Help thousands of Bedouin stop home demolitions

by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Vetted
HR training in al-Qrein by Khalil Al-Amour
HR training in al-Qrein by Khalil Al-Amour

Here is the final report on what we’ve done during the course of this project to help the Bedouin community stop home demolitions in the Negev/Naqab.

We’ve succeeded (along with a host of other actors), to halt the Prawer Plan! This is a HUGE achievement and we are very proud that you’ve played a significant role in bringing about this victory with your generous donation to this campaign.

Here are more details on how your kind donation has made and continues to make a real, tangible difference in the lives of the Palestinian Bedouin community in the Naqab, both in stopping the Prawer Plan and better guaranteeing that the people continue to remain on their lands and in their homes.

Our project to ‘Help Thousands of Bedouin to Stop Home Demolitions’ is officially being retired on GlobalGiving. This report summarizes our work over the past two years of the campaign and highlights its biggest achievements. If you want to continue to support our important work and the Palestinian Bedouin community in the Naqab, please see ‘Postscript’ at the bottom of this report to find out how.

1. Update on the Prawer Plan

Owing to the efforts of the project and those of various other actors, the Israeli government decided in December 2013 to halt the legislative process of the Prawer Plan Bill! Soon after, however, the government announced that it would continue pursuing the Prawer Plan, albeit within the Ministry of Agriculture. Since then, the legislative process has effectively remained stalled.

However, although the legislation remains frozen, demolitions of Bedouin homes in the Naqab remain a daily reality, and the state continues to approve and implement its development projects on top of Bedouin villages. 

2. Home demolition statistics

In response to Adalah's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for official statistics on the number of home demolitions in the Naqab for the year 2013, the state responded that it had demolished 572 homes in the "Bedouin sector". Adalah used this information for advocacy purposes, disseminating it in our reports and interventions to EU and UN human rights bodies. There was a very high percentage of self-demolitions by Bedouin owners, due to financial threats and coercions by the state.

3. What did your kind donation help us to do?

Your generous donation allowed us to do some crucial work – in litigation, awareness raising, human rights training of community members and international advocacy - in and with the community to ensure their right to property and their right to live in dignity:

i) Legal action: Adalah achieved the cancellation of 51 home demolition orders against the village of Alsira, following the court’s rejection of the state's  appeal. The Alsira success offers an important legal precedent, which Adalah will use for other villages, in order to challenge the state's discriminatory plans to demolish Bedouin unrecognized villages and evict residents from their homes and lands.

ii) Community empowerment: Adalah convened human rights awareness-raising workshops, together with our partner, the Negev Co-existence Forum. The community increased its documentation of human rights violations, and there was  high interest and participation among Bedouin citizens – men, women and youth - in the trainings. In 2014, we organized 7 human rights trainings – 3 for 29 women and 4 for 52 men (81 people in total) – in four unrecognized villages identified as being at high-risk of demolition by state authorities.

iii) Awareness-raising and advocacy locally and internationally:  Adalah organized more than 70 study tours in the Naqab for Latin American diplomats, Hebrew-language bloggers and Palestinian artists, among others. We conducted 3 international advocacy missions in 2014 as part of the project: two missions to UN bodies in Geneva, and one to the European Union in Brussels. We also achieved strong concluding observations on Israel by the UN Human Rights Committee on the rights of Bedouin citizens, and positive texts from the EU in its European Neighborhood Policy Progress Report on Israel on Bedouin citizens' rights. Highlight of international advocacy: In 10/14, Adalah conducted a mission to the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) in Geneva, for its review of Israel’s compliance with the ICCPR The key concluding observations related to Arab Bedouin citizens were the Committee’s recommendations that Israel must: end its policies of punitive home demolitions, discriminatory planning and zoning, and forcible transfer and evictions of Arab Bedouin citizens in the Naqab, and in particular, to withdraw the Prawer Plan and its legislative arm, ensure that Bedouin citizens are fully included in the consultative process of their fate, and respect their rights to their ancestral land and their way of life (CO #9).

 Some of the main achievements during this period, and those that contributed to the stalling of the Prawer Plan, were:

i) Adalah’s legal strategies and case interventions were pivotal in protecting homes for hundreds of people and Bedouin villages from eviction and demolition by the state. Adalah achieved these results either by forcing the state to delay its plans by engaging it in legal cases, or by obtaining positive court decisions that cancelled discriminatory orders. Adalah’s legal services and expertise filled a major institutional need for the Bedouin community.

ii) The project’s awareness-raising activities played a significant part in the collective efforts to promote the rights of Bedouin citizens in the Naqab. Adalah became among the foremost sources of information on the human rights of the Bedouin, particularly in relation to the Prawer Plan, which allowed the project’s activities and products to be shared to a wide local and international audience.

