The Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY) is hosting a webinar titled “The Negev Bedouin: Emptied Lands and Displaced People” on Oct 27, 2021, as part of the virtual series “Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons.” The event is sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Genocide, Holocaust and Crimes Against Humanity. The description of the webinar states that “Israel’s treatment of the Negev Bedouin has been a story of displacement and dispossession.” The webinar “will explore the unique nature of Bedouin resistance, the history of coerced urbanization, and the situation in the unrecognized Bedouin villages.”
The panelists include Drs. Eli Karetny, Thabet Abu Rass, Yeela Raanan, and Netta Amar-Schiff.
Dr. Yeela Raanan is a longtime activist, as reported by Electronic Intifada. She has worked as the coordinator for the Negev Coexistence Forum, a Jewish-Arab organization based in the Negev. She later started working with the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev. She teaches in the Department of Public Administration at Sapir College.
Dr. Thabet Abu Rass is a Co-Executive Director of the NGO Abraham Initiatives, promoting Jewish-Arab coexistence in Israel.
Attorney Netta Amar-Schiff has been involved with Rabbis for Human Rights, a radical left-wing group in Israel.
The phenomenon of unrecognized villages in the Negev has been on the public agenda for years. The governments appointed several committees to solve the issue. Some Bedouin families even claimed land through court but failed. To recall, in 2012, the Beersheba District Court rejected lawsuits by the al-Uqbi Bedouin family who argued that they privately owned some 1,000 dunams of land in the Negev, including al-Araqib since Ottoman times. The proceedings went on for several years, discussing in detail the history of the Negev Bedouin and land laws dating back to the mid-19th century. In court, the Bedouin family claimed that the land belonged to their families since before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 through purchase and inheritance. In 1951, they claim, they were evacuated by the IDF, which confiscated it. Since then, the state has not permitted them to return. For the plaintiffs, Ben Gurion University’s Geography Prof. Oren Yiftachel gave expert testimony. Testifying for the state was Prof. Ruth Kark of the Hebrew University, an expert on the historical geography of Palestine and Israel. Central were the questions whether Bedouin could prove land rights despite lacking formal title deeds of the land and whether private ownership of land classified under the Ottoman rule as Mawat (uncultivated wasteland) was possible. In 1969, the Israel Land Law was passed, which repealed some legal categories of land laws remaining from Ottoman rule. Claimants were expected to produce proof of ownership, but the al-Uqbis, like most Bedouins, had not registered the land on their names. After years of litigation, the court rejected the al-Uqbi claims.
The lengthy litigation did not settle the issue, to the contrary. Anti-Israel activists working in NGOS have seized upon the Bedouin issue to besmirch the name of Israel. They submitted reports to the United Nations and EU that “systematically take a simplistic approach, are based on unreliable sources, and use inflammatory rhetoric with unsupported claims, accusing Israel of implementing a policy of ‘racial discrimination,’ ‘disinheritance,’ and ‘human rights violations’ against the ‘indigenous’ citizens of the Negev,” as found in a 2013 report by NGO Monitor, a group dedicated to NGO Responsibility.
NGO Monitor also found that these NGOs were funded mainly by the New Israel Fund (NIF), the European Union, and European governments “providing substantial amounts to this partisan political agenda.” Moreover, “Many NGOs conflate Bedouin issues with the broader Arab-Israeli conflict, without distinguishing between Bedouin and Palestinian issues.”
Likewise, Dr. Havatzelet Yahel of Ben Gurion University has written about the evolution of the Bedouin international advocacy through various NGOs within the UN human rights bodies. Yahel has demonstrated how, in the last two decades, the discourse on Bedouin issues was co-opted by national and foreign NGOs which possess anti-Israel views, becoming an asset in the efforts to delegitimize Israel. Yahel argues that the Bedouin harsh living conditions and the land conflict with the state of Israel help to portray Israel as an apartheid state.
