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Bedouins in strategic West Bank area fear eviction

Bedouins in strategic West Bank area fear eviction

This article originally appeared in SF Gate – May 8, 2014 [Photo by Majdi Mohammed, AP]

By Karin Laub

West Bank (AP) — Over the course of just three weeks, Israeli forces destroyed Suleiman Qaed’s small cinderblock house and the trailer home an aid group sent him as a replacement. Even the Red Cross tent his family now calls home appears at risk of being torn down, with Israeli officers taking pictures of it and warning him that it’s in an illegal location.

But Qaed, 54, fears far worse is in store — the dismantling of his entire Bedouin community called Jabal al-Baba. The hilltop encampment of shacks and sheep pens is located just east of Jerusalem in one of the most strategic areas of the West Bank. Its fate could help determine if setting up a Palestinian state next to Israel will soon no longer be possible.

Leaders of the area’s Jahalin tribe, rights activists and international aid officials believe the demolitions in Jabal al-Baba and eviction orders for another village are part of a push by Israel to relocate hundreds of Palestinian Bedouins and make way for Israeli settlements. Jabal al-Baba sits on land earmarked for a settlement for 20,000 Israelis, known as E-1.

“We fear it and we expect it,” said Qaed, a blind father of eight.

Israeli officials confirmed plans to relocate Bedouins but said discussions with the communities are continuing. The Bedouins would be concentrated in more urban settings, including a new town in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley.

There is precedent. Between 1997 and 2007, Israel evicted about 150 Jahalin families from their communities to make way for the expansion of the settlement of Maaleh Adumim, across a main highway from where E-1 would be built.

The Jahalin were resettled near Jerusalem’s municipal garbage dump, in an area rife with pests and packs of dogs. While they received compensation and land, they had to sell most of their herds for lack of grazing space.

“All our relatives in Jabal al-Baba and the other communities know our suffering,” saidMohammed Miqbel, a leader of the uprooted Jahalin. “They are fervently pleading not to be moved here.”

The United Nations and the European Union have been monitoring Israel’s plans with alarm.

Chris Gunness, a spokesman for a U.N. aid agency, said some 2,800 Bedouins are at risk of forced displacement.

The EU also has expressed concern and criticized Israel for dismantling three EU-funded trailer homes in Jabal al-Baba and issuing final demolition orders for an additional 18. In all, EU-funded aid agencies have distributed some 200 trailers, latrines and water tanks to Bedouin communities in the Jerusalem area.

John Gatt-Rutter, the local EU representative, said the issue of compensation was raised with Israeli officials.

Underlying the tensions are conflicting views of the rights of the Jahalin, who were displaced from the Negev Desert during the war over Israel’s 1948 creation and settled between Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley in the 1950s.

In 2012, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Israel’s Bedouin plans “would amount to individual and mass forcible transfers” in violation of international law, even if some gave consent.

Israel largely views the Bedouins as squatters and says its relocation plan is meant to legalize their status and improve their quality of life. “In order to do that, we need to … move people from where they are living today and move them a few kilometers (miles),” said Maj. Guy Inbar, a Defense Ministry official.

Inbar said the preliminary plans call for Bedouins to be concentrated in three areas — the community next to the garbage dump and two new towns in the southern Jordan Valley. He declined to elaborate.

David Elhayani, leader of the Jordan Valley’s 7,000 Israeli settlers, said a plan shown to him by Israeli officials called for more than 1,400 construction plots near the village of Nuemeh. Elhayani said he objected, in part, because the town would be established in an area under the jurisdiction of his settlement council.

Israel is promoting the relocation plans at a time when hopes are fading for a U.S.-brokered peace deal with the Palestinians, who seek a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 war. The latest round of talks ended in late April, after nine months, and there’s little chance they will resume soon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will not partition Jerusalem and keep large chunks of the West Bank. Some 550,000 Israelis now live in lands captured in 1967.

Under Israeli plans dating back to the 1990s, the lands of Jabal al-Baba and neighboring areas are earmarked for E-1, a settlement with 3,500 apartments. Israel would also build a new loop of its West Bank separation barrier — seen by some in Israel as a possible future border — to bring E-1 and Maaleh Adumim on the “Israeli side.”

Israel froze the plans for years under pressure from the U.S., which feared E-1 and a barrier jutting deep into the West Bank would break up the territorial contiguity of a Palestinian state. E-1 in particular would prevent development in Arab areas of east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital, by cutting it off from the West Bank.

In 2012, Netanyahu announced he would move forward with planning for E-1 after the Palestinians won U.N. General Assembly recognition of a state of Palestine. Israel has said construction is years away, but even before the U.N. vote, officials set up a towering hilltop police station there as a first foothold.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev denied any connection between settlement plans and a possible relocation of Bedouins. “There is no such policy,” he said, adding that no decision has been taken to start building in E-1.

But Bedouins are nervous as pressure by Israeli authorities mounts. In March, Qaed’s house was razed because he didn’t have a building permit. In April, Israeli forces destroyed six more structures and dismantled three trailer homes, including Qaed’s.

“We feel there is a lot of pressure,” community leader Atallah Masara said. “It’s unacceptable for us to leave this land unless we are forced out.”

