Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Israeli cabinet approves mass removal of Bedouin to ‘recognized’ sites Cabinet approves plan to relocate Negev Bedouin Rights groups say decision to move 30,000 to recognized towns does not conform to international obligations. By Jack Khoury, Zafrir Rinat and Oz Rosenberg, Haaretz 12.09.11 On Sunday the cabinet approved a plan to relocate tens of thousands of Bedouin from unrecognized villages into communities with official status. As part of the plan, which includes financial compensation for people who can prove they have worked the land they lay claim to or offers of alternative land, some 20,000 to 30,000 Bedouin from 13 unrecognized communities will have to move to existing recognized towns. As the cabinet was meeting, some 150 Bedouin from unrecognized villages in the Negev staged a protest outside the Prime Minister’s Office. The plan emerges from the recommendations of a Prime Minister’s Office team led by Ehud Prawer, drafted to find a solution to the problem of unrecognized villages in the Negev. On Sunday protesters slammed the Prawer report, saying that no Bedouin were consulted during its preparation, as planning and civil rights groups issued their own plan. The cabinet decision calls for communities and employment centers for the Bedouin to be established along three main routes: the Rahat-Be’er Sheva road; the Shoket Junction-Tel Arad road, and the Be’er Sheva-Dimona road. The communities’ boundaries will be determined by existing farming areas plus land to be allocated by the government. MK Talab al-Sana (United Arab List-Ta’al ) came out to support the protesters, calling the plan a “nakba [disaster] for the whole Bedouin population,” invoking the Arabic word used to describe the 1948 War of Independence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the cabinet vote that the plan was “for the state and the residents of the Negev.” Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel called the plan “a declaration of war on the Bedouin in the Negev.” According to the plan, a law will be drafted whereby Bedouin who can prove they owned land until 1979 will receive alternative land in exchange for land they transfer to the state. Others will receive monetary compensation. A total of some 70,000 Bedouin currently live in unrecognized villages in the Negev. Today’s cabinet decision calls for recognition of some of the unrecognized communities in areas where the regional master plan for the greater Be’er Sheva area has already been earmarked as land for communities. The director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, Eyal Gabai, said a variety of communities would be planned, including farming communities. “We estimate that about 30,000 people will not remain where they are now living, but will vacate lands on which they have squatted. But they will be able to find an alternative place to live in the same area,” Gabai said. A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office said: “This process has been presented in the media as uprooting, but in fact it is the broadest possible move to allow the population to remain in place.” The Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, the planning association Bimkom and the Bedouin women’s group Sidra presented their own plan on Sunday, proposing “rational” legalization of all 46 unrecognized villages. The alternative plan does not propose legalizing all illegal construction, as some Bedouin demand, but suggests that the unrecognized communities adhere to accepted planning principles in terms of greater density, allocation of land for public buildings and conservation of open space. The framers of the alternative plan say that planning must take into consideration the tribal and family structure behind Bedouin land use patterns, and that the Prawer report does not take the Bedouin lifestyle into consideration. “Our plan is more applicable, because it was created from within the Bedouin community but conforms to accepted planning principles in Israel today,” Salem al-Wakil, spokesman for the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, said, adding that their plan takes into consideration that in some cases communities will have to be moved. Representatives of groups opposed to the plan said it also went against the recommendations of the 2008 Goldberg Commission report, which found that a grave injustice had been done to the Bedouin, which should be corrected by legalizing as many of the unrecognized communities as possible. The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality said the cabinet decision was surprising in light of a recent U.N. report on the rights of indigenous peoples, whose author, Prof. James Anaya, criticized Israel’s attitude toward its Bedouin citizens and called on the government to stop house demolitions in the Negev. Amnesty International also slammed Sunday’s cabinet decision, calling it a serious blow to Bedouin rights to proper housing and saying it did not conform to Israel’s international human rights obligations. Amnesty International also said that international standards required the government to consult the Bedouin population on such a plan. Reproduced here are the Introduction and Chapter 4 of ACRI’s paper. For the full Position Paper, click the link below Principles for Arranging Recognition of Bedouin Villages in the Negev ACRI, Writer: Attorney Rawia Aburabia May 2011 Introduction The existence of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev is a fact that is convenient for many Israelis to ignore. Comprising one of Israel’s weakest population groups – economically, socially and politically – the Bedouin story is one of citizens unseen, who constitute about a quarter of the population in the Negev and yet reside on a mere 3% of its territory. Nevertheless, the state, in seekingto reduce the Bedouin presence in the region, has chosen to view them as trespassers and squatters who are taking over Negev lands and endangering national interests. It is a story often repeated, but in the government’s telling, the Bedouin are portrayed as invaders, drifters, and outlaws without any inherent connection to the land. The Negev problem is one of the most painful in Israel, in which an entire population of Israeli citizens has for decades been systematically denied the essential services that all human beings are entitled to. Constantly threatened with the prospect of their homes being demolished, Bedouin village residents have no solid ground to stand on. And yet this is a population that has lived in the Negev since before the State of Israel was established, that has subsisted for generations – modestly but with dignity – through farming, shepherding, and raising cattle. For generations the Negev Bedouin have employed an organized, traditional system of land acquisition which is still utilized to this day for recording transactions, regulating costs, and settling disputes. The condition of the Negev Bedouin is reflective of the government policies directed against them. Since the founding of the state, Israel has ignored the Bedouin’s historical presence in the region and has sought to transfer and concentrate the population into a small geographic area in the northeastern Negev – in order to confine their living space and free up the most fertile areas of the Negev for Jewish agricultural settlement. The state continues to deny recognition to the Bedouin villages and to deny the villagers their right to their own soil which they have lived upon and worked for many years. The residents have paid a heavy price for this policy – exclusion, alienation, and the deprivation of their basic human rights – while they continue to live in deplorable, discriminatory conditions and suffer increasing social problems. This situation represents an open wound that refuses to heal, precluding the healthy development of the Negev and its residents, Arabs and Jews alike. ….. 