HRW slams 'discriminatory' Israeli evictions

HRW has criticized Israel's Supreme Court, saying that their decision to forcibly evict Palestinians from their home is discriminatory

HRW slams 'discriminatory' Israeli evictions

World Bulletin / News Desk

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized two recent rulings by Israel's Supreme Court, which, it said, would allow the Israeli authorities to forcibly evict the residents of two Arab villages from their homes.

"It's a sad day when Israeli Supreme Court decisions provide legal cover for forced evictions, as in the case of these two villages," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East and North Africa director, said in a Tuesday statement.

"The Israeli government should let these communities stay where they are, not force them to move yet again," she asserted.

HRW said that the court – in two separate rulings made earlier this month – would allow the Israeli authorities to evict the inhabitants of two Arab villages, one in Israel and the other in the occupied West Bank, after they had already been displaced once by Israeli authorities.

According to the rights watchdog, between 750 and 1,000 Palestinians who live in Umm al-Hiran, a village in Israel's southern Negev Desert, face the prospect of displacement.

Israel initially relocated the villagers to the area in which they now live following a 1956 agreement that allowed them to live there in return for dropping claims to land from which they were expelled by Jewish groups upon the creation of Israel in 1948.

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the land in question belonged to the state, which was entitled to withdraw permission for the current inhabitants to live there.

The decision comes against the backdrop of a 2009 decision by the Israeli authorities to allow the land to be used for building a Jewish community.

In a separate ruling, the court decided against freezing demolition orders for the West Bank Arab village of Susya, which is home to some 340 residents.

HRW noted that village residents had built homes on their own farmland in 1986 after Israel declared the village's original location nearby "an archeological site" and evicted them from caves that had served as their homes.

In 2013, the Israeli military authority that regulates land use in the occupied West Bank rejected a zoning plan that would have given villagers legal permission to build and extend their pre-existing homes.

The rejection was partially based, HRW said, on the Israeli government's contention that the distance from the village to the nearest urban center would keep villagers trapped in a "cycle of poverty," despite the fact that the center in question is located less than three kilometers away.

Today, a Jewish settlement – also called Susya – that includes outposts built without Israeli government authorization, stands near the archeological site, HRW asserted, citing data from Regavim, a pro-settlement Israeli organization that lobbies for the expropriation of such land.

"But the residents of the Palestinian village cannot build or extend their homes lawfully on the land they own because Israeli authorities have refused to prepare a zoning plan for the area," HRW said.

The watchdog said it had previously documented how the Israel authorities – in both the Negev and West Bank – were apply zoning laws in "a discriminatory manner that frequently restricts the ability of Arabs to build lawfully".

"Around 80,000 Bedouin live under constant threat of demolition in 35 villages that Israel does not recognize in the Negev, under conditions similar to Umm al-Hiran," HRW noted.

HRW's Whitson said: "The court decisions in the Umm al-Hiran and Susya cases ignore international law in upholding discriminatory evictions by the Israeli authorities in Israel and the occupied territories."

She added: "The Israeli government should fundamentally change its policies so that Arab communities have the same opportunities for lawful construction as Jewish citizens."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Mayıs 2015, 16:02