NGO decries over 900 Beduin building demolitions

Regavim official responds: the Coexistence Forum and other ‘human rights’ organizations are trying to force the state to accept the Beduin population wherever they are located now.

Beduin women in Rahat, Israel. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Beduin women in Rahat, Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A recent report by NGO the Negev Coexistence Forum, states that 982 building structures were demolished in 2015 in the Negev.
The NGO charged that the high number of demolitions, which has primarily affected the Negev’s Beduin, means that the government is not doing enough to provide solutions for the community.
The report, to be published in full on Thursday, presents new data regarding building demolitions.
The numbers are based on internal documents from law enforcement authorities.
According to the 2015 data, 365, or 37 percent of destroyed buildings were demolished by the authorities and 617 (63%) by their owners. The total number of destroyed structures was 1,073 in 2014 and 697 in 2013.
The NGO points out that the trend of owners destroying their own buildings is due to pressure from the police and inspectors.
Last year, 70 structures were destroyed without a demolition order.
“The State of Israel continues to ignore the serious housing crisis of the Beduin community,” said Haia Noach, CEO of the Negev Coexistence Forum.
“Instead of acting for the benefit of all residents of the Negev, the government is engaged in deepening gaps between different communities and planning new settlements for Jews and the expulsion of the Beduin community into crowded urban areas,” she said.
“Israel should cease the policy of demolishing houses and create a new and equal policy of recognition of Beduin communities and their development, which will lead to the flourishing of the Negev as a whole,” she added.
According to State Comptroller Joseph Shapira’s report published last month, one third of the estimated 200,000 Beduin in Israel live in unrecognized villages.
It also stated that the solution to the problem is “an issue of national importance of the first order.”
Over the years, governments have tried to regulate Beduin settlement in the Negev and to integrate Beduin into Israeli society by improving their standard of living, noted the report.
However, from 2008 until 2014, the government was able to settle only about one percent of claims within the total land area in dispute.
Responding to the report, Amichai Yogev, southern director of the NGO Regavim – describing itself as seeking to ensure a responsible, legal and accountable use of the country’s land – told The Jerusalem Post that “the Coexistence Forum and other ‘human rights’ organizations are trying to force the state to accept the Beduin population wherever they are located now.”
In addition, he argued, they push for financial and educational benefits, “presenting a false picture that the population is persecuted.
“Instead of helping the Beduin improve their situation and closing the gaps with the rest of the population, these organizations leave them 200 years behind and demand the creation of hundreds of tiny settlements far from built up areas.
“Anyone who thinks in 2016 one can sustain a household on farming alone, should visit the agricultural settlements in the country to see how times have changed,” he added.
In a separate statement issued to counter the report, Regavim said land ownership by the Beduin was “repeatedly rejected by all of the courts of the State of Israel.”
The housing crisis is not just a Beduin issue, it added.