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UN officials urge Israel to halt plans to transfer Palestinian Bedouins, expand settlements

UN officials urge Israel to halt plans to transfer Palestinian Bedouins, expand settlements

Photo by UNRWA/Alaa Ghosheh

Originally published by the UN News Service – May 20, 2015

Two United Nations humanitarian officials with responsibilities in the occupied Palestinian territory have today expressed their grave concern over the Government of Israel’s “rapidly advancing plans” to transfer Palestinian Bedouins in the central West Bank from their current communities.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, James W. Rawley, and the Director of Operations in the West Bank for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) , Felipe Sanchez, released a joint statementthat recalled a report of the UN Secretary-General from March this year, drawing a link between the proposed transfers and illegal settlement expansion and warning that the move would breach the Fourth Geneva Convention and violate human rights.

“History has shown us that these transfers have not proven to be in the interests of the Bedouin communities,” said Mr. Sanchez. “This would represent a continuation of developments that commenced in 1997 when Palestine refugees were loaded on trucks and taken to the same urban site in Eizariya, after which an illegal settlement was constructed on their former land.”

On 28 April, residents of Abu Nwar, in Area C of the West Bank, where Israel retains control over security, planning and building, were informed that some families would have to move to the Al Jabal area outside of East Jerusalem. Area C accounts for over 60 per cent of land in the West Bank and is home to an estimated 300,000 Palestinians.

According to the joint statement, the plan to move the families comes amid a discriminatory zoning and planning regime that facilitates the development of illegal Israeli settlements at the expense of Palestinians, for whom it is almost impossible to obtain permits for construction. A total of 70 per cent of the land is off-limits to Palestinian construction, with heavy restrictions on 29 per cent and just one per cent zoned for Palestinian development by the Israeli Civil Administration.

“Israeli practices in Area C, including a marked increase of demolitions and confiscations of donor-funded structures in the first quarter of 2015, have compounded an already untenable situation for Bedouin communities,” said Mr. Rawley.

The Bedouins currently living in Abu Nwar are one of 46 Palestinian Bedouin communities – most of whom are refugees – who are slated for transfer to three proposed “relocation” sites, with the Israeli authorities claiming that Bedouin communities lack title over the land and that “relocation” will improve their living conditions.

The communities are subject to eviction and home demolitions as the area in which they live has been allocated for the expansion of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement – the so-called “E1 Plan” – and the joint statement warns that the forced urbanization of Bedouin communities in the three relocation sites would destroy their culture and livelihoods.

“There is also concern over the strategic implications of these plans,” said Mr. Rawley. “Many of the communities are located in areas slated for further Israeli settlement, including the E1 plan, which has long been viewed as an obstacle to the realization of a two-state solution.”

Mr. Sanchez stressed the obligations held by Israel as occupying power to ensure the wellbeing of such communities and to respect international law.

“We are fast approaching the point of irreparable damage,” he said. “I strongly urge the Israeli authorities to halt all plans and practices that will directly or indirectly lead to the forcible transfer of the Bedouin and call on the international community to support the Bedouins’ wish to remain where they are, pending their return to the Negev, and prevent this transfer from occurring.”

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A march from Negev to Jerusalem in bid to recognise Bedouin villages

A march from Negev to Jerusalem in bid to recognise Bedouin villages

Originally posted by Middle East Eye — March 26, 2015

By MEE Staff

The head of Israel’s third largest political party Ayman Odeh began a four-day walk on Thursday from the Negev desert to Jerusalem in order to bring attention to the issue of unrecognised Bedouin villages.

Odeh has long campaigned for the rights of the Bedouins in the desert, where there are as many as 40 unrecognised villages that are not connected to the state’s electricity or water grids and lack basic infrastructure.

“The existence of unrecognised villages, which have no water, electricity, schools or institutions is not just a stain on the government but a continuous crime and tragedy,” Odeh said. “These villages existed before the creation of Israel by decades. I decided to walk from the Negev to the Knesset before the formation of the new government to emphasise the priority of the issue and the depth of the ongoing crime.”…

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West Bank Bedouins fear ‘a second nakba’

West Bank Bedouins fear ‘a second nakba’

Originally published by Al Jazeera – March 25, 2015

By Lena Odgaard

Abu Dis, occupied West Bank - In the middle of a small campsite consisting of two tin shacks, a group of men and women huddled around a fire burning in a barrel – oblivious to the gathering rainclouds and the Israeli military jeeps and soldiers surrounding the camp.

