Monday, April 30, 2007

Bedouin & Brous & Bustan - Part 1

Today is Day 14,261 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

So much attention is appropriately devoted to the terrible illegal and immoral occupation and settlements and the terrible situation of the Palestinians. What is quite overlooked is the deplorable and shameful discrimination of the Israeli government towards the Bedouin CITIZENS OF ISRAEL LIVING IN ISRAEL.

I first met Devorah Brous an extraordinary person and dedicated committed human rights activist when I was visiting Santa Fe and attended a weekly meeting of the Santa Fe Tikkun Community. I was so impressed that I invited her to visit Boston and speak to the New England Tikkun Community. After she spoke, my wife, Joan, proposed that we form a sister community with Wadi Na’am, an unrecognized Bedouin village IN ISRAEL (all caps provided to emphasize that the Bedouin live in Israel and are Israeli citizens). Through the sister community project funds were raised to help construct a medical clinic (for which the Israeli government would not authorize a permit) in Wadi Na'am. This year the clinic received an Honorable Mention in Israel's Most Prestigious Architecture Competition. Read more about this at:

Here is some background material I prepared about:

The Bedouin in the Negev in Israel (1948-2004)

Research indicates that prior to 1948 the entire Negev was inhabited by about 80,000 Bedouins raising livestock in an agricultural setting. After the war, most were displaced, primarily to Jordan, Gaza and Sinai with a result that by 1951 only about 11,000 remained and most were forcibly moved from their tribal lands and confined to a reservation where they still exist today, the “Siyag”. Military rule was imposed until 1966. At the present time there are about 160,000 Bedouin living in the eastern Negev on about 10% of the area they previously inhabited. Approximately one-half live in seven townships which are the poorest in Israel. The remaining 76,000 live in 45 villages unrecognized by the state on land which the state claims it owns.

Much of the land in the Negev (85%) has been declared closed military zones in addition to the rapidly expanding commercial and industrial infrastructure inside and around the Siyag. While there is a wide range of choices for Jews in the Negev to inhabit; i.e., new neighborhoods, Moshavim, Kibbutim, development towns, cities and single family farms, Bedouin citizens are given an ultimatum – move to a government built township; once you waive your land claims, you will receive basic municipal services. At the same time, over 3000 lawsuits filed by Bedouin claiming ownership of Negev land have yet to be settled.

Wadi Na’am is one of the unrecognized villages referred to above. The 4500 Bedouin residents live, according to Devorah Brous, “in shanty encampments encircled by two industrial zones, a military fire-zone, an electric plant (though the village is not linked to the national electricity grid), an oil-drilling site, 18 hazardous waste factories and the Ramat Hovav toxic waste incinerator without municipal services. All this infrastructure has been erected and expanded since the Bedouin were transferred to this site. Its insufficient water pipelines frequently break down. There is no sewage system or trash removal. Unemployment is currently around 60 percent. Building permits are routinely denied and housing demolitions commonplace. While the Bedouin of Wadi Na’am are citizens of the state of Israel and some serve in the Israeli army, they are treated as squatters on state land.” They now face forced relocation into a government township. On September 17, 2003, the residents of Wadi Na’am appeared in Israel’s High Court in Jerusalem to appeal this evacuation order. They evidence a willingness to move to other land plots but not to be forced into a government township.

The United Nations Commission for Human Rights recently issued a report in which it harshly criticized Israel for its failure to recognize Bedouin settlements in the Negev. The commission called on the government to build adequate infrastructure in unrecognized villages, to cease house demolitions and to stop spraying Bedouin crops with defoliants. Concern was expressed over the intention to transfer families from shanties into permanent government-build communities, as proposed in the new Sharon Negev Development plan recently approved by the government.

To date there have been seven crop spraying operations in the Negev. On March 22, 2004, a lawsuit was filed by four residents and nine NGO’s including Bustan L’Shalom and the Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, demanding that the government halt its spraying operations to destroy Bedouin food crops with herbicides such as Round-Up manufactured by Monsanto. The High Court action is based on evidence that the chemicals in the herbicide are a health risk to residents and their animals.

United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Signed by Israel 7 March 1966: Ratified by Israel: 3 January 1979
In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, (Israel) undertakes to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:
The right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice;
The right to own property alone as well as in association with others;
The right to housing;
The right to public health, medical care, social security and social services;
The right to education and training;
The right to equal participation in cultural activities;

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

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