Yahel is right. A recent example is the UN Human Rights Council that published item 7 on the agenda, titled “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.” Several Palestinian NGOs have submitted a joint written statement on the “Palestinian Dispossession and Displacement.” The statement claims that since Israel’s inception, it has developed sets of laws, policies, and practices “designated to displace, dominate, and dispossess Palestinians… Israel is loudly insisting on the denial of the Palestinian inalienable right to self-determination and right of return, to maintain its overall settler-colonial and apartheid system over the Palestinian people.” The statement mentions the Negev, “In the Naqab [Negev], Israel demolished al-Araqib village for the 190th time [in July 2021], under the pretext that it trespasses on State-owned land. Despite the different geographical location and their subjugation to different legal regimes, Palestinians in al-Araqib and Humsa Al-Fawqa endure the same policy of Palestinian dispossession and forced displacement.”
The Graduate Center at CUNY has become a tool at the hands of these political activists. Worth noting that the Center has already been involved in controversial political activism earlier this year. When Hamas shelled Israel with some 4000 or even 4340 rockets, the CUNY Graduate Center published a letter on May 20, 2021, stating that “We see that Israel commits state violence, and we must not remain silent about it… Palestinians, their history, and the ongoing Israeli state violence against them since the Nakba in 1948 have been marginalized in our fields.” The letter finds it unacceptable that only 12 Israelis have died from the Hamas rockets, while 217 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. “The violence perpetrated by Hamas is a predictable reaction to decades of oppression and subordination of Palestinians.” The letter demanded “Palestinians’ rights equal to those of all Israelis.” The letter ends by calling governments, the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Criminal Court to protect the Palestinians.
The CUNY Graduate Center is Israel-bashing, and their webinar on the Bedouins is a reflection of this approach.
Graduate Center – CUNY
THE NEGEV BEDOUIN: EMPTIED LANDS AND DISPLACED PEOPLE
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The Negev Bedouin: Emptied Lands and Displaced People
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Dispossessing Native America: Indigeneity, Land, and Reconciliation
SEP 28, 2021 | 6:30 PM
Dystopian Present, Life in Common Past-Futures: Contesting Fantasies of Collapse
Center for the Study of the Genocide, Holocaust and Crimes Against Humanity
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Israel’s treatment of the Negev Bedouin has been a story of displacement and dispossession. A wide-ranging conversation between Drs. Eli Karetny, Thabet Abu Rass, Yeela Raana, and Netta Amar-Schiff will explore the unique nature of Bedouin resistance, the history of coerced urbanization, and the situation in the unrecognized Bedouin villages.
Part of the Virtual Series: Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons
This is an online event. Please register here to participate via Zoom.
May 20, 2021
On the Tenth Day of the Gaza War
As scholars of Jewish Studies, the Holocaust, genocide, and human rights, we study and teach about a wide range of processes and cases of mass atrocities and state violence, and we unequivocally support the right of Israelis and of Palestinians to exist in peace.
We also have a responsibility to center the voices and perspectives of victims and survivors of state violence. We see that Israel commits state violence, and we must not remain silent about it. Indeed, we teach students about the dangers of remaining silent and about the importance of speaking up and taking action. This is particularly significant in this case, as Palestinians, their history, and the ongoing Israeli state violence against them since the Nakba in 1948 have been marginalized in our fields.
We write as 3350 Hamas rockets into Israel have (to date) killed 12 people, including 2 children and the overwhelming Israeli retaliation on Gaza has (to date) killed 217 people, including 63 children, injured 1500, displaced 52,000 people, destroyed international media headquarters in Gaza as well as another 132 buildings, and smashed infrastructure crucial to daily life. Israel has launched at least 1450 airstrikes on Gaza; in just one night 62 Israeli fighter jets dropped 110 bombs on the Strip.
We deplore the violence on both sides. The violence perpetrated by Hamas is a predictable reaction to decades of oppression and subordination of Palestinians, but this does not justify attacks on civilian populations.
The violence must cease, and better conditions must ensue to secure Palestinians’ rights equal to those of all Israelis.