On the side of one of the shacks, the words “Bawabet al-Quds” – Gateway to Jerusalem – were spray-painted in big red and green letters…

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Nabi Samwil – A Village Trapped in a National Park

Nabi Samwil – A Village Trapped in a National Park

Originally published by Emek Shaveh


The Nabi Samuel National Park is one of the largest national parks in the West Bank. The antiquities site and religious center located on the grounds have become a key tool in the struggle against the residents of the Palestinian village of a-Nabi Samwil. Since most of the village lands have been declared a national park, and the site of the original homes, destroyed in 1971, has been turned into an archaeological tourist attraction, the future of the village, now relocated slightly to the east of its original location, is in danger.


The village of Nabi Samuel, in Arabic, “a-Nabi Samwil,” is located north of Jerusalem and outside of its municipal boundaries, at a distance of one kilometer north of the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. The locality occupies an area immediately adjacent to the archaeological site of the same name, and rises 890 meters above sea level. To the northeast of the site is the Palestinian village of Al-Jib, to the northwest, the settlements of Giv’at Ze’ev and Giv’on, and to the west, the village of Beit Iksa. The original village of a-Nabi Samwil was built on the hilltop, around the mosque and the grave attributed to the prophet Samuel.

The location of the village atop the hill enables a broad vista in all directions, and control over all of the main roads leading from the coastal plain to Jerusalem. Throughout history, the site has been considered a strategic military position, a fact true till today. In the 11th century, the Crusaders first viewed Jerusalem from Nabi Samuel on their way to conquer the city. During WWI, decisive battles were fought between the Turkish and British armies, and in the War of Independence, the Palmach tried (and failed) to conquer it on the night of April 22, 1948.

Until 1967, over 1,000 people lived in the village. Most fled during the Six Day War. In 1971, the village was demolished by the IDF and its residents were evacuated to an area near the hill, east of the heart of the site.[1] Today, some 250 residents live there. In 1995, the site was declared a national park, with an area of approximately 865 acres (3,500 dunams).

The park boundaries encompass the archaeological site, the residents’ homes, and agricultural lands that belong to them, spanning many hundreds of acres. From a legal standpoint, the Civil Administration is responsible for the site, and the archaeological excavations are carried out by an officer from the administration’s archaeological headquarters. Responsibility for the Nabi Samuel National Park rests in the hands of the Nature and Parks Authority. According to the Oslo Agreements, the site is designated as part of Area C.

Archaeological Significance of Nabu Samuel

Already in the earliest archaeological studies of Palestine, the question arose as to whether the site should be identified with the Biblical settlement of “Mitzpah,” described as the location where the prophet Samuel gathered the people (I Samuel 7: 5-6).[2] This association has not been proven to this day, as remnants from the 11th century BCE, the time of the prophet Samuel, have not been found at the site.

In archaeological excavations carried out on location during 1992-1999 by the Head of the Archaeology Department of the Civil Administration, it was discovered that the site was first settled in the 7th century CE. Remains from a large settlement from the Hellenistic period (4th-1st c BCE) were also found. From the Byzantine period (5-6 c CE), a large production house and residences were excavated. The production house and residential community remained in existence during the early Muslim period (8th-10th c). The main findings, and most prominent among the remains, are a fortress and trench from the Crusader period (12th c). During the Mamluk Period (13-16th c) and the Ottoman period (16-20 c) the site continued serving the Muslim residents. A mosque was built there, and the village developed around it.[3]

The remains of the Palestinian village are built upon the earlier layers. Excavations have been carried out now and then at the site in recent years by the Archaeology Department of the Civil Administration. A complete report of the results of these excavations has not yet to be published.

Traditions and Beliefs

The Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions identify Nabi Samuel as the burial place of the prophet Samuel. The testimony of Jewish and Christian pilgrims tells of pilgrimages to, and worship at, the traditional location of the grave for centuries. Muslim sources of the 8th-10th centuries (al-Muqaddasi) also attest to the existence of a settlement and worship at the site. The earliest traditions about the Prophet Samuel’s burial at this site can be traced to the Byzantine period, a tradition that probably became firmly established during the Crusader period. As mentioned previously, when Jerusalem was conquered by the Crusaders in 1099, pilgrim soldiers arrived at Nabi Samuel, and it was from there that they first viewed the city.[4]

Since that time, Christian tradition has referred to the location as the Mount of Joy (Mons Gaudi). From the Crusader Period onward, Jews made pilgrimages to pray there. During the Mamluk period, a mosque was built at the site. In the 18th century, Jewish prayer was prohibited at the site, and prayer there was permitted only for Muslims.[5]

Today, the basement level of the mosque houses a Jewish prayer area, in which a separate women’s section has also been designated. Muslim prayer takes place at the entrance level. Tradition views Samuel’s grave and the nearby spring, known as Hannah’s Spring, as having healing powers for women experiencing infertility.

