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M I D - E A S T R E A L I T I E S - "Ethnic Cleansing" Israeli style

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[MER - On the occupied West Bank the Jahalin Bedouin have lived for decades. In the 1970s the Israelis began to build a large settlement near the Jahalin -- a settlement that is meant to expand Jewish Jerusalem far into the desert. In the past few days -- under cover of the Hebron "agreement" the Jahalin have been forceably 'expelled' from their homes in what Linda Brayer courageously points out is the on-going Israeli version of "ethnic cleansing". This eye-witness report from Ms. Brayer]

EYE-WITNESS REPORT FROM THE WEST BANK

By LINDA BRAYER
Executive Legal Director
Society of St. Ives - Jerusalem

(1/29/97) On a misty Monday morning, the air wet from the continuing drizzle, the Israeli Military High Command decided to swoop on to a scattered Bedouin community whose presence has been hindering the expansion of the Jewish colony of Ma'ale Adumim in the Occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Ma'ale Adumim is situated to the south east of the villages of Abu-Dis and el-Azzariah (the latter being the home town of Lazarus who was raised from the dead.) beyond the expanded Israeli borders of Jerusalem, but it will be annexed into Jerusalem very soon. Both the building of this colony and its subsequent annexation are illegal in international law, and in contravention of the agreement with the Palestinians.

The Israeli forces carried out a military operation against the Jahalin Bedouin who are unarmed civilians.

The police, most of whom carry standard army automatic rifles, set up road blocks preventing people entering the site of the military operation. Foreign delegations , press representatives, peace activists and Palestinian representatives, such as Mr. Faisal Husseini, were all prevented from approaching the sites where the operation was taking place In order to pass one road block I had to give an explanation of what I was doing there: I just told them that I was a lawyer and seeing as I speak a fluent Hebrew I had no trouble entering the "forbidden site."

Tens of policemen swooped down on to the first encampment chosen for destruction; a wall of policemen's bodies was set up to prevented any and all civilians from approaching the tents and shacks up for destruction, and the area was declared a "closed military area" -an interesting designation for a police action! The owner of the structures of the first encampment tried to prevent his long-standing shelters from being destroyed but the police surrounded and arrested him. The young Bedouin men who witnessed the violence and humiliation of the man tried to help him and attempted to pull the police off him but they were thrown back up the hill away from the encampment and were pushed against a fence set up against a 3 meter high ledge. The police and soldiers then began shoving the young men down the hill to get them away from the site where they would be held under control in a confined area by police and army forces. They kicked and pushed the Jahalin youngsters, pulled their hair and their clothes, and at times, struck them with their truncheons. At the lower end of the hillock they pushed them down a one meter ledge on to the ground, with many of them being injured in the process. The army did not see fit to have an ambulance on hand, nor did they call one. They also had not brought any stretchers to deal with possible injuries.
Here more police, soldiers and secret service people waited to surround and to control them. A member of the "mohabarat" - secret services - was filming all the action. Everyone at the site was filmed: the local bedouin, the local and foreign press and myself, their lawyer.

Meanwhile, down the hill on the other side, the bulldozers had a free run of the encampment. Moving trucks had been brought in to gather up the most meagre of belongings which did not include the building material for new shelters - neither the traditional woven cloth nor the iron sheets. Shacks and tents had been smashed with no thought of saving anything for the alternative site and the inhabitants had been far removed and had no say in what they wanted brought over. I came in time to watch and photograph the destruction of the central tent/tin shack which had formed the heart of the compound that I had visited on several occasions.

This was an army action in all its details although the police carried it out. The Israelis wanted the forced expulsion to look like an ordinary civil action taken by ordinary civilian authorities against civilian "lawbreakers" - rather than as a violent illegal military action. It was so pathetic. Ordinary human beings, unarmed and unprotected, whose only crime was that they were not Jewish and who had lived in one place for many years, had all traces of their habitation removed within a matter of less than one hour.

After expediting this expulsion and destruction quite efficiently, the troops moved on to the second encampment located further south and trapped between buildings under construction. Here, there was only one tiny, elderly couple, each of whom was more than eighty years old, who lived together with about twenty to twenty five sheep and goats. The animals were in a pen and the couple had three or four tents and shacks which held their belongings and the food of the sheep.

This second entire operation did not last more than one hour. The elderly couple had been removed, the tent shacks were run down and destroyed, the foreign workers from Rumania carried the sheep and goats into a container on a truck, and the pen was destroyed. Within about ten minutes, the couple and their goats and sheep had been transferred to the alternative site where the wind was howling and the couple looked completely dazed. Udi, from the co-ordinating office said that he would give the old couple a tin shack but that the other five families evicted from the first encampment would receive nothing. The partiality of the generosity is indicative of an outlook which refuses to regard all human beings as human and as equal.

On the alternative site the people were left stranded.
Despite all claims to the contrary, the Israeli authorities did precisely what we have been predicting for years.

They threw the expelled Jahalin bedouin families on to a rocky hill with no provisions made for their new life. It proves the point that the Israeli authorities have never had any intention of providing the Jahalin with anything except sweet words. As Paul says in the New Testament, "by their fruit ye shall know them." There is no Israeli fruit: only a sterile, uninhabitable rocky protuberance whose outer perimeter road serves 800 garbage trucks daily on their way to the Greater Jerusalem garbage dump five hundred meters away.

