MAC: Mines and Communities

The Week's Essays: How Israeli phosphates plan threatens Bedouin community

Published by MAC on 2019-10-21
Source: Adalah, Electronic Intifada, Jerusalem Post

This website has featured occasional indictments in the past of the Israeli governments persecution of Palestinians in pursuit of mining-related endeavours [see, for example: Israel expolits Palestinian resources].

Now, its intention to drive a major phosphates project - and other "developments" -  through Bedouin territory is increasingly being regarded as a massive assault on their indigenous land rights, as well as their health.

We support this gathering storm of protest at what is surely one of the most egregious events now assailing any minority group anywhere; doing so, by gathering together four articles with different perspectives on the same theme.

Israel moves to corral Bedouins in camps

Maureen Clare Murphy

The Electronic Intifada

15 October 2019

Israel is moving to forcibly transfer some 36,000 Bedouins into
displacement camps as part of a plan to develop the southern Naqab desert,
a human rights group warns.

Those facing forced displacement live in villages not recognized by the

Adalah, a group that advocates for the rights of Palestinians in Israel,
is challenging the planned developments.

One of the projects is a testing facility owned by the weapons
manufacturer Elbit Systems that would encompass 27,770 acres, more than
twice the area of Tel Aviv.

The second project, the Sde Barir phosphate mine, is opposed by Israel’s
health ministry as well as the communities it would displace.

In early October, a regional Israeli government planning committee
discussed two plans to house Bedouins from unrecognized villages
temporarily. Displacement camps would be used “in cases where the
population is urgently required to move from their living sites before
permanent buildings are established.”

The language used by the planning authorities suggests that mass
displacement may be imminent.

“The Israeli plans would allow authorities to immediately evict and
transfer Bedouin citizens to the new displacement camps for a period of
three to six years,” according to Adalah.

Displacement after displacement

Bedouins residing in unrecognized villages in the Naqab desert have
endured multiple forced displacements since Israel’s establishment in
1948. Israel prevents these communities from developing and denies them
essential services like water and electricity.

Thousands of Bedouins have had their citizenship revoked by Israel in
recent years.

“It is unreasonable to again coerce displacement to temporary housing tens
of thousands of residents who have been living in their villages for
decades and, indeed, for generations – most of which are actually located
on their traditional tribal lands,” Suhad Bishara, an attorney with
Adalah, stated in a letter to Israel’s southern planning and building

Attiya Al-Issam, chair of the Regional Council for the Unrecognized
Villages in the Negev, stated that the “malicious plan” is seen by
Bedouins as “the embodiment of Israel’s Prawer Plan.”

That plan, discussed by Israel’s parliament in 2013, sought to forcibly
transfer tens of thousands of Bedouins in the Naqab into townships.

It was ostensibly frozen after mass protests by the affected communities.
But Israel continued to promote plans to concentrate as many as 90,000
Bedouins from 36 villages into a segregated area.


The original Prawer Plan faced international as well as domestic protest.

The UN Committee on the Elimination for Racial Discrimination called on
Israel to withdraw the plan, while the European Parliament called on
Israel to fully respect the rights of Bedouin communities in the Naqab.

In September last year, the European Parliament adopted a resolution
calling on Israel to “put an immediate end to its policy of threats of
demolition and actual eviction against the Bedouin communities” living in
the Naqab, as well as in the occupied West Bank.

The resolution was passed months after Israel coerced residents of Umm
al-Hiran, an unrecognized village in the Naqab, into agreeing to be
removed from their homes so that a Jewish-only town could be built in its

The move was “reminiscent of the darkest of regimes such as apartheid-era
South Africa,” Adalah stated at the time.

Another unrecognized Bedouin village in the Naqab, al-Araqib, has been
demolished by Israeli authorities more than 100 times to make way for two
forests planted by the Jewish National Fund.

Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada
and lives in Chicago.