Presentation of the Site to the Public

The main usage of the site is for Jewish and Muslim prayer. The secondary use is for tourism. Entrance to the site is free, but it is under construction due to development work that will turn it into a site with an entrance fee. The course through the site is concentrated in the area of the mosque and the archaeological excavations surrounding it. The information sheet handed out at the entrance depicts remains of the fort, the trench, and structures from ancient periods, mainly from the Hellenistic period (2 CE). The descent to Hannah’s spring lies on its northern side; the spring is located in a tunnel that emerges from an ancient burial cave carved out of the rock (apparently from the Early Roman Period). Bordering the excavation area from the north is a Muslim cemetery, which belongs to the village and is enclosed by a fence. The information sheet includes historical quotes only from Jewish and Christian sources. The Muslim story of the place does not appear, with the exception of the history of the mosque. There is no reference to the history of the Palestinian village and its fate, even though its remains are visible in the field and they are better preserved than earlier remains.[6] The quotes are interspersed in the description of the ancient remains, and visitors receive the impression that the site is important to Jews and Christians only.

Antiquities and Residents

In recent years, as stated, archaeological excavations have been carried out at the Nabi Samuel antiquities site. Like the excavations carried out in the 1990s, some of the remains are structures and installations from the destroyed Palestinian village, built on top of earlier remains. Some of the excavators are themselves residents of the village. In the paradoxical situation that resulted, in order to make a living, residents are excavating their own original village and removing some of its last remnants. The residents are working together with archaeologists to build a tourist site at the location.

While the IDF destroyed the village in just one day, the excavations are carrying on slowly, under the guise of scientific activity. They constitute an important component in converting the site into an active and exciting tourist attraction. It can be assumed that the village was not demolished in order to promote an archaeological agenda, but out of the IDF’s aspiration to control a strategic location that overlooked the West Bank and north Jerusalem. Today, however, the excavations and the tourist site are obviating any possibility of the residents ever returning to their village.

The National Park and the Residents

In September 1995, the State of Israel, as mentioned, declared an area of some 865 acres as a national park.[7] The declaration was based on the protection of flora, in this case, Mediterranean forest, and on the importance of the antiquities at the location. A number of springs emerge in the park, some of which are accessible to visitors. Despite declaration of the site as a national park, construction of the Separation Wall in 2005/6 divides the declared park area.

The National Parks Law and the declaration of the site as a national park create a situation in which the lands remain in the possession of their owners, but any activity in the declared area requires the approval of the Nature and Parks Authority and the Archaeology Department of the Civil Administration. Activities such as new construction, adding to existing buildings, cultivating agricultural lands and shepherding require permission from the Antiquities Authority and the Civil Administration.[8] Usually, such requests are refused, on the grounds that they threaten to damage the national park and the antiquities. For example, a temporary goat pen, donated by the French government and erected on developed land, is today slated for demolition (see attached photo), and residents who planted olive and fruit trees on their private lands received written orders to uproot them (see photographed documents). In effect, the protection of archaeological sites and the national park prevents residents from conducting their lives in a reasonable manner, even though most of their activities do not involve harm to the antiquities or to the unique flora.

The Antiquities Law and the National Parks Law make it almost impossible to appeal the decisions of these authorities using legal instruments, since the law views legislation pertaining to the protection of antiquities and nature as the exclusive jurisdictional realm of the Antiquities Authority (or the Archaeology Department of the Civil Administration, where relevant) and the Nature and Parks Authority.

The area of the antiquities site is approximately 7.5 acres. Despite this, the Nature and Parks authority declared an area 100 times this size as a national park, based on its unique flora and Mediterranean landscape. A visit to the national park clearly attests that there is almost no flora on these lands – certainly no unique Mediterranean flora. As far as we understand, with the exception of the archaeological site, there is no justification for declaring the site a national park. For the sake of comparison: the area of the national park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City is some 250 acres; the area of Sebastia National Park in the West Bank is approximately 60 acres; in Ein Gedi, to protect the ruins of the ancient synagogue unearthed there, only two acres were declared a national park.

From these examples, it is clear that there are places where residency and livelihood for the residents can be integrated with protection of the landscape and the antiquities.

That’s the problem – that you live in the most beautiful place

‘Eid Baraqat, resident of the village, who was a child at the time of the eviction in 1971, returned to live in his father’s house in 2006, after living for nine years in the villages of al-Jib and Beit Iksa. He knows that residents will not be permitted to return to their homes in the area of the antiquities, but he thinks that at least they should be allowed to build on their lands. The picture he paints clearly reflects how Israeli policy leaves the villagers with no options: they are prevented from entering Israel and working in Jerusalem because they are considered West Bank residents; on the other hand, access to the West Bank, and even the nearby villages of al-Jib and Beit Iksa, requires lengthy travel on bypass roads.

