This morning, Bedouin lawbreakers herding flocks of thousands of sheep invaded the IDF Tzeelim Base, leading to a confrontation with the Israel Police and the Green Patrol who were called out to remove the intruders from the IDF’s live-ammunition training area. The intruders called in backup of their own – Bedouin residents of the Bir Hadaj squatters’ camp – who stoned the police officers, faced off with the enforcement patrol, and attempted to run over one of the inspectors.
As this scene was unfolding, a different face-off was taking place in the Knesset, where ministers were embroiled in a tug-of-war over the government’s new five-year plan for the Negev. Over the past several weeks, the previous five-year plan (2397) – a ₪3 billion package that included 200 million shekels for forestation, land protection and law enforcement – ran its course. The new plan, which the government is scheduled to debate and approve this week, does not include one single shekel for these crucial projects; the chapter on enforcement was simply cut out of the draft legislation.
The plan in its present form includes funding for Bedouin municipalities but is completely devoid of any allocation of resources for enforcement authorities. It will cause long-term damage to the state of governance in the Negev.
Increased enforcement activity in the Negev over the past year is the result of government decisions and budgetary allocations legislated in 2017. As it now reads, the new Negev Five-Year Plan will cut the oxygen supply for enforcement, and the results will be felt over the coming years. Under no condition should this plan be approved; all ‘carrots’ and no ‘sticks’ is not a plan, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Security Coordinator whose weapon was impounded last year when spiteful, baseless charges were filed against him by criminals, was wounded last night as he fended off a terrorist with his bare hands while protecting his community.
Last night (Sunday 30 May) a terrorist who infiltrated from the Gaza Strip stabbed the Security Coordinator of one of the Shalom Region communities. The Security Coordinator, who had been awarded certificates of excellence for his outstanding service, was unarmed: Last year, criminals whom he had apprehended and turned over to the police took revenge against him by filing trumped up charges with the Internal Affairs Department. Only last week, the Security Coordinator appealed, with the assistance of Regavim, for the return of his firearm, but his appeal was rejected.
The Security Coordinator of Avshalom, a Jewish community in the “Gaza Envelope” region, prevented what might have been a major terrorist attack, fending off an infiltrator who crossed the security barrier from Gaza armed with knives under cover of darkness last night (Sunday). The Security Coordinator sustained stab wounds to the arms and stomach, and was evacuated to the hospital for medical care. A second security team member, who arrived at the scene while the struggle was in progress, shot the intruder and neutralized him.
The absurdity of the situation can’t be missed: The first responder at the scene, who sprang into action in response to the alert sounded by residents of the community, has been forced to fulfill his security duties for the past year barehanded, as a result of a spiteful, unfounded complaint filed against him by Bedouin criminals from the squatters’ camp at Bir Hadaj whom he apprehended last year. Only last week, the appeal submitted to the Internal Affairs Department of the Ministry of Homeland Security by this decorated and highly regarded Security Coordinator and the Security Coordinator of another nearby Jewish community, with the assistance of the Regavim Movement, was rejected on the grounds that there was “cause for concern for the public’s safety.”
The two Security Coordinators are Israel Police volunteers, and in the course of their duties last year they detained several suspects. The police officer who joined them issued the suspects citations for serious safety infractions and for violations of corona regulations then in force.
As the situation unfolded, the suspects threatened the volunteer policemen, warning them that they would take revenge. Soon after, they submitted a complaint to the Internal Affairs Investigation Unit, claiming that the volunteers had drawn their weapons on them. As a result, the two Security Coordinators’ personal firearms were impounded, forcing them to submit an appeal with the assistance of the Regavim Movement’s Legal Department.
Absurd as it may sound, their appeal was rejected on the grounds that these highly regarded security specialists pose a potential “danger public safety,” despite the fact that both men continue to take part in active police activity and carry firearms while on duty as volunteer policemen and during their IDF reserve duty, to which both men were conscripted in recent weeks.
“Tonight, it became clear beyond a shadow of doubt that this brave and professional Security Coordinator is no threat to public safety – he is the protector of public safety. If the terrorist had come upon women and children rather encountering this trained and fearless man, tonight would have ended in tragedy,” said Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim. “I hope the Ministry of Public Security will come to its senses immediately and return the Security Coordinators’ weapons without delay.”
UPDATE (2 June): In face of this injustice, Regavim felt the need to intervene and help these two brave men. We raised the issue in the media and on our social media platforms, and made sure the entire country heard about the joint fight of Andrei, his friend Bert, and Regavim.
Yesterday, thanks to Regavim’s legal pressure, and thanks to the help of Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana, the two Security Coordinators received their weapons back. In the afternoon, Regavim’s Director General and Spokesman traveled down south to meet Andrei and Bert and award them certificates to thank them for their service.
We are pleased and honored to have been able to help these two men, to correct a wrong, and to improve their personal safety, as well the security and safety of Israel’s southern residents.
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.”
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