Israel prepares to turn Bedouin citizens into refugees in their own country
in Palestine

by Jonathan Cook

Counter Currents

17 October 2019
Nazareth: The decades-long struggle by tens of thousands of Israelis
against being uprooted from their homes – some for the second or third
time – should be proof enough that Israel is not the western-style liberal
democracy it claims to be.

Last week 36,000 Bedouin – all of them Israeli citizens – discovered that
their state is about to make them refugees in their own country, driving
them into holding camps. These Israelis, it seems, are the wrong kind.
Their treatment has painful echoes of the past. In 1948, 750,000
Palestinians were expelled by the Israeli army outside the borders of the
newly declared Jewish state established on their homeland – what the
Palestinians call their Nakba, or catastrophe.
Israel is regularly criticised for its belligerent occupation, its
relentless expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land and its
repeated and savage military attacks, especially on Gaza.
On rare occasions, analysts also notice Israel’s systematic discrimination
against the 1.8 million Palestinians whose ancestors survived the Nakba
and live inside Israel, ostensibly as citizens.
But each of these abuses is dealt with in isolation, as though unrelated,
rather than as different facets of an overarching project. A pattern is
discernible, one driven by an ideology that dehumanises Palestinians
everywhere Israel encounters them.
That ideology has a name. Zionism provides the thread that connects the
past – the Nakba – with Israel’s current ethnic cleansing of Palestinians
from their homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the
destruction of Gaza, and the state’s concerted efforts to drive
Palestinian citizens of Israel out of what is left of their historic lands
and into ghettoes.
The logic of Zionism, even if its more naive supporters fail to grasp it,
is to replace Palestinians with Jews – what Israel officially terms
The Palestinians’ suffering is not some unfortunate side effect of
conflict. It is the very aim of Zionism: to incentivise Palestinians still
in place to leave “voluntarily”, to escape further suffocation and misery.
The starkest example of this people replacement strategy is Israel’s
long-standing treatment of 250,000 Bedouin who formally have citizenship.
The Bedouin are the poorest group in Israel, living in isolated
communities mainly in the vast, semi-arid area of the Negev, the country’s
south. Largely out of view, Israel has had a relatively free hand in its
efforts to “replace” them.
That was why, for a decade after it had supposedly finished its 1948
ethnic cleansing operations and won recognition in western capitals,
Israel continued secretly expelling thousands of Bedouin outside its
borders, despite their claim on citizenship.
Meanwhile, other Bedouin in Israel were forced off their ancestral lands
to be driven either into confined holding areas or state-planned townships
that became the most deprived communities in Israel.
It is hard to cast the Bedouin, simple farmers and pastoralists, as a
security threat, as was done with the Palestinians under occupation.
But Israel has a much broader definition of security than simple physical
safety. Its security is premised on the maintenance of an absolute
demographic dominance by Jews.
The Bedouin may be peaceable but their numbers pose a major demographic
threat and their pastoral way of life obstructs the fate intended for them
penning them up tightly inside ghettoes.
Most of the Bedouin have title deeds to their lands that long predate
Israel’s creation. But Israel has refused to honour these claims and many
tens of thousands have been criminalised by the state, their villages
denied legal recognition.
For decades they have been forced to live in tin shacks or tents because
the authorities refuse to approve proper homes and they are denied public
services like schools, water and electricity.
The Bedouin have one option if they wish to live within the law: they must
abandon their ancestral lands and their way of life to relocate to one of
the poor townships.
Many of the Bedouin have resisted, clinging on to their historic lands
despite the dire conditions imposed on them.
One such unrecognised village, Al Araqib, has been used to set an example.
Israeli forces have demolished the makeshift homes there more than 160
times in less than a decade. In August, an Israeli court approved the
state billing six of the villagers $370,000 (Dh1.6 million) for the
repeated evictions.
Al Araqib’s 70-year-old leader, Sheikh Sayah Abu Madhim, recently spent
months in jail after his conviction for trespassing, even though his tent
is a stone’s throw from the cemetery where his ancestors are buried.
Now the Israel authorities are losing patience with the Bedouin.
Last January, plans were unveiled for the urgent and forcible eviction of
nearly 40,000 Bedouin from their homes in unrecognised villages under the
disguise of “economic development” projects. It will be the largest expulsion
in decades.
“Development”, like “security”, has a different connotation in Israel. It
really means Jewish development, or Judaisation – not development for
The projects include a new highway, a high-voltage power line, a weapons
testing facility, a military live-fire zone and a phosphate mine.
It was revealed last week that the families would be forced into
displacement centres in the townships, living in temporary accommodation
for years as their ultimate fate is decided. Already these sites are being
compared to the refugee camps established for Palestinians in the wake of
the Nakba.
The barely concealed aim is to impose on the Bedouin such awful conditions
that they will eventually agree to be confined for good in the townships
on Israel’s terms.
Six leading United Nations human rights experts sent a letter to Israel in
the summer protesting the grave violations of the Bedouin families’ rights
in international law and arguing that alternative approaches were
Adalah, a legal group for Palestinians in Israel, notes that Israel has
been forcibly evicting the Bedouin over seven decades, treating them not
as human beings but as pawns in its never-ending battle to replace them
with Jewish settlers.
The Bedouin’s living space has endlessly shrunk and their way of life has
been crushed.
This contrasts starkly with the rapid expansion of Jewish towns and
single-family farming ranches on the land from which the Bedouin are being