“Nowhere in the world have I heard of a prohibition against planting trees on your own land. I know that it’s forbidden to cut trees down, but planting?” says ‘Eid, in response to the orders he received to cut down the fruit trees he planted on the private lands in his ownership. ‘Eid tried several times to make use of the land in his possession near the entrance to the antiquities site in order to earn his livelihood. He opened a car wash, which was closed by the Civil Administration; a paid parking area that he established was also closed. The opening of stores and even vending carts selling food, souvenirs and drinks is forbidden. ‘Eid claims that he wants to apply for a business license, but past experience indicates that the Civil Administration and Nature and Parks Authority have no intention of allowing it. In other words, the opportunity to take advantage of the last remaining resource, i.e. tourism, is also denied to the residents.

The combination of the employment problems and prohibition against building leads most of the young people to move to the village of al-Jib and to other localities in the West Bank. To ‘Eid’s understanding, the vista from the village and the place’s religious importance have become a threat and obstacle in the lives of the residents: “That’s the problem – that you live in the most beautiful place.”

The Israeli Presence

The influence of the Israeli presence at the site began in 1971, when it was decided to evict the residents from the village and demolish their homes. The site’s location, approximately one kilometer north of Jerusalem, and convenient access from the city, make Nabi Samuel accessible to thousands of Israeli prayer-goers and visitors. Most are ultra-Orthodox visitors who come to pray at the prophet’s grave. During holidays and anniversary occasions relating to Jewish sages (“hilula” celebrations), such as the anniversary of the death of the prophet Samuel, which takes place in the spring, thousands of prayer-goers visit the site. The “Shmuel Ha-Navi Yeshiva” was established at the entrance to the national park, and uses a temporary building (a caravan) for its needs. A military outpost, enclosed in a concrete wall, stands between the entrance to the Palestinian village and the antiquities site and includes a military antenna and cameras.

Apart from the Civil Administration, responsible for civilians in Area C, including the residents of Nabi Samuel, the most significant Israeli presence in terms of the residents’ lives is the declaration that their lands are a national park (see section The National Park and the Residents, above). A Jewish settler, who claims to be the owner of some of the lands, resides at the southern end of the village. The residents tell of ongoing clashes between them and the settler, every time one of them passes by.[9] The separation wall, built in 2005/6, partially within the boundaries of the national park, and the blockage of roads that lead directly to the villages of Beit Iksa and al-Jib, make connection to the West Bank even more difficult than it has been in the past.


A-Nabi Samwil is a village in danger of forced dissolution and abandonment. The exodus of young people, lack of employment, the National Parks Law, and the difficulties that the authorities heap upon the villagers, leave no hope or possibility for development of the village.

From an historical perspective, a-Nabi Samwil is a relatively small antiquities site, with a non-continuous settlement over a period of some 2,500 years, from which the main findings are the remnants of the fortress and the mosque. The Israeli authorities combine the archaeological site with religious tradition, and grant freedom of worship to Jews and Muslims.

Although, ostensibly, freedom of religion is not impinged, an unbalanced picture of Jewish-Arab coexistence is created. This lack of balance manifests in the fact that the Muslims were forcibly evicted from their homes, they are not allowed to build and develop their village, their legal status is unequal to the status of the Israelis, their part in the history of the site is barely mentioned, and their presence is confined almost solely to the prayer that takes place at the mosque. In the situation created, the antiquities and the archaeological excavations, which constitute a significant portion of the erasure of the Palestinian identity of the village, promote the site as a tourist and religious center, without exposing the visitor to the complex story of the place. Ironically, those advocating for development of the archaeological site at the expense of the Palestinian villagers are preserving Palestinian historical memory unwittingly, since the archaeological ruins that they insist on leaving intact include many remnants from the destroyed village.

A-Nabi Samwil is not the only village whose residents were evicted because their place of residence coincided with an archaeological site. There was a similar case in Susiya, in the South Hebron Hills,[10] and recently, the Civil Administration asked the residents of a minor ruin in the South Hebron Hills to leave their homes, based on a similar claim.[11] The case of Nabi Samuel is unique, however, since it is the first village in the West Bank where the Israeli authorities evacuated residents and demolished houses in order to turn it into an archaeological site. It is also the most marked case of the inclusion of extensive village lands into a national park under the National Parks Law, without any accompanying satisfactory professional substantiation.

It appears, from the description of the residents’ lives and the behaviour of the military government construction supervisors and the Nature and Parks Authority rangers, that the State of Israel views the Antiquities Law and Nature and Parks Authority Law as a tool for expanding its control on the ground, perhaps for purposes of expanding Israeli territory north of Jerusalem and creating contiguous Israeli presence between Jerusalem and the settlements of Giv’on and Giv’at Ze’ev. The residents are viewed as an interfering nuisance not necessarily to the nature, antiquities and flora, but to the political goals of Israeli policy.


