Bir Hadaj

Israel’s High Court of Justice denies appeal of landowners whose property has been overtaken by thousands of Bedouin squatters: “This case does not justify judicial interference.”

After a decade of legal proceedings, yesterday (Monday) Israel’s High Court of Justice denied an appeal by owners of private property who sought a court-mandated deadline for the removal of squatters from their land – land located on the outskirts of Bir Hadaj, the crime capital of the Negev. “An outrageous miscarriage of justice.”

Yestrday (Monday), Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition filed by individual land owners whose property has been overrun by Bedouin squatters. Over the past number of years, more than 1,000 Bedouin families invaded state land and private properties on the outskirts of Kibbutz Revivim, while rejecting a series of increasingly generous relocation-compensation packages offered by the Israeli government. The owners of the property took their case to court ten years ago, and in their most recent appeal, they sought a court-mandated timetable for the restoration of their property.

In stark contrast to a well-established record of High Court judgements that required the state to remove Jewish homes built on privately-owned Arab property according to non-negotiable deadlines, in the case of the Jewish landowners of Bir Hadaj, Justices Groskopf, Mazuz and Wilner decided that “the rights of ownership of the appellants regarding their private property are not absolute, and do not exist in a vacuum,” and that this “is not among those exceptional and extreme cases that justify judicial intervention in the policy of the authorities responsible for enforcing planning and construction laws.”

The squatters’ camps near Bir Hadaj began to take shape in the early 2000s, after the Israeli government temporarily relocated 15 families from the Ramat Beka area to state land near Kibbutz Revivim. This set off a massive movement of families from the Al Azazmeh tribe, who quickly covered thousands of dunams of state land in the vicinity, as well as some 2000 dunams of land owned privately by Jews, with hundreds of illegal structures.

This sprawling squatters’ camp has grown into the crime capital of southern Israel, an exterritorial no man’s land where Israeli law enforcement is virtually nonexistent. Residents of the squatters’ camp have been in the news recently: The suspects in the rape of a 10-year old girl in the course of a home invasion, the massive drug production plantations on the nearby Tzeelim firing zone, large-scale plunder of IDF ammunition and harassment of IDF trainees and reservists are all “credited” to residents of the Bir Hadaj hinterland.

In 2003, the Israeli government decided to create a new, legal alternative for the squatters: an all-Bedouin town, built on state land. Each of the squatter families was offered a “compensation” package of hundreds of thousands of shekels as well as a 5 dunam plot of land (!) – but this wasn’t enough to convince the squatters to relocate.

The owners of the stolen land, together with the Regavim Movement, petitioned the Beer Sheva District Court, asking that the state be required to provide a timetable for the evacuation of the squatters, but the government responded that it was carrying out negotiations with the squatters with the aim of achieving a mutually-acceptable evacuation – and the petition was dismissed. When the much-awaited agreement didn’t materialize, a second petition was filed in 2015 – which the court denied without explanation.

A third petition was filed after the Director of the Bedouin Authority, Yair Maayan, released an official announcement that all attempts to achieve a mutually-accepted evacuation agreement had failed.

The owners of the purloined property returned to court, proving that from the time they had first petitioned, the squatters had built hundreds of additional illegal structures on their property. To make matters worse, what meager law enforcement activity had taken place in the interim (6 relocation agreements were signed with squatters, out of over 1000) had focused on clearing state-owned land, and the private owners were left ‘high and dry.’

This third petition was also denied, despite the government’s response to the court that it could not predict when enforcement activity would be completed in the squatters camp as a whole, and in the privately-owned sections in particular. The property owners turned to the High Court of Justice to appeal the District Court decision.

Yesterday (Monday), the High Court of Justice denied their appeal. “The situation in Bir Hadaj as a whole, and in the privately-owned section in particular, is unacceptable,” wrote Justice Groskopf in the opening words of the judgement. “The state must not accept a situation in which there are areas under its jurisdiction that are beyond the law,” and even after a decade has passed, “it is unclear when the owners of the property will be able to exercise their rights to it.”