It is hard not to conclude that what is taking place is an administrative
version of the ethnic cleansing Israeli officials conduct more flagrantly
in the occupied territories on so-called security grounds.
These interminable expulsions look less like a necessary, considered
policy and more like an ugly, ideological nervous tic.
A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His
books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the
Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine:
Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

Bedouin families, human rights groups to Israeli Supreme Court: Stop construction of dangerous phosphate mine in Naqab desert

Adalah (Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel)

25 February 2019

Bedouin residents of Al-Fura’a village and human rights organizations will head to the Israeli Supreme Court this week for the latest stage in the battle against a planned phosphate mine in the Naqab (Negev) in southern Israel. Construction of the mine will result in the immediate evacuation thousands of Bedouin residents – citizens of Israel – and the exposure of thousands more to serious health hazards.


The Sde Barir phosphate mine plan was approved on the basis of an environmental impact assessment survey that ignored the existence of the area's 15,000 Bedouin residents, including those who live in Al-Fura'a, the Bedouin village most directly affected by the planned mining project.


Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, together with 168 Al-Fura'a residents, the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages of Negev, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), filed a Supreme Court petition on 21 January 2019 against the mine project.


A hearing on the petition, which was filed by Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany against the Israeli government, the National Planning and Building Council, and Rotem-Amfert Negev Ltd., which holds exclusive licenses for phosphate mining in the country, will be held at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Wednesday, 27 February 2019, at 9 A.M.

Israel to force 36,000 Bedouins from homes

The Sde Barir phosphate mine project is just one part of a plan Israel announced on 28 January 2019 to forcibly transfer 36,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel living in unrecognized villages in the country’s southern Naqab (Negev) region in order to expand military training areas and implement what it called “economic development” projects.

The implementation of the plan is slated to commence in the coming year and will be carried out over the course of several years. The plan provides clear confirmation that Israel’s Authority for the Development and Settlement of the Bedouins in the Negev overtly discriminates against the Bedouin population, and considers them an obstacle that must be removed from the landscape in order to clear a path for Jewish settlement and "development". The government plans to move these citizens to poverty-stricken, government-planned townships in other areas of the Naqab.

Mine project to harm homes, health

In March 2018, the Israeli government approved National Master Plan 14B which opens up approximately 6,400 acres (26,000 dunams) of the Barir and Zohar South fields to phosphate mining.

The Israeli Health Ministry and world-renowned health experts strongly oppose the plan because of the expected increase in mortality rates as a result of mining. Bedouin residents living near the mine would be exposed to the inhalation of dangerous particles likely to cause a rise in fatalities due to heart and lung diseases.