Original Link: http://www.sfgate.com/news/world/article/Bedouins-in-strategic-West-Bank-area-fear-eviction-5461884.php#page-2

Israel’s creative dispossession tactics

Israel’s creative dispossession tactics

This article originally appeared in Al Jazeera - May 3, 2014 [Photo by AFP/Getty Images]

By Nora Lester Murad

At first, the visit by the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) to Jabal al-Baba on April 9 seemed routine. A Bedouin community in the E1 area, Jabal al-Baba has had 18 demolition orders pending since February. Residents were not surprised, then, when officials delivered stop-work orders on three more insulated residential structures. Under Israeli law, these structures can be demolished – but only after a 21-day delay, during which residents have the right to appeal to the Israeli courts.

But the Israeli authorities didn’t wait for the legal process to run its course; they returned to Jabal al-Baba and retrieved the stop-work orders they had distributed just hours before.

“We were happy,” said Suleiman Kayyed Jahalin, a member of the community. “We thought the Israelis had changed their minds and weren’t going to demolish our homes after all. We were wrong.”

A representative of an international NGO that delivers aid to the community described how the Israeli Civil Administration returned several hours later with soldiers and dismantled the three homes. Once dismantled, the ICA didn’t have to wait for their demolition orders to survive a legal challenge; they simply confiscated the parts of the houses under an Israeli law that entitles them to confiscate building materials, equipment or cars without any advance notice.

Although Israel dismantled and confiscated the homes rather than demolishing them, the result is the same: Human beings that lived in shelters are now homeless. A total of 111 additional members of the Ras al-Baba community live under impending threat of having their homes demolished. In fact, the United Nations reports that most of the 2,800 Bedouins residing in the E1 area have demolition orders against their homes (plus two schools). These Palestinian communities are considered among those most at risk of forced displacement.

‘Well-known concerns’

The three residential structures were constructed in February with funding from the European Commission Humanitarian and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) and the French consulate and were valued at approximately 2,000 euros ($2,770). Representatives from the donor agencies and other diplomatic staff toured the site on April 11, but the Office of the EU Representative was only willing to say, “The EU has well-known concerns about demolitions, which it has expressed on many occasions in line with our overall Area C policy. The EU will raise this issue with the relevant Israeli authorities.”

Palestinian human rights advocates are disappointed that European donors have failed to act boldly to hold Israel accountable. It seems that many humanitarian actors have bought into the notion that demolition of donor-funded projects is “sensitive” and should not be addressed head-on.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has tracked Israeli demolition of donor-funded projects since 2011. They report that 317 donor-funded projects were demolished between January 1, 2011 and the end of 2013.

In another recent incident, a truck with donations from the Italian government arrived at the school in the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar on February 27. According to the principal: “A drone sailed around taking photographs and 20 minutes later, the Israeli Civil Administration showed up with three carloads of police and confiscated all our new playground equipment and construction materials.” They even took the truck in which the aid was delivered.

Some human rights advocates describe the confiscation of playground equipment as “silly” while others call it “evil”, but one thing is certain: Such confiscations are illegal. Diakonia, a Swedish faith-based development organisation that promotes respect for international humanitarian law, refers to the Fourth Geneva Convention when it concludes that international humanitarian law “…specifically protects against the requisition of property of relief organisations and prohibits the diversion of relief consignments from the purpose for which they are intended, except in cases of urgent necessity…”

The Italian consulate did not respond to a request for a statement.

What’s at stake

The stakes are financial, legal and moral. The confiscation and demolition of humanitarian aid may result in forcible transfer, which may be considered a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva convention.

International and Israeli NGOs have documented Israeli tactics, which include denial of building permits to structures where no master plan exists, refusal to respond to community-supported master plans submitted for approval, stop-work orders for construction lacking building permits, seizure or confiscation of equipment or materials, and demolition of structures. Palestinians are often charged a fee for the demolition of their home or offered the option to self-demolish in order to reduce their fines. Seizure, confiscation and demolition lead to displacement of Palestinians, especially in Area C, and facilitate Israel’s illegal settlement activities.

Thousands of Palestinians are effected by Israeli confiscations and the demolition of property, resulting in growing humanitarian concerns. However, with rare exceptions, most international donors are subdued in their criticism of Israeli demolitions in general and do not speak out publicly about the demolition of taxpayer-funded projects. To be fair, they are stuck between conflicting interests. On the one hand, international donors are legally-mandated by international humanitarian law to address the humanitarian needs of Palestinians in Area C, whether or not Israel approves. To ensure the sustainability of their humanitarian projects, they would have to obtain permits from Israel.

However, the Israeli planning and permit regime in Area C is illegal and it may also be illegal for donors to grant it validity by seeking Israeli permits. Moreover, donors who build without Israeli permits and see their funded projects demolished may expose themselves to criticism for spending taxpayers’ money irresponsibly.

Increasingly, local and international aid critics are saying that by failing to hold Israel accountable, donors alleviate pressure on Israel to agree to a sustainable and just peace and are therefore complicit in the ongoing denial of Palestinian rights. They also note the spike in demolitions of Palestinian property that coincided with the renewal of US-backed peace talks. Diplomats and officials are also starting to speak out, but so far, only off the record.