The recommendations presented here are based on the understanding that destruction of the village is a fait accompli, as is the conversion of the site into an archaeological and tourist site. In addition, any proposed solution is temporary, until a political solution is devised which must accompany the proposed recommendations.

The residents must be allowed to build and expand their homes in the developed areas in their ownership. The construction of animal pens, the planting of fruit trees, and the creation of paths can take place in the many areas that have no antiquities or endangered flora.

Residents must be allowed to develop businesses in the village alongside the antiquities site.

Nabi Samuel is a place of Jewish prayer and tradition, as well as Muslim tradition. Both sides have stated that there is almost no religiously based friction, due to the respect for belief and religion. Strengthening the status quo by emphasizing the religious importance of the site can lower the tension between the sides and enable them to live in respect until a political agreement is made between Israel and the Palestinians regarding the site.

The area declared as a national park must be reassessed and reduced to the minimum extent.

The village of a-Nabi Samwil must be presented to visitors, both on the information sheet and on the site’s signage.

Tourist development of the place must involve the village residents and enable them to enjoy the economic opportunities presented by tourist traffic.

Development of infrastructure for the archaeological site must include development of infrastructure for the village.

Development of the site and the manner in which it is presented to the public must take place in coordination with village residents.


[1] United Nations General Assembly, 67th session, Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, September 14, 2012, Paragraph 46.

[2] V. Guérin, Descriptions of Eretz Israel, Judea (3), Yad Ben Zvi, 1985, p.3 (in Hebrew).

[3] Y. Magen, M. Dadon, “Nabi Samuel,” Qadmoniot 118, 1998, pp. 62-77, and Y. Magen, M. Dadon, “The Grave of Samuel the Prophet,” Ariel 105-106, 1994, pp. 25-29 (both in Hebrew).

[4] Y. Elitzur, “The Source of the Tradition regarding Nabi Samuel,” Katedra, 31, 1984, pp. 75-90 (in Hebrew).

[5] Ben Dov, Yoel, Nabi Samuel, HaKibbutz Ha-Meuhad, 2006, p. 86.

[6] Nabi Samuel National Park Information Sheet, Har Shmuel, Mount of Joy, Nature and Parks Authority.

[7] The date of declaration is based on telephone conversations with the Nature and Parks Authority, after a search of government listings turned up no reference to a date for declaration of the national park.

[8] National Parks, Nature Reserves, Historical Sites and Monuments Law (1998).

[9] For example: during the Emek Shaveh delegation visit on May 22, 2013, while we were walking along the dirt road that passes by the settler’s house, a man, approximately 60 years old, came towards us, and demanded, yelling, cursing and threatening, that we remove ourselves.

[10] Y. Mizrachi, “Susiya,” in National Heritage Sites Project in the West Bank, Emek Shaveh, 2011.

[11] A. Hess, “Reason for Destruction of a Palestinian Village: Built on a Minor Archaeological Site,” Haaretz, July 27, 2012.

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Legal experts condemn Israel’s planned transfer of Bedouin as potential war crime

Legal experts condemn Israel’s planned transfer of Bedouin as potential war crime
Originally posted by Middle East Eye — January 25, 2015, updated March 16, 2015
By Joe Gill

Leading experts in international law, anthropology and planning have condemned Israel’s threatened forced transfer of thousands of Bedouin in the occupied West Bank as a violation of international humanitarian law and a potential “war crime”.

The experts called for the prosecution of Israeli officials who are responsible for implementing plans to relocate as many as 12,500 Bedouin to a centralised township near Jericho, called Nweima, to make way for new Israeli settlements.

It is one of several sites proposed by the Israeli authorities for the relocation of some 30,000 pastoralist Bedouin people. The plan has sparked international concern for the plight of the Bedouin and condemnation from world leaders.

