In Israel the law does not apply to every citizen

The Second Palestine Solidarity Conference discussed the single-state solution and the rights of the Bedouin.
An interview of Haneen Naamnih

By Jörg Tiedjen

Israeli Palestinian Haneen Naamnih is a lawyer who collaborates with internet magazine www.jadaliyya.com. She participated in the Second Palestine Solidarity Conference in Stuttgart, which ended on 30 June.

In the Negev Desert, which is part of Israel, there is conflict between the Bedouin who live there and the administration. What are the current issues?

The State refuses to respect the Bedouin's land ownership rights, despite the fact that these rights were already recognised by the Ottoman regime and under the British mandate. Currently, the Bedouin are being expelled from their lands and are being pressured to relocate to seven cities that were purpose-built for them, beginning in the 1960s. Many of them have lived to this day in places that are referred to as non-recognised villages. There is no running water, and no education or health services.

But the Bedouin are citizens of Israel. Despite this, can they be forced to leave their land?

In Israel, the law does not apply to all citizens equally. Furthermore, a law is being applied which is tailored to Israel's Palestinians, a sort of state of emergency. On this basis, their title deeds to the land can simply be cancelled even though officially they are Israeli citizens. That is the Bedouin law, following on from the Prawer Plan.

What are the provisions of the Plan?

It was designed to find a solution for what is referred to as the Bedouin issue. The plan provides for the cleansing of their former inhabitants from the said territories in the space of five years. True, monetary compensation or lands in exchange are provided for, but only on condition that the people concerned give up every right they have over the land. Furthermore, the Plan considers that the Bedouin can be expelled from their land, their houses demolished and all the inhabitants relocated by the police without any due legal process.

Are the Bedouin willing to leave their villages?

No, they want to stay. They are asking that no new Jewish settlements be built on their lands, and they are asking for their villages to be connected to the public services. The village of al-Arakib, for instance, has already been destroyed dozens of times by the authorities, but each time, it has been rebuilt – the inhabitants are still resisting.

What can the Bedouin expect in the seven cities set aside for them?

Living conditions there are very poor. They are some of the poorest in Israel, with high crime rates, unemployment and drug problems. This is a well-known fact. It is also well-known that that through relocation, the traditional Bedouin way of life would finally be destroyed. It would amount to sending them to jail rather than relocating them.

During the Second Palestine Solidarity Conference in Stuttgart, the issue of founding a Palestinian State, therefore the two-state solution, was discussed. What would be the consequences for Palestinians with Israeli passports?

The two-state solution would mean that there would still be second-class citizens; that is why Israel must be decolonised (no settlements) and all the inhabitants must be granted the same rights. This is possible only in a single, shared State.

Is the demand of a shared State popular among the Palestinians in Israel?

Up to now, it has not been taken up very widely. It is still a sort of dream; however, it is being discussed increasingly during conferences and also in Israel. At the same time, Israeli Palestinians are fully aware that the two-state solution is no longer tenable. I think that the single-state solution will eventually prevail.

Therefore, you think that two states bring no solution?

One should first concentrate on what is feasible, and secondly, one must find a tolerable solution for all those concerned. Only a shared state can afford a solution. This is also true for the Palestinians who are living abroad as refugees. Two states would not improve their situation. But, up to now, Israel has refused even to hint at their fate.

You can find the article on http://www.jungewelt.de/2013/05-14/052.php.

© Junge Welt 2013

From DIALOGUE REVIEW ( www.dialogue-review.com )