Nora Lester Murad is a writer of fiction and commentary living in Jerusalem. Her blog, “The View From My Window in Palestine” is at www.noralestermurad.com.

 

Link to article: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/04/israel-creative-dispossession-t-201442412496181645.html

[Swedish Radio] Israel bygger bosättningar trots fredsförhandlingar

[Swedish Radio] Israel bygger bosättningar trots fredsförhandlingar

Photo by Katja Magnusson – Swedish Radio

The following is a Swedish Radio piece, on the recent demolition of EU-funded temporary structures on E-1 and subsequent discussions as to whether to call for compensation from Israel. 

Originally aired on Sveriges Radio - April 16, 2014

By Katja Magnusson

Enligt FN:s organ för palestinska flyktingar (UNRWA) har husrivningar och vräkningar av palestinier ökat medan förhandlingarna pågår.

Ekot har besökt en grupp beduiner som fått veta att deras hus ska rivas, trots att de bott på platsen i runt 50 år.

– Det här var duschen, men de förstörde den, säger Amina och visar en överbliven ho som ligger på marken, det enda som finns kvar av huset.

I slutet av förra veckan omringades kullen de bor på av israelisk militär, tre hus revs och rivningsorder delades ut för 18 andra byggnader. De hemlösa familjerna bor nu i tält.

De små containerliknande husen som demolerades har delvis betalats av EU, som uttryckt oro över det ökade antalet husrivningar på Västbanken. Israel motiverar ofta rivningarna med att byggnaderna saknar bygglov.

Kullen Jabal al-Baba där familjerna lever och där de har sina får är strategiskt viktig, här har Israel haft planer på att bygga ut bosättningen Maale Adumim sedan 1990-talet. Om det skulle bli av kommer Västbanken i praktiken att skäras av i två delar enligt kritiker.

FN uppskattar att cirka 2 800 palestinier riskerar att tvångsförflyttas i området. FN, EU och frivilligorganisationer bekräftar att situationen förvärrats under de snart nio månader som fredsförhandlingarna nu pågått.

– Det har kommit fler order om husrivningar, fler palestinier har förflyttats mot sin vilja och våldet ökar, säger Chris Gunness, talesperson för FN-organet för palestinska flyktingar, UNRWA.

Efter att det blev klart att palestinierna ansökt om medlemskap i internationella konventioner har situationen eskalerat, fortsätter Chris Gunness, som tror att det finns en tydlig koppling till det som händer i fredsprocessen.

De runt 300 palestinierna som bor på kullen Jabal al-Baba har svårt att tro på fredsförhandlingarna.

– Det blir ingen fred om de tar ditt hus från dig, säger Ghassan, som bor i ett tält efter att hans hus rivits.

Ekot har sökt de ansvariga för rivningarna utan resultat.

Original article link: http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=83&artikel=5838469&playaudio=4921835

Compensation calls as Israel seizes EU-funded aid projects

Compensation calls as Israel seizes EU-funded aid projects

Originally published by EurActiv - April 11, 2014

Israel has seized three EU-funded humanitarian aid projects on the edge of a settlement construction zone that Europe views as as a ‘red line’, spurring demands for compensation payments to Brussels at a crisis moment for John Kerry’s Mideast peace bid.

The three humanitarian aid shelters were dismantled on 9 April in Ras-a-Baba, also known as Jabal-al-Baba, which lies in the E1 corridor of the West Bank, linking the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem.

All three shelters were prefabricated caravans, built for families made homeless in severe storms that hit the region in December. They were funded by the EU’s humanitarian aid wing, DG ECHO, and some were provided by the French development agency, Action Contre la Faim (ACF).

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told EurActiv that the seizure was “more than a provocation, it is a crime,” and linked it to the deteriorating Mideast peace process.

“We ask the EU to apply their laws in relation to Israel,” he said. “This is consistent with the Israeli policy of forced displacement of the Palestinian population around occupied East Jerusalem.”

EU officials contacted by EurActiv confirmed that they also saw the Israeli action as a “forced displacement of Palestinians” that breached international law and “must be halted immediately”.

“While we acknowledge that these events come at a politically sensitive time where parties to the conflict are currently negotiating a peace-deal brokered by the US (Secretary of State) John Kerry, we must nevertheless denounce the humanitarian consequences of such actions and try to prevent further demolitions from occurring by unreservedly condemning them,” a senior source said. Internal discussions are underway over proposals to demand compensation for such actions in future.

The dismantling of Palestinian homes in the E1 region has previously been followed by settlement construction.

“The location is definitely an attractive area and when you go there it is easy to understand why it is coveted by the Israelis,” a European diplomat in the region told EurActiv over the phone. “It is quite beautiful and there’s a nice view of Jerusalem. It is also between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem and is prime real estate.”

In November 2012, the Netanyahu government announced a zoning plan to build 3,000 Jewish housing units in E1 that would create an urban bloc linking Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, and disrupting the territorial coherence of any future state.

An EU Foreign Affairs Council the next month expressed “deep dismay and strong opposition” to the plan which would “seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict” and “could also entail forced transfer of civilian population.”

The Conclusions pledged to “closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly.” EurActiv understands that a delegation of European diplomats in Jerusalem will deliver a complaint to the Israeli authorities about the seizure today (11 April). More actions could follow.