We therefore call on governments, the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Criminal Court to:
(1) Work to protect Palestinians in Israel, under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and in Gaza now and in the future.
(2) End support for Israeli military aggression.
(3) Hold accountable all those responsible for documented war crimes and human rights violations.
(4) Protect the freedom of the press by mounting an independent investigation into the Israeli airstrike that targeted and destroyed a Gaza City building housing the AP, broadcaster Al-Jazeera, and other media.
Debórah Dwork, Center Director
Center Advisory Board:
Elissa Bemporad, Ungar Chair in East European Jewish History and the Holocaust, Professor, Department of History, Queens College, and Graduate Center-CUNY
Francesca Bregoli, Joseph and Oro Halegua Chair in Greek and Sephardic Jewish Studies, Associate Professor, Department of History, Queens College, and Graduate Center-CUNY
Dagmar Herzog, Distinguished Professor of History, Graduate Center-CUNY
Benjamin Carter Hett, Professor, Department of History, Hunter College and Graduate Center-CUNY
Eli Karetny, Deputy Director, Ralph Bunche Institute
Steven Remy, Professor, Department of History, Brooklyn College and History Program, Graduate Center-CUNY
Victoria Sanford, Professor of Anthropology, Lehman College; Founding Director, Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies; Doctoral Faculty, Department of Anthropology, Graduate Center-CUNY
John Torpey, Presidential Professor of Sociology and History, Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, Graduate Center-CUNY
Eric Weitz, Distinguished Professor of History, City College and Graduate Center-CUNY
Elissa Bemporad, Alon Confino, and Derek Penslar, Forward
“A New Declaration Aims to Fight Antisemitism Without Curtailing Free Speech”
Antisemitism is on the rise, with powerful instigators behind it, but the struggle against it is at risk of being derailed by acrimonious divisions among Jews and others over its very meaning. The drive for adoption of a single, fixed definition of antisemitism has devolved into a polemical political debate on Israel and Palestine with crucial free-speech implications.
Today we introduce the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which was crafted by a group of scholars from the United States, Israel, Europe and the U.K, after more than a year of intense discussion and study. The declaration has been endorsed by 200 eminent scholars with a wide spectrum of political views. All of us agree on the need for a guide to effectively combat antisemitism that protects space for an open debate around all possibilities around the future for Israelis and Palestinians.===================================================
Human Rights Council
13 September–1 October 2021
Agenda item 7
Human rights situation in Palestine and other
occupied Arab territories
Joint written statement* submitted by Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights & Democratic Participation Center “SHAMS”, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH), non-governmental organizations in special consultative status
The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
[22 August 2021]
* Issued as received, in the language(s) of submission only.
24 September 2021
Palestinian Dispossession and Displacement: The Pressing Cases of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan
Since its inception, Israel has developed a set of laws, policies, and practices designated to displace, dominate, and dispossess Palestinians, including through, inter alia, military offensives,1 home demolitions, forced evictions, destruction of livelihoods, creation of a coercive environment, and facilitation of establishing colonial settlements and outposts,2 reinforced by the existence of a discriminatory planning and zoning regime. In so doing, Israel is loudly insisting on the denial of the Palestinian inalienable right to self-determination and right of return, to maintain its overall settler-colonial and apartheid system over the Palestinian people.
While Israel’s array of discriminatory laws, including the Absentee’s Property Law of 1950, the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970, and the laws in force coupled with a set of Israeli military orders in the occupied West Bank,3 differ in titles, their objective is one – the advancement of the Israeli settlement enterprise in the face of Palestinian contiguity.
For example, in the occupied Jordan Valley, the Occupying Power has repeatedly demolished Palestinian properties of Khirbet Humsa al-Fawqa, whose residents are unable to obtain building permits under the pretext that it is located in a declared ‘firing zone’ area.4 In the Naqab, Israel demolished al-Araqib village for the 190th time,5 under the pretext that it trespasses on State-owned land.6 Despite the different geographical location and their subjugation to different legal regimes, Palestinians in al-Araqib and Humsa Al-Fawqa endure the same policy of Palestinian dispossession and forced displacement.
