Op-Ed: Part 4 of 6: The Truth About Bedouin Land Claims
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For parts 1,2, and 3, click here.
Myth 4 Are the Bedouin neglected by the State in terms of building rights?
The Israeli Justice system describes the crisis of illegal construction as “a national plague.” Different estimates indicate that there are some 100,000 illegally constructed structures throughout the country. The illegal construction of the Bedouin accounts for a sizable portion of this crisis. As of the end of 2012, the number of illegal structures by the Bedouin is estimated at some 65,000 and each year more than 2000 new structures are built.
A common claim is that the Bedouin have no recourse but to resort to illegal construction. The finger of accusation is pointed at the State that does not allow planning or construction permits in the Arab sector. Take for example the position paper of the Coalition for Citizen’s Rights:
“Illegal construction in Arab villages does not take place in a vacuum and is not done by choice or the desire to break or disrespect the laws of the state. Such building … is done in order to provide housing for young people and Arab families, whom the state and planning authorities have left for many years with no solution to their housing problem. It basically stems from a cessation of planning by the authorities, expressed by, among other things, a lack of planning or faulty planning which does not meet the minimum requirements of Arab citizens.
“It is important to note that the Arab citizens who are forced into this situation are not greedy construction criminals … all they seek is a modest house over their heads. We are not talking about luxurious villas. In many cases they are tin shacks, shelters, or small apartments … if it were only possible, and if they had a legal choice before them, we would not see them building without permits, construction, which from the standpoint of the costs, is much more expensive than building with permits and according to approved construction plans.”
The truth is that over the years, the State of Israel has established plans in order to settle the Bedouin in legal towns connected to infrastructure (electricity, water, and sewage), educational and medical facilities. Towards this end, seven Bedouin towns were established; later the State implemented a process of retroactively legalizing and recognizing 11 illegal Bedouin villages (referred to as Abu Basma Council towns).
As of May, 2013, among the 220,000 Bedouin citizens in the Negev, some 132,000 are registered as living in organized, legal towns and villages (excluding Abu Basma Council towns) .
The official position paper of the Israeli Land Authority shows a broad array of enticements offered to those Bedouin who leave the numerous illegally constructed villages and move to the legal towns and cities. These enticements are given regardless of financial status or whether they have a claim to the land.
“The enticements granted to the Bedouin include free housing lots exempt from development fees – the State grants the Bedouin, free of charge, lots on average 800 square meters per family (close to a ¼ acre). The plots are completely developed, including infrastructure for roads, drainage, sewage, electricity, and water. It is important to note that on these lots a Bedouin family can chose to build between 1 and 4 housing units according to their preference and need.
7. Interior Ministry figures, 2012
8. In Hebrew: “The Policy of Home Demolition in Arab and Mixed Settlements.” The Coalition for Citizen’s Rights.
9.In Hebrew: Government publication on Bedouin housing, has pictures which are helpful for those who do not read Hebrew.
“The Bedouin family that moves from an illegal village to permanent housing in a legal town or village receives monetary compensation from the State. The average amount of compensation for those moving to permanent housing is several times higher than the true value of the illegal structure. The amount of compensation is fixed according to the index of the ILA and can reach hundreds of thousands of shekels (NIS) per family.
“In addition, Bedouin families who move from illegally established villages to permanent housing receive financial grants. The State of Israel give Bedouin residents who move from these areas to permanent housing a “moving grant” of 7500 NIS per family and an extra 1500 NIS per child. It is important to note that the advantages given to the Bedouin sector are exclusive and are not given to any other sectors of the population.”
A good example of the phenomena is Lakia. See photos above. The government provided plans for 30,000 residents, yet today only 11,723 resident reside there.
The claim that Bedouin are forced to resort to illegal construction due to withholding of permits and adequate planning on the part of the authorities is far from the reality on the ground. The State of Israel has assigned large budgets and made every effort above and beyond what is required by the law in order to allow the Bedouin to move to legal communities.