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Article by Electronic Intifada

November 2009

Jahalin Bedouin suffer without representation

“Beyond the demolitions in its suburbs and the frequent, violent clashes around the al-Aqsa mosque, Jerusalem is the scene of a quieter shame. Southeast of the holy city live the Jahalin Bedouin, a community that has been repeatedly displaced and transferred, now enduring unimaginable poverty beside Jerusalem’s largest garbage dump. An embarrassment to Palestinians and Israelis alike, the Bedouin and their unique way of life are under grave threat.

Eid Raeb is a coordinator between the Jabal camp and the European nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are its lifeblood. “Bedouin life is finished,” he declared without hesitation. “Sometimes when I look outside I imagine how it was before, but I know that life is over.” Eid is one of the founding members of the camp after they were displaced from their land that became Ma’ale Adumim, one of the fastest growing Israeli settlements. “After they built [Ma’ale Adumim] in 1979, they began to move us. At first very slowly, one family at a time. After 1993 and the Oslo agreements they built many houses and said they needed all the land.” The Oslo agreements placed them in Area C, under Israeli control. “At first when they told us to move here we refused, but the Israelis said they would use force. They promised us building permission, electricity, water and streets. When we came here there was nothing, just open land.”

The Jabal camp was established in 1997, with each Bedouin family receiving around $10,000 compensation from the Israeli government. But the promises of infrastructural support were reneged on; most crucially the Bedouin were denied permission to build, forcing them to live for six years in shipping containers. In 1998, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed “deep concern at the situation of the Jahalin Bedouin families who were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands to make way for the expansion of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement.” The report also condemned the “manner in which the Government of Israel has housed these families — in steel container vans in a garbage dump in Abu Dis in subhuman living conditions.” After concerted pressure from aid organizations and foreign NGOs the residents of Jabal were finally granted permission to build on their land.

Eid claims that the site was uninhabited when the Bedouin were moved in, that it was Israeli land to give away and that “Palestinians have no problem with us being here.” This is not the case according to Dr. Abdullah Abu Helal, a long-time resident of Abu Dis, the neighboring Palestinian village. “Their village is built on land confiscated from Palestinians in Abu Dis. We think very badly of them, that they work with Israelis and sometimes they behave like Israeli soldiers. We had a demonstration against the stealing of our land and they came to shoot at us. That they have their own problems and difficulties does not mean they should accept to live on Palestinian land.” Abu Helal referred to a neighboring Bedouin camp where he claims the residents refused to displace Palestinians and now live in temporary tents away from Abu Dis town, explaining that “they trade milk and cheese with us, we provide them with teachers. They are with us in our struggle against the Israelis.”


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