Bir Hadaj

Israel’s High Court of Justice denies appeal of landowners whose property has been overtaken by thousands of Bedouin squatters: “This case does not justify judicial interference.”

After a decade of legal proceedings, yesterday (Monday) Israel’s High Court of Justice denied an appeal by owners of private property who sought a court-mandated deadline for the removal of squatters from their land – land located on the outskirts of Bir Hadaj, the crime capital of the Negev. “An outrageous miscarriage of justice.”

Yestrday (Monday), Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition filed by individual land owners whose property has been overrun by Bedouin squatters. Over the past number of years, more than 1,000 Bedouin families invaded state land and private properties on the outskirts of Kibbutz Revivim, while rejecting a series of increasingly generous relocation-compensation packages offered by the Israeli government. The owners of the property took their case to court ten years ago, and in their most recent appeal, they sought a court-mandated timetable for the restoration of their property.

In stark contrast to a well-established record of High Court judgements that required the state to remove Jewish homes built on privately-owned Arab property according to non-negotiable deadlines, in the case of the Jewish landowners of Bir Hadaj, Justices Groskopf, Mazuz and Wilner decided that “the rights of ownership of the appellants regarding their private property are not absolute, and do not exist in a vacuum,” and that this “is not among those exceptional and extreme cases that justify judicial intervention in the policy of the authorities responsible for enforcing planning and construction laws.”

The squatters’ camps near Bir Hadaj began to take shape in the early 2000s, after the Israeli government temporarily relocated 15 families from the Ramat Beka area to state land near Kibbutz Revivim. This set off a massive movement of families from the Al Azazmeh tribe, who quickly covered thousands of dunams of state land in the vicinity, as well as some 2000 dunams of land owned privately by Jews, with hundreds of illegal structures.

This sprawling squatters’ camp has grown into the crime capital of southern Israel, an exterritorial no man’s land where Israeli law enforcement is virtually nonexistent. Residents of the squatters’ camp have been in the news recently: The suspects in the rape of a 10-year old girl in the course of a home invasion, the massive drug production plantations on the nearby Tzeelim firing zone, large-scale plunder of IDF ammunition and harassment of IDF trainees and reservists are all “credited” to residents of the Bir Hadaj hinterland.

In 2003, the Israeli government decided to create a new, legal alternative for the squatters: an all-Bedouin town, built on state land. Each of the squatter families was offered a “compensation” package of hundreds of thousands of shekels as well as a 5 dunam plot of land (!) – but this wasn’t enough to convince the squatters to relocate.

The owners of the stolen land, together with the Regavim Movement, petitioned the Beer Sheva District Court, asking that the state be required to provide a timetable for the evacuation of the squatters, but the government responded that it was carrying out negotiations with the squatters with the aim of achieving a mutually-acceptable evacuation – and the petition was dismissed. When the much-awaited agreement didn’t materialize, a second petition was filed in 2015 – which the court denied without explanation.

A third petition was filed after the Director of the Bedouin Authority, Yair Maayan, released an official announcement that all attempts to achieve a mutually-accepted evacuation agreement had failed.

The owners of the purloined property returned to court, proving that from the time they had first petitioned, the squatters had built hundreds of additional illegal structures on their property. To make matters worse, what meager law enforcement activity had taken place in the interim (6 relocation agreements were signed with squatters, out of over 1000) had focused on clearing state-owned land, and the private owners were left ‘high and dry.’

This third petition was also denied, despite the government’s response to the court that it could not predict when enforcement activity would be completed in the squatters camp as a whole, and in the privately-owned sections in particular. The property owners turned to the High Court of Justice to appeal the District Court decision.

Yesterday (Monday), the High Court of Justice denied their appeal. “The situation in Bir Hadaj as a whole, and in the privately-owned section in particular, is unacceptable,” wrote Justice Groskopf in the opening words of the judgement. “The state must not accept a situation in which there are areas under its jurisdiction that are beyond the law,” and even after a decade has passed, “it is unclear when the owners of the property will be able to exercise their rights to it.”

Nonetheless, the judges refused to require the state to adhere to a deadline for evacuation of the property. “The appellants’ ownership rights to the privately-owned land, which undoubtedly and undeniably been harmed, are not absolute and do not exist in a vacuum. They are to be weighed against the state’s policy of creating appropriate regulation solutions for the illegal compound at Bir Hadaj, in the larger context of efforts to regulate Bedouin settlement in the Negev.”

Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, reacted to the judgement: “This is a miscarriage of justice that cries out to the very heavens. In inverse cases, the High Court ordered the wholesale evacuation of Jewish communities and the destruction of Jewish homes according to draconian, non-negotiable timetables. In this case, it has become clear that the government itself is creating the cesspool of lawlessness that is exploding on us all. The squatters’ camps have become an exterritorial incubator for the horrors that continue to befall Israeli citizens of the Negev and beyond. The unthinkable has become the norm; the rape of a child in her own home, the invasion and looting of IDF bases, and the terrorizing of law abiding Israelis speak for themselves.”