4 Postscript

As you know, although the Prawer Plan has been successfully stalled, the home demolitions continue. More recently, on 5 May, the Israeli Supreme Court delivered a rather devastating decision for human rights when it decided that it was okay to demolish all the homes and evict all the residents of the Bedouin sister villages of Atir and Umm al-Hiran and in their place to settle Israeli Jews. This decision sets a very dangerous precedent that would facilitate future forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinian citizens for overtly discriminatory and racist reasons. In order to prevent this from happening, we’ve launched a new campaign to #Save_UmAlHiran. Join us in this new struggle and let’s make an even bigger impact than we did in our first campaign!

Community Visit to Al-Araqib in March 2014
Community Visit to Al-Araqib in March 2014
Latin American Embassy Reps on Tour
Latin American Embassy Reps on Tour
Nadia, Nadeem & Khalil @ UN ICCPR
Nadia, Nadeem & Khalil @ UN ICCPR's Review of IL
Khalil Al-Amour & the Al-Sira decision! No demos!
Khalil Al-Amour & the Al-Sira decision! No demos!

Links:

Attorney Mahameed & Sheikh Sayyah of Al-Araqib
Attorney Mahameed & Sheikh Sayyah of Al-Araqib

Adalah works through legal representation to defend and advance the rights of Arab Bedouin citizens in the Naqab in the face of efforts by the state of Israel to displace them from their lands and villages. Below are two examples of our cases from the first quarter of 2015.

1) Criminal indictments withdrawn against Sheikh S. A-T. from Al-Araqib:

Adalah Attorney Aram Mahameed: "The goal behind the indictments is to criminalize Arab Bedouin villagers for their attempts to save their homes."

On 24 February 2015, during a hearing in the Be'er Sheva Magistrates' Court, the state prosecution announced the withdrawal of criminal indictments against Sheikh S. A-T, leader of the unrecognized Arab Bedouin village of Al-Araqib in the Naqab. The prosecutors had charged the Sheikh with "forcibly taking control" of the village's land and "failing to obey orders to leave the land" after he refused to comply with eviction orders issued against him. The decision to withdraw the indictments was an indication, as Adalah argued before the court, that the state’s charges against Sheikh S. were legally baseless. The case is the last of a group of 14 criminal indictments filed against villagers and activists in Al-Araqib, who were arrested and injured during protests against home demolitions in the village in 2010 and 2011. In all of these cases, either the activists received very light sentences, or the state withdrew the charges, or the court cancelled the indictments.

2) Demanding public transportation for Bedouin voters in unrecognized villages on Election Day:

Adalah’s Khalil Alamour and Amjad Iraqi: “The Bedouin should not have to count how many cars are needed to demand recognition and equality at the ballot box.”

On 22 January 2015, Adalah sent a letter to Israel’s Central Elections Committee requesting that public transportation routes be provide for Bedouin residents of the Naqab in order to allow them to vote in the Israeli general election on 17 March 2015. The letter argued that the lack of public transportation impedes the residents' right to vote and directly influences voter levels in these villages. This is particularly damaging for residents of villages facing imminent home demolition or eviction, for whom the election results could make a major the difference. However, in March, shortly before the election, the Committee refused Adalah's request, stating that it “requires a large built system, and also requires resources and preparations that the elections committee cannot commit to," Despite this decision, Adalah highlighted the obstacles to Bedouin voters’ rights for future efforts, and also raised awareness in the media about the issue.

This legal work is made possible through your contributions via Global Giving – thank you! As we continue our work, we hope that you will help us reach our goal of raising $20,000 so that Adalah can continue to support the Bedouin community with high-quality legal representation, in-depth study tours for influential stakeholders, and practical human rights workshops for Bedouin activists. Together we can struggle to halt the ongoing forced displacement and dispossession, and work to ensure that the Bedouin can remain in their homes and on their lands with dignity.

Please join us and stand for Adalah, stand for Justice!

