For Beduin, Amona deal contrasts with razing of their homes

"The reason they build illegally is they want to take over more areas and to build in the area beyond the master plan in order to expand the area [of the village].”

December 19, 2016 02:47
3 minute read.

BEDUIN BOYS walk toward the ‘unrecognized’ village of Um Al-Hiram in the Negev.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Even as the government was finalizing the deal Sunday to move Amona settlers to an adjacent plot in the West Bank, Mohammed Abu Yunes, a father of three in the unrecognized Negev Beduin village of al-Zarnoq was forced to demolish his own home, one of more than 1,000 structures destroyed this year for being built illegally, according to Beduin activists.

Amir Abu Kwedr, a resident of al-Zarnoq, said it was the second demolition in a year for Abu Yunes and that he was forced to undertake it when authorities threatened to make him bear the costs if they had to demolish it.

All construction in the unrecognized villages is considered illegal by the state, meaning that more than a 100,000 Beduin in 36 unrecognized villages live with the possibility that their home could be next. The state views these Beduin as trespassers on state land.

The difference in how the state treated the Amona settlers and how it treats the Beduin of the unrecognized villages was not lost yesterday on Fadi Abu Masamra, a Beduin activist who voiced bitterness over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call over the weekend for heightened demolitions of homes built without permits in the Arab sector.

“We see a very different treatment,” he said.

In a video posted on Facebook Friday, Netanyahu referred to Amona and said that there would have to be enforcement against illegal Arab building too. “I will fight for there to be one law for all, something that has not been the case until now for decades.” he said Abu Kwedr said: “The pace of demolitions is getting greater and greater and Netanyahu is pouring oil on the fire.”

Masamra, former director general of the Beersheba- based Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev, dismissed any comparison between the Beduin and the Amona settlers.

“Amona is outside Israel and the settlers took over private land that belonged to other people. The Beduin are citizens inside the state on their own land.”

“Last night they stayed up all night with the settlers in a bid to reach agreement,” he added.

“They treat them with kid gloves and find solutions for them. But with us they don’t even bother to ask us what is appropriate for us. Even if you want to build legally you won’t be able to in the unrecognized villages. The goal is not to make arrangements with people, it’s to clear the area of them.”

Daniel Jonas, spokesman of the planning rights NGO Bimkom, also criticized Netanyahu’s stance. “A person doesn’t build illegally because he wants to. He does so because he has children he has to take care of and he knows the chances particularly in the Negev and East Jerusalem to get a permit approach zero.”

Jonas said that in Jerusalem’s case, planning authorities are guided by the imperative of trying to maintain clear Jewish demographic superiority.

Sami Ahli, Knesset spokesman for the Joint List, said that where Arab villages are concerned authorities “refuse to increase the [municipal] area despite the population growing and do not approve master plans for years and years.”

By the time the master plans are finally approved “they are no longer relevant to the current situation,” he said.

“The entire apparatus and the bureaucracy thwart a lot of plans,” Ahli says. “Many detailed plans inside areas are not approved. People want to live honorably under a roof and wait for years and nothing moves. In the end you are forced to build in the hopes that during the building you will get a permit. What is causing the illegal building is the discriminatory government policy that shuns the Arab villages and citizens.”

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi), dismissed this as “a complete lie.”

“They have master plans. The reason they build illegally is they want to take over more areas and to build in the area beyond the master plan in order to expand the area [of the village],” Smotrich added.

“The Arab sector is the only sector in which the government pays for the planning...There is a failure of enforcement. Enforcement doesn’t exist. We need enforcement without any connection to what is going on in Amona.”

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