“One of the key messages coming up will be a call for freeze on demolitions and for a fair planning and zoning regime to be put in place,” the diplomat said. “I don’t know if it will happen today but it is in the pipeline.”

Some 79 EU-funded structures were demolished in the West Bank’s ‘Area C’ and Jerusalem region in 2012 and 54 more were destroyed in the first six months of 2013, according to an EU incident logging service. In all, the European Commission says that between 2001 and 2011, Israel destroyed development projects worth €49.14 million, of which €29.37 million was funded by the EU or its member states.

As Israel is increasingly blamed for an impasse in Mideast peace talks, calls are growing for compensation for such actions at an EU Mashreq and Maghreb (MaMa) working group meeting that is expected to deliver recommendations on an EU ‘Area C’ report on Tuesday 15 April.

Compensation calls

One EU diplomat in Brussels speaking on condition of anonymity told EurActiv that while the final note was still being finalised, many member states now favoured such a proposal. “We should ask for compensation from Israel whenever EU-funded humanitarian aid projects are destroyed,” he said. “That would definitely be a pertinent recommendation.”

EurActiv understands that no opposition was raised to this recommendation when it was raised in MaMa group discussions. The recent E1 demolition could have an effect on the vote, the diplomat said, as it was “a very good example that we need to do something concrete.”

The EU’s humanitarian aid commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, recently wrote a letter to the Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya’alon, outlining her concerns about the destruction of EU-funded structures in the West bank. But it remains to be seen whether a proposal to demand recompense will be included in the final note, which will then face a long route to the European Council.

Maja Kocijancic, a spokesperson for the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, would only say that a delegation of diplomats visited the caravan site, also known as Jaba-al-Baba in February, when ‘stop work’ orders were first delivered and would do so again today.

“We will raise this issue with the relevant Israeli authorities,” Kocijancic said.

Israeli reaction

An Israeli spokesman contacted by EurActiv declined an interview about the new E1 action but sent a statement saying that the three caravans were seized because they had been “assembled illegally”.

“At least two of the buildings [were] located on state land and within the jurisdiction of the city of Ma’ale Adumim,” the statement read.

It went on: “It is important to note that the elements in question were carefully dismantled and seized by the authorized bodies of the Civil Administration and that their owners can act according to the standard procedure in order to get them back from the Supervision Unit.”

EU officials counter that the lack of any meaningful permitting regime for Palestinians can make complaints of permit violations a self-reinforcing proposition, and some fear that they can make EU aid funding complicit in violations of international humanitarian law.

“I think every diplomat working here realises that we are here to help the Palestinians and build Palestinian institutions but in the end we end up funding the occupation as we are taking care of the responsibilities that Israel should take care, of as an occupying power,” an EU diplomat in Jerusalem told EurActiv. “So when we support the occupied population instead of Israel, we let them off the hook.”

Death knell

The Ras-a-baba demolition occurred hours after an instruction by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to his ministers to stop all high-level meetings with their Palestinian counterparts, in retaliation for a Palestinian bid to join 15 UN treaties and conventions as a state party.

This has been seen as the end of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts to revive the battered 1993 Oslo peace Accord in the form of a framework agreement on principles.

While the Oslo talks have ground on, by 2011, Israeli settlements which are considered illegal under international law, had expanded to house over 520,000 settlers, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The following year saw a 300% increase in the number of settler units issued for tender, OCHA says. In total 43% of the West Bank has now been allocated to settlement local and regional councils.

Article Link: http://www.euractiv.com/sections/development-policy/compensation-calls-israel-seizes-eu-funded-aid-projects-301501

They came, they razed, they left: A visit to a destroyed Palestinian village

They came, they razed, they left: A visit to a destroyed Palestinian village

Originally published in Ha’aretz – April 14, 2014

By  and 

Israel is continuing to destroy systematically the villages of shepherds who live in the Jordan Rift. Last week, the Civil Administration demolished Homsa, another tiny Palestinian village. In January, 160 residents of the valley were made homeless; last year, twice as many were left homeless as in the year before…

Article continued here: http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/twilight-zone/.premium-1.585009

Israel ‘demolishes’ EU-funded West Bank housing shelters

Israel ‘demolishes’ EU-funded West Bank housing shelters

Photo by Rami Allaria

Originally published by Ynet News (with reporting from AFP) – Saturday, April 12, 2014

Israel has demolished several European Union-funded humanitarian housing shelters in a highly sensitive strip of West Bank land near Jerusalem, which led European diplomats to demand financial compensation.

“On April 9, three of some 18 residential structures were demolished… in Jabal al-Baba,” an area outside the sprawling settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, a spokesman for the EU’s delegation to the Palestinian territories told AFP.

The tin huts, used to house Palestinians made homeless by severe winter weather at the beginning of the year, were “partially funded by EU member states,” the official said.

The shelters were funded by the EU’s humanitarian aid wing, DG ECHO, as well as the French development agency Action Contre la Faim.

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein from the Jahalin Association representing Palestinian Bedouin told Palestinian news agency Ma’an that the demolitions were “presumably revenge” for the Palestinian move to join 15 international treaties and conventions.

