ACT NOW! Knesset Intend to Legalise Forced Bedouin Displacement in Negev
Dear friends [writes Amos Gwirtz, one time Chair of ICAHD],
The Israeli government is expecting the Knesset (parliament) to pass a law regulating the resettlement of Bedouins in the Negev, by which tens of thousands of Bedouins will be expelled from their homes, villages and lands, and concentrated in several more townships to be founded at sites of villages recognized for this purpose.
Please appeal to the Israeli ambassador in your countries, requiring him to act against this new law. Please appeal as well to your own Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking to apply pressure on the Israeli government and prevent this draconian law from being legislated.
All the best to you!
ICAHD urges supporters to write to the Israeli Ambassadors in your Respective Countries, to your local MPs and Foreign Minister with request to take action against forced Bedouin displacement in Negev.
Read Amos’s comments below, where he highlights with pertinent clarity the irony of a state passing laws to render legal its own criminal activity. It may be a perennial habit of dictators and democracies to legalise their immoral behaviour, but it is poignant, after a long history of Jewish communities being on the receiving end of injudicious law-making, that Israel is using such methods so blatantly and as always, without any outcry from international democracies – least of all from the “land of the Free”, the USA, and their disappointing President, whom we would expect to know about racial discrimination and injustice, and whom we long to hear voicing clearly his opposition to it everywhere. Let’s encourage leaders everywhere to realise that this could, counter to political culture, be the best way to optimise any country’s regional interests around the world. With people in countries from Brazil to Burma rising up to stand against the status quo of the traditional powerbrokers, any leader with the courage and integrity to set out to counter the clash of law and morality, as described by Amos Gwirtz, happening in the Israeli Knesset and other ruling elites, could energise a vast popular movement stirring and showing its teeth to get behind him or her or them.
- A “physical” letter on the MP’s doormat is best. Next best, a fax. But if you only have time for a brief appeal by email, do that rather than nothing.
- Keep the letter to one A4 side and keep it polite.
- Though you may wish to send a copy direct to your own country’s Foreign Minister, it is always essential to write to your MP and require them politely to forward your concerns to the Minister. It is the amount of public support for a policy coming in via MPs which, they say, is monitored most by Ministries.
Law and Morality Clash Yet Again
by Amos Gwirtz
(June 6th 2013)
Once again the government requires the Knesset to pass a law that will clash with morality. Through the law to regulate Bedouin settlement in the Negev (the Prawer plan) the government wishes to rob the Bedouins of yet more land and concentrate them – as a sole possibility that the Israeli government offers Bedouins – in additional townships to be built at the localities of villages that have been recognized for that purpose.
In the history of Israel’s governments and its Bedouin citizens we find four methods of clashing with morality:
First, until 1960 Israel continued to expel Bedouins from its territory, long past the end of the war of 1948. I fear this was done without any relevant legislation.
Second, a typical example of legislation contradicting morality was the 1953 law of purchasing land. Were I to come along, chase someone off his land and appropriate it myself, the victim would summon the police which would in turn arrive, arrest and prosecute me for land theft. The court would naturally convict me, true to criminal law, and pass a fitting sentence. But when the State itself did precisely the same thing, it had a law passed by the Knesset, giving its own act of theft a legal guise. The description goes like this: The military governor, or his representative, arrives at the encampment of a Bedouin tribe and notifies the Sheikh that the army is about to hold manoeuvres in the tribe’s area. For their own “safety”, they are to move to another locality, and half-a-year later they will be permitted to return. But to this very day, they are not permitted to return. Instead, the 1953 law for purchasing land was passed, with which the State appropriated the emptied lands. This is land-theft through legislation.
The third method is a racist (or nationalist) use of neutral laws. In 1965 – after the Bedouins were forced to concentrate inside the Sayag area in the 1950s – planning and construction laws were passed, which were of course very important. Aided by the law, and in accordance with a political decision, the government ruled that most Sayag lands would be defined as farming areas. With a political ruling, recognition was denied villages that had existed within the Sayag area even prior to the founding of the State. It gets worse: localities where the State forced evicted Bedouins to settle inside the Sayag did not receive any legal basis for their settlement. Thus, every Bedouin living in these unrecognized villages violates state law when s/he wishes to fulfil the human right to shelter. Naturally, the unrecognized villages are denied running water, electrical power, paved roads, health clinics etc.
