Residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Ras Jrabah were ordered to be evicted from state land by the Beersheba Magistrate Court on Monday after they could not prove contiguous residency on the land before it was registered as owned by the state.
The village, which the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said is home to 500 people, will be required to evacuate by March 2024; a new neighborhood of Dimona will be built in its stead. The court said that they can be relocated by the Bedouin Development and Settlements Authority in the Negev to Qasr Al Sir or purchase land in the new neighborhood. The residents are also required to pay court fees of NIS 117,000.
Represented by Adalah, they had argued that they owned and resided on the land for generations, prior to the 1970 Land Law that registered land and established state-owned real estate.
Beersheba court: Aerial photographs do not prove permanent settlement
The court viewed several aerial photographs presented by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) and the residents ranging from 1956 to 1978, and based on expert testimony determined that the photos did not show permanent settlement on the disputed land.
Witness statements by residents also indicated to the court that the residency was not continuous, and that the Bedouin had in fact migrated in the area around Dimona and at times set up camp in parts of the disputed land.
Residents had also claimed that a military officer had assured the residents at the dawn of the state that they owned the land, but there was no documentation or means of identifying the officer and whether he had the authority to grant ownership of the land. The court said that there was nothing in terms of documentation to show residency in the relevant real estate prior to the land law coming into effect. The first indication of permanent settlement to the court was in 1978 in aerial photos.
The ILA had claimed that there were previous court rulings that had determined that the village should be evicted, but could not present documentation, and it was disregarded by the court. In the absence of other evidence, the court referred to the moment when the land ownership was first registered.
Adalah argued that the constitutional right of equality was being infringed upon, and attempting to resettle the villagers in a Bedouin town was part of a strategy of racial segregation – excluding Bedouin from Jewish towns as they expanded into Bedouin lands.
“This is part of a system of Jewish supremacy that was constitutionally enshrined in the Jewish Nation-State Law, which prioritizes ‘Jewish settlement’ as a value that all state bodies are mandated to promote,” Adalah said in a statement on Thursday.
“Israel’s judicial system approves, time after time, the displacement of Palestinian citizens in favor of Jewish expansions, thereby advancing Israel’s colonial objectives. The forced displacement of Ras Jrabah’s residents to expand the Jewish city of Dimona, which was built on the residents’ lands, serves as clear evidence that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against its Palestinian citizens, and urgent international intervention is necessary to halt it.”