Israel issued demolition orders on all 18 structures in February, the official said, and EU delegates “raised this with the Israeli authorities” both at that time of and after the demolitions.

The EU official said simply that there were ongoing discussions with Israeli authorities over the demolitions, but a report by EurActiv, a Brussels-based news service, said diplomats were demanding financial compensation.

“We should ask for compensation from Israel whenever EU-funded humanitarian aid projects are destroyed,” EurActiv quoted an anonymous diplomat as saying.

Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat called the Israeli move “more than a provocation, it is a crime,” and told EurActiv the Palestinians have asked the EU “to apply their laws in relation to Israel.”

Israel’s military administration of the West Bank could not immediately comment on the demolitions.

An Israeli spokesman contacted by EurActiv for comment issued a statement saying the shelters had been “assembled illegally.”

“At least two of the buildings (were) located on state land and within the jurisdiction of the city of Ma’aleh Adumim,” the statement went on to say.

The structures were located in E1, a highly contentious area in the West Bank east of Jerusalem.

Israel has been planning construction in E1 since the early 1990s but nothing has ever been built there due to heavy international pressure. Plans for building 1,200 units unveiled in December 2012 were quickly put on the back burner after the announcement triggered a major diplomatic backlash.

The Palestinians say construction in E1 would effectively cut the West Bank in two and prevent the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.

Article link: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4509483,00.html

A Stranger in my Homeland

A Stranger in my Homeland

Rawia Aburabia, 33, says that even though the situation of Bedouin women is bad, a trend of ‘groundbreaking women’ is taking hold. (Originally published by Ha’aretz – Friday, March 28, 2014)

By Ayelett Shani

You started out as a social worker. What made you decide to go into law?

As a social worker I encountered many wrongs, but I had the feeling there was nothing I could do about them, that I was limited. In my third year I started to deal with “unrecognized” villages [of Bedouin in the Negev]. That just crushed me. What can you possibly offer someone whose life has been trampled by political policy? People are in distress and you can’t help. They have no electricity or water, they are in a dreadful situation. So I decided to study something that would allow me to help on a larger scale, and I chose law, with an emphasis on human rights.

And you work for the Association for Civil Rights.

I head the unit that deals with the Arab and Bedouin population in the Negev, and am a member of the executive committee for equality of personal rights. I deal with all the well-known issues – from home demolitions to forced marriages of underage girls. It’s very complex even for me. On the one hand, I feel committed to people who are fighting for their homes, but on the other hand, as a feminist, I am very critical of what is happening in Bedouin society. It’s something of a duality.

Especially given your background. You are a Bedouin, but you did not grow up in an unrecognized village – rather, in a villa in Be’er Sheva. Your father is the first Bedouin physician in the country, your mother is a teacher and your siblings are academics.

Yes. People tend to imagine Bedouin in tents, but I grew up in Be’er Sheva in a completely secular home, and my parents are educated.

Did you attend an Arab school?

Until fourth grade, when I switched to a Jewish school. My whole starting point is very different from that of the traditional Bedouin girl, and different possibilities were available to me. There was a very strong emphasis on education at home, even over-achievement. While my girlfriends were having children, I collected degrees. I got married only three years ago, and have a six-month-old daughter, so I really don’t fit the stereotype. But the truth is that changes are occurring in the Bedouin society — the rate of educated women is rising.

Really? According to a report I read, 90 percent of Bedouin women in Israel are unemployed, and 60 percent drop out of high school.

That’s true, but significant changes are taking place. In general, the situation of Bedouin women is bad, but we are also seeing a trend of groundbreaking women.

You are now writing a doctoral dissertation on polygamy, which is still prevalent among the Bedouin.

It was also the subject of my master’s thesis. I obtained my M.A. in America and majored in human rights. Polygamy was an urgent issue for me, especially in light of its prevalence among Bedouin. In the eyes of the law, the Bedouin woman is both excluded and transparent. The police take no interest in polygamy.

Israel law forbids polygamy, but there is no enforcement. What kind of numbers are we talking about?

Between 30 and 40 percent of all families. The average is two-three wives per man, and what is especially distressing is that it exists in all classes, in the city and in unrecognized villages, and among the educated as well.

If I understood correctly, the model is that a man marries one woman, and a few years later marries a second, and they all share a household.

That is the most common form. They live in separate homes but are part of the same household. The first wife is the traditional one; the second, the supposedly more modern one. Regrettably, many educated women take part in this repressive practice by agreeing to be the second wife.

Why do the first wives agree to it?

Many of them cooperate with the practice so as not to undergo a divorce. The status of women in Bedouin society is so low that it’s enough for the husband just to threaten divorce. I asked many women why they do not get a divorce, and the answer is that they are simply afraid. The attitude toward a divorcee is atrocious. The woman is dependent on her husband economically, so leaving is not a viable option. She is a prisoner. Even an educated woman. Her hands are tied.

Technically, one can file a complaint about polygamy with the police, but it’s useless.

Indeed. The policy of the state prosecution is not to file charges in such cases. Criminal law in this regard is useless; there is no enforcement and no deterrence.

What do you hope to achieve through your study?

I hope I will be able to propose a mechanism of some sort for coping with this phenomenon; I don’t want it to remain only an academic study. And I also want to place the subject on the public agenda. The law is enforced only in cases when the man marries a Palestinian woman from the territories as his second wife and she wants to live here [in Israel proper]. But in Bedouin society in general, the situation persists uninterruptedly.

