Opinion

Israel's Judges Paved the Way for What Happened in Bedouin Village

The life of the Palestinian is cheap in our eyes, because our eyes are coveting his land. For his land’s real-estate value to rise in our hands, his life must be made miserable, and then his death too.

Bedouin women react to the destruction of houses on January 18, 2017 in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, which is not recognized by the Israeli government, near the Negev desert city of Beersheba.
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

There are judges in Israel and they, too, paved the way for what happened in Umm al-Hiran. The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which represented the candidates for expulsion, gave the judges professional, democratic and humane opportunities to avoid what occurred, but they didn’t take them.

In 2009, Judge Gad Gideon of the Be’er Sheva Magistrates’ Court accepted the state’s position that some residents of Umm al-Hiran must be evicted from the two lots where they resided. The permission they had been given to live there, he ruled in response to Adalah’s petition, was subject to revocation. The judge disregarded the fact that the Bedouin had not been given permission to settle there for free, but rather in exchange for their eviction from their lands, which they had held and settled on prior to the state’s founding.

Judges Sara Dovrat, Rachel Barkai and Ariel Vago of the Be’er Sheva District Court rejected Adalah’s appeal of Judge Gideon’s ruling. In their February 2011 decision, they wrote, “The claim that the respondent has a hidden, or perhaps also open, intention of evicting them from the land for the sake of establishing a Jewish locale there is one that contains a basis for attacking the zoning plans and the respondent’s policy – but before a different tribunal, and not within the present framework ” In other words: Yes to equality, just not in our court.

In December 2011, Judge Yisrael Axelrod of the Kiryat Gat Magistrate’s Court rejected a request from Adalah to cancel judicial demolition orders given in 2003 by Judge Jacob Spasser (of the Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court). Axelrod wrote: “The personal interests do not stand up versus the public interest of preventing building on state-owned land and not consenting to the creation of chaos through the violation of the planning and building laws, so that the sinner is ultimately rewarded. The planning authorities intend to build a town that is part of the Meitar local council. If the plans go into effect, the houses that are the subject of the requests before me will hinder the realization of the plans for that place.” At least he was honest about it: It is in the public interest for the Bedouins to be evicted so that Jews can live there.

Justices Elyakim Rubinstein and Neal Hendel of the Supreme Court rejected Adalah’s appeal of the District Court’s ruling. Rubinstein wrote, “There is nothing to prevent the Bedouin from living in the planned community (which by definition is of a general, not Bedouin, character).” The Bedouin families could simply ask to join the community as a minority community, he remarked, as if Bedouin-Jewish mixed communities were the norm in Israel.

Rubinstein also said that the Supreme Court was not the appropriate forum for the discussion since the Adalah appeal included arguments “directed against the planning of Hiran and, in a broader sense against the government’s decision to build Hiran and its policy regarding the legalization of the Bedouin settlement in the Negev.”

Also, the petitioners acted belatedly, said Rubinstein, sheltering behind procedural grounds as well. They should have petitioned in 2002 against the authorities’ decision to establish Hiran, and in 2003 against the master plan. Meaning: Late in asking for justice? Your problem. Justice Daphne Barak-Erez disagreed, but the majority rules.

And the majority of their honors led us here: to the shooting at civilians, the death of Erez Levi, the destruction of a village, the lies of Gilad Erdan and Abu al-Kiyan left to bleed to death. And all of this is united by and explained by one thing: benefit for the Jews.

The life of the Palestinian is cheap in our eyes, because our eyes are coveting his land. For his land’s real-estate value to rise in our hands, his life must be made miserable, and then his death too. Blaming him for his death today makes it easier to steal his land tomorrow and excuses the theft of his land in the past.

The life and history of the Palestinian is cheap to us, for thus we can live in nice neighborhoods and make willfully ignorant rulings – as if each case has nothing to do with the others, as if each is cut off from the Israeli history of dispossessing and expelling the Palestinians. What’s otherwise known as “the public interest.”