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The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
Through discriminatory laws, practices, and policies, Israel systematically violates the land, planning and housing rights of its Palestinian Arab citizens, a national minority comprising approximately 20% of the population. These policies, which include home demolitions, land dispossession and forced displacement, are particularly prevalent in the Naqab (Negev) in the south of Israel, affecting thousands of indigenous Arab Bedouin citizens. Since September 2011, the Israeli government has sought to legalize its displacement policy through the “Prawer Plan” and its draft implementing legislation, which has received strong criticism from the international community2 including the UN Special Rapporteur (SR) on Adequate Housing.3 This written submission provides an overview of displacement in the Naqab and updates on the Prawer Plan; additionally, it addresses Israel’s discriminatory land and planning regime inside Israel, a development model of systematic exclusion that is replicated in the OPT.
Indigenous Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel: Ongoing displacement in the Naqab4
For over 60 years, Israel has pursued policies of displacement and dispossession of Arab Bedouin from their ancestral land. The indigenous Arab Bedouin community, which today numbers 200,000 people (over 30% of the population of the Naqab), has inhabited the Naqab since the 7th century.5 Some 70,000 Arab Bedouin currently live in 35 “unrecognized” villages that either predate the establishment of Israel in 1948, or were created by Israeli military order in the 1950s. Nonetheless, Israel refuses to recognize these villages and considers their inhabitants “trespassers on State land”. Israel denies these citizens access to water, electricity, sewage, education, health care and roads so as to pressure them to abandon their ancestral land for over-crowded and impoverished state-planned townships, or “recently-recognized” villages that similarly lack all basic services.
Examples of home demolitions in the unrecognized villages:
In September 2011, the government approved the Plan for the Regulation of the Settlement of the Bedouin in the Negev (“Prawer Plan”), which was drafted without any participation of the Arab Bedouin community.12 Following the plan’s approval and in response to local and international criticism, Minister Benny Begin was appointed to carry out a three-month public consultation with the community and representatives.13 On 27 January 2013, Begin’s recommendations to the Prawer Plan were approved by the government and will be incorporated into the Prawer Plan and draft law to be submitted soon to the 19th Knesset.14 Begin’s recommendations, while using more conciliatory tone and language, fail to remedy the unjust and unrealistic plan for the Arab Bedouin community.
Specifically, the Prawer Plan, including Begin’s recommendations:
1. Legitimize the displacement, dispossession and eviction of tens of thousands of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel;
2. Fail to recognize ownership rights of the Arab Bedouin to their ancestral land or specify the recognition of any villages;
3. Strip the court of its judicial review powers to intervene against unfair state land and planning measures, thereby suspending the rule of law, due process, and the constitutional rights of Arab Bedouin citizens;
4. Were not based on meaningful consultations with the Arab Bedouin community, since Begin’s post-facto consultations cannot be considered a substitute for participatory planning processes and genuine community involvement;
5. Have been rejected by the Arab Bedouin community.
Discrimination in access to housing for Palestinian Citizens of Israel
Throughout the country, discriminatory laws, practices and policies advance the land, housing and planning rights of Jewish citizens of Israel above or at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian Arab citizens. These laws directly and indirectly affect the ability of Palestinian citizens of Israel to achieve their full rights to adequate housing and equal access to land, including through the following:
In March 2011, Israel passed the Admissions Committee Law, which allows committees in small community towns to reject applicants on the grounds that they are “socially unsuitable.” The law applies to around 475 small towns located on public land in the Galilee and the Naqab, which compose 46% of all communities in Israel and 65% of all rural communities. Admissions committees can de facto discriminate on the basis of race and national belonging to prevent Arab citizens from living in the communities. Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel have filed petitions to the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of this law.15
Land administered by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and Israel Lands Authority (ILA)
The JNF owns approximately 13% of the land in Israel, administered by the ILA, a public institution. The JNF has publicly declared that these resources are to be distributed only to Jewish citizens, and that “the JNF does not have to act with equality towards all citizens of the state.”16
Conditioning housing benefits on national or military service
The majority of Palestinian citizens of Israel are exempted by the state from performing military service for historical and political reasons. However, generous benefits, including in housing, are extended to former soldiers, resulting in de facto discrimination. Recently, the Nazareth District Court refused to cancel a bidding process for building rights on public land in Nazareth that conditioned eligibility to bid on the individual having completed service in the “security forces.”17 Nazareth is an Arab town of 80,000 people, the overwhelming majority of whom do not serve in the military.
The recognition of ‘individual settlements’ in the Naqab
Amendment (2010) to the Negev Development Authority Law (1991) allows for the retroactive legalization of existing “individual settlements” and for the allocation of land for new individual settlements in the Naqab. Individual settlements, the majority of which were built without permits and contrary to planning laws, are a state tool to provide individual Israeli Jewish families with hundreds and sometimes thousands of dunams of land for their exclusive use. Many individual settlements are located near Arab Bedouin villages, which remain “unrecognized.”18
Denying the land planning rights of Arab citizens of Israel
Israel has refused to allow Arab towns to expand their jurisdiction or to access lands necessary for their development, often reserving land instead for Jewish settlement or national parks and forestry projects. Examples include the confiscation of land from the Arab town of Daliyat al-Carmel for a national forest.19
In 2009, Israel passed a law implementing a new „National Priority Areas’ system to provide additional budget allocation to designated areas (including illegal settlements in the OPT). The new system, however, leaves considerable discretion to individual ministers to decide which areas qualify for additional budget, and how to distribute benefits, posing substantial threat for discrimination against Arab towns in Israel. The Ministry of Housing published its new list of areas in January 2012; Adalah is closely monitoring the issue.20
Adalah calls upon the Human Rights Council to: