Misinformation by the Israeli Government

Dear Friends: I am responding to the Israeli governments misinformation on the Jahalin. Please forward it to everybody. I shall put my responses at the appropriate places Marked with three asteriscs ***. Thank you. Lynda Brayer

January 22, 1997 Dear Friend: Recently we received your letter inquiring about Israeli policy towards the Jahalin Bedouin. We appreciate your concern about this issue and are glad that you took the time to write to us with your question. I am forwarding your concerns to the proper authorities in Israel, but in the meantime I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up what may be a misperception of Israeli policy. The issue of the Jahalin tribespeople in the Maaleh Adumim area goes back approximately 17 years. The fundamental problem in Israel's eyes is that the Jahalin were squatting on land that was not theirs.

The Government made every attempt to satisfy the Jahalin's demands for relocation and arrived at an agreement which all sides accepted.

Under the terms of the agreement, Israel would build the Jahalin an alternative housing site equipped with water and electric facilities and the Jahalin would relocate voluntarily.

However, after Israel built the site for the Jahalin, the tribe reneged on its commitment. The forced relocation which we unfortunately are witnessing now is a consequence of the Jahalin's decision to go back on their word.

I hope this clarifies Israel's policy on the issue. I am enclosing three appendices which address this topic. If you have further questions or would like more information on any subject concerning Israel, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Lynda Brayer


Wednesday, August 28, 1996

Justice M. Ben-Porat State Comptroller Rehov Rashi 66 Jerusalem

Dear Madam:

Re: Forced Removal of Jahalin Bedouin from "state land"

It is with much reluctance and regret that I have decided to write to you as the last instance in Israel in the redress of a grave injustice. I am providing you with background material to this case in order to furnish you with its context.

I am the lawyer who has been representing the Jahalin Bedouin tribe inhabiting lands of al-Azariyya and Abu- Dis, now called Ma'ale Adumim. The Jahalin tribe fled from the Negev in 1952 following several confrontations with the Israeli authorities leading to the death of one of their members, and after they crossed the southern border of the West Bank and they migrated northwards settling on the eastern ridge of Jerusalem since the early 1950's. They have, therefore, been in the area for more than forty years and at the very least, have inhabited the area prior to the Israeli occupation of 1967.

However, following the Israeli conquest of 1967, the Jahalin Bedouin fell under the control of the Israeli authorities. Over the years the land on which they pastured their flocks, consisting of sheep and goats, was gradually diminished, with grazing and living areas being closed off to them under different designations: closed military areas, nature reserves, the municipal boundaries of Ma'ale Adumim , and last, but not least, the "confirmation" of the land upon which they have actually been living as "government land" or "state land" in 1981.

As you might know, the Israeli government invented an innocuous military decree (#59 clause 2c) for use in the West Bank according to which if the military commander confirmed [sic] land to be government land, then it was government land. The aim was to obtain free land for Jewish use, not least for residential purposes. In all inhabited areas, private Palestinian persons held this land. Therefore that same military decree said that if anyone objected to the said confirmation, an objection could be submitted to a military committee. In these hearings, "miri" land (Emir's land) is removed from the possession of local Palestinians because "they have not plowed it consecutively for ten years." Subsequently it is then transferred into Jewish hands for the purposes of residential use. Palestinians could not have this land zoned for residential use. This "innocuous" decree was sufficient to have more than 65% of the West Bank "confirmed" as government land, a euphemism for "land for Jewish use only" thus depriving all Palestinians of its use. The land of Abu-Dis and el-Azariyya required for Ma'ale was also confirmed as government land. Objections to this declaration were submitted only by some local residents who contended that they were the owners of the land. Many other owners could not afford the huge legal expenses incurred by this procedure, which entailed hiring the professional services of land surveyors as well as lawyers. The Jahalin themselves never lodged objections as they have always been regarded, and have regarded themselves, as tenants of the Abu-Dis and el-Azariyya owners of the land. Hearings were held before military objection committees and the files with the records were numbered 12/81, 13/81, and 22/81 (hereinafter: the files).

The results of these hearings is that some land was left as government land, and some was left in the hands of the Palestinian owners. However no maps were ever issued indicating these different areas. In 1994, the military authorities issued eviction orders against my clients claiming that the Jahalin had been on the sites only since 1989 and that since the land was "state land" (an inaccurate designation as it should be "government land") they were illegal tenants, as there are no rights of tenancy on government land, basing their right to evict on the evidence and decisions of the above-mentioned files.

I appealed these orders before a military committee but was never shown the original files, despite repeated requests to see them. My secretary and I both telephoned and visited the secretariat of the committee in Beit El several times and wrote and spoke to Mr. Daniel Kremer, the legal representative of the government in this type of land expropriation case, but to no avail. Every time there was a different answer which, in effect, prevented my seeing these files.

Ultimately, presiding military judge Izakson wrote a decision in file numbers 88/94 and 89/94 without my being able to argue my clients' case and he relied on the "impression" that my clients did not object to the designation of the land as state land. (See enclosed)

I then submitted a petition to the High Court demanding that the decision judge Izakson be voided as the government had not proved that the land was "state land", that I had not been given the opportunity to argue my case for my clients, and that I be provided immediately with files 12/81, 13/81 and 22/81. My contention was, and remains, that the government never indicated with a survey map which lands were confirmed as government land, and which lands were removed from the confirmation. The point of this demand is that certain land was removed from the area included in the declaration, and I needed to know where it was. It was also important to check the aerial photographs to see if the Bedouin were in the area in the early eighties, as the State was claiming that they only arrived on this land in 1989. I am also personally aware of of an instance in which land that was excluded from the confirmation area and recognized as being Palestinian-owned land, was subsequently built on in Ma'ale Adumim by the Israeli authorities.