4. Alternative master plan for the unrecognized villages Over the last two years, the RCUV, together with Bimkom, has been actively preparing a new master plan for the unrecognized Bedouin villages of the Negev. This alternative to existing plans is in the final stages of completion and will be soon published, with six chapters and hundreds of pages of background, analysis, expert opinions and concrete proposals. The goal in preparing the plan was to present a professional outline for the planning and development of the greater Be’er Sheva area utilizing the principles of equality, recognition, and human rights, agreed upon by the Bedouin residents of the unrecognized villages, and which can serve as a basis for future sustainable development. The plan seeks to ensure a dignified and egalitarian future for the Bedouin villages and their 90,000 residents in place of the poverty, neglect, and chronic under-development that they currently face. This goal can only be achieved through implementing the meta-principle of all professional public planning – planning for the community and with the input of the community – and with the implementation of the Goldberg Committee’s recommendation “to recognize as many villages as possible.” This master plan offers realistic and professional ways to encourage rational development for all 45 Bedouin villages counted by the RCUV in 1999. The core of the plan concerns the 35 as yet unrecognized villages. By the year 2030, the target year of the program implementation, the population of these villages will reach a projected 209,000 residents out of a total population of 440,000 Bedouin residents in the greater Be’er Sheva area. All the villages included in the plan far exceed the minimum settlement size as defined by the Israeli planning system, and they represent communities that have coalesced over many years of living together. The plan utilizes the same guiding planning principles used in the planning and zoning of Israeli rural settlements, in order to create a fair outline for the development of each and every village. These guiding principles present no objection to the recognition of all the villages, and the current location of the villages do not in any way harm the needs of the greater public. The plan puts forward a process that will recognize all the Bedouin villages in their current locations (excepting a few cases where the village residents would prefer to relocate due to external constraints) and would provide for them the infrastructure and services that are enjoyed by all other citizens of state. The recognition of the villages in their current location is preferable to the government plan which is based on a policy of transferring tens of thousands of people, since the former is based on the strong historical connection between the villages and their lands and would ensure their long-term rational development. The plan would further save a tremendous amount of resources necessary to change the regional geography and to enforce that change; it will prevent the deepening conflict between the state and its Bedouin citizens; it will benefit the Negev’s Jewish population with orderly spatial arrangement of settlements; and as mentioned above, it is the most correct method for implementing the Goldberg Committee’s recommendations. The plan makes further recommendations regarding the future of the region on three levels: the regional, the local, and the administrative. At the regional level it offers a reasonable municipal/administrative solution for every village, either by incorporating it into a neighboring town, or by creating “clusters” of villages, or through recognizing them as independent settlements within the framework of the larger regional councils. The program also charts out a regional strategy for economic development along three geographic axes – north, east, and south – along which public institutions and commercial areas should be built and public transportation lines added. The size of the village grids will be determined similarly as in allocating lands for Jewish rural settlement, and will require the additional allocation of some 60,000 acres to the villages by the year 2030. Most of the lands that will be appropriated to the villages will be designated as agricultural lands and open lands. The villages will be incorporated within three regional councils and will be connected to civilian infrastructure while maintaining a system of self government. At the local level, the plan seeks to recognize the Bedouin village as a distinct type of settlement, like the kibbutz or moshav, which can be encoded into the Israeli planning system. Such recognition will give expression to the logic and historical development of the structure of the Bedouin village, and will find ways to tailor it to the requirements and constraints of life in the 21st century. To this end, the plan sketches out a model for the development of the Bedouin village, the first of its kind. This model is based on the relationships between communities and their living spaces; the long-standing traditional system of land inheritance divided between tribal factions (“aeilah”) and extended families (“qom”); and the location and function of the land, roads and public institutions. The plan demonstrates how these villages can be developed using criteria of population density and land usage that are accepted within national outline plans and tailored to the Bedouin understanding of spatial planning. The result is rural planning that makes use of existing development patterns as its starting point, and which seeks to “thicken” future development and organize it in such a way that will create sizeable neighborhoods, large enough to pass the threshold for receiving the full complement of civilian services. This model also presents the possibility of building expansion neighborhoods in existing settlements and arranging remote clusters of Bedouin groups, and it outlines the desired development of these settlements in terms of roads, public institutions, and open spaces. On the administrative level, the plan recommends that the state, as a national priority project, should establish a special planning system focused on the fast-track recognition of the Bedouin villages and their subsequent planning and zoning. To this end, it should establish a “Committee for Planning Bedouin Communities” under the authority of the Regional Planning and Building Committee, with significant representation and involvement of village residents, professional and academic public planning experts, and representatives of government authorities, including the Authority for Organizing Bedouin Settlement. This proposal includes an eight-stage process, which will lead the Bedouin villages from their current state of neglect and marginalization to full recognition with a road map for future development and prosperity. The future Committee for Planning Bedouin Communities will employ teams with the authority to give fast-track approval to national outline plans that include the newly recognized Bedouin villages. These teams will work closely with communities to create clear and agreed-upon zoning plans, which will arrange Bedouin habitation on the principles of development, population density, and proper infrastructure for rural communities as is commonly practiced throughout Israel, while taking into account the unique properties of Bedouin village development. This will set the Bedouin villages on the high road to development and prosperity, and will benefit all the residents of the region, Jews and Arabs alike. 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