Nonetheless, the judges refused to require the state to adhere to a deadline for evacuation of the property. “The appellants’ ownership rights to the privately-owned land, which undoubtedly and undeniably been harmed, are not absolute and do not exist in a vacuum. They are to be weighed against the state’s policy of creating appropriate regulation solutions for the illegal compound at Bir Hadaj, in the larger context of efforts to regulate Bedouin settlement in the Negev.”

Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, reacted to the judgement: “This is a miscarriage of justice that cries out to the very heavens. In inverse cases, the High Court ordered the wholesale evacuation of Jewish communities and the destruction of Jewish homes according to draconian, non-negotiable timetables. In this case, it has become clear that the government itself is creating the cesspool of lawlessness that is exploding on us all. The squatters’ camps have become an exterritorial incubator for the horrors that continue to befall Israeli citizens of the Negev and beyond. The unthinkable has become the norm; the rape of a child in her own home, the invasion and looting of IDF bases, and the terrorizing of law abiding Israelis speak for themselves.”

Chaim Goloventsis, one of the owners of the land, added: “We must not accept a reality in which the High Court of Justice once again denies us the right to our property. I am convinced that if our land had been located in the 03 area code (i.e., greater Tel Aviv), the judgement would have been totally different. This is just one more pathetic, embarrassing instance of the breakdown of the state’s institutions in southern Israel.”

Ignoring a small problem allows it to turn into a big problem.

Last night’s case in point:
Bedouin bandits infiltrated the Israel Air Force base at Nevatim; IAF helicopters engaged in an hours-long chase.

The State of Israel has been ignoring the cracks in law and order in the Negev for so long, they’ve become a “grand canyon” – and tonight’s events in the Negev prove the point.

In the last two weeks alone the Negev has seen horrific and varied forms of criminal behavior: The shocking sexual assault of a little girl in her home, the break-in at the Israel Air Force base at Sde Teiman that included a stun grenade attack on our soldiers, a string of robberies in Be’er Sheva that were caught on film and uploaded to social media, the desecration of a Jewish cemetery, a massive ammunition heist, and now, a break-in at the Nevatim base, where Israel’s top-secret aeronautical technology is housed.

It’s time for the State of Israel to draw a line in the sand. For the sake of each and every citizen of Israel, we demand that the government formulate a comprehensive, non-negotiable solution to the problem of Bedouin crime in the Negev.

“Meet Abed. Abed is an 18-year-old Bedouin who lives in an ‘unrecognized’ squatters’ camp in the Negev.

He’s a spontaneous, sensitive guy – and he’s nobody’s fool.”

Regavim’s video illustrates why, despite the state’s efforts to create legal, organized communities for Israeli Bedouin, complete with municipal infrastructure and modern services, these attempts have failed over and over again. What’s the bottom line? Who are the winners, who are the losers, and what are the consequences for the future of the Negev and the State of Israel?

The illegal Bedouin hinterland in the Negev is comprised of tens of thousands of illegal structures, and the State of Israel has been dragging its feet for years in a series of failed initiatives aimed at relocating the Bedouin to permanent, legal, organized settlements.

To encourage and enable the residents of the illegal encampments to relocate to organized towns with proper infrastructure, municipal services, education and health care facilities, the state provides each resident of the illegal encampments with a free, developed plot of land and a “relocation compensation payment” of hundreds of thousands of shekels – but because there are no timetables or deadlines attached to these generous relocation arrangements, the system simply doesn’t work; the illegal encampments continue to grow, with thousands of new structures each year.

The video illustrates how the state has continued to increase and enlarge its compensation and relocation grants over the years, in practice encouraging residents of the illegal encampments to stay put, continue to build illegally, and ‘make a buck’ at the public’s expense.

The EU-funded Palestinian outpost of Khan al-Ahmar

The High Court of Justice on Sunday (30 November) granted the state can another additional extension and postponed proceedings regarding the evacuation of the illegal Arab outpost of Khan al Ahmar until July 2021.

