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02. 05. 2007

The bedouins are again being displaced

Seit über einem Jahr arbeiten wir in unserem Projekt zusammen mit Kolleginnen des EAPPI. ( Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel) Sie kommen einmal in der Woche und geben Englisch Unterricht fuer Jahalin Girls, Teenager und junge Frauen.

So auch Cecilie aus Oslo. Neben dieser partiellen Mitarbeit bei den Jahalin Beduinen auf dem Huegel hatte Cecilie und ihre KollegInnen auch die Moeglichkeit genutzt, mehr zur aktuellen Situation der Jahalin Beduinen in der Westbank zu erfahren.

Annaehernd 2000 Beduinen, die noch in den Wadis leben, sind durch den geplanten Mauerbau im Sueden und Osten von Assariah von der bevorstehenden Vertreibung bedroht.

Cecilie war bei einem gemeinsamen Treffen von lokalen und internationalen Nichtregierungs Organisationen zu Besuch bei den Beduinen im Wadi Abu Hindi.
Hier ihr Bericht.

Anna Crummenerl

The Bedouins of Jahalin on the West Bank wish to continue their traditional lifestyle, but Jewish settlers and the construction of the wall will soon make this impossible.

- Ana! Ana (Me! Me!), shout the girls in the little shack in the Bedouin camp Jahalin. Twenty young girls put their hands up and are eager to answer. I teach two groups of girls in English here every Wednesday. Both at home and at school, the girls have to be quiet and responsible, so this is their free time. Even tough it makes it hard to teach at times, is it inspiring to observe the eagerness and joy they show when meeting us from the outside. The other group I teach consists of young women who are – naturally – better English speakers, but lack the children’s worriless enthusiasm. They know about their community’s insecure future.

About 3000 Bedouins live in this area, mostly from the Jahalin tribe. They originally come from the Negev desert in Israel, but had to escape when the state of Israel was established in the year 1948. However, the Palestinian farmers in El Aizariya and Abu Dis in the outskirts of Jerusalem let them put up their tents and let them grass their sheep on their land. However, after the construction of the settlement Ma’ale Adumim, which started in 1975 according to Peace Now, the home of the Bedouins of Jahalin was once again threatened. In 1997, they were driven away to an area only 500 meters away from Jerusalem’s biggest garbage dump. Most of them were given a West Bank ID, which mean that they could travel to neither Jerusalem nor Israel again.

Because of the settlement and the construction of the wall, Israeli bulldozers have already demolished several shacks owned by the Bedouins. The planned route of the wall cuts through the area where the Bedouins live, which will force them to escape once again. According to Israel, the area they live in is an inhabited area. The Bedouins as a group has come between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and have been neglected in previous peace negotiations between the two parties. However, the human rights are just as valid for this minority group.

According to the lawyer Karine Mac Allister from Badil Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights, Israel’s plan to forcibly remove the Bedouins because of the expansion of settlements or the construction of the wall is a crime against humanity and a war crime according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. So is the transfer of population, which has as a goal or result in transformation of the ethnic, religious or racial composition of a population or a territory.

The Bedouins asks for help from the international society. That is why OCHA, the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, invited several organizations to a meeting with the Bedouin leaders. I am invited together with some of my ecumenical accompanier colleagues. Several Israeli human rights organizations are present. We want to hear what the Bedouins want us to advocate for on their behalf. Do they want us to fight for their right to return to the Negev desert, do they want compensation or do they want us to fight for their right to stay where they are?

Together with Angela Godfrey-Goldstein from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and Gwen Lewis from OCHA, we drive on to a bumpy sand road surrounded by tall mountains on each side. It does not seem to be any life here. After about fifteen minutes of driving, we see the first sign that any human beings live here. We meet a man on a donkey, and very soon, we are at our meeting point, which is next to a few shacks. About 50 people are sitting in a circle outdoor. This is where the meeting will take place. Everywhere around us, there are tall, green mountains where the sheep is grassing. It looks idyllic, but on the top of the mountains, we can spot the lights from the settlers.

Half of the people taking part in the meeting are male Bedouins, the rest of us represent different organizations. The Bedouins tell us that they are all affected by what is going on. They know that the wall will come and they know that the problems with the Israeli government are inevitable. Several of them have already had their shack demolished, while the rest of them are waiting for the same thing to happen to them. An elderly man steps forward and shows us his demolition order. Some of them have hired a lawyer and tried to stop the demolition earlier, but without succeeding. Their cases have been rejected in the court and the demolitions have continued. They tell us that they know that no Israeli court will ever judge to the advantage of them or any Palestinians, and that it is the same situation for the Bedouins with Israeli ID. They will have to move as well. The problems are the same all over the West Bank. Because of the settlements, they cannot move freely with their sheep. Israel’s so-called security rules make it impossible to continue living their traditional life. The Bedouins believe that Israel is now using the security issue as an excuse to do what ever they want.

One man tells us that the Bedouins never wanted to call themselves refugees, but that the situation now has forced them to do so. Their shacks are being demolished and they are forcibly displaced, even tough they cannot see that there is anywhere else for them to be. They need someone to speak on their behalf. They wish for an international campaign where international law is used to fight against the state of Israel. 18 March the case of the route of the wall was supposed to be treated in the Israeli Supreme Court. It is now postponed to 13 May. It is the people of Abu Dis, a rural town area in Jerusalem, who have brought this case to the court. The wall already cuts through this town area, and separates the people from their land. If the Supreme Court rules that the wall will continue according to its original route, the Bedouins will be removed. They do not know where, but they all agree that they do not want to be displaced. They continue to ask us what we can do for them. They tell us that all we do is talk without the situation getting any better. They want results from this meeting. We tell them that we can show solidarity and we can listen to what they want us to advocate for, but that we unfortunately do not have the power to change the politics of the Israeli government. What we can do is to let the world know what is happening.

Cecilie Holtan
Jerusalem-Team of EAPPI

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