Naqab Tour with Central Elections Committee
Naqab Tour with Central Elections Committee
Sign at entrance of village of Atir/Umm el-Hieran
Sign at entrance of village of Atir/Umm el-Hieran

Between October and December 2014, Adalah initiated various legal actions on behalf of Arab Bedouin citizens in the Naqab to defend their right to live on their ancestral land. The State of Israel is attempting to forcefully evict the Bedouins and confiscate their lands in order to build Israeli Jewish-only communities and military complexes. Adalah’s lawyers represent Bedouin citizens before Israeli courts and state authorities to cancel demolition orders against their homes, and to acquire basic services such as schools, roads, clinics and others in order to establish infrastructure that keep the lands in Bedouin hands while asserting their fundamental right to these services as citizens of the state. Below are three examples of our recent cases:

Saving Atir/Umm el-Hieran: For over a decade, Adalah has represented the residents of the twin villages of Atir and Umm el-Hieran against the state’s plans to expand a forest and build a Jewish town on their lands. From October to December 2014, Adalah submitted motions to the Supreme Court and the lower courts, as well as letters to the state, to deter the implementation of demolition and evictions orders. Currently, the home demolition orders have been frozen until mid-March 2015.

Safe roads to schools: In December 2014, Adalah sent a legal letter to the Israeli Ministries of Transportation and Education and the Al-Kassoum Regional Council, demanding the opening of safe roads to schools in the unrecognized Bedouin villages of Al Amal and Tal-Arad. Without paved roads, the paths to the schools are treacherous in the winter, as they become flooded and the students and teachers are unable to reach them.

Establishing a health clinic: In December 2014, Adalah sent a legal letter to the Israeli Deputy Minister of Health and to the Clalit Health Services, demanding the establishment of a health clinic for the Bedouin residents of the villages of Kahla (Kohleh) and Makhool (total population almost 2,000). Under current circumstances, village residents have to travel to the town of Kessife, 9 km away, to receive medical treatment.

This legal work is made possible through your contributions via Global Giving – thank you! As we continue our work in 2015, we hope that you will help us reach our goal of raising $20,000 so that Adalah can continue to support the Bedouin community with high-quality legal representation, in-depth study tours for influential stakeholders, and practical human rights workshops for Bedouin activists. Together we improve the services provided and halt the ongoing forced displacement, and ensure that the Bedouin can remain in their homes and on their lands with dignity.

Please join us, and thank you for calling on your friends to stand with Adalah, and stand for Justice!

Al-Fur
Al-Fur'a road before Adalah's legal intervention
Al-Fur
Al-Fur'a road after Adalah's legal intervention
Latin American diplomats examine Naqab landscape
Latin American diplomats examine Naqab landscape

"In Alsira, the citizens must fend for themselves without the same services as most citizens in Israel. The ingenuity that the residents of Alsira have shown in providing these services for themselves and their community is impressive and commendable. It is frusturating that, as citizens, they do not receive equal access and rights to government resources." - Participant in Law Students’ Tour

Between May and July 2014, Adalah, along with NGO partner the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF), organized several tours for diplomats, journalists and students to Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab (Negev). The tours sought to raise awareness about the challenges facing the Bedouin community, particularly those living under heightened threat of displacement due to discriminatory Israeli government plans.  Through the study tours and field visits, Adalah works to educate and achieve effective engagement at all levels of influence, whether with community members, opinion-shapers or decision-makers.

Latin American Diplomats: In May 2014, Adalah and NCF hosted a delegation of 10 diplomatic representatives from Latin American embassies in Israel on a tour of the Naqab.  The delegation took place in advance of a regional Latin American meeting with the Israeli government, and the group was able to raise concerns about the human rights challenges facing the indigenous Bedouin community. The group visited the construction site of “Intelligence City” a military complex that is located in an area populated by over 9,000 Beoduin citizzens of Israel living in several unrecognized villages.  The delegation also visited the recently-recognized Bedouin villages, such as Umm-Batin and Abu Tlul, which continue to be denied access to basic infrastructure and regularly experience the demolition of new buildings. The diplomats also witnessed first-hand the problems of forced urbanization on the Arab Bedouin community in the government-planned township of Hura, one of seven such townships that suffer from poverty, overcrowding and lack of services. The participants expressed enthusiasm for the visit and commented that such tours were important in raising awareness of the issues facing the Bedouin community.

International Law Students:In June 2014, Adalah and NCF also hosted a delegation of law students from Australia, Canada and the USA to the Naqab, as part of the Palestine Works and Al Haq Fellows Conference. About 20 law students attended the tour, where they learned the history of the Bedouin community and were able to contextualize the current legal and human rights reality in the Naqab. The students were able to meet with representatives and residents of unrecognized villages as well as recently-recognized villages and government-planned Bedouin townships.  The comprehensive tour for young human rights practitioners highlighted the entrenched system of discrimination that excludes the Bedouin community and denies them their basic human rights and civil rights as citizens of Israel.

These tours are made possible through your contributions via Global Giving – thank you! As we continue our work in 2014, we hope that you will help us reach our goal of raising $20,000 so that Adalah can offer more in-depth study tours to key stakeholders, provide practical human rights workshops to Bedouin citizens, and support the community through legal representation. Together we can halt the ongoing forced displacement of the Bedouin community, and ensure that they remain in their homes and on their ancestral land with dignity.