In it seventh hearing on Khan al Ahmar following a petition submitted by the Regavim Movement, the court granted the state another extension, giving Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Gantz another seven months to report on the status of the Palestinian Authority (PA) outpost in the Adumim Region (E1).

The High Court of Justice approved the evacuation of the outpost, and this most recent petition was filed when the government failed to fulfill its commitment.

Regavim, which monitors and combats illegal Arab construction and land grabs, accused Netanyahu of “hiding behind closed-door hearings and secret communications to avoid why he was able to demolish [the Israeli communities of] Netiv HaAvot and Amona but is unable to evacuate Khan al Ahmar or to stand up to the Palestinian Authority.”

“It’s convenient for Netanyahu to hide behind closed doors and use in-camera hearings to avoid explaining to the Israeli public why he hasn’t lived up to his public pronouncements and to his commitment, reiterated countless times, to evacuate Khan al Ahmar. He owes the voters an explanation: Why was he able to evacuate Netiv HaAvot and Amona, but unable to deal with Khan al Ahmar or the Palestinian Authority?”

The Khan al Ahmar saga, more than a decade long, has been heard in multiple High Court of Justice petitions submitted by Regavim.

In 2018, the Israeli government announced its intention to complete the evacuation and relocation of the illegal outpost, the flagship of the Palestinian Authority’s systematic program of territorial dominance in Area C.

The Jahalin Bedouin, the residents of Kahn Al-Ahmar, are an offshoot of a larger tribe based in southern Israel. After a blood feud that occurred within the tribe in the 1970s, some of the families were forced out and migrated north, arriving and settling in their present location after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The location of the illegal structures is hazardous due to its proximity to Highway 1, a major transportation artery. Khan al Ahmar overlooks the road that connects Jerusalem to the south of Israel in a strategic area.

This article appeared on JewishPress

The EU-funded illegal PA outpost of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem

For 10 years, the illegal Bedouin outpost of Khan al-Ahmar has been undermining Israel’s rule of law, making a mockery of Israeli sovereignty, enabling the Palestinian Authority to carry out the Fayyad Plan for the establishment of a de facto state on Israeli-controlled sections of Judea and Samaria and galvanizing a coalition of anti-Israel NGOs and foreign interests. Now, Khan al-Ahmar has become an instrument for the evisceration of High Court of Justice rulings and the erosion of the very foundations of Israeli democracy.

On Monday evening, the State Attorney submitted a request to the court on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asking to delay a hearing on a petition submitted by Israeli NGO Regavim against the government’s failure to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar. Should the court grant this request, the hearing, scheduled for early December 2019, would be postponed until March 2020.

Khan al-Ahmar is one of more than 170 illegal outposts created by the P.A. and funded by the European Union for the sole purpose of establishing a corridor of P.A.-controlled territory disconnecting Jerusalem from the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. These outposts are populated by the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and easily manipulated Bedouin families, stateless pawns in the P.A.’s power play, and follow a very simple, very predictable pattern of development.

First, the P.A. places water tankers at strategic points: along major Israeli highways, on land belonging to or abutting existing Jewish communities, or along lines that create territorial contiguity between major Arab population clusters in Areas A and B of Judea and Samaria. Knowing that Bedouin require little more than a steady supply of water to congregate and remain in any particular spot in this arid region, the P.A. thus attracts the tribes to strategic locations, even when those locations pose serious hazards to the health and livelihood of the Bedouin.

The next step is the construction of a school. This, too, attracts population—and makes for devastating publicity if Israel’s Civil Administration knocks it down. From this point, the battle of narratives begins. The “village” quickly rises up, constructed almost entirely of prefab housing units bearing the symbol of the European Union. It is given a name and equipped with a fictitious history. An army of internationally financed “do-gooders” takes up the cause of the unfortunate Bedouin who are “threatened” with relocation by the Israeli authorities—to new, modern neighborhoods on Israeli state-owned land, along with cash payouts and other forms of compensation.

The P.A., the European Union and a host of “humanitarian aid” groups take to the High Court of Justice to block any and all compromise solutions, forcing the helpless Bedouin to remain in unbearable conditions in the illegal outposts, in the service of the P.A.’s geopolitical machinations.