The Palestinian Jahalin Bedouin communities reside mostly between Jerusalem and Jericho in the occupied West Bank’s Area C, where the Israeli army controls security and planning and has carried out many demolitions of Bedouin homes and schools over recent decades…

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Legal experts condemn Israel’s planned transfer of Bedouin as potential war crime

Meeting in Jericho invokes authority of International Criminal Court to prevent planned forced displacement of 12,500
Joe Gill, Subeditor
Sunday 25 January 2015 10:35 GMT
Last update:
Monday 26 January 2015 13:30 GMT

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Leading experts in international law, anthropology and planning have condemned Israel’s threatened forced transfer of thousands of Bedouin in the occupied West Bank as a violation of international humanitarian law and a potential “war crime”.
The experts called for the prosecution of Israeli officials who are responsible for implementing plans to relocate as many as 12,500 Bedouin to a centralised township near Jericho, called Nweima, to make way for new Israeli settlements.
It is one of several sites proposed by the Israeli authorities for the relocation of some 30,000 pastoralist Bedouin people. The plan has sparked international concern for the plight of the Bedouin and condemnation from world leaders.
The Palestinian Jahalin Bedouin communities reside mostly between Jerusalem and Jericho in the occupied West Bank’s Area C, where the Israeli army controls security and planning and has carried out many demolitions of Bedouin homes and schools over recent decades.
The Bedouin originally lived in the Negev desert but fled or were pushed out during the creation of Israel in 1948.
The experts’ statement follows Palestine’s formal joining of the ICC earlier this month in a move that would allow them to lodge war crime complaints against Israel as of April.
Speaking at a symposium of experts in Jericho near Jerusalem on Thursday, Marco Sassoli, professor of international law at the University of Geneva said: “The forcible transfer of a person within occupied territory is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel has to stop it. All states have an obligation to ensure respect for that prohibition. Forcible transfer within an occupied territory also constitutes a war crime.
He added that Israel and all other state parties to the convention must prosecute individuals suspected of such a crime. “In line with the recent statement of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), considering Palestine as a state party to the statute of the ICC, she may bring persons suspected of such a crime before the ICC, if the Israeli justice system tolerates forcible transfers”.
Dawn Chatty, professor of anthropology and forced migration at Oxford University, condemned the planned relocation as a form of cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing, arguing that “the Israeli transfer plan in the West Bank threatens the Bedouins’ need for mobility and user rights over extensive but low-quality natural resources such as grazing lands. The plan could be seen as cultural genocide of the Bedouin way of life in the West Bank. The sweeping nature of the forced eviction is tantamount to ethnic cleansing”.
The experts called on Israel to cease all measures and plans that would lead to the transfer, displacement and further dispossession of the Bedouin, and instead to put in place policies that support the welfare of the Bedouin communities, which is the obligation of an “occupying power” and to stop the construction and expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Abu Suleiman, speaking on behalf of the Bedouin Protection Committee in the West Bank, told the meeting that “the Bedouin totally reject this plan which will have an unbearable human impact on our families. Women, children, the elderly, some of the most vulnerable people in the Middle East will suffer intolerably. What we are facing is the elimination of the traditional way of life of an entire indigenous population. The transfer plan must be abandoned”.
Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, a Israel-based film producer and activist who campaigns on behalf of the West Bank Bedouin, told MEE that the UK and other Western governments had a direct responsibility for their fate.
“The British abstention [in the December UN security council recognition vote on Palestinian statehood] is really bad for the Bedouin because it has endorsed the status quo. Israel has elections coming up in March and that has strengthened the right wing – in a way it is a vote for Likud. It is not challenging them, it is not putting pressure on them.”
Godfrey-Goldstein pointed to a recent interview with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak in which he said: “In all of the years in which I was in government with Netanyahu, when the question was raised ‘what’s the damage?’ Bibi asked in response, ‘What’s so bad in the meantime? There’s no boycott, there’s no violence, … we’re succeeding in holding up the ceiling, in holding up the walls, nothing is collapsing, we’re continuing to sail on, the prophecies aren’t coming true and we are terrific.”

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Audience Award for HIGH HOPES at Erie International Film Festival

HIGH HOPES, a new short documentary directed/edited by Guy Davidi (of FIVE BROKEN CAMERAS’ fame) is in the running for the Audience Award (and Best Short Documentary) at the Erie International Film Festival. Voting, which costs $1.99, is open until December 21st, so please help to win the film that award, and make this issue better known.

Palestinian Bedouin community battles eviction by Israel

Middle East Monitor, Monday, 24 November 2014 10:35

A Palestinian woman reacts beside her destroyed home demolished by Israeli bulldozers in West Bank on the pretext that they had been built without license, in Ramallah, on August 20, 2014. Israeli bulldozers also demolished 3 mobile homes and 6 buildings without warning the residents or giving them prior notice. (Shadi Hatem - Anadolu Agency)

