In the mountainous, semidesertic area of West Bank in Palestine almost nothing can be seen, but huge, rocky hills of sandy color, like rounded humps of sleeping camels… Between them cavernous valleys – wadis – sculpt the landscape, filling with water during heavy winter rains, when powerful streams roll down, grabbing everything behind. The rest of the year is dry, hot and sunny, so wadis turn empty and the water become very rare and precious resource, which can be found only in few wells – real tresours of this region. Water means life. Bedouins, original inhabitants of this area, know well how to bear with the rough climate and hard living conditions. They are born to move in vast spaces, searching for the best pastures for their herds, inhaling fresh air and enjoying the the primary and authentic freedom.
These people, with the little they have and with all daily difficulties they face, are one of the most happy, positive and smiling in the world. Leading simple life, they spend time on caring about their animals, raising children, preparing meals, doing some handworks… They are not in a hurry, so they rest calm and peaceful regardless of the circumstances.
But now they do have reason to worry, as the dark clouds gathered over their heads. Israel prepared a plan for their land, a Master Plan called E1 Plan.
The plan covers an area of 12 square kilometres, within the municipal boundary of the israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, a large Israeli settlement located east of the pre-1967 green line. It is located adjacent to and northeast of East Jerusalem and to the west of Ma’ale Adumim. Since 1995 (Oslo II Interim Agreement) E1 falls within Area C of the West Bank, which means that it’s under full Israeli military and civilian control, and is administered by Ma’ale Adumim.
The reasons of special israeli interests in this territory are many, but the most important is to connect East Jerusalem (annected by Israel) with the settlement Maale Adumim (illegal under international law, as are all the settlements…) and to create an integral whole, so the settlement could develop freely and its jewish inhabitants would be safe and comfortable. Construction in E-1 will further reduce the already narrow corridor that connects the northern and southern West Bank and will impede the establishment of a Palestinian state with territorial contiguity. Israel is planning to build an alternative road that would connect between the two parts of the West Bank for use by Palestinians, but this is no more than a traffic solution. Territorial vs transportation contiguity are two completely different things…
According to B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories:
„The implementation of construction plans in E1 will create an urban bloc between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, exacerbate the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and disrupt the territorial contiguity between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. The establishment of settlements in occupied territory is a breach of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the transfer of people from the occupying state into the occupied area. It also prohibits any permanent changes in the occupied territory, with the exception of changes mandated by military needs or in order to benefit the local population. In addition, the establishment of Israeli settlements leads to numerous violations of Palestinians’ human rights. In addition, the Civil Administration is planning to expel the Bedouin communities currently residing in this area. If the expulsion goes through, it will be a further breach of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the forcible transfer of „protected persons”, such as these communities, other than for their own safety or for an urgent military need. Even then, it is permissible only on a temporary basis. These exceptions are not applicable in this case.”
It’s interesting to compare position of B’Tselem with the document prepared by another israeli institution – Jerusalem Center for Public Affaires:
„Understanding Israeli Interests in the E1 Area: Contiguity, Security, and Jerusalem” by Nadav Shragai
- The site for the E1 building plan extends over an area of about 12,000 dunams, most of it state land (sic! state land is considered as no man’s land, which is obviously not true…), northward and westward of the Jerusalem-Maale Adumim road. Through this plan, Israel wants to link Maale Adumim – a city established east of Jerusalem about thirty years ago, in which about 40,000 people now live – with the ridge of Mount Scopus within Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction. So far, owing to the opposition of the Palestinians and the international community, the plan has not been implemented.
- Three residential neighborhoods, as well as an area for commerce, industry, and hotels, are envisaged for E1. So far only two residential neighborhoods totaling 3,500 housing units have been planned. An additional residential neighborhood, the northern one, and the commercial-industrial zone, which is supposed to link E1 to Jerusalem, are frozen for planning and legal reasons unconnected to the political controversy over the program. A police station and a network of roads and infrastructure have, however, already been built in E1.
