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Palestinians condemn plan to forcibly transfer thousands of Bedouins

Sept. 11, 2014 10:17 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 13, 2014 7:42 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian minister of agriculture and 42 organizations on Thursday condemned newly-unveiled Israeli plans to demolish dozens of villages and "forcibly transfer" thousands of Bedouin Palestinians from their homes.

Palestinian Minister of Agriculture Shawqi al-Ayasa said in a statement that the six Israeli plans publicized this week would have serious negative impacts on Palestinian society and would severely harm the Bedouin way of life, "shaking the economic and social structure of the Palestinian community."

Al-Ayasa accused Israel of "wanting to create segregated areas, killing any possibility of a two-state solution by preventing Palestinian sovereignty on all of the territory occupied in 1967."

The minister's remarks came Thursday after Israel's military coordinator of civilian affairs in the West Bank announced a plan to construct two towns meant to house all of the Bedouins of the West Bank far from their currently-existing villages.

The Israeli plans calls for the permanent towns to be located near Al-Nuweima, north of Jericho, and Al-Rashayda, south of Bethlehem, forcing thousands of Palestinian Bedouins to leave areas where they currently live.

42 Palestinian, Israeli, and international organizations active in Palestine released a statement on Thursday "urgently calling on world leaders" to stop the plans, saying that they would force thousands to live in a "designated township" -- a reference to the areas Black Africans were forced to live in during the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The statement highlighted that the plans "include moving Bedouins out of the politically sensitive area referred to as the Jerusalem Periphery or 'E1,' where Israel has long-intended to demolish 23 Bedouin villages in order to expand and link settlements, established in violation of international law."

"Settlement expansion in this area would cut the West Bank in two, further disrupting movement and social and economic ties between major Palestinian cities and limiting the little access Palestinians in the West Bank have to Jerusalem."

The statement said that all of the communities that will be forcibly removed from their homes are located in Area C, the more than 60 percent of the West Bank where Israeli maintains full civil and military control and where more than 340,000 Jewish settlers already live.

"Although Area C is within the internationally recognized 1967 borders of the occupied Palestinian territory, Israel only allows Palestinians to build on 1 percent of it. The lack of authority to build makes Palestinians vulnerable to home demolition, displacement, and forcible transfer and limits their ability to realize their rights to water, to adequate shelter, to education, health, and to livelihood."

The statement said that Israeli authorities had escalated a campaign of "coercive tactics to heighten the pressure" on the communities in recent months, including eviction orders and home demolitions.

"Israel has also obstructed aid agencies from delivering assistance to these communities, including by seizing and destroying emergency shelters that international donors provided for families whose homes were demolished and confiscating a swing-set and a slide for a Bedouin school," the statement added.

'We are scared'

The statement quoted 32-year-old Palestinian Bedouin resident of Sateh al-Bahr as saying: "Being in constant danger of forcible transfer is not a healthy way of living. We are scared, we can't build, we lack basic rights, but we don’t want to move to a township. If you ask me to move I would say no."

"I was born as a Bedouin, and we want to preserve our traditions. Israel is claiming they will create a better solution for us, I will tell you that's not true, that transferring us will destroy our lifestyle and traditions. If they really want to create a better solution they can let us to go back to the Negev or stay where we are and receive services," he added.

The statement called for international intervention to prevent the implementation of the plan, calling for Israel to "allow Palestinians to remain in and develop their communities."

In Sept. 2013, Human Rights Watch called on Israel to end its "unjustified attempts" to displace West Bank Bedouins from their villages.

Israeli authorities have also repeatedly targeted Palestinian Bedouins living inside Israel for forced removal and transfer schemes, including the Prawer Plan.

The Israeli government approved the plan in 2011 but shelved it in 2013 amid widespread protest among Palestinians within Israel.

Approved without any consultation with the Bedouin community, the plan would have evicted nearly 40,000 Bedouins from their villages and forced them to live in concentrated areas that critics called "reservations." Israel refuses to recognize 35 Bedouin villages in the Negev, which collectively house nearly 90,000 people.

The statement released on Thursday regarding the Israeli plans in the West Bank was signed by:

1. ActionAid

2. Action Against Hunger (ACF)

3. American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

4. Alianza por la Solidaridad (APS)

5. Al Haq

6. Assamblea de Cooperacion por la Paz (ACPP)

7. Badil

8. CARE International

9. Christian Aid

10. Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli (CISP)

11. DanChurchAid (DCA)

12. Diakonia

13. EAPPI UK and Ireland

14. EducAid

15. Grassroots Jerusalem

16. Handicap International (HI)

17. Heinrich-Böll-Foundation, Palestine & Jordan

18. HEKS

19. Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)

20. International Learning Centers (ILC)

21. Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC)

22. Jerusalem Legal Aid & Human Rights Center (JLAC)

23. Ma'an Development Center

24. Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP – UK)

25. medico international

26. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)

27. Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)

28. Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA)

29. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

30. Oxfam

31. PAX

32. PNGO

33. Quaker Peace & Social Witness

34. Rebuilding Alliance

35. Save the Children

36. The Jahalin Association -- Nabi Samwel

37. The Kvinna til Kvinna Foundation

38. The Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden

39. The YMCA Rehabilitation Program

40. War Child

41. WeEffect

42. World Vision Jerusalem -- West Bank -- Gaza
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