How well do you know the traditional Bedouin woman and her way of life?

My father’s family is originally from an unrecognized village. My cousins are the very woman you’re describing. I don’t pretend to represent the traditional Bedouin woman, but I know that life to a certain extent. Both as a social worker and as a lawyer, I constantly come into contact with these women. Still, I am fully aware that my life is different – in terms of the opportunities I got, the places I reached.

Most Bedouin woman are unemployed, because the urbanization forced on their society dislocated them from their traditional roles. When the state decided it would not help these uneducated women with their social-cultural adjustment, but would simply move them, as they were, to one of seven towns built here beginning at the end of the 1970s, it sealed their fate.

It’s ironic to recall that the Jews who immigrated here in the 1950s – from an urban background – had farming communities built for them in the Negev on land taken from the Bedouin. There are more than 100 Jewish communities in the Be’er Sheva district, with an average population of 300, and they enjoy all the infrastructures. In contrast, there are 35 old historical [Bedouin] villages without water or electricity, where homes are demolished every day; the authorities are continuing the policy of suppression and dispossession.

What options are available to a girl who grows up in a traditional Bedouin family?

Let’s take a girl born in an unrecognized village, for example. There are no preschools, so it’s likely she will be at home at least until kindergarten, and it’s impossible to know what will happen after primary school. Any high school there is will be far away. If the parents understand the importance of education, they will see to it that she remains in school. But many times it doesn’t work, because of other factors, such as the fact that the buses that go to the school are coed, and the parents don’t want their daughter to travel with boys.

Does she have to help provide for the family? Will she work outside the village?

No, only at home. And very often, if she drops out of school early, her fate will be to marry at a very young age. The marriage rate for underage girls is very high. There is absolutely no doubt that the Bedouin locales that were built — Tel Sheva, Lakiya, Rahat and the others — are a failed model. The state admits it, too. My feeling is the state wants to keep it like that, so that the Bedouin will remain weakened — hewers of wood and drawers of water, as it were — and not pose a threat.

The Israeli policy of rule involves concentrating the minority in one place so as to strengthen political control over it. All studies show that, by all indices, coerced urbanization bore very deep and had severe consequences. The economic and social situation was aggravated, because Bedouin were uprooted from an agricultural environment to one that is supposedly urban, but does not really offer urban services. There is no infrastructure, no organized industrial zone, the education standard is very inferior. A farce of a whole fabric of life.

How does that affect the status of women?

Catastrophically. They are a minority within a minority, in a repressive patriarchal society in which the men also suffer from weakened masculinity; their homes are demolished and no one takes them into account. The Israeli side now thinks it is going to “rescue” the women. Doron Almog [head of the task force for the settlement and economic development of the Bedouin in the Negev] says that they want to eradicate polygamy and catapult the women into the 21st century. But how, exactly, will that be done, when along the way you are destroying their whole fabric of life, and from your point of view they are just a tool?

What is your feeling when you come into contact with these women? Do you feel guilty due to your different life circumstances?

I can’t speak in their name, because neither I nor anyone in my immediate milieu lives their life. I can only talk about my experience in the face of these women, and I admit that a certain distance exists in my encounter with them. I was fortunate, I received an opportunity which is truly not to be taken for granted. I do not feel guilty but committed to helping them make their voice heard.

How do you define yourself?

As a Palestinian. It really is very complex. One time in court, a judge asked me if I am from the Aburabia tribe. I said I was, and he said, “Really? I know that tribe, I’m proud to say.” He was proud of me, he patronized me, do you understand? Or, one time a radio interviewer said to me, “Well done, achieving what you did in spite of where you started from.” All kinds of remarks like that.

It makes me angry that my identity is belittled like this: I am a Palestinian, even though the Bedouin element is very meaningful in my life. And I get angry at the “We took you out of the tent and brought you to this point” approach. It’s exactly the infuriating Orientalist approach, but my identity is far richer and more complex. One time, when I was a member of a delegation in the United States, we were to give a talk to a Muslim community in a mosque. I was told to wear a head covering. I objected. Why am I being placed in a mold? Why am I not asked whether I am secular or religious, what meaning the head covering has for me?

One of the organizers said, “You know, Hillary Clinton wore a head covering when she spoke to us, what’s the big deal?” I said, “For Hillary Clinton it’s just a kerchief she puts on her head, but for me it has a multitude of meanings and it is an affront.” I refused. [Wearing it] is to ignore who and what I am. That’s why I also got angry when you asked me about the way of life of the Bedouin woman.

I noticed.

I don’t have a clue. I didn’t grow up like that.

What do you think about Israel? What do you feel toward Israelis?

It’s not easy growing up here as a national minority. I think Israel is becoming more and more right-wing, violent and racist. I have never felt such a poisonous atmosphere toward the Palestinians as today.

It’s hard, but you mustn’t let it debase you. I constantly tell myself that this is where I live, and that I must not allow racism and arrogance and paternalism to debase me as a human being, to make me lose my humanity. After every humiliating experience I take a deep breath, write an opinion piece and let it go.

