker says he only received the forms on July 16, after he had already submitted the petitioners’ requests.

The prosecution claims the Bedouin aren’t cooperating, “in an effort to extent the validity of the interim orders endlessly.” A prosecution representative of the High Court division told Lecker he had to have the forms back by Monday.

Lecker said the Bedouin residents are prepared to fill out the forms, with some minor revisions. Since the Civil Administration has not retracted its intent to demolish the compound unless the forms are submitted, he made the contempt of court filing.

The Civil Administration said in response, “The High Court’s ruling on the matter stated that the petitioners had to submit a request to regularize the illegal construction by May. The petitioners did not do so, despite warnings from the authorities – even after they were given numerous extensions beyond the letter of the law. The petitioners’ lawyer recently announced that he refuses to submit the request as required by the authorities, and petitioned the High Court on the grounds that the petitioners are exempt from submitting all the forms required for evaluating the request.”