- All Israeli governments since Yitzhak Rabin’s second tenure as prime minister in the 1990s have supported the program, appreciating the need to create an Israeli urban continuity from Jerusalem to Maale Adumim, leading out to the Dead Sea and the Jordanian border (sic!). That need is incorporated in the Israeli security and urban planning concept, which views Jerusalem and its nearby Jewish communities as a single metropolitan space – “metropolitan Jerusalem”.
- The opposition to building in E1 and to the bypass road is unacceptable to Israel for the following reasons:
a. In the area between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem, along the Jerusalem-Jericho road and in the E1 area, a considerable amount of illegal Palestinian building is in progress (sic! illegal Palestinian building means Bedouins villages, that have been there since ’50…). This illegal activity has already significantly narrowed the corridor along which the central arterial road between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim runs – from two kilometers to one kilometer. The illegal building already threatens to sever and, in the future, preclude Israeli continuity between the two cities.
b. Under the Oslo Agreements, zoning and planning in these areas (Area C) is under the jurisdiction of Israel. Thus, Palestinian construction without any building permit along a main Israeli artery of this sort is a violation of the signed bilateral agreement and is thus illegal (sic! the building permits are almost never coincided to Palestinians, so they have no option, but to built without it…).
c. Israeli avoidance of creating settlement continuity between the Jerusalem area and the Maale Adumim area will inevitably give rise to another, competing, Palestinian continuity running north to south (sic! of course!… isn’t West Bank their own land?…).
d. Even today Israel has great difficulty counteracting such continuity because of the international community’s stance, which opposes any measures against the extensive illegal building in the area (sic! even more should be done to stop E1 Plan…).
e. One practical manifestation of the Israeli weakness is the lack of resolve of the State Attorney’s Office and the Civil Administration in the face of this illegal building. This, among other things, is clearly evident in reports of the Civil Administration Central Supervisory Unit.
- The linking of Jerusalem to Maale Adumim is an overriding Israeli interest for several reasons:
a. Israel cannot allow Maale Adumim to become like Mount Scopus in the 1948-1967 period, when the mount was an isolated Israeli enclave under UN custody with only a road connecting to it.
b. Israel cannot allow a situation to emerge of security and urban discontinuity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, or the reversion of Jerusalem to a border-town status (as was the case before the Six-Day War) that would preclude the city’s eastward development (sic! so Israel openly admits that its goal is to stop development of the palestinian part of the city…as it already completely annexed West Jerusalem).
c. Israel cannot tolerate a threat to the Jerusalem-Jericho road, on which the Palestinian construction is encroaching. This artery is of supreme strategic importance to Israel. In time of war it would enable moving large quantities of troops to the Jordan Valley and northward, as Israel mobilized its forces to contend with a possible “eastern front.”
d. The area of Maale Adumim, including E1, is part of the strategic depth that Israel requires in the context of defensible borders – again, in the face of an eastern front, and to make it possible to defend its capital, Jerusalem (sic! according to the UN resolutions, Jerusalem has a status of a neutral city, and so, can’t be the capital if Israel…).
e. The area of settlement around Jerusalem, including Maale Adumim, constitutes part of the metropolitan area of Jerusalem. This area incorporates both settlement and security as two vital, complementary components of the Israeli national interest.”
The projects for E1 were conceived in ’90 and then developed by all the israeli governments, particularly strongly after the Second Intifada, in sort of revange on Palestianians and under the cover of security reasons…
In mid-2004, construction commenced on infrastructure in E1. The work was carried out by the Ministry of Construction and was illegal: in the absence of a Specific Town Plan, no permits could be or were issued to allow for this work. The work included the clearing of roads for major highways leading to the planned residential areas and site preparation for the planned police station.
During the 2007 Annapolis Conference, then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni demanded that Ma’aleh Adumim remain a part of Israel.
