Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Amid Global Focus on Jewish Construction, NGO Counters Illegal Arab Building

June 12, 2013 10:40 am 0 comments

A Bedouin encampment near the Ramat Hovav industrial zone in the Negev. The proposed Prawer Law, which would retroactively legalize tens of thousands of Bedouin structures, has angered anti-settlements NGOs because it stipulates that several thousand Bedouin must relocate from positions in close proximity to Ramat Hovav, a site that has been deemed unsuitable for residential zoning due to the pollutants emitted from the factories. Photo: Shay Levy/Flash90.

JNS.org – While the international community often focuses on the legal status of Jewish construction in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, two Israeli government initiatives—a proposed transfer of Israeli land near Jericho to Palestinians and a law that would retroactively legalize tens of thousands of Bedouin structures in the south—are highlighting the issue of illegal Arab building across Israel.

At the forefront of tackling this issue is Regavim, an NGO that tracks illegal Arab building and prosecutes it in Israeli courts.

A Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria proposal to transfer 2,000 dunams (500 acres) of Israeli land to Palestinians near Jericho, in the Jewish-controlled Jordan Valley, represents the continuation of a pattern in which Arabs living in Areas A and B, which are under Palestinian municipal authority, are being legally permitted to relocate to large tracts of land in Area C, areas designated for Jewish residence under full Israeli control.

The move is being criticized by Jewish regional councils for being conducted at a time when Arabs can build almost at will in Areas A and B, while permits for Jewish building in Area C are being severely restricted as a result of what many believe to be the Israeli government’s efforts to pacify the international community.

“If a Jewish family puts up a patio on a house—anywhere in Israel—without a permit, municipal authorities can come into your house and get you to tear it down,” Ari Briggs, the director of Regavim, told JNS.org.

“Jews are forced to adhere to a very strict building framework, while Arabs in many parts of the country are given a free hand.  And this is exactly the opposite view that the international community has of Israel,” Briggs said.

Regavim—whose name comes from the Hebrew word “regev,” meaning a small patch of land, originating from a Zionist poem about reclaiming the land of Israel “dunam by dunam, regev by regev”—works to track illegal Arab building across Israel, with a particular focus on the Negev in the south of the country, the Galil in the north, and in Judea and Samaria.

While dozens of NGOs focus on relatively limited incidents of illegal Jewish building, Regavim is the only NGO focusing its energies on the rampant pattern of illegal Arab building taking place across the country.

Currently, Regavim has 30 cases being tried in Israeli courts, with up to 140 investigations being conducted at any time.

Many of Regavim’s current efforts are focusing on the south, where the largest numbers of illegal structures exist. The government is currently attempting to put a stop to illegal building, but those efforts give rise to controversy.

A new law known as the Prawer Law, which would retroactively legalize tens of thousands of Bedouin structures, is drawing ire from the anti-settlement NGOs, but not because the Prawer Plan—if passed—will seemingly reward decades of illegal construction on state lands and nature reserves. Rather, the plan has angered the NGOs because it stipulates that several thousand Bedouin must relocate from positions in close proximity to the Ramat Hovav industrial zone, a site that has been deemed unsuitable for residential zoning due to the pollutants emitted from the factories.

Bedouin have been actively opposing the law in recent weeks. At a recent protest, Atiya al-Aassm, head of the Regional Committee for unrecognized villages in the Negev, is reported to have said in an address, “We want to tell Prawer, [Justice Minister] Tzipi Livni and all decision-makers that we have endured 65 years of water scarcity and all forms of torture, and we will continue to endure and will not give up one inch of our land.”

“I urge the Ministers not to pass their discriminatory law; do not drive us to violence,” al-Assam said.

While the NGOs are accusing Israel of enforcing discriminatory policies against a minority population, Bedouin have for many years been building with no municipal planning, permits, or compliance with modern building standards on land that they never formally owned. As a result, the structures are not legally connected to Israel’s electricity grid or national water carrier.

According to Regavim, more than 90,000 of 210,000 Bedouin live in more than 2,000 separate unauthorized encampments, covering 800,000 dunams (200,000 acres) in the northern Negev between Beersheva, Dimona and Arad.

“Ninety percent of these structures are built on public lands, owned by either the state or the Jewish National Fund. And they have become much more brazen in their land grabs over last 10 years,” Briggs told JNS.org.

“Everybody understands that because Israel is such a small country, land is one of the most critical resources to safeguard,” he said. “Bedouin are claiming ownership of a parcel of land more than double the size of the Gaza Strip.”

The new law would recognize more than half of the Bedouin homes in their current locations and transfer additional large tracts of land in strategically planned areas to the nomadic Bedouin to build formal communities.

According to the Prawer Plan, more than half of the land that Bedouin currently reside on would be legally transferred and formally established as Bedouin communities. Bedouin would then be compensated for the remaining lands they currently claim and receive tracts of other land for the establishment of permanent communities.

The plan calls for investment of 9.5 billion NIS into Bedouin communities in the next five years.  Development of Bedouin infrastructure will reportedly be administered with coordination from 16 government ministries and agencies.

The need for clamping down on illegal Bedouin building is obvious. Bedouin are known for having among the fastest population growth rates in the world.

According to Briggs, Bedouin sport a growth rate 5.6 percent and double their population every 15 years.

“Polygamy is a common practice among Bedouin, with each male averaging three to four wives, and an astounding 20 to 30 children per male,” Briggs said.

Bedouin live in the Negev in areas of the country that are not considered by any authority to be disputed territories—meaning Bedouin live under full Israeli sovereignty and must adhere fully to Israeli law, which they currently do not.

“Living in illegal structures keeps Bedouin off the legal grid, so to speak, so they can’t be tracked,” Briggs explained. “They are untraceable. They don’t have a legal address and don’t pay any forms of taxes. This is despite the fact that they have full Israeli citizenship, with formal identity cards, and the right to vote in Israeli elections.”

Furthermore, Bedouin are well known for criminal activity, including running mafia-style protection rackets, forcing landowners and even government-owned companies including Israel’s National Road Authority to pay fees to guarantee the protection of their infrastructure and equipment.

According to Briggs, the situation is beyond unlawful.

“The Bedouin are running major crime and smuggling rings. They are responsible for the smuggling of everything from drugs to women to weapons,” he said.

Israeli farms “need to be protected with prison-like fences to protect crops, animals and equipment,” Briggs asserts.

“The government needs to do a better job protecting the land in the Jewish state,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israelis Venture to Cleveland for NBA Finals

    Israelis Venture to Cleveland for NBA Finals

    JNS.org – The people who sat in seats one and two of row 12, section 120 at Quicken Loans Arena during Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night weren’t your ordinary Cleveland Cavaliers fans. Tomer Hulli and his father, Eli, made the trip from Israel to attend games 3 and 4 in Cleveland. Tomer, who lives in Tzur Moshe, a 25-minute drive north of Tel Aviv, has been playing basketball since he was 5. Hulli said he didn’t plan this […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Bon Jovi Signs Contract to Perform in Israel

    Bon Jovi Signs Contract to Perform in Israel

    JNS.org – The American rock band Bon Jovi signed a contract in Germany that officially commits it to perform in Israel on Oct. 3, the concert’s producers announced at a press conference. The move marks the latest defeat for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement activists seeking to convince musicians not to perform in the Jewish state. Bon Jovi’s performance in Israel for the final show of its Asian concert tour is the result of an effort by Guy Besser and Shay Mor Yosef of BlueStone Productions, in cooperation with promoter Marcel […]

    Read more →