The Supreme Court petition stressed that Israeli authorities failed to examine the impact of the mine on Al-Fura'a residents. Partial data collected by the state in its environmental impact assessment survey relates only to the residents of the nearby towns of Arad and Keseife, but ignores the existence of approximately 15,000 Bedouin citizens living in and around the area designated for construction of the mine.

In an expert opinion accompanying the petition, Israeli public health experts Prof. Nadav Davidovitch and Dr. Maya Negev highlighted the flaws in the use of an environmental impact assessment survey to examine human health concerns. Prof. (Note: Davidovitch is also a volunteer with at PHR-I).

Despite the objections of the district Planning and Building Committee due to these health reasons, the plan was nevertheless approved by Israel's National Planning and Building Council and the Israeli government.

Case citation: HCJ 512/19 Younes Dhabsha v. The National Council for Building and Planning

Thousands of Beduins to be forced to move in advance of mining operation

The Jewish state is proposing one of the largest relocations of citizens in the country's recent history, exceeding the Gaza Strip withdrawal in 2005, when 8,000 citizens were forced to move.

By Ben Lynfield

The Jerusalem Post

6 February 2018

More than 10,000 Beduin citizens living on and near land slated to become a phosphate mine in the Negev will be compelled to relocate, with most of them being concentrated in a new town nearby, the senior government policy-maker for Beduin affairs has told The Jerusalem Post.

Yair Maayan, the head of the Authority for Development and Settlement of the Beduin in the Negev, said the relocation plan was not motivated by the mine. But his disclosure of it comes just two weeks after plans including a mine at Sde Barir, near Arad, were approved by the Interministerial Cabinet for Planning, Building, Land and Housing (the housing cabinet). The approval came despite the objections of the Health Ministry, which says mining at Sde Barir would pose a “health danger” to nearby communities.

Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman on Tuesday told the Knesset Economics Committee that mining at Sde Barir “will harm people and kill people. It is my job to sound the alarm and prevent this.”

In the vicinity of al-Poraa, a village that planners thought had been earmarked for recognition a decade ago, some 8,000 Beduin are to be moved into homes that will be constructed on one-tenth of the area they currently inhabit. In addition, according to Maayan, 2,000-3,000 Beduin will be relocated to the nearby town of Kuseifa and elsewhere. He said that these people will have to move from the al-Poraa area to other places where they have land and that housing lots will be developed for them.

If carried out, It will be one of the largest relocations of citizens in the country’s recent history, exceeding the Gaza Strip withdrawal of 2005, when some 8,000 citizens were forced to move. The new town will also be called al-Poraa, Maayan said, adding that the precise location of the town has yet to be decided.

“We intend to concentrate the settlement, to place it into a given area,” Maayan said. The area of the mine and a one-kilometer perimeter around it will be clear of inhabitants; the authority has already met with families to persuade them to move, he said. “I can’t say that they 100% agree, but in general there are agreements.”

Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, the spokesman for the Beduin authority, said that “where they are living now is unrecognized. They will have to move to a place that is legal.”

AL-PORAA, which consists of clusters of drab, gray, one-story concrete homes with corrugated-metal roofs spread out over a large area, will be hardest hit by the massive mine plan. But the nearby unrecognized Beduin communities of al-Zarura, al-Azeh and Katamat also stand to be severely impacted, according to a position paper by the planning-rights group Bimkom and Adalah, a legal advocacy group for the Arab minority.

Most public discussion surrounding the mine has focused on its possible health implications for Arad, three kilometers east of al-Poraa, while less attention thus far has been given to the Beduin who live closest to and on the land slated to become a mine.

The plan calls for the mine and its accompanying area to encompass 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres), said a spokeswoman for the National Council for Planning and Building.

“All the people are afraid, asking what will happen, what will we do?” says al-Zarura resident Mohammed Abu Judeh, age 70.

In al-Poraa, the head of the local residents committee, Yossef Kabouh, said of the government: “They haven’t asked the opinion of the residents. They don’t take us into account. You can’t come and decide there will be a mine without talking to people. They are presenting us with a fait accompli that means the end of al-Poraa.”

