Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: June 21, 2022
UN experts expressed their deep concern about the information they received regarding the recent confrontations between members of the Bedouin minority from the Negev and the Israeli police, in the surroundings of the unrecognized village of Khirbit al-Watan, located south of the recognized Bedouin village of Saʿwah.
The experts explained in a memorandum sent to the Israeli authorities on April 22, 2022, which has not been responded to yet, that those confrontations erupted due to the afforestation work carried out by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in the surroundings of the village.
Violent suppression of protests and arrests of minors:
The experts added that on January 10, 2022, the Israeli police set up checkpoints near the Bedouin village of Saʿwah as part of a police operation that included hundreds of police officers who were preparing for the JNF’s afforestation activities on behalf of the Israel Land Authority (ILA).
Experts pointed out that the Jewish National Fund destroyed crops and trees that belong to members of the Bedouin minority in order to plant trees with the objective to “preserve the land”. Therefore, the Bedouins started gathering to protest the uprooting of their lands which had resulted in the destruction of olive and fig trees and crops. Bedouin residents were throwing stones at police officers which resulted in several officers being injured. The police forces repressed the protests, and 40 Bedouin adults and 9 Bedouin minors were violently arrested by police officers.
Then, on January 13, members of the Bedouin minority organized a demonstration against land uprooting and dispossession, demanding the government to halt the JNF’s harmful actions and recognize the Bedouin villages. The police violently dispersed the protest, using tear gas drones, shock grenades and rubber bullets against the protesters. Approximately 150 persons were arrested, including 60 minors.
Experts expressed concerns about the State’s treatment of members of the Bedouin minority which is affecting their traditional way of life, their lands, livelihoods and cultural practices, as well as the violent repression of the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
UN demands from the Israeli authorities:
The experts called on the Israeli authorities to provide information concerning the number of persons still detained in connection with the above events, any charges against them, as well as detailed information on the factual and legal grounds of their arrest and detention.
They also asked Israel to describe measures taken to investigate and prosecute any police violence against Bedouins, and to provide details of any consultations with members of the affected Bedouin minority prior to afforestation activities.
The experts also asked the Israeli authorities to clarify the steps being taken to guarantee the rights of the Bedouin minority, including the right to adequate housing, freedom of peaceful assembly and the enjoyment of their culture, traditions and customs.