A Beduin man rides a horse in al-Arakib 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
The Kiryat Gat Magistrate’s Court ordered the state on Tuesday to revoke 51
demolition orders against buildings in the unrecognized Beduin village of
The unprecedented ruling came in response to requests filed in
2006 by the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights after the state issued
ex-parte demolition orders against almost all the buildings in the village,
southeast of Beersheba.
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Khalil Alamour, a member of al-Sira’s village
committee and its spokesman, praised the judge’s decision, saying that had the
state demolished the houses over 300 people would have lost their
“This is the biggest gift that the court could have given us, and
for this we thank the judge,” Alamour told The Jerusalem Post
after the ruling,
adding that his fellow villagers “started to breathe again” when they heard that
the demolition orders had been canceled.
Alamour, who is one of the 44
villagers named on the lawsuit, added that the judgement had restored al-Sira
residents’ faith in the judicial system, and said he hoped the court would rule
in their favor again if the state appeals the ruling in the district
“Our people just want to live in peace, as full citizens. That’s
our dream. We don’t want anything more than that,” he said.
half of the Negev’s Beduin population – an estimated 70,000 people – live in 45
unrecognized villages, of which 10 are in the process of receiving official
recognition from the state. The unrecognized villages, including al-Sira, are
considered illegal and do not receive government services like electricity or
Al-Sira is one of the larger unrecognized villages, and is home to
around 500 people, most of whom are members of the al- Nasasra tribe. The
villagers say they have lived in the village for seven generations, since before
the state was established in 1948.
According to village spokesman
Alamour, the residents have documents that they say prove their ownership of the
land, but their requests to have the authorities recognize that ownership have
In the court case, which dragged on for five years,
the state argued that it filed the demolition orders under the Planning and
Building Law, because the buildings had been erected without a permit on land
confiscated by the state under the Negev Land Acquisition (Peace Treaty with
Egypt) Law. Demolishing the unauthorized buildings was, the state claimed, in
the public interest.
Among other things, Adalah attorneys Hassan Jabareen
and Murad al-Sana, representing the al-Sira residents, argued that the
demolition orders were pasted on villagers’ doors without prior warning and that
the state had not made any attempt to knock on residents’ doors and talk to
homeowners or to find out who those homeowners were. Adalah further argued that
demolishing the houses would violate the villagers’ constitutional
In his ruling, Judge Israel Pablo Akselrad said the state’s
claims that it was in the public’s interest to raze unauthorized buildings must
be weighed against the specific circumstances of the villagers.
buildings are home to over 300 people,” the judge said. “It’s clear that
implementing the demolition orders would mean making a large group of people
homeless. It is important to reiterate that these people and their families have
lived there for decades, during which dozens of houses were built without any
protest by the state.”
However, Akselrad also noted that the current
situation regarding unauthorized buildings could not continue and said the state
should make an effort to resolve the conflict through a “systematic policy,”
rather than the courts.
Attorney Suhad Bishara of Adalah, who filed the
petition on behalf of al-Sira’s residents, said Akselrad’s ruling set a
precedent for the Negev’s unrecognized villages and called on the government to
open an “honest dialogue in good faith” with village residents about their land
“This ruling means that the state cannot continue with its
unilateral policy against the unrecognized villages without taking into account
the villagers’ basic constitutional rights,” Bishara said.
ruling comes after the controversy over Beduin land rights reached new highs in
September, when the government approved an NIS 6.8 billion plan to deal with the
unrecognized villages. Dubbed the Prawer Plan, the initiative will relocate
around 20,000 to 30,000 Beduin from unrecognized villages to recognized
settlements including the towns of Rahat and Kuseifa.
will receive financial compensation as well as alternative plots of land.
However, Beduin leaders and civil rights groups have slammed the plan as
unworkable partly because it does not take into account the Beduin extended
family and tribal structure.