Amos Gvirtz came to Toronto on April 7 to speak on behalf of the rights of the indigenous Bedouin Israelis in the Negev. “Being Bedouin in a Jewish state: dispossessing Palestinian- Israeli citizens inside Israel”
Growing up on a kibbutz north of Tel Aviv Gvirtz always heard the lame excuse of many Germans that they did not know what was transpiring in Nazi Germany. He has made it his mission to tell his fellow Israelis and indeed the world, what is happening to the most vulnerable citizens of Israel, the Bedouin, a people who are seeing their land stolen from under them.
These citizens have been in the Negev since Abraham was a baby (about 4,000 years) and they are now called “trespassers on State land” .Their travail is hidden from North Americans who are knee jerk supporters of Israel come what may but their treatment reflects just how low Zionism has sunk and why many North American Jews are getting off this failed movement whose policy is well expressed by historian Ilan Pappé as “incremental genocide.”
Amos is one of those great israeli Jews of Conscience who simply can not live with the largely hidden war on the real indigenous people of Palestine, the Bedouins.He has become one of their ardent defenders.
IDF destroying Al Araqib
We met him in Al Araqib in November, a Bedouin village which had been destroyed 77 times in four years. Amos became our translator for his good friend Sheikh Sayah Al-Turi. before the sheikh addressed us as per usual among Palestinians, no matter how poor they are, hospitality comes first. And so it was on this day. The Sheikh barely needed a translator as he laid out the outrageous treatment of these Israeli citizens.
Approximately every two or three weeks, soldiers arrive with bulldozers and raze their living quarters. After each demolition, the families are forced to sleep in cars or on the ground until they can rebuild their makeshift dwellings with tarps. On October 14, 2014, the soldiers took away the women and children, confiscated the cars and arrested the Sheikh. On top of the destruction, the government is demanding 2,000,000 shekels to cover the costs of destruction. Now that’s chutzpah.The Sheikh has a number of highly regarded lawyers working on behalf of the village and has had to sell off all of their animals to raise funds. He said that these demolitions are more dangerous than the occupation because they are destroying their culture and their history.
According to a report published by Dukium, the Negev Coexistence for Civil Equality “it is part of the government’s broader policy designed to compel Bedouin citizens to abdicate ownership over their ancestral lands and move to recently recognized villages or townships. Though over 70,000 people reside in unrecognized villages in Israel, the state denies their existence.” As further explained in the report, the villages are not indicated on governmental maps or road signs, and are deprived of public services – electricity, water, health, education and transportation infrastructure and services. Israel destroys about 1,000 of their homes each year to force them into two towns with the highest rates of unemployment and poverty in Israel.
And get this earlier this month on Wednesday April 8 policemen and Israeli soldiers escorted employees of the Israeli Civil Administration (the governing body of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank) to Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village located a few kilometers from occupied East Jerusalem. There, they dismantled 11 solar panels, most of which had just been donated and installed by the Palestinian NGO Future for Palestine to give this village a few hours of electricity a day.
This staggers the imagination that the powerful state who always does what it wants to the weak and oppressed will go to these lengths to hound a poor community struggling to cope with the loss of grazing land for flocks. This is a shocking denial of the duties of the Occupying Power spelled out primarily in the 1907 Hague Regulations (arts 42-56) and the Fourth Geneva Convention (GC IV, art. 27-34 and 47-78).
A regular power source means they can have a fridge in which to store dairy products that can then be sold at market. Electricity also means they can run a laptop and have access to lawyers.
This is what you are dealing with in “the only democracy in the Middle East!
According to numerous analysts, local NGOs and UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Israel is looking to expel the last Palestinian residents of Khan al-Ahmar in order to connect the Israeli settlement Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem.
Israel destroys about 1,000 of their homes each year to force them into two towns with the highest rates of unemployment and poverty in Israel.
It is these poor communities that Amos Gvirtz defends.
Weekly Amos connects with an international audience with his “Don’t Say We Did Not Know” information about unpublicized events affecting the Palestinian and Bedouin communities. Gvirtz’ new book (only in Hebrew now) of the same title examines the problems resulting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. Below are samples of his regular truth flares.
On Tuesday, February 17, 2015, Israeli army forces entered an area belonging to a Palestinian of the village of Tyassir near Tubas (northern West Bank) and uprooted 9 dunams of olive trees, claiming they had been planted in a nature reserve.
On Thursday, February 19, 2015, government agents escorted by police had a demolition day in Bedouin localities in the Negev. They destroyed a structure in Rahat and proceeded to demolish Al Arakib yet again.
Don’t say we didn’t know #444
On Thursday, 26th February, 2015, residents of the Palestinian village ‘Izbet Tabib (east of Qalqilia) together with some of their Israeli supporters demonstrated near the access road to their village, near Highway No. 55. They did not block the road. Suddenly soldiers arrived and without any warning started shooting tear gas grenades at the demonstrators.
On Sunday, 22nd February, 2015, government representatives escorted by police arrived at the Bedouin village Sa’wa, east of Hura, and demolished four homes.
On Thursday, 26th February, 2015, they arrived in the Bedouin village Tel ’Arad and demolished two structures.
On Wednesday, 18th March, 2015, representatives of the Civil Administration, with a military escort, came to lands belonging to Palestinians from Dahariyya, west of Yatta, and cut down five year old, or older, olive trees, claiming that it was state-owned land. The Palestinians claim ownership.
On Sunday, 15th March, 2015, Government representatives accompanied by the police went to the Bedouin village Sawawin, near Segev Shalom, to demolish a sheepfold. On Thursday, 19th March, 2015, Government representatives demolished a home in Bir Hadaj, near Kibbutz Revivim. That same day, the Israeli government demolished a home between Bir El-Hammam and Khirbet El-Wattan, near Nevatim. They also demolished a structure in Rahat.