The government demolishes Bedouin homes based on discriminatory laws and rules, and without respect for the Bedouins’ dignity or the country’s human rights obligations, Human Rights Watch said, adding that the government should also withdraw proposed legislation that would discriminate against Bedouin with harsh rules on land and property rights and authorize large-scale displacement of Bedouin from generations-old communities, while severely restricting their ability to appeal.
Government officials have estimated that implementing the law would displace 30,000 Bedouin, while Israeli rights groups say the figure could be 40,000 or more.
“Israel has been shoving Bedouin out of their communities and into ever-shrinking space while encouraging and even helping Jewish Israelis to move in,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Prime Minister Netanyahu should end the appalling discrimination against Israel’s Bedouin citizens, not support legislation that enshrines it.”
According to government figures, 200,000 Bedouin live in the country’s southern Negev region, the majority in 7 government-planned townships, and several thousand more in 11 Bedouin communities that the government is in the process of “recognizing.”
However, Israeli state planning documents and maps exclude 35 “unrecognized” Bedouin communities, where the government estimates that 70,000 to 90,000 people live.
Israel demolishes Bedouin homes in the Negev on the basis that they were built without permits, often in unauthorized communities. Israel has for decades refused either to legally recognize these communities or to allow their residents to gain title to ancestral land. The Israeli government has rejected or delayed discussion of proposed plans submitted by groups seeking authorization for Bedouin communities, making it impossible for residents to obtain building permits.
In contrast, the government takes an active role in planning and expanding Jewish communities in the region, and has retroactively authorized construction there by Jewish citizens. Bedouin have ancestral claims to lands on which their families have lived for generations.
However, Israeli authorities do not recognize Bedouin land claims without official ownership documents, which few have. Israel claims state ownership of Negev lands that are not registered to individual owners. While Israel has frequently granted Jewish communities and individual Jewish farmers long-term leases to use “state lands,” including lands expropriated from Israeli Bedouin, it has largely refused to grant Bedouin similar use.
Human Rights Watch has long documented the Israeli authorities’ discriminatory practices toward Bedouin and the discriminatory demolition of their homes.
Since March 2013 Human Rights Watch has documented demolition of 18 Bedouin homes and 11 other structures, including 8 tents where victims of previous demolitions were living.
The government should fully compensate Bedouin whose homes and property it has destroyed in violation of the right to housing and non-discrimination, Human Rights Watch said.
“The prime minister’s office has led the drive to push through this law that will forcibly displace thousands of Bedouin families,” Stork said. “Israel’s allies should tell the prime minister in no uncertain terms to shelve this discriminatory law.”