After living under decades of Israeli occupation, Palestinian Bedouins now face an Israeli plan for their forced displacement to urban areas, which, they say, do not suit their nomadic lifestyle.
Abu Raed, a 66-year-old leader of a Palestinian Bedouin community near Jerusalem, described the Israeli plan as “the worst threat we have ever faced.”
The area where he and his family live was labeled by the Israeli government “E1″ – one of Israel’s settlement expansion plans that was approved by the Israeli authorities in 1999 but was delayed due the international pressure.
If realised, the E1 plan, which aims to build new Jewish settlements on an area of 12,000 dunams, will link the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim, Mishor Adumim and Kfar Adumim in the occupied West Bank to East Jerusalem.
One dunam of land is roughly equivalent to 1,000 square meters.
To achieve this, Israeli authorities will relocate Raed’s family, along with many Bedouin communities, to the Jordan Valley near Jericho.
“We heard that the Israelis would bring thousands of outsiders into this land, which would mean forced displacement for us. All the Jewish settlements around will be combined and united with Jerusalem,” Abu Raed told Anadolu Agency.
He said that moving into an urban township would bring their traditional lifestyle – which they have enjoyed for centuries – to an end.
“Our life depends on livestock. We cannot live in the city. That is against our lifestyle. We cannot feed and water our livestock in a city,” he lamented.
Palestinian Bedouin, he said, also fear losing the privilege of keeping at least 200 meters between their homes, in accordance with their traditions – a custom that would become untenable in the city.
“Bedouin women don’t associate with outsiders, but in a crowded town, they won’t be able to keep this tradition anymore,” he said.
“City life is totally against our lifestyle. We are shepherds. We only know how to feed animals. We will be like brutes in the city,” he added.
He asserted that they didn’t reject modernity. They just want to become a modern society – but in the mountains instead of the city.
Asking European countries to help them against the settlement plan, Abu Raed voiced fear that there would be no local Palestinian village left in the area if Israel forced them off the land.
“It is impossible to bring peace with this kind of eviction plan,” he argued.
Last month, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the European Union sought to persuade Israel not to take a series of moves in the occupied West Bank deemed “red lines” by the union – including settlement building in the E1 area.
According to the paper, the European Union believes that crossing any of these “red lines” by Israel could undermine the possibility of a future Palestinian state alongside Israel – a risk that could draw further European sanctions against Israel.
The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous “Balfour Declaration,” called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
Jewish immigration rose considerably under the British administration of Palestine, which was consolidated by a League of Nations “mandate” in 1922. In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state – Israel – was declared inside historical Palestine.
As a result, some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes, or were forcibly expelled, while hundreds of Palestinian villages and cities were razed to the ground by invading Jewish forces.
Israel went on to occupy East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.
Palestinians, for their part, continue to demand the establishment of an independent state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with East Jerusalem – currently occupied by Israel – as its capital.

History of displacement

Mohamed al-Korshan, head of the Jerusalem Bedouin Cooperative Committee, an NGO, says the Bedouin living in Khan al-Ahmar had taken refuge in the area after becoming refugees when Israel was created in 1948.
According to al-Korshan, the Bedouin tribesmen who lost their land in the wake of the creation of Israel had settled in the Khan al-Ahmar area, refusing – for two main reasons – to move into refugee camps.
“Firstly, we thought we would get back our land very soon. And the second reason was to keep our traditional lifestyle,” he said.
“We currently live near Jerusalem; we don’t want to move away from the holy city due to its religious and commercial significance,” he added.
“Israel’s construction of the separation barrier has already isolated us from Jerusalem,” al-Korshan lamented.
According to the Ramallah-based Palestinian government, the separation barrier – which snakes through the West Bank, isolating large swathes of Palestinian territory – cuts some 50,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem off from the city center.
Sacred to both Muslims and Jews, Jerusalem is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which for Muslims represents the world’s third holiest site.
Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
International law regards the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and all Jewish settlement building in these areas as illegal.
Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered construction of a further 1,060 Jewish-only housing units in East Jerusalem in a move that drew Palestinian, Arab and international condemnation.
Palestinians already accuse Israel of waging an aggressive campaign to “Judaize” the historic city with the aim of effacing its Arab and Islamic identity and ultimately driving out its Palestinian inhabitants.