Chaim Goloventsis, one of the owners of the land, added: “We must not accept a reality in which the High Court of Justice once again denies us the right to our property. I am convinced that if our land had been located in the 03 area code (i.e., greater Tel Aviv), the judgement would have been totally different. This is just one more pathetic, embarrassing instance of the breakdown of the state’s institutions in southern Israel.”

Turn the volume up and subtitles on (English)

As a result of our petition, a massive junkyard that was blighting the countryside and polluting the groundwater in the Binyamin region was cleared. Countless wrecks had been piling up for years at an illegal automotive scrapyard near Bir Zeit, polluting topsoil and groundwater with untreated effluents and automotive waste.

About eight months ago, we turned to the Civil Administration to demand the clearance of the illegal junkyard. But the Civil Administration tried to shirk their responsibilities, claiming that enforcement can’t be carried out at “junkyards on private lands”. This was a ridiculous claim and defies the law that explicitly gives the Civil Administration the authority to remove vehicle wrecks from “the public or private domain”. So we had to submit a petition to the Jerusalem District Court to give them a nudge.

And indeed, recently, the Civil Administration issued orders for the owner to clear all the vehicles and to restore the area within 30 days. In recent weeks, the owner removed hundreds, if not thousands, of the old cars and dismantled the illegal garage. We are hopeful that in the coming days and weeks the rest of the area will be cleared, and this environmental hazard will be lifted.

Automotive waste and untreated effluents that pollute the groundwater don’t distinguish between Jewish and Arab lands. Environmental abuse is not a right- or left-wing issue, and doesn’t stop at the Green Line. We shall continue to push for equal law enforcement throughout the Land of Israel, the protection of Israel’s land resources and the environment.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty

This first appeared on our Facebook page

Before
After

Ignoring a small problem allows it to turn into a big problem.

Last night’s case in point:
Bedouin bandits infiltrated the Israel Air Force base at Nevatim; IAF helicopters engaged in an hours-long chase.

The State of Israel has been ignoring the cracks in law and order in the Negev for so long, they’ve become a “grand canyon” – and tonight’s events in the Negev prove the point.

In the last two weeks alone the Negev has seen horrific and varied forms of criminal behavior: The shocking sexual assault of a little girl in her home, the break-in at the Israel Air Force base at Sde Teiman that included a stun grenade attack on our soldiers, a string of robberies in Be’er Sheva that were caught on film and uploaded to social media, the desecration of a Jewish cemetery, a massive ammunition heist, and now, a break-in at the Nevatim base, where Israel’s top-secret aeronautical technology is housed.

It’s time for the State of Israel to draw a line in the sand. For the sake of each and every citizen of Israel, we demand that the government formulate a comprehensive, non-negotiable solution to the problem of Bedouin crime in the Negev.

Let the numbers do the talking. Here’s what we accomplished in the last year:

205 Field tour days

51 New case files

18 Lectures and webinars

20 Knesset hearings

9 New legal petitions

31 Tours for Members of Knesset and Ministers

32 Tours for journalists

And one homeland which we will continue to protect – with God’s help and yours.

Join our efforts to protect the Land of Israel, its resources, and the rule of law >> https://regavim.org/support-us/

For a more in-depth look at what we achieved during 2020, have a look at our Annual Report

There’s been a tremendous amount of “chatter” recently – including governments condemning Israel and members of the US Congress referring to “ethnic cleansing” and serious crimes” committed by Israel in the case of Khurbet Humsa.

Although Regavim was not involved in this case, here are some facts to give you a more accurate picture of the story, which the European Union has failed do to.

First, the High Court of Justice decision, which refers to three earlier appeals on the same matter, in 4/2011, 7/2011 and 11/2014.

In each case the appellants tried a new excuse – Ramadan, the weather, who knows what – to prevent their removal from the site; in each case the court rejected the appeal out of hand. The area has been an active IDF training ground since 1972 (Firing Grounds 903), and the Bedouin didn’t set up camp there until 2010.

The satellite images we obtained are of the training grounds in 2008, focusing on the spot that was recently evacuated, followed by an image of the same point in 2013 (where only one structure is visible), and another in 2019 (where the recently-demolished structures, complete with European donors’ symbols, stand).

We haven’t done in-depth research on this illegal outpost, and weren’t involved in the legal process that resulted in last week’s demolitions, but this phenomenon is repeated over and over in IDF training grounds. In the case of the southern Hebron Hills area, a city has sprung up on what was IDF Firing Zones 917 and 918. As the Palestinian Authority and the European benefactors flooded the training grounds with more and more structures (not tents or shacks but massive, even palatial homes), the IDF gradually withdrew in order to avoid injuring the squatters, eventually abandoning the training grounds altogether. It’s no coincidence that this area was targeted for aggressive take-over: It forms a land bridge between Area A to the Negev and beyond, and is an active smuggling route.