During the Netanyahu government, the Prime Minister attempted to expedite the E1 Master Plan. A first statutory step to implementation of the plan, which includes general land designations but is not specific enough to allow the issuance of building permits, was undertaken, along with the establishment of a Greater Jerusalem umbrella municipality which was to include Ma’ale Adumim. Netanyahu’s also declared that „the State of Israel will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all the places on the state’s strategic map” is a continuation of the political tradition that views control over E1 as a cardinal Israeli interest.
Since 2008, the headquarters of the Samaria and Judea district of the Israeli Police Department are situated in the E1.
In December 2012, in response to the United Nations approving the Palestinian bid for „non-member observer state” status, Israel announced the next day that it was resuming planning and zoning work in E1 area. EU ministers expressed their „dismay” and five European countries summoned Israeli ambassadors to protest.
There has been wide-scale opposition to the plan – opposition mobilized originally by lawyers and activists, including those associated with Peace Now (an israeli NGO), who closely follow developments in Jerusalem.
The United States has historically opposed the plan, with Israel stopping its construction under pressure of the Bush Administration. In 2009, Israel conducted an additional understanding with the United States government not to build in the E1 zone. Israeli efforts to remove the Bedouins who live on the E1 lands have been interpreted as preparing the ground for settlement construction. The European Union submitted a formal protest to the Israeli Foreign Ministry over evacuating Bedouin and tearing down Palestinians’ houses in the E1 area in December 2011. Israel denied that such evacuations were a preparation for settlement construction.In 2012, Israel announced its intention to build 3,000 new housing units in the zone. A prominent Israel official explained the decision by stating that the agreement with the American government was „no longer relevant„, claiming that the Palestinian Authority had „fundamentally violated” their prior agreements.
Israel’s 2012 plan to move ahead with construction of 3,000 housing units in the E1 zone was faced with widespread international opposition. In particular, the European Union put strong diplomatic pressure on Israel to reverse its decision, and Britain and France threatened to take the unprecedented action of withdrawing their ambassadors in reaction.
The Palestinian Authority threatened to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court for international law and human rights violations over the E1 plan.
The Bedouins from E1 lived originally, prior to the 1948, in the Tel Arad region of the Negev desert… After the foundation of the State of Israel, in the early 1950s, they were evicted from their traditional lands by the israeli army. They re-grouped east of Jerusalem but were forced to end their pastoral life-style after the Israeli conquest of the West Bank in 1967 – the restrictions on movement were imposed, first settlements were built and the palestinian population came under israeli military authority.
One of the tribes living in the area – Jahalin – suffered forced displacement in 1997, when the community was sourrounded by israeli troops and evacuated in order to built Ma’ale Adumim settlement… „All the people were taken to the military buses and all their buildings demolished” – as recalls member of the tribe. „They threw us near the dump close to Abu Dis without any roof. It was recently proved that the area is dangerous for people’s health and even life, as provokes illness and cancer.”
In February 2012, Israeli authorities abandoned plans to resettle the Jahalin Bedouin to the Abu Dis garbage dump, but confirmed their intention to concentrate them in one location, which would be contrary to their traditional nomadic lifestyle, based on animals grazing. On 16 September 2014 it was announced that they would be moved to a new area in the Jordan Valley north of Jericho.
Below an interesting article on the subject from „Haaretz” can be found:
„Israeli government plans to forcibly relocate 12,500 Bedouin. Plans to expel communities from land east of Jerusalem and move them to new town in Jordan Valley were drafted without consulting tribes.”
By Amira Hass (16.10.2014)
Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank is advancing a plan to expel thousands of Bedouin from lands east of Jerusalem and forcibly relocate them to a new town in the Jordan Valley.
Between late August and last week, the administration published nine plans that together comprise the master plan for the proposed new town north of Jericho. The plans were drafted without consulting the Bedouin slated to live there, in violation of the Supreme Court’s recommendation.
