A Bedouin tale

By EA Anne, Southern West Bank

“Why do they force me to leave my land? This is the land of my father and grandfather.

We don’t have land in Hmeida, and in Bedouin tradition you don’t go to land that doesn’t belong to you. It’s taboo.”

 Odeh Najada, citizen of Dkaika, quoted in the Jerusalem Post, 18 August 2017

The Bedouin community of Dkaika, South Hebron Hills [Photo: EAPPI/Anne]

Dkaika is a Bedouin community of around 300 people. It is situated in the far south of the South Hebron Hills. Salim Najada tells us that the people of Dkaika have lived in this place for generations – since the times of the Ottoman Empire. Salim explains that their way of life has changed over the years: motor vehicles instead of camels are their mode of transport; young people today go away for studies; there is electricity. However, their ties to their land remain. This land has the graves of his ancestors. Salim describes the land as his life.

Changing lifestyle of the Bedouin  [Photo: EAPPI/Anne]

 In 2014 the government of Israel rejected a master plan (proposed details for the structural development of a village) for Dkaika that was initiated by the village and drawn up by a professional planner. The Israeli state does not recognize the village, claiming that all structures are illegal, and demands the village be demolished and the community removed two kilometres away to Hmeida by March 2018. The master plan for Hmeida is also not yet accepted by the government. With the assistance of Rabbis for Human Rights, represented by attorney Netta Amar-Shiff, the residents of Dkaika have filed a petition with the Supreme Court. The petition requests that the 2014 decision be overturned, with the acceptance of their master plan, or another administrative solution, to enable them to continue to live on their land. The Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV), Article 49, prohibits the forced transfer of civilians living in occupied territory by an occupying power. Israel’s Supreme Court heard the case on 17 July 2017. The following day the Court ordered the Israeli state to explain within 90 days why it has rejected the master plan submitted by Dkaika.

While facing a threat of forced displacement, the community also lives under the constant threat of demolition of individual structures. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) it is almost impossible for Palestinians to get planning permission to build. Due to the natural growth of the community, the villagers have had to build. Salim explains the difficulty his son will face when the time comes to move to his own house, yet is unable to get building permission. Children of a community under threat suffer from the trauma of witnessing demolition and subsequent homelessness. We were told that the Israeli authorities had visited the community a couple of days before our visit (early August) with more ‘stop work’ orders (demands to stop construction work that invariably precede demolition orders). If the community is forced to move, all will be demolished.

 

 Structure under threat of demolition at Dkaika [Photo: EAPPI/Anne]

The Jerusalem Post 18.7.17 reports Dkaika’s attorney’s allegation that the real reason their plan is rejected is “the strategic location of Dkaika, which disrupts Jewish territorial contiguity between Hebron and the Negev”. She suggested a Jewish settlement could be built in place of Dkaika. The paper further reports Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Gallan in April calling for a stepped Jewish settlement building in the South Hebron Hills, when he said, “the area of the Arad Valley and the South Hebron Hills has to be under the complete control of the State of Israel to ensure its sovereignty. The key to this is settlement”. Settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention (Article 49), which states it is illegal for an occupying power to settle the occupied land with its own population.

Contact your elected representative (for example your MP, AM or MSP in the UK, or TD in Ireland) and use this story to raise the situation of the Bedouin: the issue of forced displacement and government encouragement of settlement construction, which are in contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.