Dispossession and Displacement Through Forced Evictions
In East Jerusalem, eight families residing in Karm Al-Ja’ouni area of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, and seven families in Batn Al-Hawa neighbourhood in Silwan are facing imminent threat of displacement. Notably, most of these families are refugees previously displaced during the Nakba of 1948. Prompted by settler organisations, Nahalat Shimon International and Ateret Cohanim, the dispossession in Karm Al-Ja’ouni and Batn Al-Hawa respectively was facilitated by Israel’s Legal and Administrative Matters Law, which exclusively allows Jews to pursue claims of ownership to properties allegedly owned by Jews before 1948, while denying Palestinians the same for properties they lost in 1948 Nakba and 1967 Naksa.7
1 For example, 8,200 Palestinians in Gaza remain internally displaced due to the latest May 2021 Israeli military offensive, OCHA, “Response to the escalation in the oPt | Situation Report No. 6 (25 June-1 July 2021)”, 2 July 2021, at: https://www.ochaopt.org/content/response-escalation-opt-situation-report-no-6-25-june-1-july-2021.
2 See Al-Haq’s joint written submission submitted to the 48th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council, titled “The Price of Resisting Settlement Expansion: the Case of Jabal Sbeih,” 22 August 2021.
3 Examples include: the 1858 Ottoman Land Code; Jordanian Law on Planning of Cities, Villages and Buildings 1966; Military Order Concerning Government Property (No. 59), 1967; Military Order Concerning Abandoned Properties (No. 58), 1967.
4 Al-Haq, “Over 550 Organisations call on UN Human Rights Council: “Condemnation is Not Enough – Root Causes Must be Addressed, Israel’s Impunity Must be Brought to an End, Justice Must be Achieved””, 18 March 2021, at: https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/18044.html.
5 Anadolu Agency, “Israel demolishes al-Araqib village for 190th time”, 7 July 2021, at: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/israel-demolishes-al-araqib-village-for-190th-time/2296816.
6 Al-Haq, “Joint Parallel Report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Israel’s Seventeenth to Nineteenth Periodic Reports”, 10 November 2019, para. 102.
7 Al-Haq, “14 Palestinian and Regional Organisations Send Joint Urgent Appeal to UN Special Procedures on Forced Evictions in East Jerusalem”, 16 March 2021, at: https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/17999.html.
Ruling in favour of evicting the 15 families,8 the Israeli courts confirm that Jews enjoy “right of return”, but disregards the same right for Palestinians, and exemplify, yet again, the complicity of the judicial echelon in Israel’s systematic denial of Palestinians’ rights of return and property restitution.
As of time of writing, the appealed eviction orders against seven Sheikh jarrah families are pending.9 The Israeli Supreme Court proposed a “compromise” to four families that would allow them to continue living in their houses upon their recognition of settlers’ ownership of the properties in question. Rejecting this “compromise,” which violates the rights of protected persons against appropriation or destruction of private property, and forcible transfer, Palestinian residents continue to endure the lengthy and expensive legal battles.10
Similarly, in 2002, Ateret Cohanim targeted 81 Palestinian families in Batn al-Hawa with eviction lawsuits,11 among which seven families were issued eviction orders.12 The inherently unjust judicial system further infringes on Palestinians’ due process rights. For example, Nitham Abu Rammouz, one of the seven family members, was not informed about the eviction order issued against him and his 12-member family until almost five years after its issuance; he was never summoned to attend court sessions nor did he receive a judicial notice of the eviction order, which was issued in absentia, and by default was not appealed.13
Alarmingly, at least 993 Palestinians, including 432 children, residing in East Jerusalem are at risk of displacement due to ‘eviction cases’ filed against them.14 Over the past four years, around 15 households of 62 Palestinians were evicted from their homes in the Old City, Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.15
Dispossession and Displacement through Home Demolitions
Shortly after occupying East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel had cancelled Jordanian building plans in al-Bustan, designating it as “green area”, where construction is prohibited, to build a touristic park.16 To meet the needs of their natural population increase, Palestinians have been building without permits, which are impossible to obtain, due to Israel’s aggressive planning and zoning policies. Against this backdrop, in 2005, the Jerusalem Municipality delivered a collective demolition order for 88 Palestinian houses of more than 1,500 Palestinians.17
The residents have been successfully filing for extensions to delay the execution of demolition orders. Nevertheless, on 17 March 2021, the court refused to extend 16 demolition cases based on the discriminatory ‘Kaminitz’ law or Amendment 116,18 which reinforces planning and construction laws through increased penalisation of building breaches that intrude on public land in Israel, particularly in the Arab communities,19 while completely
8 OCHA, “Palestinian family evicted from its home in East Jerusalem”, 10 December 2020, at: https://www.ochaopt.org/content/palestinian-family-evicted-its-home-east-jerusalem.
