Haaretz 3 April 2017
The rockets from Gaza land on all citizens, regardless of their nationality, religion, or language. Yet the State claims there is higher probability that rockets will fall on a Jewish community than on an unrecognised Bedouin village in the Negev, even though both are equidistant from Gaza and within the hit range. Therefore, the Jewish communities in the south of the country have shelters provided, while tens of thousands of people living in unrecognised villages are left to fend for themselves, with nothing more than prayer to protect them from rocket fire.
The Bedouins’ fears is not without foundation, tragedy has already struck them. Negev resident Ouda al-Waj was killed during Operation Protective Edge [2014 Gaza War], while several other Bedouins were injured as a result of rocket fire. Consequently, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) submitted an urgent appeal, while the operation was still underway, demanding the government provides protection for Bedouin villages. The High Court of Justice denied the matter’s urgency and extended deliberations until finally rejecting the appeal. In doing so the HCJ left tens of thousands of citizens without sufficient shelter and with no real solution.
Homefront Command tried to mollify the residents and pay lip service to the HCJ judges with a special program it had formulated, which included a proposition for Bedouins in the unrecognised villages to dig ditches by themselves, to defend themselves by laying on the ground and putting their hands over their heads, and even distributing leaflets. The Homefront also suggested that when the alarm sounds, residents could run to the sheltered medical centres, located in the recognised Bedouin villages, several kilometres away.
The State contended that within the high danger range – 15-40km from the Gaza Strip border – there are also significant gaps in levels of sheltering provided from rocket fire among Jewish community. The State refused to share this data so that we could gauge for ourselves whether there is any discrimination at play. But this is immaterial, since while the State speaks of “sheltering gaps” in Jewish communities, we’re here to remind you that there is no sheltering provided at all in Bedouin communities. Bedouins have no permanent protected spaces, no mobile shelters or any other temporary means of protection. In fact, people living in those villages can only dream of having sheltering gaps.
In our appeal, we sought an equal protocol for settling up and allocating sheltering spaces and means of protection, but the court failed to see the need in intervening in the Homefront Command’s professional considerations. Reading the full verdict reveals that the judges adopted the State’s position, according to which we failed to prove that any discrimination against Bedouins took place. However, the obligation to protect the lives and safety of citizens falls on the State. It must take active steps to guard these basic rights, and in the case of Bedouins living in unrecognised villages, it transgresses again and again.
Firstly, the State refuses to recognise the villages and allow them to build legally, so that they are forced to live in temporary, derelict structures, made all the more vulnerable to rocket fire for being so. Then, the State refuses to place portable shelters for the residents, while temporarily doing so for workers in nearby fields and dairy farmers in Jewish villages adjacent to those unrecognised Bedouin villages. When it comes to Bedouins, the State suffices with explanations and shifting the responsibility over to the residents themselves.
Our petition to the was submitted in the name of, among others, the uncle of Maram and Asil Al-Wakili, two girls injured during Operation Protective Edge. They were 10 and 13 years old at the time. Today they are a little older, but in the next war they’ll again look up to the sky, anxious that a rocket from Gaza might hit, and no leaflet will comfort them.
The Author is a lawyer for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
Hebrew original: http://www.haaretz.co.il/opinions/…. . Translated by Keren Rubinstein for the Middle East News Service, Melbourne, Australia, edited by Sol Salbe.
Read more from Just Voices #13, June 2017 – Israel/Palestine.