The relentless presence of law enforcement forces in the Bedouin villages during the last weeks has resulted in a wave of public protests – from specific protests at the village junctions, to a mass demonstration in Beer Sheva. On June 24, inspectors escorted by dozens of armed police officers, arrived in Bīr al-Hamām, demolished two houses, entered other dwellings and detained youngsters. Immediately afterwards, they continued on to the unrecognized village of Tal Arād and demolished one other house. This was just a few days after demolishing 2 houses in the nearby village of az-Zarnūg, distributing demolition orders and bringing much fear to youngsters and adults. The demolitions continue all the more forcefully while we are in the middle of a pandemic during which we are ordered by the government to be in confinement and maintain social distancing.
The government’s thuggish and violent policy is planned – and is accompanied by prolonged incitement against the Arab-Bedouin citizens in the Negev. Deliberate use of law enforcement agencies, heavy fines and intimidation are officially intended to “open a dialogue” with the Arab-Bedouin citizens, but in fact, act to dispossess them and forcibly transfer them to townships. We stand, and will continue to stand, side by side with the residents in their just struggle for recognition of their villages – in public spaces, in the media, and through use of all the legal instruments at our disposal!
Israel has signed seven of the main Conventions. One is the UN Convention of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), which deals, inter alia, with the right to adequate housing, and also includes protection from forced eviction and the arbitrary demolition of homes. For housing to be defined as “adequate” housing, it must be appropriate in relation to the cultural identity of its residents.
Demolition of buildings and houses in the Bedouin communities in the Negev violates the right to adequate housing for members of the Arab-Bedouin community, according to the CESCR.
House demolition in International Law The basic “right to adequate housing” is recognized by the International Court and anchored in various Conventions signed by the State of Israel. When a country signs a Convention, it accepts its principles and commits to act towards its assimilation in the areas under its control. The Convention of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has a monitoring body, similar to those of other conventions (called either Committees or Treaty Bodies), that the country commits to report regarding the fulfillment of its obligations under the Convention.
In 2019, NCF worked together with other organizations to raise consciousness in the international community, and in particular in the UN Human Rights monitoring bodies, concerning Human Rights violations occurring in the Negev. As a result, various UN committees issued strong conclusions and recommendations to the State of Israel, demanding it cease using house demolition as an instrument and recognize, as far as possible, the unrecognized villages. In addition, the State of Israel was asked to honor the Bedouin’s historical connection with the Negev lands and their cultural way of life.
Demand conveyed to Academia Institutions in the Negev:
do not let us drop out!
By the beginning of April, we sent a letter to the Council for Higher Education with a request to give urgent aid to the 2,000 Arab-Bedouin students to enable them to participate in online learning. After the government’s decision to continue the academic year online, we asked to take into account the difficult situation of the students living in the unrecognized villages in the Negev, who have no connection to electricity or the Internet – a situation that puts them in danger of dropping out of their studies towards academic degrees.
The request presented examples of a number of steps that have already been taken at a number of institutions and proven successful: the provision of technological means to all Bedouin students who need it (such as routers and laptops); online training, in Arabic, in the use of equipment; technical support in case of problems and difficulties connecting to the web during the course of studies; enhancing the effort to implement distance learning; introduction of compensation plans to close gaps during the summer to prevent dropouts; and directing all departments to provide significant relief concerning the deadlines and ways of submitting assignments.
We have been in contact with various departments in the colleges and universities in the Negev, and with them, we continue to encourage further support activities and the promotion of creative ideas that will take into consideration and provide solutions to students needs during the exams, and in preparation for the next year, and continue to do so for as long as the State continues to refuse the provision of essential services needed for learning in the students’ place of residence.Link to the letter to the Council for Higher Education (in Hebrew)
Students Aiding Students in the Unrecognized Villages
During the past two weeks, NCF “Communities-Mojatma’at” project and our two wonderful interns Reut and Olia from the Shatil organization and the Everett Foundation, organized a delegation of volunteers: students, activists and partners. They went to the unrecognized villages several days a week to provide supplementary lessons to schoolchildren and high school students, to help them learning for their matriculation exams. We need to remember that in these difficult times, economic, social and educational gaps are particularly detrimental – and while for high socioeconomic communities, paid private lessons may be a solution – in the unrecognized villages, the learning environment, the high cost, and the lack of infrastructure are a real obstacle for students who want to realize their basic right to education! It is up to the State of Israel to provide an appropriate solution to every Israeli student, also during the next academic year!
In accordance with the law, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality is proud to note that as a result of cooperation with friendly countries and international organizations that promote human rights, most of the funding for our activities comes from “foreign entities.”