More than a decade ago, Regavim began monitoring, mapping, reporting on and petitioning against Khan al-Ahmar and its sister outposts. It took years to force the Israeli government to take notice of the strategic nature of these seemingly innocuous Bedouin squatters camps, and even more years to convince the government to demand that the European Union stop funding this illegal activity.

After six rounds of Supreme Court petitions, each of which resulted in clearly worded decisions regarding the illegality of Khan al-Ahmar and the necessity to relocate the Bedouin families living there, the only thing standing in the way is the Israeli government. Regavim strenuously objects to the delay of the hearing on the government’s inaction.

“This is the sixth petition we have submitted in the matter of Khan al-Ahmar,” said Meir Deutsch, director general of Regavim. “The State of Israel should have cleared the encampment as far back as 2009, when the Supreme Court handed down its first decision on the matter. We believe that further procrastination eviscerates the ‘final’ judgment handed down by the High Court after the fourth round of hearings. The government’s behavior in this matter is an affront to the stature of the court and harms the national interest.”

One year ago, Netanyahu publicly declared that Khan al-Ahmar would be evacuated in a matter of days. Since then, every passing day is one more day of shame for the rule of law in Israel.

Site of yet another deadly camel crash

This morning (October 6), Shaadi Abu Alkiyan of Hura (28) succumbed to wounds resulting from a collision with a wandering camel last week on the main road to his hometown. At the same time as this fatal accident, two other Israelis were wounded in another car crash with a camel near Ovda. Regavim places the blame for these tragedies squarely on the shoulders of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services Division.

The Veterinary Services Division of Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture has failed to enforce the “Camel Law,” which requires registration of ownership of all camels in the Negev, and identification of each camel with a subcutaneous electronic chip. These regulations were formulated in order to prevent camel owners from allowing their animals to roam freely, and to create legal responsibility for any damages caused by unrestrained or improperly attended camels.

Legislation of the “Camel Law” began after David Cohen of Retamim was killed in a collision with a camel in December 2014. In reaction to the accident, Regavim and the bereaved residents of Retamim, who were joined by MKs Betzalel Smotrich and Eitan Cabel, spearheaded efforts to combat the scourge of roaming camels.

Regavim presented alarming Police Department data at a Knesset hearing on the proposed legislation: Every year, more than 1,000 citizens register complaints about wandering camels on the roads of southern Israel, but time after time, the authorities are unable to identify the owners, levy fines, or impose legal sanctions that would deter owners from further reckless negligence that continues to take its toll.

The Camel Law passed its final readings in the Knesset in June 2018, at which time the Veterinary Services Division was given six months to put in place the necessary mechanisms to enforce the law before it became fully activated, in February 2019. Although the Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, was a proponent of the law, the Veterinary Service Division objected to the legislative process from the outset, and rejected the electronic-chip identification system.

“Once again, this is a senseless and unnecessary loss of life. The writing was on the wall – and written in blood on the roads,” says Amichai Yogev, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for the Southern Region. “We have lodged complaints against this particular herd more than once. Although the Ministry of Agriculture’s Pitzuach Unit and the Green Police are extremely motivated and poised for action, without the electronic identification tags, no enforcement activity will be able to achieve its stated goals. Abu Alkiyan’s death is the responsibility of the Veterinary Services Division, the most recent in the long list of victims in the past number of years. Regavim will continue to fight this failure in order to prevent the next fatality. We must not allow this carnage to continue.”

This article appeared on Israel365 News

Regavim has uncovered a racket in which the Bedouin are paid off not to damage property they wrongly claim as their own.

Israel’s government pays millions of shekels to Bedouin under the guise of “school security” in a massive protection racket, an investigation by Israeli NGO Regavim revealed.

Regavim, which focuses on land issues, ‘followed the money’ through the judicial system, and forced the Bedouin municipalities of southern Israel to admit that every year, millions of shekels classified as “school security” expenditures simply vanish into thin air.