In explanatory notes to the plans, to which the public now has 60 days to submit objections (please, act now!! fill the objection form…), the administration said its proposal suits the “dynamic changes” Bedouin society is undergoing as it moves from an agricultural society to “a modern society that earns its living by commerce, services, technical trades and more.”
The town is slated for about 12,500 Bedouin from the Jahalin, Kaabneh and Rashaida tribes. It is the third and largest of the towns the administration has designated for Bedouin in the West Bank.
The first is already inhabited by some 300 Jahalin Bedouin, though a portion of this plan has been frozen due to its dangerous proximity to the Abu Dis dump. The second, to be located in the northern Jordan Valley, is still in the planning stage.
Concentrating the Bedouin into a few permanent towns represents the culmination of a 40-year process of limiting their pasturage, restricting their migrations and refusing to let them build permanent homes in places where they have lived for decades. This process accelerated after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.
Since then, the Civil Administration has issued thousands of demolition orders against Bedouin tents and shacks, to which the Bedouin frequently responded by petitioning the High Court of Justice.
Shlomo Lecker, a lawyer who represented the Bedouin in nearly 100 such cases, told Haaretz that while the court never addressed his claim that the Bedouin were being discriminated against in comparison to Jewish settlers, it did accept his argument that they can’t be evicted when they have no other place to live. That is what prompted the Civil Administration to start planning new towns for them.
The latest plan was commissioned from a Palestinian firm called Asia, which is based in Ramallah. Members of the Rashaida tribe already live on the land earmarked for the new town, to be called Talet Nueima, and four years ago, they consented in principle to its establishment. Rashaida representatives told Haaretz they were reassured by the fact that the planners were Palestinian.
But two years ago, after the plan to relocate some of the Bedouin to the town near the Abu Dis dump was frozen, the Civil Administration altered the original plan for Talet Nueima, deciding to expand the town significantly and use it to house Bedouin from other areas and tribes as well.
Thus the plan grew from a town of some 370 dunams earmarked solely for the Rashaida tribe to one of 1,460 dunams earmarked for three different tribes. The town will be divided into 1,129 half-dunam plots, each of which is supposed to contain two houses plus one agricultural building (sic! just imagine all this people of open spaces, crowded in one cramped city…).
The Palestinian Authority objects to the plan, saying it undermines the PA’s own plan to build a city nearby. While the land is located in Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli control, it is adjacent to Area A, which is under PA control.
During hearings on the petitions filed by Lecker, the High Court repeatedly advised the state to hold a dialogue with the Bedouin before completing the plan.
“We know a little of the history of relocation attempts; we’re aware that there is vehement opposition”, High Court Justice Uzi Vogelman said in April. “The question is whether such processes — which are structural, something at the level of the tribe — shouldn’t be implemented via a higher level of dialogue… The question is whether there is any dialogue forum beyond the announcements or the legal forum. My assessment is that without dialogue, it will be hard to implement these things.”
Jamil Hamadin, a member of the Jahalin tribe, told Haaretz the Civil Administration never consulted with his clan or any other Jahalin clans about the plan. He added that not only does putting different tribes into the same town run counter to Bedouin customs, but so does putting different clans from the same tribe into the same town.
“We’ve replaced wool tents with tin shacks and prefab homes, but that doesn’t mean we’ve changed our customs and laws, which obligate us to live and herd at a great distance from each other, or our need to live in open spaces,” he said.
At a meeting with government attorneys and Civil Administration officials on Thursday, Lecker asked whether, in light of Bedouin opposition to the plan, “the intention is to put the Bedouin on trucks”, as was done to the Jahalin in 1997, when they were evicted from lands that later became part of the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.
“We won’t put them on trucks,” said Yuval Turgeman, the administration’s director of Bedouin affairs. “But we’ll take immediate action to demolish their residences and agricultural buildings, because there is an alternative here.”
A spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said dozens of meetings were held with Bedouin leaders.
