Israeli forces bulldoze Bedouin homes for the second time this month

Published October 31st, 2016 - 11:00 GMT
Bedouin women shout slogans during a protest in the Negev desert. (AFP/File)
Bedouin women shout slogans during a protest in the Negev desert. (AFP/File)

For the second time this month, Israeli forces demolished several homes belonging to a Bedouin family in the Negev desert in southern Israel on Sunday.

Members of a local committee dedicated to fighting Israeli government demolitions of Bedouin homes told Ma'an that several bulldozers arrived to the village of Bir Hadaj on Sunday morning under heavily armed protection from Israeli authorities.

The bulldozers then tore down all the makeshift shelters built by members of the Abu Murayhil family after their houses were demolished on Oct. 9.

Sunday's demolitions left the family members homeless for the second time this month.

Commenting on the demolition, Said al-Kharumi, secretary of the Higher Guidance Committee of Arab Residents in the Negev, said that "the Israeli occupation insists on targeting the simple people, turning a deaf ear to all the solutions suggested by the village's local committee."

"This is a desperate attempt to get us to kneel," al-Kharumi added. "We will be with our people there to follow up with the repercussions of this criminal racist attack."

Clashes broke out on Wednesday between Israeli police and local youth in Bir Hadaj after Israeli police delivered demolition orders to the Abu Murayhil family's homes, which were supposed to be demolished within 24 hours.

Locals told Ma'an at the time that Israeli forces detained a number of people during the clashes, and that some Bir Hadaj residents were injured in the process.

Bir Hadaj is one of 35 Bedouin villages considered "unrecognized" by the Israeli state. According to ACRI, more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages.

While Bedouins of the Negev are Israeli citizens, the villages unrecognized by the government have faced relentless efforts by Israeli authorities to expel them from their lands and transferring them to government-zoned townships in order to make room for Jewish Israeli homes.

Indigenous rights groups have pointed out that the transfer of the Bedouins into densely populated townships also removes them from their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyles, which is dependent on access to a wide range of grazing land for their animals.

Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya released a report on the treatment of the Bedouin in the Negev back in 2011, shortly before the Israeli cabinet approved plans to relocate some 30,000 Bedouins from 13 unrecognized villages to government-approved townships, reporting that Bedouins in the permanent townships "rank on the bottom of all social and economic indicators and suffer from the highest unemployment rates and income levels in Israel."

The unrecognized Bedouin villages were established in the Negev soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war following the creation of the state of Israel.

Many of the Bedouins were forcibly transferred to the village sites during the 17-year period when Palestinians inside Israel were governed under Israeli military law, which ended shortly before Israel's military takeover of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967.

Now more than 60 years later, the villages have yet to be recognized by Israel and live under constant threats of demolition and forcible removal.

The classification of their villages as "unrecognized" prevents Bedouins from developing or expanding their communities, as their villages are considered illegal by Israeli authorities.

Israeli authorities have also refused to connect unrecognized Bedouin villages to the national water and electricity grids, while excluding the communities from access to health and educational services, and basic infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Israeli Jewish communities in the Negev continuously expand, with five new Jewish plans approved last year.

According to an investigation undertaken by Israeli rights groups ACRI and Bimkom, two of the approved communities are located in areas where unrecognized Bedouin villages already exist.

The plan would see the displacement of at least 7,500 Bedouins from Bir Hadaj and Katamat, another unrecognized village.

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