Palestine/Israel: Enforcing Naqab Housing Distress

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Palestine/Israel: Enforcing Naqab Housing Distress
21 June 2016

A new report by the Negev Coexistence Forum (NCF) presents new figures about house demolitions in the Naqab/Negev. Based on discriminatory planning law-enforcement authorities’ data, the report reveals how the State of Israel uses demolition orders to displace Palestinian Arab citizens from their lands. It recounts the demolition of 982 structures within the past year.

The new NCF report, Enforcing Distress: House Demolition Policy in the Bedouin Community in the Negev, presents new figures from recent years, reviews the different enforcement authorities, the ways they operate and the legal framework for this policy.

It reveals that, over the last three years, the state has forced owners to demolish more than 50% of the structures by themselves. The Southern Directorate of Land Law Enforcement is promoting this trend by pressuring the citizens through frequent threatening visits by policemen and inspectors.

This way, 70 structures, in 2015, and 140 others, in 2014, were demolished without a demolition order. Inspectors of the National Unit for Building Inspection managed to push about 210 house owners to demolish homes on their own, under the threat of an impending demolition order that will accompany a punitive fine.

The Southern Directorate warns on its annual report that “It is a clear fact that the gap continues between the rate of enforcement and the rate of housing solutions offered by the state.” As Israel’s State Comptroller protested in his last report, Israel acts in the Naqab without a clear regularization or enforcement policy. The report reveals also that even the enforcement authorities warn that the state does not provide solutions for citizens whose houses are demolished, yet continues to pursue the house-demolition policy.

Following Israel’s aggressive population transfer policy of Jewish settlement since capturing the territory in 1948, the Palestinian community of Bedouin origin is more than 34% of the Naqab’s population. However, Israeli planners, applying the Jewish-only principles of the Jewish Agency, designate only 18 settlements out of 144 for the Naqab Palestinians. The State of Israel is firm in its refusal to recognize the unrecognized Palestinian Arab villages in the Naqab and uses house demolitions to pressure their residents to negotiate and relinquish their land to the state, which redistributes Palestinian land and properties to the favor of Jewish citizens and settlers.

According to the report, the Southern Directorate is employing a doctrine of “enforcement to promote regularization,” which applies planning and construction laws to displace Palestinian Arab citizens from their homes. The report exposes many cases in which the Southern Directorate describes the coercion of those citizens: The “Bedouin Authority” asks them to join negotiations, then whoever is not willing to negotiate is served with demolition orders. According to the Southern Directorate, after a demolition file is open, many people tend to yield and enter negotiations.

The Israeli Police refuses to share the Yoav Unit budget, claiming that it will “jeopardize the security of the state.” The Yoav Unit, a paramilitary police force that escorts enforcement authorities during house demolitions in the Naqab, was established as part of the Prawer Plan. Even though the Prawer Plan was shelved, the unit still operates. NCF has filed a freedom-of-information request to receive the Yoav’s full budget, yet authorities released only the amount of vehicles and their costs. The Yoav Unit includes about 200 policemen, and 44 vehicles that cost NIS 10,371,000 (USD 2,670,000).

Haia Noach, NCF’s executive director concluded that “The state of Israel keeps on disregarding the severe housing distress of the Bedouin community, even when the enforcement authorities warn about it. Instead of working for the entire Negev population, our government extends the gaps between communities by approving more and more Jewish settlements in the Negev while pushing the Bedouin community into crowded urban towns that cannot receive more residents. The State of Israel should cease the house demolition policy and draw a new, equal policy for recognition and development of Bedouin villages that will make the entire area bloom.”

Download the full report.

Photo: House demolition near the Gawa`in road, 4 August 2015. Source: Michal Rotem.

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