Razing of Beduin village leaves dozens homeless

Move comes days after state report recommended recognizing communities.

beduin demolition 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
beduin demolition 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Dozens of Beduin citizens were made homeless on Monday after an unrecognized village was razed by the Israel Land Administration, days after a state-appointed commission recommended that many unrecognized villages be accepted as legal. At least 12 homes that made up the unrecognized village of al-Atrash, located north of Beersheba, were demolished, residents said. "Where can we sleep? Where can we go? There is a school nearby" that the children of the village attended, 15-year-old Hajjar al-Atrash told The Jerusalem Post at the demolished site. "They say that the State of Israel is a democratic state and that it protects its people, but they came and destroyed our homes without us knowing." The Israel Land Administration said it was executing a ruling decided by the Beersheba Magistrate's Court in 2000. After appeals were made by Abdullah al-Atrash and members of his family, the decision was delayed multiple times until a judge in Kiryat Gat ruled last week that the evacuations should not be delayed any longer, he said. "The court gave a verdict and we are fulfilling it," said Shlomo Tizer, an official with the Israel Land Administration who was monitoring the demolitions. "The land is state land. They don't have a link to this land." However, Guy Perel, the Tel Aviv-based attorney representing Atrash's second wife and two sons, said that only six members of Atrash's family had received an evacuation notice from the courts in 2000. Perel's three clients and "many other" residents of al-Atrash tribe, he said, had not received evacuation notices but their homes were demolished anyway. "You can't just throw people out of their homes; you need to go to court," he said. "There needs to be a judgment and only then, you can throw them out." The ILA, Perel said, "is acting, with the approval of the court, against the law." In addition, members of the al-Atrash family say they moved to the site that was demolished Monday, which is located near the Dudaim dumpster, 20 years ago as part of a compromise agreement struck between them and the ILA. The agreement, they say, was signed after the ILA sued Abdullah al-Atrash in the 1980s, asking him to evacuate another site which he had inhabited since the 1960s. Atrash says the 1988 agreement states that he could only be evacuated after a mutually agreeable alternate location was found. Tizer, however, said there was no such agreement. He said that after Atrash appealed the court's decision to evacuate them in 2001, a judge gave him and his family three years to arrive at a solution and evacuate themselves. Tizer claimed that some of the residents had homes in the new Beduin village of Molada, where most of the al-Atrash tribe is located, but residents said these homes belonged to relatives and were not their own. The Beduin Administration, the agency that executes government policy for Beduin, "tried to find them solutions and they didn't want to accept these solutions," he said. Last Thursday, the government-appointed Goldberg Commission, charged with examining and arriving at a possible solution for the permanent settlement of Beduin citizens in the Negev, released its report which called on the government to recognize many of the unacknowledged Beduin villages in the Negev to alleviate their "unbearable situation." The commission's chairman, Justice A. Goldberg, said last week that unauthorized villages should be recognized and given legal sanction, subject to the village having a minimal number of residents, and where recognition does not contradict the regional plan. The cabinet is expected to consider the report for approval by the end of the month. Muhammad al-Atrash, 36, said that not only his home was destroyed on Monday. "They destroyed my life," he said. He worried that they would have to move and that his five children, who now attend school in Rahat, would not be able to find another school. "They will become thieves or murderers because they saw what the state of Israel is like," he said. "The state made them third-class citizens." More than 62,000 Beduin live in around 45 unrecognized villages in the Negev. Residents in such villages have limited access to services usually provided on a municipal level, such as garbage collection, water and sewer services and even education. The government, in turn, complains that the villages are usually illegally located on the 85 percent of the Negev that is state land.