By Jillian Kestler-D’Amours
JERUSALEM, Oct 26, 2011 (IPS) -
As Israel moves ahead with a plan to forcibly displace tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins in the occupied West Bank,
Mohammad Al-Korshan and his family are facing the real prospect of not only losing their home, but their traditional way of
"The Bedouins depend on animals. We can’t take care of them in the village or in the city. All the
Bedouins work with animals. If we go to the city, they kill us. They kill the Bedouins. After a few more years, you won’t
have Bedouins in the area," says Al-Korshan, who lives in a Bedouin encampment with more than 90 other families near the West
Bank town Anata, northeast of Jerusalem.
"We want to stay in our homes. If they damage our homes or our tents, we
want to build again. We won’t move. Even if they want to kill us, we want to stay. We haven’t any place to go,"
he told IPS.
Quietly unveiled to local aid organisations in early October, Israel’s Civil Administration, the
body that governs Area C of the occupied West Bank, which is under full Israeli military and administrative control, plans
to expel approximately 27,000 Bedouins from their communities in Area C within three to six years.
According to Israeli
human rights group BTselem, the first phase is planned to begin as early as January 2012, and would forcibly evict approximately
2,300 people – who are currently living in about 20 communities in proximity to the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale
Adumim – and transfer them to a new location near the Abu Dis garbage dump, just east of Jerusalem.
Administration will expel Bedouins from the Jordan Valley in the second phase of the plan.
"We live now on the road
between Jerusalem and Jericho. The Israeli government wants to close this area because we are near the settlement of Kufr
Adumim. They want to take our land for their settlements," Al- Korshan, who heads the Jerusalem Bedouin Cooperative Committee,
"It’s very difficult for us. We haven’t any place to move. Our land is in Beer Sheva and we are
According to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) in
the occupied Palestinian territories, more than 80 percent of the Bedouin families living in the hills east of Jerusalem are
refugees. Most have demolition orders against their homes and aren’t connected to electricity, while about half don’t
have regular access to water.
OCHA also found that the proposed relocation site for the Bedouins – near the
town of Al Eizariya, where 200 Bedouin families were relocated in the 1990s to make way for the expansion of the Ma’ale
Adumim settlement – would threaten the community’s health, lifestyle and overall wellbeing.
site does not meet minimum standards in terms of distance from the municipal dumping grounds, which is likely to pose a health
hazard to the communities, and provides limited access to grazing lands. Previously relocated families report negative consequences,
including health concerns, loss of livelihood, deteriorated living conditions, loss of tribal cohesion and erosion of traditional
lifestyles," the organisation wrote in a statement.
Suleiman Mazarah and his family, members of the Jahalin Bedouin
tribe, were forcibly transferred to this area by the Israeli authorities in 1997. Mazarah told IPS that the community continues
to suffer from the move.
"(The Israelis) put us in an area near the garbage dump of the municipality of Jerusalem.
They are going to move the rest of the tribe now from Area C to our area. This action will destroy the Bedouin life. When
they put them in a small area, their jobs will be destroyed because there is no place to keep animals. They won’t have
work," Mazarah said.
"Most of the people here are without work, so they don’t have anything to give their children.
If they move another group of people here, it will be much worse."
Forcibly transferring Bedouin communities without
their consent, OCHA stated, also violates international law. "As an occupying power, Israel has an obligation to protect the
Palestinian civilian population and to administer the territory for the benefit of that population. Any voluntary move or
transfer of civilians must meet international standards, including relating to a free and informed choice," the organisation
According to Mazarah, plans to forcibly displace Bedouin communities in Area C of the West Bank can be linked
to the historical and ongoing dispossession of Bedouin tribes since the founding of the state of Israel, including recent
Israeli plans to displace 30,000 Bedouins currently living in the southern Negev desert.
"The same thing they are
doing with the people in the Naqab (Negev), they are doing with us here. But in the Naqab, the Bedouins there have Israeli
nationality, and here we are Palestinian. The Israelis don’t want any Bedouins in the land," Mazarah said.
condition, and their condition also, is very bad. These forgotten people are suffering from the forced displacement, and it’s
destroying their lives."