But vast swaths of land slated for development and construction within the municipal boundaries of the Negev’s Bedouin towns have languished for decades under the threat of violence by the self-proclaimed “owners.”

Although the Israeli government does not officially recognize these discredited ownership claims, when Bedouin municipalities build public-use structures such as schools, kindergartens  and health clinics, they do so on land that has been untouched due to these phony ownership claims – and pay huge sums under the guise of “security services.”

In effect, the government is paying these “owners” not to damage the structures erected on land for which they have no legal right of ownership.

Regavim requested a breakdown of expenditures for school security in Bedouin municipalities. These budgetary items were then compared with the same data provided by Jewish municipalities in the Gaza-border region, which is classified as a high-security area.

The Naveh Midbar Bedouin municipality, which has 21 schools in its jurisdiction, spent nearly NIS 6.8 million for “security” in 2016, and a similar amount in 2017. In 2018, that expenditure rose to NIS 7.3 million.

The Al Kasum Regional Council, which provided the budgetary data we requested only after we were forced to submit a Freedom of Information petition through the courts, is home to 22 schools, and its security budget for 2016 stood at some NIS 9 million. In 2017 the security budget grew to NIS 10.5 million, and in 2018 it stood a NIS 11.7 million.

How do these sums compare with the security outlays in Gaza-border Jewish communities? The Merhavim Regional Council’s 10 schools were protected by a mere NIS 965,000 in 2016; the cost of security remained unchanged in 2017.

The Bnei Shimon Regional Council, which provides security for 7 schools, spent NIS 690,000 in 2016, and only NIS 665,000 in 2017.

The Ministry of Education does not cover security costs for educational institutions in local council jurisdictions; these sums are covered by the Israel Police.

The Ministry of Interior Security, for its part, clarified that it does not employ any security personnel in the Naveh Midbar or Al Kasum Municipalities; no such position or job description exists.

The Police Department’s response to Regavim’s inquiry further clarified that the Ministry contributes hundreds of thousands of  shekels per year toward the security budget of the older, more well-established Bedouin towns of Hura and Lakiya, but these outlays do not hold a candle to the astronomical sums spent in Naveh Midbar and Al Kasum.

Regavim discovered this isn’t the end of the saga. On-site inspections in the schools of Naveh Midbar and Al Kasum proved that there is no security at all. The gates are wide open, anyone and everyone can come and go at will; no guard posts, no guards.

The security budget for each of these institutions is NIS 30,000 per month – whether there are 1000 students, or 80 students. The municipalities explained that this is spent for “night-time security,” a recognized expense only for dormitory schools (which do not exist in the Negev Bedouin sector).

“These findings indicate that the municipalities in question are paying “internal protection money” to the people who claim ownership of the land on which the schools were built,” says Amichai Yogev, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for the Southern Region.

“The official documents provided by the municipalities do not answer the real question – where is all of this money going – but they do illustrate beyond a shadow of doubt that these inflated budgets are a mechanism of unparalleled, hard-core corruption.”

“According to data provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics, over 95% of these municipalities’ budgets is funded by the government through a variety of ministries, and they are classified in the lowest cluster  of the socioeconomic scale,” Yogev emphasizes.

“The bottom line is that the money that could and should be used for the benefit and welfare of the students is ending up in someone’s pocket. Someone is enjoying a fat payoff, at the expense of the very real and very critical needs of the community as a whole. The Israel Police must conduct a full and thorough investigation, and bring the guilty parties to justice.”

This article appeared on World Israel News

The State admits: Illegal construction for Arabs was whitewashed– but policy has changed

In the course of a High Court of Justice hearing on  Regavim’s petition against the illegal Arab city growing in the Judean Desert, the State’s attorney admitted that in the past Arabs had been allowed to build without permits or planning approval.

On 20 November 2018, Israel’s High Court of Justice heard Regavim’s petition regarding an illegal Arab city growing on the grounds of IDF Training Range 917. The city, made up of 1,700 illegal structures – homes, schools, clinics, mosques – covers tens of thousands of dunams. The infrastructure that supports it all is spread over dozens of kilometers, thanks to generous funding provided by  the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, and other foreign interests.

