DEMONSTRATORS AGAINST Prawer-Begin plan outside Knesset 370.
(photo credit: (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard an appeal by Beduin from the Umm el- Hieran
village in the South on a lower court decision endorsing their evacuation in
favor of building a Jewish village on the same spot.
The legal battle is
one of many in a broader struggle over the government’s attempt to relocate
Beduin in the South in order to build a series of contiguous Jewish villages in
But Suhad Bishara – of The Legal Center for Arab Minority
Rights in Israel (Adalah), representing the Beduin – said that this case differs
from the overall dispute.
Even though the Beduin lost in the Beersheba
District Court on the final legal point, she argued, the court ruled in their
favor on many factual points, points which few other Beduin villages have won
Bishara said that while in many similar cases the state has related
to Beduin as trespassers with no right to be on the land, the lower court
recognized that the Beduin are citizens and has already ruled that they were
legally given the land by the state and have a right to be there.
Adalah attorney noted that having won that factual argument, the Beduin could be
viewed as closer to prevailing than others, as they can focus on the remaining
legal argument that the state has no rationale purpose (such as security or
environmental concerns) for removing them.
Still, the court on Wednesday
leaned hard on the Beduin to accept various relocation compromises offered to
them by the state, implying that if the Beduin do not accept a compromise, the
court will have no choice but to uphold the lower court’s evacuation
The court implied that since the Beduin had not received the land
for free but had paid for it and received limited rights in return, the state
could abrogate the granting of the land, as long as the Beduin were justly
“For some things there is no compensation,” Bishara retorted
to the court.
Adalah says that the village was established in 1956 by
order of the military governor “after the Israeli army forcibly displaced its
residents from their homes in the area of Wadi Zubaleh,” and that the villagers
were given 700 hectares to live on and cultivate.
The court will hold
another hearing on December 15, having asked both sides to provide updates on
Meanwhile, the Interior Committee held its third lively
discussion on Wednesday with speakers for and against the proposed Prawer-Begin
law, which seeks to regulate Beduin settlement throughout the Negev within five
Several Israeli Arab MKs and supporters from various human rights
NGOs took part, claiming that the bill would result in up to 40,000 Beduin
losing their land.
Labor MKs Omer Bar-Lev and Merav Michaeli expressed
concerns, with Michaeli saying, “It is impossible not to recognize the
historical injustice done to the Beduin.”
MK Hanna Swaid (Hadash) argued
that most Israelis do not want to exploit the Beduin, but that there was no
legal way for them to register their land.
UAL-Ta’al MK Taleb Abu Arar
criticized MK Miri Regev (Likud), who chairs the committee, accusing her of not
managing the committee fairly.
The ultimate goal of the bill is to
dispossess the Beduin and transfer them to another place, he
The representative from Regavim, an NGO that argues that the
bill is too generous to the Beduin, was continually interrupted during his
speech by Israeli Arab MKs and members of NGOs supporting the Beduin.
said that 324 Beduin families are demanding 30,000 hectares. “This is
unacceptable and we must not allow it.”
Prof. Gerald Steinberg of Bar-
Ilan University and head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor was interrupted by
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg and MK Dov Henin (Hadash), who argued that the
organization was not relevant to the discussion.
Steinberg argued that
many NGOs active on the Negev Beduin issues present highly distorted claims and
receive millions of shekels, mostly from European governments, erasing the
Israeli democratic framework. They mix and confuse the complexities of the Negev
with the settlements in the West Bank when presenting their arguments abroad, he
Former minister Bennie Begin, who is handling the Prawer-Begin bill
for the government, concluded the meeting by stating that the new law would
create “a change for the better” for the Beduin.
He added that NIS 500
million are budgeted for the plan.