The visit to Bier Hadaj
Journeys Through the Negev: In the Wake of Home Demolitions
A joint project of Standing Together and MachsomWatch
The policy of demolishing structures is one of the central policies applied by the State of Israel to the Bedouin community in the Negev/Naqab, in order to move and concentrate the population in urban townships. This community, which has suffered for years from lack of adequate housing, has been engaged in a protracted struggle against the State over ownership of land in the Negev/Naqab. In 2018, as in previous years, the State of Israel chose to continue to invest large budgets in the enforcement of planning laws, which led to an increase in the number of structures demolished in the Bedouin communities in the Negev/Naqab. .The initiative for Journeys through the Negev in 2019 therefore comes in the wake of the extreme increase in home demolitions by the so-called Administration for the Regulation of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev (hereafter the Minhal). In 2018 alone, there were over 2000 demolitions of structures in the unrecognized and the recognized villages, whose residents are for the most part denied building permits by the authorities.
In 2019 It was decided that Standing Together, a nation-wide Jewish-Arab organization for social and political change, would visit families who had suffered home demolitions, hear their stories and disseminate the information as widely as possible. In visiting the sites of demolitions, we also uncover other issues where Jewish-Arab cooperation can be meaningful: ensuring that villagers can exercise their right to vote without interference from outside political groups; supporting villages threatened with forced removal to government supported towns in order that their land is made available for Jewish settlement. The solidarity demonstrated in these visits inspires people to exercise their civic and human rights.
In July 2019, MachsomWatch joined us in this venture and together we believe we can bring about real change. For those wishing to know more about home demolitions please see: https://www.dukium.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Demolition-Report-Eng.2018.pdf
Visit to Bir Hadaj, South Western Negev 10/07/2019
Observers: Rafi D. (reporting) Daniel D.M.; Irit T, Hassan G, Mohamed D. Yehudit K (English report).
Bir Hadaj is a recognized*village[i] (since 2013) but as yet receives no services (water supply, electricity, public transportation, etc). Nor is there a master plan, which leaves the 9000 residents vulnerable to accusations of illegal building and thus home demolitions. We met with Salim Alfandari, a leading figure in the village. Salim reported that just three weeks earlier masked police, allegedly searching for drugs, invaded his family home. The “invaders” were very violent, pushed, and beat family members, including women and children. The police. who search was completely arbitrary, found no drugs and made no arrests. These police sorties are a frequent occurrence not only in Bir Hadaj but throughout the Negev in both unrecognized and recognized villages.
Salim identified eight issues that confront the Negev Bedouin community as a whole:
- Planning discrimination and arbitrary changes of category by the authorities: for instance reneging on an agreement to designate the village as a rural- agricultural settlement and re-designating it as an urban entity, despite the fact that most of the residents are farmers and herders.
- Massive home demolitions and intense persecution of so-called illegal construction
- Legal Discrimination: Salim paints a grim picture of institutional discrimination, exclusion and delegitimization of the Bedouin, aimed at their removal from their ancestral lands in favour of Jewish settlement
- Law enforcement discrimination: Arbitrary arrests; Bedouin accused of crimes or misdemeanors are subject to more bureaucratic hurdles and obstacles as well as more severe penalties during the legal processes.
- Police violence during investigations and arrest, at demonstrations and harassment such as profiling, stop and search, etc.
- Increasing harassment of the Bedouin community by the State authorities: increased home demolitions, plans for forced evacuation and deligitimization in the press and media. . We have heard, here as elsewhere, of the pursuit of so-called illegal buildings not only by means of police patrols but also by means of drones that scan the area for building violations
- Problems of local politics: Local authorities are encouraged by central government to conduct a policy of “iron fist” against the Bedouin, especially in restricting employment options, land use for herding and allocation of resources.
- Problems of national politics: A powerful State apparatus versus a weak minority population, serves the policy of Judaization of land and the negation of Bedouin land rights. The difference between right wing and left wing governments is one of degree, not substance. The trend has always been to maximize land use for Jewish Israelis while minimizing the Bedouin presence in the Negev.
- In the last elections, (April 2019) the polling rate in Bir Hadaj was 70% one of the highest turnouts in the Arab sector, indicating that there is still optimism in the community that positive change can be brought about by democratic means.
Salim identified five areas in which Standing Together and MachsomWatch can show support and solidarity with Bir Hadaj:
- Supporting a halt to demolitions until the completion of an appropriate masterplan for the villages and recognition of the majority of villages.
- Demanding an end to arbitrary raids by the police who should confine arrests to solid cases of illegal activity
- . Supporting a master plan that recognizes the agricultural-herding life-style of Bir Hadaj residents and encouraging the development of appropriate employment opportunities throughout the community.
- Opposing discriminatory legislation that favours Jews over Bedouin in planning, land rights and housing, and ensuring appropriate living conditions for the Bedouin.
- Planning and participation in demonstrations
[i] A recognized village is one that has theoretically received permission to exist – that is, it is eligible for planning permission. Of 11 Bedouin villages thus “recognized” since 2013 none so far has a master plan, which means that there is almost no possibility of receiving a permit to build. Like unrecognized villages, they receive no services and are not connected to the water and electricity grids.
Unrecognized villages, such as Wadi el Na’am, Um al Hiran and some 33 others are essentially “illegal” although in many cases their existence pre-dates the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948; In other cases the village was moved to its present location after 1948 under military auspices. The State conducts an on-going war against the unrecognized villages in an attempt to move their residents to government-sponsor3ed towns, such as Rahat or townships such as Segev Shalom. Rahat and the six existing townships are under resourced for infrastructure, services and employment as well as being overcrowded. For a legal history of the battle for Bedouin Rights in the Negev see “Emptied Lands: A Legal Geography of Bedouin Rights in the Negev” by Alexander Kedar, Ahmad Amara, and Oren Yiftachel, Stanford University Press, 2018. Additional information can also be found at: