UNRWA today urged the donor community to step up its opposition to the planned transfer of thousands of Bedouins from the central areas of the West Bank to the newly created town of Nweima near Jericho.
“If such a plan were implemented this would not only give rise to concerns that it amounts to a ’forcible transfer‘ in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” said UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl, “it might also make way for further Israeli illegal settlement expansion, further compromising the viability of a two state solution. I urge the Israeli authorities not to proceed with the transfer of these communities and I also urge the donor and state community to take a firm stand against it.”
In April 2014, the Israeli authorities made public a plan to relocate rural Bedouin communities living throughout the West Bank to three areas, Nweima, al Jabal and Fasayil. The large majority of the communities targeted for transfer are Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA. The communities also include those residing in the E1 and Ma’ale Adumim areas near Jerusalem, which have been slated for new Israeli settlement development and possible expansion.
“The humanitarian impact of the planned transfer could be immense,” said Krähenbühl. “The Nweima plans, published on 25 August and 9 September, indicate that the proposed move could lead to the transfer of as many as 12,000 individuals.” There are concerns that the planned population transfers will be implemented shortly after Israel’s final approval of the Nweima plans, and that pending demolition orders will be executed, destroying the homes and livelihoods of these communities.”
The Bedouin community has continually and expressly opposed its relocation. As Palestine refugees, the Bedouin wish to be allowed back to their traditional lands in the Negev. Pending this, they wish to remain in and be part of temporary plans at the locations where they currently reside.
Many Bedouins live under the daily threat of displacement owing to countless property demolitions, seizure orders, evictions and confiscations that have arisen because they do not have access to a fair, non-discriminatory zoning and planning system, which Israel as the Occupying Power controls in Area C. Now, in the aftermath of the publication of the Nweima plans, the threat of losing their homes looms larger than ever.
In 1997, several Bedouin communities were transferred to an area around the largest landfill in the West Bank, at al Jabal, resulting in the collapse of their pastoralist economies and irreversible damage to their social fabric and rural way of life.
Many of the Bedouin targeted for transfer have resided in their current locations for decades, having fled to the area from their traditional ancestral lands as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict and are unable to go back. Following the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, these communities have witnessed the growth of Israeli settlements around them.
The international community, including the Security Council and the International Court of Justice, has condemned the establishment of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory as a violation of international law.