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Israel/OPT: Forced evictions of over 300 Palestinians in the Naqab is 'clear illustration of apartheid'

© Oren Ziv, +972 Magazine

Israeli authorities pushing for displacement and segregation of the Bedouin community in the Naqab

‘We cannot stop this plan; Highway number 6 would pass over our bodies regardless of how hard we resisted’ - Jabr Abu Assa, resident

The Israeli authorities’ demolition yesterday (8 May) of 47 homes in Wadi al-Khalil, an unrecognised Palestinian-Bedouin village in the Naqab, underscores the urgency to dismantle Israel’s apartheid system, said Amnesty International.

The demolition orders against the Abu Assa neighbourhood in Wadi al-Khalil were issued by Israeli planning authorities in 2019 to make way for the extension of the route of Highway6 southwards. The demolitions, the highest in a single day since the demolitions of Al-Araqib in 2010, amount to the forced eviction of over 300 residents of Wadi al-Khalil, one of nine unrecognised villages at risk of forced eviction under the guise of urban development.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said:

“The scenes of hyper-militarised police units, including the notorious Yoav and border police units, storming Wadi al-Khalil to bulldoze homes and confiscate residents’ belongings are yet another chilling demonstration of the cruelty and ongoing injustices and human rights violations meted by Israeli authorities upon Palestinian citizens of Israel, especially those living in the Naqab.

“Instead of meaningfully consulting with the local communities in an inclusive decision-making process on planning, infrastructure development and access to land, Israeli authorities, particularly the Bedouin Authority for Development and Settlement, continue to use urban development as a tool to displace Bedouins, disenfranchise them and force them into smaller and smaller pockets of land, in a clear illustration of Israel’s apartheid system.

“Israeli authorities must put an end to the systematic discrimination and oppression faced by these communities, including by putting an end to forced evictions and the policy of home demolition. Instead, they should grant villages recognition and repeal all laws, policies and practices designed to dispossess the community - including through planning processes.”

Among the units that participated in the demolition is the police unit Yoav, a unit established in 2011 with the declared aim of “enforcing the law” and halting unauthorised construction in Bedouin localities in the Naqab.

Jabr Abu Assa, a resident of Wadi al-Khalil whose home was demolished earlier this morning, told Amnesty:

“We cannot stop this plan; Highway number 6 would pass over our bodies regardless of how hard we resisted, so we asked the authorities for a fair and just alternative, to relocate us to a place where we can live in peace and dignity, to Mtalla neighbourhood in Tall al-Sabe’. However, the only option we were given is to move to a neighbourhood in the nearby village of Um al-Batin, where local residents already said they have no room for us and that we are not welcome; this means pitting us up against them. This means forcing us and them to have to fight over the scarce resources that are barely enough for them.”

Abu Assa added that neither he nor any of the residents whose homes and other structures were demolished have received any form of compensation.

Appeal rejected against forced relocation

On 31 December, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeal of Wadi Al-Khalil’s residents against their forced relocation to Umm al-Batin, allowing the Bedouin Authority for the Development and Settlement of the Negev, a government body that has long served to entrench the domination and oppression of the Bedouin community, to decide where it can relocate the residents.

Hussein al-Rabaya’a, a community activist from the Naqab, told Amnesty:

“Here you have no choice: they deny you recognition then they decide to displace you, they decide where you can go, and if you protest and ask for a fair alternative, they say it’s not up to you to decide your own fate.”

Another resident of the neighbourhood whose home was destroyed, told Amnesty:

“We don’t know where to go next; we cannot move to Umm al-Batin because we are unwanted there; we’ll do what the residents of al-Araqib did: we’ll set up a tent on the ruins of our bulldozed homes, we have no other choice.”

The demolitions in Wadi al-Khalil come less than a year after the Israeli District Court had approved the forced eviction of the unrecognised village of Ras Jrabah to make way for the expansion of nearby Jewish town of Dimona. The residents of Ras Jrabah remain embroiled in a legal battle against their village’s demolition.

Israel’s apartheid system

Over the years, Israeli authorities have employed numerous pretexts to push for the displacement and segregation of the Bedouin community in the Naqab; from expanding highways to building industrial zones, establishing forests for the Jewish National Fund and the designation of military zones.

Amnesty’s report on Israel’s apartheid system sets out how discriminatory laws on planning and zoning designed to maximise land and resources for Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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