I have undergone profiling with El Al. In the airport here all my luggage was taken and checked, without my being present. They interrogated me. It was insulting and awful; I boarded the plane crying. I mean, I am going to speak about the Bedouin population to human rights committees at the United Nations and I feel good, and then at the airport they say: Just a minute, we will strip you of the person you think you are, we will remind you what your place is and that you are the enemy. It’s harassment. It’s hard for every Palestinian who lives here. There’s a messed-up mentality of a minority, which is the Israeli mentality.

You mean Israeli Jews are a majority who still think, feel and behave like a persecuted minority?

Yes. Even though the majority of Israelis should feel safe, right? Those are moments that almost break me, and I have to remind myself that I, my parents and my grandparents were all born here, and that I should not take to heart a security checker whose parents immigrated here a minute and a half ago from who knows where, and treats me like a security threat. You have to breathe deeply. I have to work on myself very hard when that happens, and also inculcate certain things in my daughter. She will have to be critical and activist, but also look out for herself, so she won’t feel discriminated against. I was taught that everything is possible, so am I going to let a few racists destroy and debase me? No way. On the day I stop believing in that, I will no longer be here. But yes, absolutely: I feel like a stranger in my homeland.

Article link: http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.582443

Israel demolishes blind man’s home in Jerusalem-area village

Israel demolishes blind man’s home in Jerusalem-area village

Originally published by Ma’an News Agency - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli bulldozers early Wednesday demolished a residential building, a car wash, and a shop in an East Jerusalem village, a popular committee spokesman said.

Hani Halabiyya, a spokesman for East Jerusalem’s popular resistance committees, told Ma’an that a large number of Israeli troops and military vehicles raided the Jabal al-Baba area of al-Eizariya village early Wednesday.

Bulldozers then proceeded to demolish a house owned by Suleiman Jahalin, a blind man who says he has been living in the Jabal al-Baba area since 1967.

Before starting the demolition, Israeli troops forcefully removed Jahalin and ten of his family members from their home, he told Ma’an.

After the 65-square-meter house was demolished, Jahalin expressed his intention to remain in the village.

“The last thing I saw before I became blind was the land of al-Eizariya,” Jahalin said. “I will never leave this land.”

He said he had recently received a demolition warrant from Israeli authorities.

Meanwhile, Israeli bulldozers demolished a car wash and a grocery shop near the entrance of the neighborhood. The two structures were built on one dunam (1,000 square meters) of land owned by Sami Abu Ghaliya.

Abu Ghaliya told Ma’an he was surprised to see Israeli forces surrounding the structures early Wednesday.

They demolished the car wash and the shop without prior notice, he said.

The same structures were demolished by the Israeli Civil Administration about a month ago, and Abu Ghaliya says he rebuilt them shortly after the demolition.

Halabiyya said 40 Bedouin families could be displaced from Jabal al-Baba in the coming days, as all the families there had been issued demolition warrants.

Additionally, he said, all the homes built in Jabal al-Baba — which sits around 1,000 dunams (250 acres) of land — are slated for demolition.

About 350 people living in steel structures and tents in the area could find themselves homeless, Halabiyya said.

‘Demolishing possibilities for peace’

Angela Godfrey Goldstein, an advocacy officer of the Jahalin Association representing Palestinian Bedouin, condemned the demolitions.

“As an Israeli I’m horrified that my country is demolishing possibilities for peace by displacing people continuously,” Godfrey Goldstein said.

“This home was on E1,” she said. “One of Obama’s red lines.”

She added that with peace talks ongoing, “this is hardly conducive to trust-building and reveals Israel’s true colors.”

E1 is an area northeast of Jerusalem and west of the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim. Israeli plans for settlement construction in the area have been strongly opposed by the international community, including the US.

Critics say Israeli settlement construction in E1 would divide the West Bank in two and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state — as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — virtually impossible.

Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It has demolished at least 27,000 Palestinian homes and structures since occupying the West Bank in 1967, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

 

Photo by MaanImages/Rami Illariya

Article Link: http://maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=680845

State confiscates Bedouin playground equipment donated by Italy

State confiscates Bedouin playground equipment donated by Italy

Originally published by Ha’aretz, Friday, February 28, 2014

By Amira Hass

The Civil Administration on Thursday confiscated playground equipment that the Italian government had donated to a school at the Khan al-Amar Bedouin encampment east of Jerusalem.

A representative of the Italian Consulate accompanied the delivery, which came in two trucks, one carrying cement and the other a three-seat swing set and a slide with a tunnel and two ladders. The children barely had a chance to get excited about the equipment when Civil Administration inspectors appeared and announced they were seizing the two trucks and their contents, on the grounds that the installation was illegal. The consular representative drove off with the inspectors in an effort to overturn the decision.

The encampment’s school, built in 2009, is an ecological structure made of mud and old tires that maintains an even temperature in the classrooms during both winter and summer. It was built by the residents themselves with European financial aid, and inspired by an architectural approach that uses recycled materials easily obtainable by the poor.

