Tag: Israel

Israeli bulldozers set to demolish Israeli Arab village to build Israeli Jewish town

Umm Al HiranEmboldened by the election of Donald Trump, the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu was reported to be sending his army’s bulldozers in at dawn today (Tuesday) to demolish this peaceful Bedouin village in Israel.

The Israeli government has long been planning to demolish the village of Umm Al Hiran and evict its inhabitants in order to build a Jewish village with the same name – Hiran – on exactly the same location.

For the last two years Netanyahu has been delaying the demolition because of international protests at this extreme case of ethnic cleansing, but now with Trump elected, he gave the go-ahead for the village to be razed.

The 500 Arab residents of the village have lived in the village for nearly 60 years and were ordered to move there by the Israeli military commander of the Negev who gave them a lease to build a village, farm the land and graze their sheep.

The village leaders say there is no need to evict them as the Jewish settlers can move onto a site nextdoor. “We are not against them living here, but we want to stay here too and live together with them as neighbours,” says Atwa Abu Alkia’n.

They point out that there is plenty of space – 3¼ million acres – in the Negev and the settlers don’t need to move to the one small acre of land where they have been living since 1956.

The Israeli state has made it clear that the new village is for Jewish residents only and the Arabs must move out.

Villagers say: ‘Why evict us when we can both live here? There’s plenty of space.’

This village is in Israel, not the Palestinian Territories. Its residents are full citizens of Israel. Yet they are treated as though they had no rights, no importance.

At the time of Israel’s war of independence in 1948 the villagers were thrown out of their ancestral village in a more fertile area in the Western Negev to make way for a Jewish kibbutz as part of the drive to “make the desert bloom”.

Eight years later they were forcibly moved again to their present location in the Atir valley in the less fertile northern Negev where they rebuilt their village and called it Um Al Hiran.

“It was a desert with no roads, water, houses or services. We built the village. We invested in the houses, the roads and the water pipes. Life has been tough, but we worked hard to develop this place into a beautiful and wonderful village,” said the village sheikh.

Like all the other “unrecognised” villages in the Negev, they were provided with no mains electricity, no paved roads, no water, no sanitation. They had to do their best buying water from tankers and using solar panels for intermittent power.

This is not because it was remote. On the contrary, the Jewish owner of a dog-kennel only 800 metres away is provided with all mod cons. The Israelis do this solely to make life difficult for Arab villagers so they will move.

And it is not a question of money. Often if the villagers try to pave the roads, army bulldozers break them up; if they install water pipes, they are disconnected; if they build stone houses, they are demolished. The Israelis want the buildings to look temporary, ramshackle, worthless.

This makes it easier for the Israelis to sustain the myth that the villagers are Bedouin nomads who originate from other countries. In fact, while they are all proud of their Bedouin heritage, it is historically verifiable that their families have lived in the Negev for hundreds of years.

And while a few of the villagers were still engaged in the traditional Bedouin occupation of sheep-farming, Umm Al Hiran also had lawyers, teachers and doctors among its 500 residents.

Last year the leader of the Jewish settlers came and drank coffee with the villagers to ask them, disingenously, why they were trying to block plans for the new Jewish village in the courts.

Salim Abu Alkia’n, Atwa’s brother, explained patiently: “To all the Jewish people who want to live in this town I say that people are already living in this town. We have been living here for 60 years and, even if they demolish our homes, we will stay here forever.”

Israelis can be excused for not knowing about the village, as it does not appear on Israeli maps. Even when the National Council for Planning and Building approved plans for a new Jewish town on the site in 2010, they submitted a map to the planning committee that made no reference to the fact that there was already an Arab village on the land.

When they applied for demolition orders, they claimed the buildings “had been discovered” by an inspection patrol and they had been “unable to identify or reach the people who owned the houses”.

When they applied for eviction orders, they described the villagers as “trespassers” squatting illegally on state land and the magistrate had to point out that they had lived on the land for years with the state’s knowledge and consent.