It has been argued that I, Lynda Brayer, an aging Jewish Catholic grandmother, has prevented the Israeli government of coming to a solution of the problem that they, the Israeli government, has created. I have told the army, members of the Knesset and Israeli journalists that no one has prevented the Israelis from taking unilateral action. No-one has prevented the army or "civil" administration from preparing a proper infrastructure of water, sewage, electricity, telephone lines, roads and pavements on the site. No-one has prevented the army or "civil" administration from building apartment blocks suitable for large families on the site. No one has prevented the army or "civil" administration from building a wall to protect the site from the traffic of 800 garbage trucks per day. . No one has prevented the army or "civil" administration from building a medical clinic, a kindergarten, a primary school building and a community center. No-one, in fact, has, or can, prevent the army or "civil" administration from doing anything it wants to do - least of all an aging Jewish Catholic grandmother.

Instead, the new site will be an instant favello or barios or squatter township as in South America or apartheid South Africa. These are the dwelling places for the less than human. In the Jahalin case, their crime is that they are not Jewish and as such, they are not fully human from the position of the Jewish authorities. The way we know this is the way the Jewish authorities treat them. The Jewish authorities do not think that the Jahalin need the kind of housing that Jews need. This reminds me of a Supreme Court Justice who commented on a demand for the restoration of drinking water for Palestinians in a particular village in the amount that the Jews received in the neighbouring Jewish illegal settlement. "I am not interested in what Jews receive! What did they [i.e. the Palestinians] receive before the water was cut off? That is what they must get. You cannot compare Jewish and Palestinian consumption!

He is right of course. You cannot compare consumption because you may not compare consumption. In the same manner, you cannot compare Palestinian dwelling conditions with Jewish housing conditions, because you may not compare them. The High Court says you cannot!! Therefore one may not compare the ultra-modern, well watered, flowered and treed colony of Ma'ale Adumim with the "alternative site" or the new Ma'ale Adumim Township!

This new bedouin township will be a disaster for the Jahalin; not only because a professional Israeli town planner says so or a professional Israeli environmentalist has deems the site uninhabitable - a charge never answered either by the Israeli Ministry of Justice or the High Court of Justice. In contrast to a tin shanty slum, traditional bedouin shelters consisted of tents made of woven woollen swathes of thick cloth or sacking which is covered with plastic in the winter. In the event that the weather conditions and topographical features of the site do not permit additional tents, then tin shacks lined with wood inside for insulation are erected for various facilities such as a kitchen hut, storerooms and pens for the animals. Bedouin compounds need space in order to allow for the spreading out of several of these shelters which need to be placed sufficiently far apart to provide and maintain the privacy needed for people living in these movable dwellings. The space beside and between the shelters constitute part of the actual dwelling place and in itself contributes towards the dignity and independence granted to each person living under these conditions. Such dwellings needed constant repair and at times replacement: this is always done without much ado or fuss and was regarded as a necessary part of the maintenance of the compound.

There is no space between the tin shanties - there is no room for the animals. It is obvious that the Israelis will come to a final solution for the Jahalin of area 06 in Ma'ale Adumim with the forced expulsion of the last encampments. We can only hope that the Jahalin community will not destroyed culturally as a result of this forced expulsion and eviction.

The forced eviction has been on the cards since the High Court ratified the State of Israel's claim that the land in the occupied territories is "state land" and therefore forbidden for use to the native population - and all this despite there being no documents to prove this claim as the state had destroyed the files on its own admission.

The destruction of the Jahalin of Ma'ale Adumim is part of continuing Zionist policy. I predict that this "alternative site" will be re-classified as Area B unilaterally by the Israelis in the very near future as part of the ethnic cleansing of Area C, towards the final solution of the Palestinian problem.

I also want to point out a further point which no one seems to have picked up. When Palestinians claim to own land, they have to prove this ownership according to Israeli standards. When the land is conveniently expropriated in a myriad of legal methods, it becomes a market commodity which can be traded. At that point, it can no longer be obtained by Palestinians.

The land of Ma'ale Adumim was stolen - whether one recognises the Israeli designation of "state land" or not.
The land was removed from Palestinian ownership either actual or potential. It is now in Jewish hands, and as we know, Ma'ale Adumim is about to be officially annexed to Jerusalem.

The Jahalin were expelled yesterday, two weeks ago, and will be expelled within the next several days or maybe at the end of Ramadan, because the Jewish contractors cannot fulfil their contractual obligations to their Jewish clients. Jewish Israelis and new immigrants have bought these apartments and they should have moved into them months ago. The contractors are either being sued or are about to be sued for damages.

The economics of the Jewish colonies/settlement are the crux of the matter and not security. When will the Israeli government be held accountable for this theft?

Further house demolition took place in Ramallah today, Tuesday, 28th January as well as the destruction of tents in the Jordan valley. Area C is being ethnically cleansed of its "foreign subjects" according to Israeli jargon and the land in these areas will become the market commodity of property. How long will the Palestinians and the world have to put up with this gross violation of private property rights and the violation of basic inviolable human rights of Palestinian non-Jews?

Lynda Brayer, Advocate
Executive Legal Director

SOCIETY OF ST YVES

"I am my brother's keeper"

Catholic Human Rights Center for Legal Resources & Development
Khaled el-Walid Street, Wadi el-Joz, P.O. Box 20531, Jerusalem
via Israel 91204

Tel: 6286729 Fax: 6286339 email: styves@netvision.net.il

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