As part of the effort to draft master plans “for the benefit of the area’s Bedouin population”, whose purpose is to allow the Bedouin to live in places with suitable infrastructure (sic! but if all the Bedouins search for is freedom, their own life-style and related to it culture…), the spokesman said, several plans to prepare such places have been advanced, partly through such meetings.
Once the plans are completed and building plots have been allocated, he added, all illegal Bedouin construction “will be dealt with in accordance with the law.”
For years the implementation of E1 Plan was frozen, but the last few months showed that the idea is not forgotten, and many important steps were undertaken, in order to push things forward. Threat of another forced displacement hung over the Bedouins inevitably... Only the support from outside can help this vulnerable society, to preserve their traditions and nomadic life-style. That’s way palestinian Jerusalem Legal Aid & Human Rights Center (JLAC) is deeply concerned by this issue and elborated a summary document titled „Forced transfer of Bedouins for the implementation of the E1 Settlement Plan”. Excerpt of this text can be found below:
„Indeed, the situation today has become more pressing than ever for all national, public, civil and official forces to unite efforts in preventing the ethnic cleansing of Bedouins and the ultimate loss of their indigenous way of life through the implementation of the forced relocation plan. Among the most notable devastating ramification of this plan include;
- The allocation of a small area (approximately ½ dunum) for each family shall be insufficient for meeting the traditional ancient living needs and livestock requirements of the Bedouins, making a herder life-style impossible.
- The allocation of small areas for each family and bringing more than one tribe from different locations together in a single area shall breach one of the most prominent features of the Bedouin’s life and culture; the insurance of privacy, particularly for women in these communities.
- The creation of inappropriate living conditions for Bedouin families that are incompatible with their culture shall compel them to abandon their herder lifestyle in order to seek other livelihoods inconsistent with their culture (i.e. cheap labor in the Israeli settlements without enjoying any rights) or face unemployment.
- Uprooting Bedouins from their environmental and economic context may come to accumulate a sense of resentment and humiliation among individuals; creating undesirable tensions between members of the displaced communities with the city of Jericho, in particular.
- Above all this, the already fragile Palestinian economy will ultimately be deprived or nearly 13% of red meat and dairy production source, collectively threatening food security and the Palestinian economy.”
In the final part of the foregoing document, an emphatic appeal to the international community is made:
„The E1 Plan has become revealed. However, its gravity lies in its undermining of any opportunity for Palestinians to live under their independent state, with full geographic continuity, and sovereignty over its lands. For the E1 plan – along with the large settlement blocs in the north, middle and south of the West Bank- would make the West Bank a group of closed and geographically disconnected ghettos totally isolated from the city of occupied Jerusalem. In so doing, the notion of establishing a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel shall be rendered impossible. Rather what will exist is a weak and fragile Palestinian entity, dependent on international aid for securing its minimum living requirements. Bearing in mind the absence of any actual international pressure on Israel towards halting progress in the plan and continued threat of the Bedouin communities and their existence; all international efforts for the realization of peace, development and ending occupation shall be otherwise fruitless.
The principle of forced displacement as per international law is not only limited to the imposition of physical force, but also involves threat of such force through consequent persecution or violation of human rights. Nevertheless, Israel is still moving forward with its plan, while the world stands still. This silence has allowed for the existence of a group of indigenous Palestinians, namely, Bedouin communities, to be threatened. Indeed, the United Nations, has considered Palestinian Bedouins as a threatened indigenous population since 2010.
Taking into account the intense pressure, which the Bedouin continue to resist, and the serious threats faced by the nation as a whole, we as Palestinian are left only with the option of taking up a decisive existential battle led and driven by joint public, civil and official efforts in challenging the Israeli policy of eradicating the Bedouins’ existence in Palestine in favor of constructing additional housing units for illegal settlers.
We call upon all signatory states to the Geneva Conventions to respect their legal obligations and provide protection for the Palestinian people against the grave breaches to the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war, to stop providing political and military protection for the apostate Israeli occupation which refuses to obey international laws, and to treat Israel as a rogue and outlaw state.”