The Khan al-Amar encampment, which is along the road leading to Jericho, is home to the Jahalin tribe that Israel expelled from the Negev in the 1950s. Around 250 people have lived in for decades in the camp, which is situated on land belonging to the village of Anata. The settlement of Kfar Adumim is only two kilometers from the site, but (as with all the other Bedouin communities between East Jerusalem and Jericho), the Civil Administration refuses to let Khan al-Amar residents build, connect to the infrastructure, or put up as much as a tin shack, animal pen or tent, on the grounds that the area does not have an approved master plan.

Thus the school, which has 128 pupils, mostly girls ages 6-13, was built without a permit. The Civil Administration has issued demolition orders against it and against dozens of other structures in the encampment.

In recent years Kfar Adumim has petitioned the High Court of Justice three times, demanding that the demolition orders be carried out. The first two petitions were denied, and last November the settlement (and two of its neighborhoods, Alon and Nofei Prat) filed another petition.

A report by the Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights organization shows some 300 structures in the settlement were built illegally.

The Civil Administration did not respond to a request for comment.

Link to article: http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/.premium-1.576978#

Scarlett Johansson and Oxfam, Torn Apart by Israeli Company Deal

Scarlett Johansson and Oxfam, Torn Apart by Israeli Company Deal

Originally published by the New York Times - January 30, 2014

 By Isabel Kershner

JERUSALEM — “Start with plain water and bubbles. Mix in the perfect flavor,” suggests Scarlett Johansson in the ad that is part of her new endorsement deal with SodaStream, the Israeli company that manufactures home carbonation systems.

But instead of a fizzy drink, Ms. Johansson, a Hollywood actress, stirred up an international political storm this week because SodaStream’s largest factory is in a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, an area the Palestinians envision as part of a future independent state.

Her deal with SodaStream has led to a parting of ways between Ms. Johansson and Oxfam International, the confederation of aid groups. Oxfam issued a statement on Thursday saying it had accepted Ms. Johansson’s decision to step down after eight years as a global ambassador.

“Oxfam believes that businesses such as SodaStream that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support,” the group said, adding that it was “opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

The factory is in Mishor Adumim, an industrial zone attached to the large, urban settlement of Maale Adumim in the beige hills east of Jerusalem. Israel views the territory that it captured from Jordan in the 1967 war as disputed and says it intends to keep Maale Adumim under any peace deal with the Palestinians.

The dispute over the ad, scheduled to air during the Super Bowl on Sunday, has pitted pro-Palestinian activists against people and groups who support Israel unreservedly. Accusations of Israeli exploitation of Palestinian resources have been met with arguments that SodaStream encourages coexistence by providing employment for hundreds of West Bank Palestinians alongside Israeli Jews and Arab citizens of Israel.

Predictably, reactions to Ms. Johansson’s split from Oxfam were divided along similar lines. “Just like the few artists who played Sun City during South African apartheid, Johansson will be remembered for having stood on the wrong side of history,” said Rafeef Ziadah, a spokeswoman for the Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee, in a statement. The committee is a coalition of Palestinian organizations that advocate boycotts, divestment and sanctions in their campaign against Israel.

In contrast, Robert Singer, the chief executive of the World Jewish Congress, an organization representing Jewish communities globally, said in a statement, “We applaud Miss Johansson for her forthright defense of economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians and for standing up to the international bullies.”

The fuss comes to the fore just as concern is growing in Israel about a potential increase in foreign boycotts of its companies if current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks fail. Some European supermarket chains are already shunning agricultural produce from the settlements. PGGM, a large Dutch pension fund management company, recently decided to withdraw all its investments from Israel’s five largest banks because they maintain branches in West Bank settlements or are involved in financing settlement construction.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s centrist finance minister, warned this week, “If the negotiations with the Palestinians get stuck or break down and we enter a reality of a European boycott, even a very partial one, Israel’s economy will retreat.” Speaking at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, he said that “every resident of Israel will get hit straight in the pocket.”

Scarlett Johansson

Credit: Tiziana Fabi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Last month, members of the American Studies Association, an organization of professors, voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions, giving a small but symbolic victory to the pro-Palestinian B.D.S. movement in the United States.

But the dispute over SodaStream has taken the boycott debate way beyond its usual, relatively limited audiences, and it is likely to simmer on.

SodaStream announced its collaboration with Ms. Johansson on Jan. 12, calling her its “first-ever global brand ambassador.” Ms. Johansson released a statement in which she said she remained “a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.”

SodaStream, she continued, “is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.”

Palestinians and their supporters who have been campaigning for Palestinian rights to settle in the area around Maale Adumim do not see it that way.

Grass-roots activists known as the Bab al Shams Village Council, in coalition with the Jahalin Association, representing the Bedouin tribe that has been encamped in the area for decades, also issued a statement. “For Palestinians to enjoy genuine and lasting economic prosperity,” it said, “they require freedom from Israeli domination.”

Daniel Birnbaum, the chief executive of SodaStream, joined the company in 2007, years after its establishment. He said this week in an interview that while he would not have chosen Mishor Adumim as the site for a factory, it was by now a reality. He said that out of loyalty to the roughly 500 Palestinians employed there, he would not bow to political pressure to close the factory.

“I could leave there tomorrow,” he said. “For me it would be easier, but what about the employees?”

Jodi Rudoren contributed reporting.

Article linkhttp://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/world/middleeast/scarlett-johansson-and-oxfam-torn-apart-by-israeli-company-deal.html