Legal fight

Al-Korshan said that Bedouin communities’ access to natural resources, such as fresh water and natural grasses for their livestock, were restricted after the 1967 war.
“Natural resources now go mainly to the settlers living around us,” he said. “The area where we live used to be considered ‘empty land’ by Israel – as if we had never existed.”
In order to avoid forced eviction, the Jerusalem Bedouin Cooperative Committee is bracing to fight the plan in court.
“Israel is making plans about us without consulting with us. We are now in coordination with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
According to Israeli law, any relocation plan must be published in two Hebrew-language newspapers and one English-language newspaper, so that it might be discussed for 60 days before being implemented.
However, al-Korshan said Israel had only shared the E1 plan with Jewish settlers, thus violating its own law.
“Our Israeli lawyers said that Israel’s plan for us is not transparent; that it was prepared behind closed doors,” he said.
Yet in a worst-case scenario, the committee is working on a plan aimed at allowing relocated communities to retain their traditional lifestyles – even if they have to move to a different area.
“We are working on an alternative plan, but we have not submitted it yet to Israeli authorities,” he said.
In August, Israeli authorities published six municipal plans, according to which 7,000 Bedouin would be relocated to townships.
One of these towns is Al-Nuway’imah, a Palestinian Bedouin community located just outside Jericho in the West Bank. It is surrounded by Jewish settlements and Israeli military bases.
Abu Faisla, a Bedouin leader in Al-Nuway’imah, fears that if other Bedouin communities in Khan al-Ahmar were to relocate here, there would be hostility between local residents and the newcomers.
“We live on little land. If the Bedouin communities in Khan al-Ahmar moved in, the land would be overcrowded,” he said.
“Each Bedouin community has its own traditions. Mixing us [together] as a big town might start a fight between us,” he warned.
He believes that, by this plan, Israel wants to play Bedouin communities off against one another.
“If Israel goes ahead with the E1 plan, we won’t be able to live as we have lived for centuries,” he said.

Activists block Jericho road to protest East Jerusalem land grab

Mondoweiss, Annie Robbins on November 30, 2014 19

Activists blocking the Jerusalem-Jericho road to protest Palestinian Bedouin displacement and removal from their homes November 28, 2014 (Photo: Hamde Abu Rahma)

A peaceful protest by activists from Palestinian popular committees successfully blocked the Jerusalem – Jericho road Friday in their ongoing protest against Israeli policies to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian Bedouin communities from “Area C”.
As Stop the Wall reported here last month, Israel has accelerated “the infrastructure construction to build the West Bank Bantustans systematically suffocating the Palestinian communities to force them to leave the area.”
Accompanied by international solidarity activists, they confronted heavily-armed Israeli forces who used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse them.

Blocking the Jericho road to Jerusalem November 28, 2014 (Photo: Hamde Abu Rahma)

In September 2014 Israel published plans (#1418 and #1419) to forcefully evict thousands of Bedouins from their residences in Area C (although they didn’t use those words) and corral them into a new “Bedouin township” in Nuweimeh near Jericho, thus clearing the area for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlement around Ma’ale Adumim, Kefar Adumim, Rimonim, Yitav and other settlements in the area. According to the Jahalin Association, the plans would have the effect of “judaising [the land] from East Jerusalem down to Jericho.”
According to the Jahalin Association: The plan will involve the transfer of Bedouin families from the Jerusalem, Ramallah and Jericho peripheries across three different Bedouin tribes: the Jahalin, Kaabneh and Rashayda. This includes communities from the controversial E-1 area. The targeted Bedouin communities strongly object to the Nuweimeh plans for a host of reasons.

Activists blocking the Jerusalem-Jericho road to protest Palestinian Bedouin displacement and removal from their homes November 28, 2014 (Photo: Hamde Abu Rahma)

An expert legal opinion by Professor Marco Sassoli and Dr. Theo Boutrouche examined the case and concluded that if the plan were to be implemented it would constitute forcible transfer, prohibited under Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is a grave breach of the Convention and may amount to a war crime.
Activist said the main goal of protest, along with alerting people to the ongoing displacement of the Palestinian Bedouins, was “to confirm that occupied Jerusalem is a Palestinian capital and Palestinians have the full right to enter Jerusalem city freely”. For more information on the dire implications of these plans please check out the Fact Sheet as to the Implications of the E-1 Development/Displacement Plan.
The plans that Israel published in September are open to public objection until December 3rd. A sub-committee of Israeli Military governing body that controls Area C is authorized to approve the plans but after it has received objections it must consider those objections and hold a public hearing before issuing a decision, which can then be appealed to the Israeli High Court.
Lawyers and planners for the Bedouin communities will object to the plans and represent their clients at the hearings. To protest the Israeli relocation plan individual citizens and organizations, have standing to make such objections to The Subcommittee for Objections, Civil Administration, P.O. Box 16 Bet El 90631, and do not need to be represented at the hearing.
Article 49 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 reads as follows:
Individual of mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.
Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand. Such evacuations may not involve the displacement of protected persons outside the bounds of the occupied territory except when for material reasons it is impossible to avoid such displacement. Persons thus evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased… The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies
Jahalin Association: “The forcible transfer of the Bedouin tribes living in Area C is not motivated by any imperative military reasons, nor is it being proposed in order to protect the civilian population from imminent danger arising from nearby military operations.”

Activists blocking the Jerusalem-Jericho road to protest Palestinian Bedouin displacement and removal from their homes November 28, 2014 (Photo: Hamde Abu Rahma)

Thanks to Ofer Neiman
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