The fourth method is withholding recognition through the traditional system of land ownership. The State relies on Ottoman legislation in this respect. The great majority of Bedouins never registered their lands in the Ottoman land registry. They continued to apply their traditional ways. This did not keep the Ottoman rule from purchasing land from Bedouins when it wanted to turn Beer Sheva into a town. Like them, the British recognized traditional land ownership. The Zionist movement, too, prior to the founding of the State of Israel, purchased lands from Bedouins according to their traditional ownership procedures. Now the Israeli government refuses to recognize that same ownership and has even given this refusal legal-historical cover, so that if a Bedouin claims his right to his own la
nd, the court rules according to the very law that has stolen that land from him, and not justly.
The State has stolen nearly all of the Bedouins land and has wrought horrendous destruction upon this society which has lost its livelihood and life-style within a very short period of time. Now, to finish off the theft, it passes a law that will force all of the Bedouins to live inside concentration-towns built especially for them.
When the UN will once again equate Zionism with racism, all supporters of this new law will protest bitterly against this anti-Semitic attitude toward Israel.
[The article below goes more into the serial nature of human rights violations stalking Bedouins by the inventors of Israeli apartheid laws, forcing them more than once into relocating to an ever shrinking “legal” area for Bedouin habitation. And the effect it is having in terms of unemployment and crime among the displaced Bedouin communities].
by Amos Gwirtz
Let us imagine this – hopefully impossible – event: a certain state in Europe (let’s say France) decides to concentrate its Jewish citizens in towns. In order to ‘encourage’ them to relocate in the towns assigned to them, that state impacts their businesses, demolishes their homes, and imposes strict limitations on the public services they are due, such as denying them running water, electrical power supply, health services, sanitation etc.
No overly developed imagination is needed to know how we and the rest of the ‘enlightened’ world would react to the anti-Semitic policy of such a state. The Israeli government would instantly recall its ambassador, and declare the ambassador of that state persona non grata. We, the citizens of Israel, left right or center, would engage in an international campaign against that state’s anti-Semitic policy. We would naturally boycott any products of that state and call upon the rest of the world to do likewise. We would demand that the UN pass a resolution defining that state as a racist, anti-Semitic state and subject it to sanctions, until it desists from its policy of concentrating its Jewish citizens.
So what exactly is the State of Israel doing to those of its citizens who, unfortunately for them, have been born Bedouin and live in the Jewish State?
Here is a short review: after the war of 1948 and the founding of the State, Israel continued to expel Bedouins out of its territory. These expulsions ceased only in 1960 (11,000 Bedouins then remained in the country. At present they number 200,000). Israel’s entire Palestinian population was ruled by military government until 1966. In the early 1950s Israel concentrated its Bedouin citizens in the Negev within the Sayag area. The lands emptied of Bedouins were then transferred by the government – through legislation – to the State. Pure land grab by law! In 1965 the Planning and Construction Law was passed, by means of which most of the Sayag lands were declared farming zones where construction is forbidden. Thus, by law, a situation was created where the Bedouins living in the Sayag area since pre-State times, as they claim their human rights to shelter, are in fact breaking the law. Worse even: those whom the State dispossessed and forced to move into the Sayag area without creating a legal base for their new dwellings, are now defined by the State as invading state lands! They too, upon wishing to act on their basic right to shelter, have become law-breakers.
This is by far not the end of Bedouin persecution by the Jewish state. In the late 1960s a new policy took shape: the Bedouins began to be relocated in towns. Seven of these tows were built, and slightly over one half of the Negev Bedouin population was re-situated there. Naturally, without employment infrastructures, and with an extremely low level of public services. The towns are a true failure, with record unemployment and impoverishment, and an especially high crime rate. This has been a failure in every respect. But never fear – failure has not been reason enough to halt the policy of moving Bedouins into concentration towns. Whenever the State is confronted with Bedouins who refuse to acquiesce and “enjoy” its bounty, it pressures them. Their grazing grounds are limited even more, some of their grain crops are destroyed, their homes demolished (in 2011 over 1000 dwellings were demolished!), villages are ruined, electricity, water, health clinics, inner roads etc. are denied them, all in order to make life impossible out in the villages and force them to move into the towns.
