A Jewish town or an Arab town?

In the continuing series on why terminology matters, screaming from the front page of The Jerusalem Post on January 16 was the following headline:

“State pressures Bedouin to leave Negev village to make way for Jewish town.”

This type of headline has only been seen previously in the likes of the The New York Times:

“Village of Bedouins Faces Eviction as Israel Envisions a Village of Jews” (May 16, 2015)

and Haaretz:

“Supreme Court Allows State to Replace Bedouin Village With Jewish One” (May 6, 2015).

A VIEW of Umm Al-Hiran, the Bedouin village in the southern Negev Desert demolished by police last week.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

So what is a “Jewish town”? Do they exist? Is one being built? Are they legal? On the other hand, do “non-Jewish towns” exist? And if so, are they legal? Radical left-wing organizations such as Adallah and Bimkom have orchestrated the battle, determined to label the story of Hiran a national (and now international) battle, and do not hesitate to spread false information which presents Israel as a racist bully. Israel is demeaned throughout the world as seeking to uproot and destroy a long-standing Bedouin village to establish a “Jewish community” on its ruins.

In early May 2015, the Supreme Court put an end to this legal proceeding, which has gone on for over a decade, and ruled that there is no legal barrier to the establishment of a town there.

Justices Rubinstein, Hendel and Barak-Erez rule in their final judgment in 2015 (3094/11) that the petitioners have no ownership of the land, and that their settlement in that location was only temporary according to the lease agreement they signed with the state during the Fifties.

“We are dealing with a Bedouin tribe that moved to the area in dispute about six decades ago, in accordance with the directives of the authorities. Although they lived there legally, at no time did the tribe acquire ownership of the land according the property law of our legal system; they built extensively on the land without any permits, and this is illegal. Most of the tribe moved to Hura, a Bedouin settlement with a regulated and connected infrastructure; the remaining respondents must be evacuated from their homes, while offering them the option of moving to Hura.”

The judges emphasized that there was no flaw in the conduct of the state toward the residents, since the state offered and continues to offer free land in the nearby town of Hura, along with financial compensation.

As part of the process of resolving their dispersion, those who agree to move to legal settlements are being offered exceptional conditions, that go well beyond that which is required by law.

“Clearly, when it comes to evacuating those who have been living in an area for many years, we are not speaking of ‘deportation’ or ‘forfeiture.’ Instead, the projected evacuation involves multiple proposals for moving, building, compensation and the possibility of homes either in the town of Hura (to which most of the residents of these illegal villages have moved) or to the town of Hiran, which is about to be constructed. They are being offered preferred ‘general’ conditions of purchase based on seniority, a designation apparently being offered as compensation for their investment in their prior, albeit illegal, construction.”

After considering the charge of racism, the judges emphasize that there is absolutely no basis for such an accusation: Bedouin have the same option as every other citizen to purchase land in the future town of Hiran.

“The planned settlement does not prevent these dispersed Bedouin from living there, except that it is to be a planned open community and not a Bedouin settlement, with all that this encompasses in terms of planning. Anyone who wishes to live in Hiran is permitted to do so, subject to all laws and stipulations.”

So no so-called “Jewish town,” and that is obvious taking into account the laws of Israel, confirmed by the Supreme Court case Aadel Ka’adan v. Israel Lands Administration (HCJ 6698/95) where the court found that the state cannot discriminate on the basis of religion or nationality in allocating state land.

However, that same Supreme Court in the Avitan case (HCJ 528/88) decided that there was a public interest in assisting Bedouin to settle permanently in urban communities, thus justifying a policy of preferential treatment to Arabs, allowing Arab-only towns.

According to George Orwell, in a democratic society if clarity in language collapses, he predicts that the society itself will collapse. We need to ensure this doesn’t happen by holding politicians and the media to account for the terminology they use. The use of the term “Jewish town” is incorrect, libelous and extremely damaging to Israel.

Its use should be halted and retractions and apologies should be made.

Ari Briggs lives in Israel and is the International Relations Director of Regavim  a non-profit-making, non-governmental organisation concerned with preventing the illegal confiscation of Israel’s national land resources, with protecting nature, and with preventing environmental damage. By monitoring the way officialdom deals with these matters, Regavim ensures conformity to responsible administrative norms. Ari was born and raised in Sydney.
 First published at the Jerusalem Post

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