While Kabouh and other Beduin residents say their families have been on their land since Turkish rule, Israel does not recognize their ownership. Throughout the Negev, Israeli policy is to use tactics including the threat and practice of home demolitions to move the Beduin from their unrecognized villages into specific towns – with few exceptions. In 2009, the government took what al-Poraa residents and planning groups thought was a step that would make them an exception: it announced that a town to be named al-Poraa would be constituted. A planner subsequently met with residents to discuss details.

But Kabouh said the talks were halted in 2011 with government officials saying they could not set the borders of al-Poraa until they know the borders of the phosphate mine. So no plan was drawn up for the village, making it impossible to build legally, he said. In 2017 alone, dozens of homes were demolished in al-Poraa, Kabouh said.

He and other residents are very worried about health problems and possibly even death resulting from the mine.

A 2014 study by Jonathan Samet – an independent American specialist, and physician and epidemiologist at the University of Southern California who was commissioned by the Health Ministry – found that phosphate mining would increase the level of particulate matter in the surrounding air and could cause higher rates of respiratory and heart diseases.

Rotem Amfert, the subsidiary of Israel Chemicals Ltd. that would carry out the work, disputes that there is a health problem. In response to questions from the Post it said a study was made in the past in which no dangers were found. The mining will “uphold the stringent criteria of the Clean Air Law and take place under the supervision of the relevant authorities,” the company said.

THE PROPOSED MINE for phosphate – used in fertilizers, laundry detergent, pesticides and drugs – is the only “realistic phosphate reserve in the State of Israel,” according to Rotem Amfert. It says that its phosphate mining in the Negev indirectly and directly supports about 6,000 families, making it an “important employment anchor in the eastern Negev.” The viability of operations depends in part on Sde Barir being mined, the company says.

Mor-Yosef says the Beduin will not be moved to a dangerous place. But Kabouh thinks otherwise. “They will say it’s not dangerous and someone will get sick. Who will be responsible then? We don’t want to be guinea pigs. Our lives are at stake.”

Kabouh and other residents interviewed ruled out leaving their land even if it’s just a few kilometers to the new al-Poraa. “We won’t agree to it. This is our land,” said Omar Kashchara, 23, who works as a cement mixer. “My grandfather who is about 90 lived here when he was a child before the State of Israel was established. This is our land, we are tied to it and we won’t leave. Even if they demolish our home, we won’t leave. We’ll build again.”

“People won’t agree. There are other places to mine phosphates. Why do it in the middle of people?” said Burhan Muhammad, 60, who had come to pray in a small mosque located in al-Poraa’s elementary school. He said he is pinning his hopes on the fact that people in Arad also oppose the plan. A joint protest of Beduin and Arad residents is planned for Thursday.

Abu Judeh, the al-Zarura resident, said: “They should leave us in peace on our land so we can live in peace like any other person.” He warned that such a movement of people would cause internecine warfare if the land for the new town was considered already owned by Beduin. “Everyone has to stay on their own property and this is not our property,” he said.

“The Health Ministry checked and found it dangerous but the government doesn’t want to listen to us,” Abu Judeh said.

MK Dov Henin (Joint List) says that the government is acting on behalf of the powerful business interests of Israel Chemicals Ltd. magnate Idan Ofer instead of looking after its citizens.

“What is human life worth when there are profits at stake and money to be made?” he asked sarcastically. “In terms of the plan they approved, they don’t see that there are any villages and citizens. They make out as if it’s an empty area. But it’s not an empty area. Humans and especially Beduin Arab citizens don’t interest the government. Phosphates and the profits of Idan Ofer do.”

Spokespersons for Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment.

The National Council for Planning and Building said in response to questions from the Post that quarries are of “strategic” importance to the economy and added that the progress of the plan depends on the undertaking of a study of mining effects on the surroundings, to be carried out with participation of the Health Ministry. It said, “All the environmental implications would be assessed with adherence to guidelines and the clean air law.”

“In any event, the beginning of mining will not take place before arrangement of the residence of the inhabitants currently in the field by the authority for settlement of the Beduin,” the council said.


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