This week, the IDF held a military exercise that began in the Negev in Biq’at Arad and ended in Training Ground 918 in the South Hebron Hills.

Shouldn’t be much of a big deal, right?

Well, far-left organizations such as B’Tselem pounced on this opportunity to attack the IDF, claiming that the drills were held “in Palestinian villages” and forced “local residents out of their homes”. This left-wing propaganda was publicized in the international media, too. It’s important for us at Regavim to present the facts so that fair-minded people aren’t brainwashed by these lies.

1. Training Ground 918 was declared a firing zone by the IDF in the early 1980s.

2. It’s a desert area, and like all other training grounds, was empty – besides sometimes functioning as a grazing area.

3. Training Ground 918 has served various IDF units over the years – including infantry, artillery, and the Air Force.

4. In 2000, local Arabs began to take over the area through mass illegal construction.

5. Due to the construction, the IDF was forced to reduce its activities in the Training Ground and made changes to training schedules.

6. Radical left-wing organizations filed a petition to the High Court of Justice, claiming that hundreds of Arab families had lived in the Training Ground for many years.

7. The IDF checked and found that only a handful of families lived in the area in 2000 – and they were all there on a seasonal basis. It wasn’t their permanent residence!

8. Out of 49 families mentioned in the petition, at least 38 were identified as permanent residents of the nearby village of Yatta or other villages.

9. Despite the State’s position, which viewed the land as rightfully belonging to the State, the High Court offered a compromise: the illegal structures on the periphery of the Training Ground would remain, and the rest of the land would be permitted for grazing and other agricultural purposes when the IDF isn’t using the grounds.

10. Although the Palestinian Authority was involved from the starting point, from 2009 onwards, together with international organizations, it started actively funding the illegal construction as part of their efforts to take over Area C. (For more on the #BattleforAreaC – see here)

11. In the meantime, the State of Israel didn’t do much; local Arabs continued their encroachment and even paved an illegal smuggling route.

12. The PA ignored the High Court’s suggestion for compromise. And as the PA-led encroachment increased, the number of IDF drills decreased drastically.

**

Ok, so to sum up, what happened this week? Exactly what happened a year ago, and the year before that. IDF troops came to train in an #DF training zone.

Unlike the left-wing radicals, we like to talk #facts rather than fake news and hateful, fabricated, anti-Israel narratives.

The Arab village was established in the middle of the IDF Training Ground, and not vice-versa. That must be the starting point of any discussion.

Please share this post to help us get the truth out.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty

At the largest illegal dump in Judea and Samaria, untreated waste continues to pollute the entire ecosystem – and no indictments are in sight.
Under cover of the first corona shutdown, the Ramallah Municipality dumped thousands of truckloads of untreated refuse into an abandoned quarry at the headwaters of Nahal Makoch. The Civil Administration admits: Only three trucks were impounded, and no indictments were filed against the criminals. Regavim: “The mountain of waste remains, despite the Civil Administration’s claims to the contrary.”

The mountain of waste dumped during the first corona lockdown by the Ramallah Municipality at the Nahal Makoch water basin is made up of more than 10,000 cubic meters of household and industrial waste. More than six months after the Regavim Movement filed an official complaint, “Mount Trashmore” remains precisely as it was, and in an official response to Regavim’s recent query, the Civil Administration admited that no indictments have been filed against those responsible for this environmental disaster.

Last year, during the first closure imposed to combat the spread of the corona virus, the Ramallah Municipality took advantage of the furlough of enforcement inspectors, and over the course of just a few weeks, thousands of garbage trucks dumped their contents into an abandoned quarry located only hundreds of meters from Binyamin Region Police Headquarters.

Last summer, after Regavim sent an urgent alert to the Civil Administration (CA), which is responsible for law enforcement in the area, the CA replied that they had halted all further dumping at the site and had carried out a number of enforcement actions. Regavim submitted a freedom of information request, to obtain details of the enforcement activity. From the CA’s reply, received earlier this week, we learned that in fact only two garbage trucks and an excavator were impounded, and the vehicles’ owners were charged only for the impound expenses.

The Civil Administration admitted that although the perpetrators were caught in the act, no indictments have been filed against them. In addition, the huge mountains of trash have not yet been removed from the area, contrary to the Civil Administration’s statement that “the owner of the machinery is required to remove the waste and level the area,” and that “these steps were completed out some time ago.”

