Relocation, Relocation, Relocationby Jack Unwin
at Edge Hill University 09th April 2012 22:00:00
When one thinks of population relocation the most obvious example would be Stalinist Russia. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s numerous ethnic groups like Azeris and Tartars were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands and moved to other areas of the Soviet empire at the whim of a monstrous tyrant.
Another population relocation was announced this Sunday. This relocation has been approved by the Israeli government. It involves the removal of 30,000 Bedouin peoples from 13 unrecognised communities in the Negev region of Israel. This is what Israeli paper Haaretz has to say about it.
‘On Sunday the cabinet approved a plan to relocate tens of thousands of Bedouin from unrecognised villages into communities with official status.
As part of the plan, which includes financial compensation for people who can prove they have worked the land they lay claim to or offers of alternative land, some 20,000 to 30,000 Bedouin from 13 unrecognised communities will have to move to existing recognised towns.’
Well that’s not so bad then is it? The Bedouin people can now go into the towns with pockets bulging with cash in order to buy a nice house.
Not surprisingly the compensation is not nearly enough. Neve Gordon reports that the rate of compensation is 5,000 shekels ($1,300) per dunam*, whilst half a dunam in a town such as Rahat costs 150,000 shekels ($40,300).
The Bedouin people will move from one miserable existence to another. Here’s Neve Gordon again on the current living conditions of the Bedouin.
‘An estimated 70,000 people are currently living in these villages, which are prohibited by law from connecting any of their houses to electricity grids, running water or sewage systems. Construction regulations are also harshly enforced and in this past year alone, about 1,000 Bedouin homes and animal pens – usually referred to by the government simple as “structures” – were demolished. There are no paved roads in these villages and it is illegal to place signposts near the highways designating the village’s location. Opening a map will not help either, since none of these villages are marked. Geographically, at least, these citizens of Israel do not exist.’
The move by the Israeli government has been met with denunciations. It has been condemned by the Legal Centre for Arab Minority rights who called it ‘a declaration on the Bedouin in the Negev’ whilst Amnesty International castigated the plan on the grounds that the Israeli’s failed to consult the Bedouin population.
The plight of the Bedouin has received little coverage. The establishment American newspapers, namely The New York Times and The Washington Post have not reported this at all.
The British press has given it coverage. The Guardian had articles on it from October till December 2011 but they have not yet returned to it. Alex Brummer of the Daily Mail also covered it in February this year but has not returned to the story now the Israeli government has acted on the then proposals.
So how will this story end? Neve Gordon sums it up very well in an interview with Ibrahim Abu Afash. He writes:
‘Before leaving Wadi al Na’am, I asked Ibrahim what he thinks will happen if they do not reach an agreement with the government. He paused for a moment and then replied that he does not want to think about such an option, adding that “they will not put us on buses and move us, they will simply shut down the schools and wait. When we see we cannot send our children to school we will ‘willingly’ move”.
This is how forced relocation becomes voluntary and how Israel will likely represent it to the world.’
*According to Wikipedia, an Israeli dunam 1,000 square meters.