Stop the Expulsion of the Bedouin

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A Bedouin of the Jahalin tribe walks in his encampment near the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, June 16, 2012.Credit: Reuters

The actions of Israel’s Civil Administration in the realm of planning in the West Bank have shown and continue to show, more than any declaration or speech, what the Israeli government wants and is striving toward: emptying most of the West Bank (“Area C” which is under full Israeli control) of Palestinians and creating the false impression that the densely populated enclaves (“Areas A and B” under full or partial Palestinian control) can be called a state. The declarations of state lands, construction in settlements, prohibitions against construction in Palestinian communities and demolition of houses reveal, one step at a time, the map of the permanent solution the government hopes to force on the Palestinians.

This is precisely where the master plan comes in for the Bedouin town of Ramat Nueima in the Jericho area, which was published recently for public registration of objections. The town is intended to accommodate about 12,500 people from three different tribes (Rashaida, Jahalin and Kaabneh). The Civil Administration, which implements Israeli government policy in the West Bank, claims that dozens of meetings were held with community leaders before the plan was made public. The residents claim the exact opposite: Not only were they not asked what they want, but that from the very beginning the plan to cram members of different tribes and clans altogether in the same space runs counter to their tradition, their way of life and their livelihood. From their point of view, the plan is a sure recipe for social disaster.

The forced concentration of the Bedouin is the logical outcome of decades in which the Israeli authorities limited the movements of the Bedouin communities in the West Bank and restricted the space in which they herd their flocks, blocked their access to water sources, expelled them and banned them from building and from hooking up to infrastructure. This policy made the lives of the Bedouin in the West Bank – most of whom are the descendants of tribes that were expelled from the Negev after 1948 – very hard. The Civil Administration, a de facto government not elected by the inhabitants, purports to be looking out for their welfare through the very act of planning the town. But the plan was devised as a result of a legal necessity. The existence of the town will make it easier for the Civil Administration to argue before the High Court of Justice that the Bedouin are illegally residing in the places where they now live, since they have an alternative venue.

Although the Bedouin no longer wander between permanent seasonal spots, as they once did, the fact that they live scattered across a wide area, disrupts plans for the expansion of the settlements. The forced evacuation of the Bedouin communities would release large reservoirs of land for the settlements. The Civil Administration must retract the expulsion plan and stop pushing the Palestinians out of Area C.

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