|Beduins after eviction from shantytown near Ma’aleh 311 .(Photo by: REUTERS)|
Just who does Area C belong to?
By JESSICA MONTELL
As administrator of the West Bank Israel may use land and take action to meet its military needs. All other measures must advance the welfare of the local population, i.e. the Palestinians.
Even on a cold day the flies are everywhere.
The slightest gust of wind
sends debris flying and plastic bags litter the desert hills for miles
The smell is unmistakable. Welcome to the Abu Dis garbage dump.
Or, as it’s also known, the new home of the Ma’aleh Adumim
Israel’s Civil Administration, responsible for running many
aspects of the lives of West Bank Palestinians, has prepared a two-part plan for
Palestinian communities in Area C. These are the areas of the West Bank which
remained under complete Israeli control under the Oslo Accords. In the first
stage of the plan, scheduled to begin in January 2012, some 20 communities
living along the Jerusalem-Jericho road will be relocated to the Abu Dis
This will affect some 2,300 people.
The second stage is even
more ambitious and will forcefully relocate some 25,000 people from the Jordan
Valley and other parts of Area C. This is expected to take three to six
Eighty percent of the Palestinians living in the Ma’aleh Adumim
area are refugees from the Negev. Two-thirds are children.
living now in temporary structures: tents and tin shacks. Their communities are
not connected to the power grid and only half have running water. When they do
build homes, schools or infrastructure, the Civil Administration, which controls
planning and building in area C, often destroys them as they were built without
permits – permits that it will not grant.
Now the Civil Administration
has come up with a proposal to move all of these communities to a site where
they will receive building permits and be able to receive basic infrastructure
Yet the site is not fit for human habitation.
Environmental Protection Agency sets a minimum distance of 500 meters between
housing and waste disposal sites. This site is only 150 meters from the dump.
According to the Environmental Protection Ministry, this is the worst of
Israel’s waste disposal sites: the site is in danger of collapse due to the
steep slopes along which the refuse is buried. Uncontrolled gases – especially
methane – are emitted that pollute the air and could cause fires and explosions.
The Ministry determined that the dump will close in mid-2012 and that the site
must be rehabilitated.
However, there is no approved plan or budget for
THE FACT that the plans are focused on moving
Palestinians out of Area C begs the question: what is Area C? Who does it
“belong” to? In terms of the exploitation of resources, there is no distinction
between Area C and the other areas of the West Bank. As the occupying power,
Israel is the administrator of this territory. It may use land and take other
actions in the West Bank to meet its military needs.
However, all other
measures in the West Bank must be intended to advance the welfare of the local
population, i.e. the Palestinians.
It is hard to imagine that this plan
could be justified as advancing the communities’ welfare. Certainly they were
not consulted in preparing the plan, and they have voiced their objections to
the proposed site.
In fact, it is quite clear that the plan is not
motivated by concern for the welfare of the residents but by the intention to
expand settlements. Half of the communities to be expelled are currently living
in the area intended for the controversial E-1 plan.
E-1 is called an
expansion of Ma’aleh Adumim, but in fact it is bigger than the existing
settlement. Some 4,000 apartments are planned for E-1, though construction has
been held up by the US administration over concerns that E-1 will be a mortal
blow to any two-state solution of the conflict.
Meanwhile, Israel has
already paved extensive roadways, installed the electricity and water networks
and built the West Bank Police headquarters there. Ma’aleh Adumim mayor Benny
Katzriel has declared his intention to also expand the settlement south, towards
Kedar. In both places, Beduin communities stand in his way.
plans for expulsion of Beduin communities is only the latest indication that
Israel treats Area C as a resource it can exploit for its own
The fact that the Beduin are the weakest sector of Palestinian
society, the fact that there is no security justification for this plan, the
fact that of all places the Civil Administration has selected a garbage dump to
serve as their new home – all this only adds insult to injury. However you look
at it, this is a forced displacement of entire communities. Anyone with an ounce
of decency cannot help but be outraged by this plan.
The writer is
executive director of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights
in the Occupied Territories.