9 The Israeli Supreme Court decided to freeze the eviction order against three Sheikh Jarrah families until the exhaustion of proceeding (Al-Dajani et al. vs Nahalat Shomron International, Supreme Court 2841/21, 15 August 2021).
10 FMEP, “Court Proposes Settler-friendly “Compromise” to Avoid Substantive Ruling on Sheikh Jarrah Dispossession Cases”, 6 August 2021, at: https://fmep.org/blog/resourcetag/sheikh-jarrah/.
11 Al-Haq, “House Demolitions and Forced Evictions in Silwan”, 2020, p.48, at: https://www.alhaq.org/cached _uploads/download/2021/08/17/silwan-webversion-1-page-view-1629184473.pdf.
12 See supra note 8.
13 Al-Haq Affidavit 15A/2021 of 5 January 2021.
14 Data obtained from OCHA and Al-Haq’s documentation.
15 See supra note 8.
16 Al-Haq, “House Demolition and Forced Evictions in Silwan”, 2020, p.33.
17 Al-Haq, “88 Palestinian Houses to be demolished for Israeli Park”, 11 February 2012, at: https://www.alhaq.org/monitoring-documentation/6931.html.
18 NRC, “Case Summary Al Bustan – Silwan, East Jerusalem”, August 2021.
19 Ir-Amim, “Amendment 116 to the Planning and Building Law and the Palestinian Neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem”, July 2019, pp. 6-7.
disregarding the Palestinian housing needs. Among the 16 cases, the butcher shop of Mr. Harbi al-Rajabi was demolished on 29 June 2021, thereby destroying his livelihood.20
On 7 June 2021, Fakhri Abu Diab, a resident of Al-Bustan neighbourhood, received a demolition order, stating: “these orders are issued according to the Kaminitz Law, which means we cannot object to it or request to freeze its enforcement, we are only given the option to self-demolish the structure within 21 days from receipt of order, or for municipality personnel to demolish it and thus incur demolition expenses, which could amount to at least NIS60,000 [approximately USD18,500].”21
Conclusion and Recommendations
Israeli instituted discriminatory laws and policies against Palestinians deprive them of their rights to freedom of movement and residence, adequate housing, and their land and natural resources.22 Forced evictions and home demolitions may amount to the war crimes of forcible transfer, destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity, and the crimes against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer, persecution, and apartheid.23
Accordingly, we call on Member States of the Human Rights Council to:
i. Recognise that Israel’s discriminatory laws of dispossession and displacement are part of an apartheid system applied to the entirety of the Palestinian people;
ii. Call on Israel to cease the application of its domestic laws to annexed East Jerusalem, and consequently, immediately cease legal proceedings and revoke eviction and demolition orders issued against Palestinians facing imminent threat of forcible transfer in Sheikh Jarrah, Batn Al-Hawa, and Al-Bustan neighbourhoods, and ensure the return of those evicted and/or the compensation of those whose properties were demolished where restitution is not possible; and
iii. Pursue international justice and accountability for Israel’s systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people, including the crime of apartheid, by activating universal jurisdiction mechanisms and supporting a full, thorough, and comprehensive investigation by the International Criminal Court into the Situation in Palestine.