The bottom line: A new Arab city has been born in an area of critical strategic importance, creating a contiguous Arab pale of settlement that stretches from the Arad Valley through Har Hebron and eastern Gush Etzion.

Foreign funding for illegal construction in 917

Background:

In the 1980s, a few Bedouin families lived in temporary structures that dotted the landscape of IDF Training Ground 917. Without any legal foundation or precedent, the Civil Administration demarcated a number of clusters and declared them”no go zones:” No law enforcement steps would be taken against structures within these areas, despite the fact that they had no building permits or municipal plans as required by law.

As if this weren’t bad enough, Regavim has documented more than 500 additional illegal structures built outside of these demarcated zones in the last few years – structures that “connect the dots” between the original clusters and create an uninterrupted band of Arab territory that stretches from the Arad Valley through Har Hebron and eastern Gush Etzion.

The State’s representative admitted in court that the “arrangements” that had been in force, which allowed illegal construction to continue unhindered, “constitute an historic reality, but do not reflect the government’s current policy regarding illegal construction. Nonetheless, because of the ‘seniority’ of the structures in question, the State contends that construction and regulation should be allowed to proceed.” Despite the irrefutable evidence presented by Regavim to the contrary, the State’s attorney argued that the Civil Administration is carrying out law enforcement procedures “according to its priorities,” outside of the demarcated non-enforcement zones.

Questions without answers:

“The State decided in the past that there is no law within these clusters – but even outside of their boundaries there is absolutely no enforcement activity,” said Attorney Avi Segal of Regavim. “At issue is an increase of hundreds if not thousands of percentage points in the rate of illegal construction. The State should be required to explain by what authority it allowed this chaos to begin in the first place. Now, the government sends its attorney to court to announce that someone has been hired to formulate a plan – but he is unable to say who this “someone” is, when this plan will be implemented, or where it will be implemented. The State has not demonstrated that any concrete steps toward cleaning up this mess have been taken. Whereas the court handed down very strict timetables for resolving the matter of a few paltry meters in structures that were built without permits elsewhere, in this case we are talking about 1700 illegal structures – and counting.”

The hearing, in a nutshell:

At the hearing, Chief Justice Hayut reprimanded the State’s attorney, who had stated over a year ago that “progress” had been made – but since then, has not produced a time-frame or operational plans. “The regulation team that is eventually chosen through the tender process now underway will be tasked with planning in any number of locations. What are the specific timetables regarding this particular area? How is it possible that the State does not have a plan of action?”

On the other hand, the Chief Justice required Regavim to add additional respondents to the petition: “There is no argument that many hundreds of illegal structures are involved,” said Chief Justice Hayut. “Residents of these illegal structures must be included as respondents to Regavim’s petition.” Attorney Segal explained that the residents have managed to avoid being served with papers, which were posted on the illegal structures instead. Furthermore, Regavim’s earlier attempts to serve residents with papers, as the court has required, were met with threats of physical violence.

Looking ahead:

In one month, the court will reconvene to consider the State’s plans for regulation and law enforcement, and Regavim will be there to continue the fight to protect Israel’s land resources.

IDF Firing Zones 917 and 918 are situated in a strategic area in the South Hebron Hills, a region that connects Israel’s eastern flank to the Negev and the Dead Sea.

For the past few years, a massive take-over of land in this area has been underway, and we at Regavim have made a major effort to combat the phenomenon and have the squatters removed. In Area 918, for example, we submitted a petition against an entire village, Halet al Dabaa, which was constructed illegally by the European Union.

We also petitioned the Supreme Court last year regarding an illegal road that had been paved, in another attempt to create facts on the ground and fulfill the Fayyad Plan’s vision of connecting Gaza, the Negev, and the Hebron Hills and create territorial contiguity that would effectively amputate the Negev from Israel.

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This week, in response to our petition, the High Court of Justice issued an order to halt illegal development activities on IDF Firing Grounds 917 and 918.

We welcome the High Court’s clear pronouncement and hope it will be the first step toward halting this catastrophic plan.