Most Israelis are not familiar with the dreadful reality in the Negev for a simple reason: not only the government practices an anti-Semitic policy against its own (Semitic) Bedouin citizens. The media too are complicit. They simply do not report this. When a Jewish outlaw who breaks Israeli law in the Occupied Territories (along with the State itself that violates international law) and builds an “illegal” outpost on privately owned Palestinian land receives a demolition order, the whole country quakes. The media are naturally filled with reports on the government’s cruel policy against the “pioneers” who “redeem” the Land of Israel. And here such idealists and their supporters demand of the Israeli government to treat far more harshly those people whose plight has been to be born Bedouins in the Jewish State.
Indeed their wish has been fulfilled. Now the government expects the Knesset to pass a law enabling it to speed up the eviction of tens of thousands of Bedouins from their remaining lands and villages into more towns to be built.
The rest of the world, too, remains silent in view of Israel’s anti-Semitic policy. Nearly no one ventures to protect the people in Israeli concentration towns as they are dispossessed. This kind of racism used to be practiced against Jews. Now it is practiced in their name…
And we – a painfully scant few – falter in view of this horrific reality, and all we achieve is to be condemned as self-hating traitors…
FOOL THAT I AM
by Amos Gvitz
(11 April 2013)
For the past eight years, nearly, I have been taking an active part in the struggle for the rights of Bedouins in their unrecognized villages in the Negev, and yet I did not participate in the demonstrations protesting the Kahane racist-extremists’ visit in Rahat (Bedouin town). On the other hand, I recently visited the Bedouin village Twayel Abu-Jarwal in the Negev, two days after its demolition for the n-th time by agents of the State, officials of the Ministry
of the Interior and the Israel Land Administration.
Not the Kahanists expelled the Bedouins in 1948 and in the 1950s, but rather the agents of the Government of Israel, led by Mapai (Labor party). Not the Kahanists expelled the Bedouins from their villages, robbed their lands and enclosed them in the restricted ‘Sayag’ area, but rather the national leadership of the young Jewish State. Not the National Unity party led the government that denied the Bedouins their right to construct their homes, and be supplied with water, power, education, health services etc. – the government led by the Labor party did all of that. Not Kahanists are the ones conducting the current campaign of destruction of Bedouins’ homes in the unrecognized villages – it is Israeli government officials who do that.
Not Kahanists destroy Bedouins’ crops – Israeli government officials do that. Not Kahanists expropriate the Bedouins’ livestock – Israeli government officials do that too. If Kahanists were to murder Bedouin citizens of Israel, officers of the Israel police would be assigned to flush out the perpetrators and bring them to trial. But when police officers are the killers, the Israel police are assigned to defend them and prevent their prosecution and sentencing at court.
The Bedouins in Israel have committed a terrible crime: they dared to be born Bedouins in the Jewish nation-state! And for this crime they are paying.
The persecution that Bedouins suffer at the hands of Israel’s governments will not let up until they leave – ‘willfully’.
Now I might be prosecuted for inciting against the State of Israel. After all, the government has never declared this as its purpose. It built them townships where they are entitled to build their houses legally, where they do have running water, electricity, schools, clinics, roads, sanitation etc. But all this they get after being expelled, for the most part, and dispossessed of their lands. In order to bequeath them with all of its bounty, the State demolishes their homes and villages, destroys their crops, expropriates their flocks, denies them water, power, roads, etc. And these Bedouins – how foolish of them… – hold on to the remains of their lands and refuse to be urbanized. They do not realize that progress lies in those townships, and insist on maintaining their life in agrarian villages. And those who have been fortunate enough to receive the blessings of progress from the state, in those townships, enjoy record unemployment and crime rates… How foolish.
And fool that I am, think that it is not progress that the State grants them, but rather dispossession of the remains of their lands, so that these lands finally pass over to Jewish hands. Because after all this is the Jewish nation-state in which we live. And the Kahanists merely yell out loud precisely that which the state has been carrying out on the sly. Not a single newspaper in Israel has publicized the demolition of an entire village for the 25th time in one of its inner pages. After all, these are merely Bedouins.
But when the Kahanists display their loud provocations, and require that the State do what it has been doing in any case, the media are full of them. And I, fool that I am, do not get it…