Bedouin ‘clearances’ in the Negev

Sir Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make immediate representations to the government of Israel over its decision to set in motion the Prawer Plan for the removal of 40,000 Bedouin people from their ancestral homeland; [162732]
(2) if he will discuss with his EU counterparts making a co-ordinated approach to the government of Israel over its decision to set in motion the Prawer Plan for the removal of 40,000 Bedouin people from their ancestral homeland; [162733]
(3) if he will request that the US Government should make immediate representations to the Government of Israel over its decision to set in motion the Prawer Plan for the removal of 40,000 Bedouin people from their ancestral homeland. [162735]
Alistair Burt: We continue to follow closely Israeli Government plans with respect to Bedouin land claims and unrecognised villages in the Negev. We remain concerned by the possible relocation of thousands of Bedouin. I discussed the proposed legislation with Members of the Knesset when I visited Israel earlier this month.
Officials at the British embassy in Tel Aviv are in regular contact with Bedouin leaders and activists, and our ambassador has discussed the proposed legislation with relevant Ministers and parliamentarians. The embassy has also discussed this issue with EU and other partners in Tel Aviv.

Children in detention

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 18 June 2013 [OfficialReport, column 745] on Israel: children in detention, if he will make a statement on his discussions with the Israeli Attorney-General. [162177]
Alistair Burt: On 20 June, I met with Israeli Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He was accompanied by a senior delegation, including Deputy Attorney-General Shai Nitzan and the Israeli ambassador to London. We discussed a range of issues including the treatment of children in detention, the use of live fire in the Gaza buffer zone and in dealing with non-violent protests and demolition of Palestinian property.
On the question of child detainees we discussed the recommendations in Baroness Scotland’s report. I welcomed steps that Israel has taken of late to reduce the gap between provisions for Israeli and Palestinian children including: raising the age of majority to 18; reducing the time period by which an arrested minor must be brought before a judge formalising the right of a parent/guardian to be present in court; and introducing a special court for minors.
We also discussed the need for further progress. In particular, building on the report’s recommendations, we believe it is important to ensure: systematic use of audio-visual recording when questioning children; an end to solitary confinement for children; and notification of arrest in Arabic to parents/guardians so that they can support children in the legal process.

Record number of Questions on Palestine

Pressure builds for a total stop on settlement trade 
Will the Government put any economic pressure on the Israelis to stop expanding their illegal settlements in the West Bank so that negotiations on a settlement with the Palestinians can resume?
In Tuesday’s Foreign Office questions there were a record number of questions – 7 out of 15 – focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict and all but one of them critical of the Israeli government – a sign of how opinion is shifting within the House of Commons.
But the answers brought no more clarity about the Government’s intentions.  The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, placed all his hopes on an American effort to revive the peace process when President Obama visits Israel and Palestine later this month.
He also repeated his promise to “incentivise” and if need be “disincentivise” either side from actions, such as building illegal settlements, which were an obstacle to the resumption of negotiations.
Middle East minister Alistair Burt repeated his mantra that “we do not believe in a boycott”, but MPs were left guessing what the difference might be between a boycott or sanctions and “disincentivisation”.
Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab) urged the minister to focus on areas where he could do something that would make a difference:
“What he can do something about is the import of illegal goods from settlements, which are running at eight times the level of imports from all Palestinians. Will he now take steps to prevent the import of goods from illegal settlements to the UK?”
 
But the minister would only say that he would work with European partners on the possibility of extending voluntary labelling of Israeli settlement goods brought in by the last government.
Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab) asked the Foreign Secretary to agree that the starting point for negotiations should be the legal status quo—that the whole of the West Bank and east Jerusalem is Palestinian land, as agreed unanimously by the UN Security Council – and not “facts on the ground” created by illegal settlement building.
 
Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab) said he seemed to expect Palestinians to have the patience of Job as they were facing “the single largest proposed demolition of Palestinian homes since 1967” in the Silwan areas close to the old city of Jerusalem.
“What will he do to try to instil a sense of reality among the Israeli authorities to stop this unlawful theft of Palestinian land, which can only hinder the search for a two-state solution?”
Chris Williamson (Derby North) (Lab) asked the Foreign Secretary to accept that a freeze on settlement building is a requirement imposed by international law, not a precondition imposed by the Palestinians.
Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD)  raised the segregation of public transport in Israel with “settler-only” buses and “Palestinian” buses, introduced this week with echoes of apartheid South Africa 25 years ago and of the southern states of the USA 50 years ago.
“Appeasing the racist regime in Israel must stop. Will the Minister, with his European Union colleagues, end our cosy relationship in view of such behaviour?” 
 
David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab) said that the crux of the matter was that Israeli governments did not believe there would be any serious consequences as a result of what they did.
“Can one understand the sheer anger, resentment and frustration of the Palestinians who see no political progress at all? What would we do if we were in the same position as the Palestinians in the occupied territories?”
Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con) said no other country would allow large numbers of migrants to occupy its land, denying the land to local people?
“Why is so much energy put into the likes of Syria after two years, when nothing appears to be done about Palestine’s West Bank, and in particular East Jerusalem, after 40 years?”
Middle East minister Alistair Burt agreed that the barrier between Israelis and Palestinians was getting more and more severe and the opportunities for people to live together in the future were getting more and more remote.
 
Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD) said many well-informed commentators and analysts believe that that time for a two-state solution “has now gone”.
The Foreign Secretary said that while he thought that the time for it was “slipping away” and that 2013 might be the last chance, he did not think that the time had yet gone.
 
Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con) asked the Foreign Secretary what he would do if the American peace effort failed “as all the others have”? Was it not time to make it clear to the Israeli authorities that their flagrant breach of international law would finally have to be met by some serious consequences?
 
The Foreign Secretary argued that “we need to allow time and space for this American effort to develop as President Obama visits the region later in the month.
“But I believe that it will important for us to be able to say … what we will do to support the process and to incentivise the parties involved. Of course, it may also be open to us to disincentivise—if I may use that word—those parties at crucial moments.”
Mr Hague first used these words in December when he told the Commons that he had been talking to the French and German Foreign Ministers “about how we can more actively support a US initiative .. with European states contributing to incentives and disincentives for both sides to return to negotiations”.
He repeated the same formula in January when Labour front bencher Ian Lucas asked if he would “use the wish for Israeli to develop stronger trading relations with the European Union as a means of achieving progress in the Middle East”.
 
MPs returning from visits to Palestine
Pleas for hunger-strikers and Gaza fishermen
 
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): The Foreign Secretary may not be aware that last Saturday, in Palestine, I visited the mothers and surviving family members—of Ayman Ismail, who is being held in administrative detention and has been on hunger strike for 246 days, and of Samer Issawi, who is being held on trumped-up charges after being tried twice, once by a civil court which said that he should be released tomorrow and once by a military court which is holding him for 20 years, He has been on hunger strike for 223 days, and is in a critical condition. Will the Foreign Secretary make clear to Netanyahu that if these men die, their blood will be on his hands?
 
Sarah Teather (Brent Central) (LD): I recently visited Gaza as part of a cross-party delegation with Interpal. While there I was alarmed to witness, on three different occasions, the shooting at and intimidation of Palestinian fishing boats that appeared to be clearly inside the six-mile limit agreed by the ceasefire. Earlier, the Foreign Secretary roundly condemned, as is right and proper, the firing of rockets into Israel, but does he agree that peace depends on both sides sticking to the terms of the ceasefire, including Israeli naval ships?
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Like the hon. Members for Brent Central (Sarah Teather) and for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), I was on an Interpal delegation to Gaza last week. I would be grateful if the Minister could tell us what is being done to lift the blockade on Gaza so that the terrible water situation can be addressed. Sewage cannot be processed, fresh water is unobtainable because of the pollution of the aquifer, and the material to set up a desalination plant or something like it cannot be brought in to provide a decent standard of living for the people of Gaza.