Palestinian NGOs Network Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association DCI – Defense for Children International – Palestine Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center Aldameer Association for Human Rights Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies – Hurryyat Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights The Independent Commission for Human Rights (Ombudsman Office) Muwatin Institute for Democracy and Human Rights The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem Community Action Center/Al-Quds University, NGO(s) without consultative status, also share the views expressed in this statement.
20 NRC, “Israeli authorities demolish shop in Silwan, 15 families at imminent risk”, 29 June 2021, at: https://www.nrc.no/news/2021/june/israeli-authorities-demolish-shop-in-silwan-15-families-at-imminent-risk/.
21 Al-Haq Affidavit 332A/2021 of 17 June 2021.
22 Article 1(2), ICESCR and ICCPR.
23 Articles 8(2)(b)(viii), 8(2)(a)(iv), 7(1)(d), 7(1)(h), and 7(1)(j) of the Rome Statute of the ICC.
Court rejects 6 Beduin Negev land lawsuits
Members of the al-Uqbi family argued that they owned land, including at al-Arakib, since Ottoman times.
By JOANNA PARASZCZUK, SHARON UDASIN MARCH 19, 2012 19:07
In a precedent-setting ruling on Sunday, the Beersheba District Court rejected six lawsuits brought by Beduin regarding private ownership of some 1,000 dunam of land in the Negev.
Seventeen Beduin, members of the al-Uqbi family, filed the six land claims. The complex and often bitter legal proceedings went on for over six years, and discussed in detail the history of the Negev Beduin and land laws dating back to the mid-19th century. The Beduin claim the land had belonged to their families since before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and that it had come into their possession by means of purchase and inheritance over generations.
However, in 1951 they say they were evacuated from the land when the IDF confiscated it, and since then the state has not granted them permission to return, and has said the land belongs to the state and was never privately owned.
Significantly, the land in question – south of the Beduin city of Rahat – includes the hotly contested area known as al-Arakib, the site of an ongoing and bitter conflict between Beduin and the state. Temporary shacks built by the Beduin in al-Arakib were demolished by the state and rebuilt on more than 10 occasions, the last in 2010, and last year the state filed a NIS 1.8 million lawsuit against two Beduin families over the issue.
During the al-Uqbi lawsuit, both the state and the Beduin brought extensive expert testimonies, pitting the country’s most prominent experts in historical and political geography against each other. For the plaintiffs, Ben Gurion University’s Prof. Oren Yiftachel, one of the country’s foremost geographers and social scientists, gave expert testimony. Testifying for the state was Prof. Ruth Kark, a leading expert on the historical geography of Palestine and Israel from the Hebrew University.
At the heart of the case was the debate of whether the Beduin were able to prove that they had private land rights to the disputed plots, despite a lack of formal land-title deeds showing the land had been registered in their name in the Ottoman land registry, the “Tabu.”
Central to this was the question of the land’s legal classification under Ottoman and British rule, and whether it had been a form of state land, known as Mawat (wasteland that could not be cultivated). When the Israel Land Law abolished the old Ottoman land classifications in 1969, it said all land would revert to state lands, unless a claimant could produce proof of private ownership in the form of Ottoman or British legal title.
The British Mandate authorities stipulated that the last date by which Beduin could register land classified as Mawat as privately owned was 1921, however the al-Uqbis – like most Beduin – had not done so.
In court, the al-Uqbis argued that the state’s order to expropriate the land from them in 1951 was made on the erroneous assumption that under Ottoman law the land was classified as Mawat. They said that the land had been cultivated and owned by them, and so classified as Miri land under Ottoman legal terms.
Mawat lands were both uncultivated and not adjacent to settled lands. The Beduin, who argued that the el-Ukbi families had lived in al-Arakib before the State of Israel was established, testified that there had been tents and other structures on the land, and that Beduin residents had cultivated barley and wheat there. Therefore, they argued, the Ottoman authorities cannot possibly have classified it as Mawat.
