Israel responds to Bedouin camp criticism

By Eti Shechtman, December 8, 2011
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Israeli authorities have responded to criticism that a Bedouin tribe will be moved to a land next to a rubbish dump as part of a plan to encircle Jerusalem with a “settlement ring”.

A recent article in the Guardian stated that the Bedouin would be “forcibly removed” from Khan al-Ahmar, which is just outside the settlement of Ma'ale Adomim in the West Bank.

However, a spokesman for Israel’s civil administration, Guy Inbar, said that the entire plan will be negotiated with the Bedouin community before its implementation.

The Guardian report mostly implied that there was one relocation site under consideration, but Mr Inbar said that the land by the Jerusalem dump is just one of the options being considered.

The Israeli spokesman added that the tribe is camped in an area designated for IDF exercises.

The Guardian report stresses that the Bedouin had not been “formally notified” of the plan despite the fact that the dispute has been running for over 20 years.

“These tribes took over land that was at one time deserted,” said Mr Inbar, and added that nowadays there is a need for it to be regulated. The Israeli authorities have long designated the tribe’s presence on the land as illegal.

The Bedouin argue that the real reason for the plan to relocate the Jahalin is to allow expansion of the Ma'ale Adomim settlement.

Over the years the Israeli government has made various attempts to settle Bedouin tribes across the Negev. The Prawer Plan, approved by the Knesset last September, aimed to regulate the sites where Bedouin live and encourage economic development.

Next week, a cornerstone will be placed to mark the construction of a Bedouin eco-farm near Wadi Attir in the Negev. The initiative, which is being funded to the tune of 6 million shekels by the Israeli government, will be run in tandem with the nearby Bedouin communities.

The project will cover an area of about 100 acres and its primary objective will be to preserve and share traditional Bedouin agricultural knowledge.

Last updated: 4:57pm, December 8 2011