Please join us, and thank you for calling on your friends to stand with Adalah, and stand for Justice!

Diplomats discuss Bedouin rights in Umm el-Hieran
Diplomats discuss Bedouin rights in Umm el-Hieran
Law students learn about Naqab land discrimination
Law students learn about Naqab land discrimination
Atwa
Atwa

"I know that the state is planning to build a Jewish village named Hiran and that some of the houses in the village are included within a master plan. The plan for Hiran's development in the area is proof that this land is suitable for residency. In addition, the fact that our village was built by the military regime, that we've been here since 1956, that we've built our homes, raised our families and developed our community here, is reason enough for us to oppose our transfer to any other village." 'Atwa '

"In a decision that was given in part of the evacuation orders, the court ruled that we are authorized to be here.  However, the state claimed that we were trespassers, and so their demand for us to leave the village is based on partial and irrelevant consideration. This approach is discriminatory based on our national identity and has no business in planning, legal or any other issue." Khalil 

"In October 1997, there was a storm around the area of the Yatir River. Heavy rains caused erosion and flooding in and around the village. As a result, three girls from the village were swept away and killed by the floods, and most of the houses in the village were completely destroyed. After the disaster, Ariel Sharon, who at the time was the Minister of National Infrastructure, visited us and the government decided to assist in rebuilding the village. We bought materials and rebuilt our houses, but by 2004, the state announced that we have to leave our village and that our homes will be demolished." Ali 

"Our tribe lived in Wadi Zubaleh before we moved to Umm el-Hieran, which today is part of the agricultural areas that were allocated to Kibbutz Shoval. Our tribe used to cultivate the land there for many years. The legal procedures for our land claims have been pending since the 1970's and there are still no decisions by the state." Ahmad 

"The people of Umm el-Hieran form a close social unit based on strong communal solidarity among all families. The evacuation of the village will break those connections and hurt the social structure of our families and all the residents of the village." Salim 

The twin villages of Atir and Umm el-Hieran are slated to be demolished and the lands used to build a new Jewish town called “Hiran”, and to expand a Jewish National Fund (JNF)-sponsored forest called “Yatir”. The approval of the state’s plans for Atir-Umm el-Hieran will mark the second mass displacement and dispossession of the Arab Bedouin villagers since the establishment of Israel. 

Adalah has been representing the residents of Atir-Umm el-Hieran for over 10 years before all levels of Israeli Courts and in Land and Planning Committees against these demolition orders and eviction lawsuits. Adalah is currently defending the villagers against a total of 25 eviction lawsuits, 33 demolition orders, and 3 master plans.

A history of displacement and discrimination

In 1956, the Israeli military governor moved the Al-Qian tribe to the lands of Atir-Umm el-Hieran after the state confiscated their land and expelled them from their ancestral village of Khirbet Zubaleh. Although the state relocated the residents to those lands, it refused to legally recognize their village. As a result, the state did not issue the villagers permits to build new homes and infrastructure, and the village was denied basic services including water, electricity, schools and sewage systems.

In 2002, the Israeli government announced plans to establish the Jewish town “Hiran” over Umm el-Hieran and to expand the “Yatir” forest over Atir. In November 2013, the government approved the acceleration of the construction of four new Jewish towns in the Naqab including Hiran, despite the fact that several cases remain pending in the courts against the demolition of the village and the evacuation of its people.

Meanwhile, a group of Israeli Jewish citizens have built a gated community inside the Yatir Forest neighboring Umm el-Hieran, waiting for the evacuation of the Bedouins in order to move into Hiran. This unauthorized illegal community has been connected to the electricity and water networks, while the 1,000 residents of Atir-Umm el-Hieran have never received these most basic services for the past 58 years.

The case of Atir-Umm el-Hieran poses a very important question: can Israel demolish an Arab village and forcefully evict its residents, in order to establish a town for Jewish citizens and a man-made forest over its ruins? 

For more information:

Our legal and advocacy work are made possible through your contributions via Global Giving – thank you!

As we head further into 2014, we hope that you will help us reach our goal of raising $20,000 so that Adalah can support the community through important legal representation to save their homes and their village, offer more study tours for media and decision-makers, and continue to provide human rights workshops to Bedouin citizens. 

Please join us, and also ask your friends to stand with Adalah, stand for Justice!

Khalil
Khalil
Ali
Ali
Ahmad
Ahmad
Salim
Salim

Links:

 

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Project Leader:
Alyssa Bernstein
Beersheva, Beersheva Israel

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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