Bedouin homes

Israel plans to uproot Bedouin communities from 60% of the West Bank and forcibly transfer them into controlled enclosures. If this is allowed to happen, 27,000 people will be evicted from their homes and land – they will be forced to live in ghettos, with no land on which to make a living. This cruel and shocking new development represents the acceleration of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Bedouin communities from the West Bank, since it illegally colonised the area in 1967, and they aim to complete this plan within the next 3 – 6 years.  

The first phase of this racist, apartheid strategy is scheduled for January 2012, with the forced removal of Bedouin communities from the land around East Jerusalem into a camp/ghetto next to a landfill site by Abu Dis in East Jerusalem. Work on constructing the ghetto has already started.

The second phase will be the expulsion of Bedouin communities from the Jordan Valley into a separate ghetto – the Israeli Civil Military Administration has not yet openly declared where this will be, but it is thought that an area close to Jericho is being considered. 

Home demolition near al-FarisiyaWhilst these plans are now coming out into the open, they are of no surprise to Bedouin and farming communities living in the Jordan Valley . Over the years Jordan Valley Solidarity volunteers have gathered numerous accounts of local people who have been offered small amounts of land or money to leave the Jordan Valley and move to other areas of the West Bank. Others have quite simply been hounded out.

In pursuing a policy of forced transfer of indigenous people from their land, the Israeli state is treading firmly in the footsteps of the apartheid South African government in its forced removal of black people into townships. History is littered with the systematic displacement of powerless, indigenous peoples from their lands. The pattern is consistent – families, communities and cultures are destroyed because they live on land, or near natural resources, that governments and corporations want to claim for their own benefit.

Running water in area CJordan Valley Solidarity have been working with Bedouin communities since 2004, developing grassroots resistance through collective projects that build homes, schools and water resources. Through cooperative action communities are directly challenging the Zionist’s right to occupy Palestinian land, at the same time as building strong communities that are ready to refuse to leave their land, and to continue to exist.


Now, we urgently need to world to wake up, recognise what is happening, and take action to stop the ethnic cleansing. According to Israel’s latest plans, it could all be over in 6 years if we don’t act now.

Whilst the Zionists are plotting to destroy the Bedouin communities in the  Jordan Valley and elsewhere over the next six years, they are already actively taking land and handing it over to the illegal settlers.

 In early June 2011 the Settlement Division (1) of the Israeli government announced that they were doubling the amount of farmland allocated to each settler in the Jordan Valley from 35 to 80 dunums. They also increased their water quota from 42 m3 to 51 m3 per year. This more than doubles the amount of farmland controlled by Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley , from 56,000 dunums to 110,000 dunums.

Mud bricks in Fasayil al-FauqaThey claim that the land used will be ‘state’ land, and not Palestinian private property – failing to acknowledge the principle of common land that has existed in the region for generations, and the fact that this is illegally occupied land to which settlers have no legal right.

David Lahiani, head of the settlers’ Jordan Valley Regional Council, seems not to have seen the irony when he told the Jerusalem Post that this expansion would give settler ‘farmers’ a sense of normality at a time when the future seems uncertain. Bedouin are systematically denied the right to any sense of security or normality. (2)

This doubling of land allocation to the settlements is being supported by increased settlement house building. In late 2010 the Israeli government approved funding for the construction of dozens of housing units in two settlements in the northern Jordan Valley (Maskiyot and Sdemot Mehola), which are located close to recent 2011 demolition sites of Bedouin communities in Al Maleh, Al Farisiya and Ein el Hilwa. No time has been wasted in starting construction, which has coincided with increased demolitions and harassment of Palestinian communities in this area.

Pazael agricultural settlementThe UN ‘Humanitarian Monitor’ details the drastic increase in demolitions of Palestinian homes, water resources and farm buildings in the West Bank in the last year. Over half of these are taking place in the Jordan Valley .

Jordan Valley Solidarity research shows that the number of Palestinian communities in the valley has been depleted from 52 communities in 1967, to 17 communities today. This has been achieved through a complex web of measures. Most visible are the brutal demolitions and destruction of homes and other buildings. More subtle, but equally repressive, is the denial of infrastructure and resources in Area C communities, making life so difficult that people slowly move into the areas where Israel wants to contain them: those designated as Area A and B under the Oslo accords. Israel has manipulated donors of international aid and NGOs, to further this process, by refusing to allow them to work with Area C communities. By going along with this the aid organisations are running their projects in areas A and B, and adding to the pressure on Palestinian families to move into these relatively better resourced areas. 

In addition, Israel is systematically using water as a tool to force Palestinian populations to leave their land. For Palestinians living in area C, access to springs and other sources of water is routinely denied by the creation of ‘closed military areas’, whilst water pipes, pumps and wells are destroyed with impunity. The 52 communities living in the Jordan Valley in 1967 were all settled around natural springs, wells, streams or the Jordan River, that provided enough water for them to sustain themselves. Today, the 17 remaining communities have has their free access to water absolutely denied, with the exception of very small quantities of rain water that can be harvested as it runs off the mountains when it rains.

Al Auja spring completely dry as a result of Israeli water wells

Simultaneously, the over extraction of water by the Israeli water company, Mekarot, continues unabated. With planning laws that allow them to dig deeper wells, and pump water from areas throughout the West Bank, they are drying up the natural water resources that Palestinians have relied on for generations.

Israel’s racist policies are not reserved exclusively for the Bedouin of East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and the rest of the West Bank. In early September Netanyahu’s cabinet approved a plan to transfer approximately 30,000 Bedouin from their villages in the Naqab desert into ghettos built and designated by the state.

As Ben White wrote in Electronic Intifada:

“Thus in the de facto one state that exists between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River, Israeli authorities are currently planning mass expulsions of around 60,000 Palestinians, specifically in order to free up more territory for Jewish settlement. The Nakba never finished.”(3)

Israeli forces on the way to demolish homes in Jordan ValleyThere is no question that the forced transfer of communities into ghettos is completely illegal under international law. In the words of the United Nations:

“International law prohibits the forced transfer of civilians, regardless of the motive or means used, unless temporarily required for their own security or military necessity. The intentional destruction or confiscation of private civilian property, including homes, as well as the transfer of settlers into occupied territory, is similarly prohibited. As an occupying power, Israel has an obligation to protect the Palestinian civilian population and to administer the territory for the benefit of that population. Any voluntary move or transfer of civilians must meet international standards, including relating to a free and informed choice.” (4)

This is a dirty state-led military assault on common people and their common land.


By Sarah Cobham, Brighton Jordan Valley Solidarity


(1) Technically, the Settlement Division is part of the World Zionist Organization, a nongovernmental agency. It has been contracted since 1967 to implement government-funded projects in the West Bank. In the last decade its mandate was expanded to include the Naqab and the Galilee.

(2) Jerusalem Post: “State gives more land to settler farms in Jordan Valley” By TOVAH LAZAROFF 29/06/2011

(3) Electronic Intifada: “Israel plans expulsion of some 60,000 Bedouin Palestinians” Ben White 10/11/2011

(4) UNITED NATIONS Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestinian territory: “Bedouin Relocation: Threat of Displacement in the Jerusalem Periphery”, October 2011