In an expert opinion filed to the court, Yiftachel said that these “tribal areas” of scattered tent clusters were not at that time registered with the authorities, but were nevertheless considered “settled” and met the definition of a “village” in the 1921 Land Ordinance.
The Beduin also presented aerial photographs from 1945 onwards, which they said showed there had been extensive cultivation covering al-Arakib, meaning that it could not have been classified as Mawat land.
The state’s expert witness, Prof. Ruth Kark, gave the complete opposite view, and said that prior to 1858, there had been no fixed settlements on or near to the disputed land. The first fixed settlement had been Beersheba, she said, which the Ottomans founded in 1900 and which is 11 kilometers from al- Arakib – refuting the Beduin’ claims that the land could not have been Mawat because it was both cultivated and next to a settlement.
They also contended that the Ottoman, and later the British, authorities had granted legal autonomy to the Negev Beduin to organize land ownership according to Beduin law, which is why it was not registered as theirs in the Tabu.
However, the court did not accept this claim, saying that if the Ottoman authorities had wished to exempt a particular population from the law, then they would have done so explicitly.
Rejecting the claims, Judge Sarah Dovrat concluded the the land in question had not been “assigned to the plaintiffs, nor held by them under conditions required by law.”
“Regardless of whether the land was Mawat or Miri, the complainants must still prove their rights to the land by proof of its registration in the Tabu,” the judge said.
Dovrat added that “although the complainants believe they have proof that they held the land for generations, and that four families from the el-Ukbi tribe cultivated and owned the land, such claims require a legitimate legal basis in accordance with the the relevant legislation and according to precedents set out in case law.”
The judge held that the plaintiffs’ documents indicated that they knew they had a duty to register land in the “Tabu” (the land registry) but had not wanted to do so. “The state said that although the complainants are not entitled to compensation, it has been willing to negotiate with them,” the judge added. “It is a shame that these negotiations did not reach any agreement.”
The court also ordered the Beduin complainants to pay legal costs of NIS 50,000. Attorneys Michael Sfard and Carmel Pomerantz, who represented the Beduin complainants, slammed the ruling, which they said went against an international trend of recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples to their historic lands.
“In its ruling, the court affirmed the practice of expulsion that the state carried out against the Negev Beduin, and found that 60 years afterwards there is no point in testing whether that massive expropriation of lands was legal or not,” Sfard said on Monday.
Sfard and Pomerantz added the the court did not “take the opportunity to recognize, even symbolically, the historical injustice perpetrated to the residents of these lands, whose ancestors lived there for centuries.” Yiftachel called the decision “troubling,” and said on Monday that the Beduin were considering whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.
“[The ruling] is troubling first and foremost because it unjustly dispossesses many Bedouins who have simply inherited the land from their ancestors. The court decided that just because they didn’t register their land, they ought to lose it,” Yiftachel said. “It’s a sad irony – Jews who bought land from Bedouins in Northern Negev became recognized owners, while the people who sold them the land are now being dispossessed.”
Yiftachel said that the court had ignored new research he presented, which he said showed the Beduin had “acquired rights within a permanent land system they developed and how previous regimes have respected those rights.”
“Most researchers agree that 2-3 million dunam were cultivated by the Beduin in the early 20th century, which gives them land rights,” he said. “Yet the court claimed that no Beduin settlement and rights existed then. Where did the Beduin farmers live – in mid-air?”
Yiftachel added that recognizing the fact that Beduin did own parts of the Negev for generations was “not only a moral duty of any enlightened state, but also the key for good Arab-Jewish relations on which the Negev will depend for years to come.”
“Whatever the court decision, I am committed to the truth,” he said.
ILA director Benzi Lieberman welcomed the court’s ruling, and said on Monday that the ILA expected the Beduin claimants to respect it and “stop trespassing” on the land.
“The ILA will do all in its power to keep state land from trespassers – and this includes farming – in order to safeguard the land,” Lieberman said, adding that the ILA would file lawsuits against those who trespassed on state land.
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