ETHNIC CLEANSING: ISRAELI STYLE
MER - Washington - 22 June:
Israel is thumbing its nose at the world these days -- even more
than usual! When Labor is in charge they usually do things surreptitiously, soothing world
opinion with smooth rhetoric even though pursuing similar policies. Indeed, most of the
things Likud does so boldly today were begun by Labor much more quietly in the past. Likud
seems to take a certain kind of perverse pride in doing things more in the open and in a
sense more honestly, as despicable as their policies and attitudes are.
In recent days:
1) Formal "militias" are being established in the
2) Zealot settlers are forcing their way into more Arab sections in
Jerusalem, including the Muslim Quarter in the old city and Silwan.
3) There has been an escalation in the eviction of Bedouin and
destruction of Palestinian homes.
4) Another expansion of Jerusalem's "boundaries" is taking
place, essentially incorporating Israeli settlements throughout thecrucial Jerusalem
This article by Patrick Cockburn in The Independent highlights the
duplicity of Israeli policies when dealing with the Bedouin. Neither the Arafat nor the
Hashemite Regimes do anything to protect or help their Bedouin cousins.
ISRAELIS BANISH TRIBE TO A DUMP
By Patrick Cockburn in Jerusalem
Israel is moving bedouin who used to graze their flocks of sheep and
goats in the Judean desert between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea to a 50-acre shanty town of
corrugated iron huts on a stony hilltop beside Jerusalem's main rubbish dump. The aim is
to empty the area of Palestinians in order to expand Jewish settlements and make it easier
for Israel to claim in negotiations on the future of the West Bank.
"They came with helicopters, police and soldiers and destroyed
our tents," says Suleiman Mazara, a member of the 7,000-strong Jahalin tribe of
bedouin who used to encamp beside the road to Jericho. "People were dumped on this
hilltop, where it is too rocky to drive in a tent peg. We live in houses made out of
corrugated iron. It is very hot in summer and cold in winter."
On the road into the camp Bedouin children were scrabbling through
rubbish, apparently brought from Jerusalem's main dump 500 yards away. There is a single
water pipe, but no sewage system. In one place somebody had tried to build a garden, but
had succeeded in growing only a few dried-out weeds. Some 20 goats were fenced inside a
barn made out of old pieces of scrap metal.
"The general intent to take over the Judean desert is an
important part of the policy of the government," says Shlomo Lecker, a lawyer in
Jerusalem who is trying to stop demolition of the Jahalin homes. "It is ethnic
cleansing. It is easier to get rid of the bedouin than other Palestinians, because they
are weaker. They don't care whose authority they live under, so long as they have the
right to live."
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, makes the point that
the areas on the West Bank Israel wants to keep are "98 per cent empty of
Palestinians". What he does not say is that Israel has adopted a conscious policy of
driving out Palestinians who do live there. After Israel captured the West Bank in 1967
much of the desert between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea was declared a military area. No
building permits were issued. When the bedouin erected tents or shacks, demolition orders
were issued. Shlomo Lecker says: "There is no way for the bedouin to remain within
the law except to leave."
Some of the bedouin's old encampments have already been engulfed by
the Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim, whose red roofs house 22,000 people, and is
spreading across the hilltops to the east of Jerusalem. From the hilltop camp beside the
rubbish dump Suleiman Mazara has a clear view of this rapidly expanding settlement. He
says bitterly: "When you look at Maaleh Adumim you see people living there who have
just arrived from Russia and Ethiopia. But the people like us, who lived there before, get
In fact the Jahalin have not always lived east of Jerusalem. Before
1950 they lived in the Negev desert near present-day Beersheva, a semi-settled tribe,
which grew flowers as well as herding sheep and goats. Chteiwi, a 90-year-old member of
the Jahalin, recalls: "One day the Israelis arrived and gave us three days to get
out. When we didn't go they came and set fire to our tents. We came to live between
Jerusalem and Jericho which was then under Jordan."
When Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, half the Jahalin fled
across the Jordan valley further into Jordan and half stayed where they were. But they
found themselves under pressure, because Israel did not recognise their right to live and
build their homes in the desert, which was viewed as belonging to the government. It was
set aside for military use or for settlements.
"My father was still hoping we can go back to our homes in
Beersheva," says Suleiman Mazara. "When he heard of the Oslo accords [between
Israel and the Palestinians in 1993] he welcomed it. Two weeks after Oslo, the Israelis
told us to move from where we had been living since 1950. They stopped us grazing our
flocks. They immediately started expanding Maaleh Adumim. They say it is military land and
then use it for settlers."
The demolition orders and forced evictions have been stepped up. In
February bulldozers demolished 100 shacks and tents in which 200 people were living. A
foreign diplomat, who happened to pass at the time, says: "I saw children coming home
from school to find their houses gone. I saw them burst into tears."
The Jahalins' mood is generally despairing. "My father used to
have 90 sheep, but now he has only 10 because there isn't enough grass," says one
man. "Our job is tending our animals. Now we must sell them and go and work as
labourers in Israel."
The campaign against the Jahalin is only one aspect of an Israeli
effort to rid the Judean desert and the Jordan valley of as many Palestinians as possible.
However, the Jahalin say they would accept being moved from the
Jericho road, if Israel would find them somewhere other than Jerusalem rubbish dump.
Suleiman Mazara points out that the land at Beersheva from which they were expelled in
1950 is still unused by Israel and there is no practical reason they should not go back
From: The Independent, 20 June