“Almost a year has passed, and not one of the authorities responsible for dealing with hazards of this nature has taken responsibility,” explains Eitan Melet, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria. “The criminals got off virtually scot-free, with no criminal indictments, no clean-up costs, no punitive fines – but the entire ecosystem is paying a heavy price. The heaps of untreated garbage contaminate the topsoil, and runoff flows into the nearby creek channel, seeping into the groundwater, polluting the Makoch Valley and Wadi Qelt. This is eco-terrorism, and the official bodies that should be responding to it with swift, decisive action to repair the environmental damage and create a deterrent for other eco-criminals – the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Civil Administration – are allowing this monumental failure to persist.”

Following last night’s events in Tamra, an Arab town in northern Israel, the Regavim Movement applauds the decisive law enforcement activity by the Israel Police and calls on the leaders of the Israeli-Arab sector to support Israel Police efforts to eradicate organized crime.

In recent weeks, the Israel Police have carried out extensive – and long overdue – enforcement activity against organized crime operations and operatives, focusing on the scourge of illegal weapons in the Arab sector. After years of inaction that took a heavy toll on Arab society and both symbolized and contributed to the erosion of governance and Israeli sovereignty, these enforcement sweeps mark a change of course.

“The circumstances of the death of Ahmad Hijazi, who was killed last night during the exchange of fire between the police and criminal organizations, must be thoroughly investigated. That said, the complexity and difficulty of restoring law and order to Israeli Arab towns and villages should not be underestimated,” said Yakhin Zik, Director of Operations at Regavim. “The citizens of Israel who live in these communities continue to pay a high price for the years of inaction, and rooting out the criminal elements will be a long and challenging process.”

“The Regavim Movement has been monitoring and documenting the deterioration of the rule of law for years – and have often been harshly criticized for doing so. We are gratified that the Israeli government has begun to address the harsh reality that we have described for far too long.”

“Regavim applauds Minister of Internal Security Amir Ohana, and the Israel Police for their determined efforts in this Sisyphean task,” added Zik. “We hope that the important steps that have been taken thus far to restore governance and security will continue, and we call upon the leaders of Israel’s Arab sector and members of the Knesset to give their full support to the Israel Police efforts to battle organized crime in their community.”

Mazal tov to Regavim! We’re celebrating 15 years of Zionist activism.

This evening, we begin the festival of Tu B’Shvat, which coincides with the 15th anniversary of Regavim. Tu B’Shvat is the day on which the People of Israel celebrate the Land of Israel and the rebirth of its natural beauty.

Over the last 15 years, we’ve had the honor of working to promote Zionist land policy throughout the Land of Israel, the ancestral homeland of the Jewish nation. Our daily work – in the field, in the Knesset, in the courts, in the media and on social networks – all serves one goal: protecting Israel’s most valuable resource – the land itself.

On a daily basis, we share with you the big and small stories that slowly lead to change on the ground. As we mark Regavim’s ‘New Year’, we’ve prepared a comprehensive Annual Report so you can get a better picture of what we’ve done over the last 12 months >> click here

And of course, our battle for our beloved homeland and its resources, and for the rule of law that must protect them, could not happen without you, our friends, supporters, and donors worldwide. Please continue to take an active part in our efforts, for the sake of our shared birthright and for the generations to come. To donate click here.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty

PA ‘celebrates’ Tu b’Shvat near Rosh HaAyin

Yesterday (Sunday 24 January), the Palestinian Authority planted thousands of trees on Israeli state land, in an IDF firing zone. Participating in the event were armed Palestinian Police. Regavim: “While they’re establishing facts on the ground, the Israeli authorities are in winter hibernation.”

The Palestinian Authority held a ceremony yesterday (Sunday), planting some 2000 olive trees on Israeli state land, in IDF Training Ground 203 – adjacent to Rosh HaAyin to the east and Dir Balut in the west, in close proximity to the security barrier.

The event was filmed, photographed and publicized by Fatah– affiliated Radio Zeituna and on social media. Armed Palestinian Police officers were among those in attendance, and were filmed as they entered the IDF firing zone – despite the fact that are prohibited from entering Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria under Israeli jurisdiction.

This event is one element of a large-scale project that has taken shape over the past several years, in which the Palestinian Authority has planted millions of trees as a means of illegally seizing control of thousands of dunams in Area C.

The Palestinian Authority’s “agricultural annexation” focuses on land adjacent to roadways, surrounding Jewish communities, as well as state land – particularly in locations that are of high strategic and political importance.

“The Palestinian Authority has joined the Tu B’Shvat celebrations with well-planned ‘agricultural conquest’ projects – and thus far, the State of Israel is fast asleep,” said a spokesperson for Regavim. “These projects are supported by massive European funding, and the targeted locations are chosen with care to serve a clear and publicly-declared purpose: changing the map, by creating facts on the ground – and all within spitting distance of Rosh HaAyin and Gush Dan.”