J'lem Municipality treats Beduin 'like trash'

Lawyer: Bylaw aimed at removing trash being used to demolish encampment homes near Shuafat.

cute beduin 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
cute beduin 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The Jerusalem Municipality is treating 80 Beduin living in an isolated encampment near the Shuafat refugee camp like trash - literally. Recently the municipality renewed orders originally issued in 2006 to six Beduin families to remove "obstacles on a public road" - meaning the shacks and concrete hovels they have been living in for at least 25 years. According to the order, they have five days to remove the homes - and themselves - from the area. The lawyer for the Beduin families, Shlomo Lecker, wrote in a letter to the chief municipal prosecutor, Danny Liebman, "It looks like the municipality of Jerusalem has decided to exploit, in an apparently cynical and overbearing way, a city bylaw that is meant to remove trash left behind by residents on city streets and use it as a shortcut for getting rid of my clients." Lecker said that if the city wanted to evict the Beduin for building their homes on land they did not own, the proper way to do so would have been through the Planning and Building Law. However, that law includes a seven-year statute of limitations for illegal construction. Since the homes were built much earlier than that, the law would not have applied. Although there is a legal way to get around the statute of limitations, it involves a complicated process that takes years to complete. Lecker said the real reason the municipality wanted to remove the encampment was because it was situated near the security barrier's planned route. It is located at the end of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, east of the Shuafat refugee camp. The bylaw invoked by the city is entitled "Disposal of an Obstacle in the Road (Maintaining Order and Cleanliness)." According to municipal spokesman Gidi Shmerling, "the bylaw is aimed at facilities and shacks that are built illegally. The eviction order calls for the dismantling of the facilities, tents and shacks built in an open space contrary to the law. The order was not given against the residents. It was given according to a bylaw for maintaining public order, and has been authorized in similar circumstances by the courts. "The city presented the order to the residents and their lawyer, and they have the opportunity to appeal to the administrative court," Shmerling said. The encampment consists of several homes scattered on rocky soil in a small area, sheep pens, two tents, a storeroom, a tin shack and a kitchen. It also has a makeshift guest area made of wooden beams and mattresses laid on the ground, an indication that the residents regard themselves as a community. The houses are bare and consist of a living room/sleeping room, an area for the women and a tiny kitchen. The residents are obviously poor. One of them, Muhammad Hassan Korshan, 65, told The Jerusalem Post he had been living in the encampment since 1970. He added that his family had actually lived there since the early 1950s, but had fled during the 1967 Six Day War to the Bethlehem area and returned two-and-a-half years later. Asked where he would go if his house were demolished, Korshan raised his hands in the air. "I don't have anywhere to go," he said. "Let them return to me the lands of my family around Arad, and I will be ready to move."•