10 December 2012
Be’er Sheva, Israel
Contact: Michal Rotem
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On the occasion of Human Rights Day 2012, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality has released a new report, titled “Processes of Dispossession in the Negev-Naqab: The Israeli Policy of Counter Claims against the Bedouin-Arabs.”
The report outlines the flaws inherent to the Israeli government’s policy of submitting counter-claims against Bedouin land claims in the Negev, the country’s southern desert region. The counter-claiming policy is one of several strategies employed by the Israeli government to further dispossess its Bedouin citizens in the Negev of their ancestral lands.
All Bedouin citizens of Israel were asked to file land rights claims in the 1970s. By 1979, the Bedouin had filed 3,220 claims for approximately 1.5 million dunams of land. Soon thereafter, however, the Israeli government froze the land-claims recognition process and treated the land as state-owned, not under ownership dispute.
In 2004, following the adoption of a new development plan for the Negev, the state began submitting “counter-claims” in court against 30 years worth of unsettled land claims. To date, the Israeli state has secured a 100 percent success rate in court for counter-claims made against Bedouin land ownership claims in the Negev.
Ultimately, the NCF report found that, “the counter-claiming strategy had severe implications for the Bedouin claimants, many of whom withdrew from (or altogether avoided) court hearings due to the impossibility of winning their case in the court and challenge the State’s legal position.”
Israel’s counter-claim measures reinforced the image of the Bedouin as illegal claimants without title to the land. “The construction of a legal argument that makes it impossible for Bedouin to prove land rights, and the state’s 100 percent success rate in court cases, alienates the Bedouin from the law, the judiciary and from a state that should serve them equally as citizens,” the report stated.
Mr. Ahmad Amara, a Palestinian human rights lawyer and PhD Candidate at New York University, and the author of the report, stated: “The case of the Negev is a case of extortion in the name of the law – as if a history of dispossession, deportation, and lack of provision of services wasn’t enough. History in this case shows that the colonial rule provided better justice for the Bedouin Arabs than the country where they are citizens.”
The report was written owing, amongst others, to the financial support of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, 2011.
To read the full report, click here.