Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

20 Apr, 2013

Bedouin Community Faces “Transfer” as Israel Continues to Wipe Palestine Off the Map


JERUSALEM, April 20, 2013 (WAFA) – In an attempt to uproot Palestinians from locations in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank, the Israeli Defense Minister has recently approved a master plan to forcibly transfer approximately 2500 Bedouins from the Jahalin tribe to a small, concentrated area in Nwei’mah, adjacent to Jericho, according to a press release.

The press release by BIMKOM, an Israeli organization working on planning issues in the West Bank, said the Israeli civil administration, the Israeli military government’s arm in the West Bank, has prepared two different options for the 23 Jerusalem periphery Bedouin communities.

The Nwei’mah plan is the latest, with a previous proposal to move some of these communities to the area of the Jerusalem municipality rubbish site in Abu Dis, a plan which was met with public and international criticism for its severe consequences for the communities living in the area since the 1950’s.

“The current Nwei’mah plan to move communities to an area adjacent to area A (controlled by the Palestinian Authority) would critically impact the Bedouins’ access to livelihoods and traditional ways of life as well as causing overcrowding and restricting availability of grazing land for the community,” said BIMKOM.

The plan, prepared without the consultation or the knowledge of the residents, “does not take into consideration their unique lifestyle but creates a system that would severely harm them,” it added. “For a community that already suffers extreme poverty and lack of planning solutions that meet its needs, this step might spell disaster.”

Attorney Shlomo Lecker, who represents the Jahalin Bedouin, said “I have been representing the Bedouin Jahalin tribe for more than 20 years and during this time they have survived repeated attempts on the part of Israeli authorities to displace them by different policies and practices. Today, after failing to achieve their goal by other means, the Israeli authorities present a new plan to relocate those communities in what may amount to forcible transfer.”

Architect Alon Cohen-Lifshitz from BIMKOM, said: ‘The authorities must promote planning solutions for the Bedouin communities in area C; however such solutions cannot serve the extraneous purpose of displacing protected communities from their homes. Any planning solution should be made in consultation with the residents and having their agreement.”

The representative of the Bedouin community, Eid Jahalin, said: “We have been verbally informed of the new plan, and we refuse to accept it; the only two acceptable options are either to go back to our homeland in the Naqab or to stay in our present location.”

The Jahalin tribe was forcibly displaced from their original places of residence in the Naqab desert in the early 1950s to the West Bank. Following the Israeli occupation of the West Bank the land available for the Bedouin to live and graze their livestock has steadily decreased due to Israeli-declared military firing zones, settlements and state land declarations.

Individual or mass forcible transfer is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, regardless of motive, said BIMKOM. The term ‘forcible’ is not restricted to physical force, but may include threat of force or coercion, such as that caused by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or abuse of power against a person or persons, or by taking advantage of a coercive environment. A violation of this is considered a Grave Breach of Article 49, Geneva Convention IV, it said.