You are on page 1of 3

Palestinian Bedouin communities at risk of forcible transfer in Area C

The risk of forcible transfer affects thousands of Palestinians living in Area C, including In
the central West Bank, around 7,000 Palestinian Bedouins and herders, of whom 60% are
children and 70% refugees; 46 residential areas are at acute risk of forcible transfer. 1 The
Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) is advancing a plan to relocate these communities to
three sites adjacent to Areas A and B that have been allocated for this purpose in Area C,
the largest of which is Nuweimeh, in the Jordan Valley.

The Israeli Civil Administrations (ICAs) planned relocation of Palestinian Bedouin /


herding communities in Area C raises serious concerns under international law and must
not take place. With reference to these ICA proposed relocations in the central West
Bank, the UN Secretary-General has stated that implementation may amount to individual and mass
forcible transfers, prohibited and classified as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions under
international humanitarian law, and also may be in violation of international human rights law. Forcible
transfers may potentially incur the individual criminal responsibility of officials engaged in their
implementation.2

The risk of forcible transfer occurs against the backdrop of a restrictive and discriminatory
zoning and planning system applied by the Israeli authorities in Area C, which excludes
Palestinians from the planning process and makes it almost impossible for them to obtain
building permits.3 As a result, these Palestinians are left without option other than to build without a
permit to meet their most basic housing needs. In addition, many communities lack access to modern
electricity and water infrastructure, while the building and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in
the West Bank has been facilitated by the Israeli authorities. These policies and measures exact a

1 Estimate of 7,000 based on information about targeted communities included in a briefing


by the Head of COGAT to a Knesset Sub-Committee in April 2014.
2 See, for example, Report of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights Situation in the occupied Palestine Territories,
including East Jerusalem (A/HRC/24/30), paragraph 29.

3 See Report of the Secretary General on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian
Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/25/38),
February 2014, Paragraph 53: It is incumbent on Israel to cease the violations of
Palestinians human rights resulting from discriminatory and unlawful planning policies, laws
and practices. Israel has to, in compliance with international law, amend the planning
legislation and processes in order, in particular, to ensure the security of tenure and the full
participation of Palestinians. Israel must also refrain from implementing evictions and
demolition orders based on discriminatory and illegal planning policies, laws and practices.
1

serious and ongoing impact on the Palestinian populations ability to access and develop its own
natural resources and to realize rights to water, adequate housing, education, health services, and to
secure livelihoods, thereby rendering this population especially vulnerable.

Transfer plans in the central West Bank clearly relate to Israeli policies that facilitate
illegal settlement expansion and construction, including the E1 settlement plan in eastern
Jerusalem governorate. In the late 1990s, Bedouin families were relocated from the same area,
after which Israeli settlers moved onto the same land. The latest chapter of the ICAs relocation plan
in this area will disrupt the territorial contiguity of the West Bank and further isolate Jerusalem, with
grave implications for the realization of a two-state solution and the right of the Palestinian people to
exercise their self-determination.

The risk of forcible transfer to Palestinian Bedouin and herding communities comes in the
context of Israels prolonged occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and a
general lack of respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights
obligations. The Palestinian people have suffered from decades of dispossession, forced exile and
conflict. They continue to be denied their most fundamental rights and remain unable to live in safety
and dignity, facing ongoing pressures that fundamentally undermine their physical presence in
substantial parts of the West Bank and that may themselves constitute forcible displacement triggers.

Under international humanitarian law, a transfer is forcible, and thus unlawful, unless the affected
persons choose to move voluntarily, without the threat of force or coercion. 4 Various Israeli
practices have created a coercive environment, which creates pressure on many residents
to leave their communities. These practices include the restriction of access to natural resources
(land and water) and markets; the denial of access to basic infrastructure and services; the rejection of
applications for building permits; and the demolition and threat of demolition of homes, schools and
livelihood shelters. The authorities also largely have failed to protect communities from intimidation
and attacks by Israeli settlers. In such a coercive context, there can be no genuine consent.
While some mediation efforts have been attempted, this broader coercive environment significantly
limits, and may render impossible, any genuine decision and the possibility of any positive outcome
that would be in line with Palestinian residents rights and international law.

A forced relocation of Bedouin communities from the central West Bank to urbanized
townships would threaten their culture and livelihoods. Bedouin families that were relocated
in the late 1990s lost their income sources while their communities social fabric was severely
damaged.5 The refugees among the Palestinian population at-risk of transfer insist on their
right to return to their original homes and lands in southern Israel. In the meantime, the atrisk communities have requested protection and assistance in their current locations, including
adequate planning and permits for their homes and livelihoods.

Women and girls are expected to be disproportionately affected by the transfer plans. With
displacement, women herders, particularly women heads of households, will most likely lose their
productive assets and source of income and thus encounter extreme difficulties in supporting the
livelihood of their families. Women and girls can be easily exposed to psychosocial pressure because of
their close ties to the home and their role as caregivers. The lack of shelter and privacy can lead to
increased exposure to sexual and gender-based violence. Due to prevailing gender and cultural norms
in Bedouin communities, women and girls face several barriers in accessing services and humanitarian
assistance. The relocation may exacerbate the conditions which are discouraging Bedouin girls from
completing their basic education. It will also limit womens access to health services and livelihoods.

The Israeli authorities must rescind all policies and practices that, directly or indirectly,
lead to the forcible transfer of Bedouin families, including those that contribute to the
creation of the coercive environment. Specifically, they must cease the demolition of homes and
private property, enable access to basic services and revoke all plans which aim to forcibly transfer
Palestinian Bedouin and herding communities in Area C.

4 Ibid.
5 See UNRWA Bimkom study, Al Jabal: A study on the transfer of Bedouin Palestine
refugees at:
http://bimkom.org/wp-content/uploads/AL-JABAL-FINAL-2.pdf
2

Destruction, seizure and confiscation of humanitarian assistance and equipment are


impediments to humanitarian access and run counter to international law. The Israeli
authorities should therefore provide reparations, including compensation, for assistance items
including donor-funded prefabricated shelters which they demolish, seize or confiscate in all
communities.

Community-led planning in the current locations should be promoted by all stakeholders.


Israel, as the occupying power, is obligated under international humanitarian and international human
rights law to ensure the welfare and full enjoyment of human rights of the population in the occupied
territory. This includes supporting the communities' including both men and women - access to a
participatory, fair and equitable planning system that meets their shelter, livelihood and development
needs as well as facilitating access to basic services, land and markets. To this end, Area C planning
powers should be handed over to Palestinians and State Land should be used in the interests of the
Palestinian population.

As per its Third State obligation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law, the
international community must act to prevent the forcible transfer of Palestinian Bedouins
and herders and to protect those in utmost need of protection.