On October 30, 1995, in the High Court before President Barak, and Justices Dorner and Tal, in a hearing on my petition to receive the files from 1981, the legal counsel for the state, Mr. Yehuda Sheffer, declared that files 12/81, 13/81 and 22/81 "had been destroyed" and I quote. He repeated this twice.

It would be an understatement to comment that my colleague and I were taken aback at this announcement.

Justice Dorner then asked Mr. Sheffer if the Israeli authorities had any proof positive that the land was "government" or "state land" and he replied in the negative. She then concluded by asking him whether with the destruction of the files, the government could no longer prove that the land was "government land." He concurred that this was the situation.

At that point, I would have expected the court to grant my clients a decree nisi, and force the state to come forward with a sworn statement as to what had happened to the files, and particularly to find out whether a crime had been committed by this destruction of evidence, the obvious purpose of which was to obstruct justice in court hearings and other legal/administrative processes on this issue.

The tribunal of the High Court did not issue a decree nisi. They said that they would issue a decision at a later date. My colleague and myself suspected that this announcement was not registered in the protocol, a suspicion which later turned out to be correct, and we therefore submitted an announcement of our own to the court re-iterating what Mr. Sheffer had stated. (See enclosed)

This destruction was further repeated in a letter of the spokesperson of the Ministry of Justice to the local newspaper in Jerusalem "Kol Ha'ir" confirming the destruction but adding that it was according to law!! No mention was made as to what law was involved and when they were destroyed! (See enclosed)

The majority decision written by President Barak explained what state land was, accepted that the land was state land, and blamed me for not reconstructing the files which had been destroyed by the authorities. He used the terminology "in the absence of the files" to refer to the files destroyed by the Israeli authorities. (See enclosed)

In all my dealings with the Israeli authorities, it was never mentioned that the files had been destroyed. On the contrary, I was told that the archive was completely disorganized, i.e. a "balagan" , that they were organizing it, that they could not find the files, that they were with the Judge, etc etc. In other words, I was under the impression until the very minute that Advocate Sheffer made his announcement in the court on 30th October, 1995, that I was not being given the files for organizational reasons only.

On the basis of the "absence" of these files and the presumptio of Justice Barak that the land is "state land", my clients are being forced to move their homes and livestock to a bare, rocky hill of inadequate size, which is not fit for human habitation in respect of its topography and its proximity to the Jerusalem garbage dump. In addition the Israeli authorities will not provide any infrastructure or financial help for this move.

In the light of what appears to me to be extreme irregularities, I hereby ask you to assess the actual meaning of the High Court of Justice's ignoring the destruction of files containing crucial evidence. To an outside observer it appears that the High Court has covered up for the State. We all agree that the destruction of state documents for the purposes of obstructing the course of justice and legal procedures, is a most serious crime. I would ask you to check the details of the destruction of the files: when they were destroyed, why they were destroyed and why all other files of the same nature were not destroyed, and who gave the order for this destruction. If there is a law governing this, I would be more than interested in learning about it. It is obviously superfluous to add that this is an urgent matter, seeing that the Jahalin are supposed to leave their dwelling places by August 28, 1996. I thank you very much for your attention to this matter and would be happy to help with any inquiries or questions you may have.

Sincerely yours,

Lynda Brayer, Advocate Executive Legal Director


Appendix I:. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Maaleh Adumim area was declared "State Lands" in 1981.

In 1988, groups of Jahalin began to gather in the area and they set up tentsand animal pens.

Already in 1989, meetings were held between Jahlin leaders and members of Israel's Civil Authority in which it was made clear that the Jahalin were living in an area under state control and could be legally evicted from the land at any time. Additional meetings took place in the following years. In 1993 Israeli construction began in the area to build housing for the Jewish Maaleh Admumim settlement. When construction began, the Civil Authority and the tribe's representatives agreed that the Jahalinwould be relocated to an alternative site developed by the Civil Authority. The Jahalin stated that if they will be provided with a site that has water and electrical facilities, and if they will have legal rights to their new area, then theywill move there voluntarily. The Civil Authority agreed tothese demands (under no legal compunction) in order to improve the living standards of the Jahalin and built them an alternative site in the Abu Dis neighborhood. Despite this agreement, which went beyond the letter of the law, and which Israel fulfilled in total, the Jahalin refused to relocate and brought an appeal to Israel's Supreme Court.

In May of 1996, Israel's Supreme Court did not uphold the appeal of the Jahalin tribe to maintain control of the land they occupied. The Supreme Court found that the land that the Jahalin were occupying belonged to the state and that the local municipality of Maaleh Adumim had rights to it for building. The Supreme Court permitted the Jahalin three months to prepare for relocation. Negotiations continued in order to provide the Jahalin with the conditions they would need to relocate voluntarily, but they finally broke down at the beginning of January and the first of the tribespeople were relocated by force to government-built housing in the neighboring location of Abu Dis. This move was the last resort of Israel'sCivil Authority which for a long time attempted to defer carrying out the Supreme Court ruling, in order to arrive at a negotiated agreement with the tribe. It is the position of the Civil Authority that an agreement could have been negotiated were it not for the incitement of outside parties who worked to prevent any resolution. The case of the Jahalin was taken up by members of the Palestinian Authority and others who attempted to color the negotiations with political issues and who rejected efforts by many to work towards an agreement


Appendix II:. SUPREME COURT RULINGS

The following is a history of the relevant recent rulings of the Israeli Supreme Court regarding Jahalin. 1. The Supreme Court ruled on May 28, 1996 that the Jahalin tribe was required to leave its site by August 28, 1996. 2. The tribespeople informed the government on July 3, 1996 that they would not relocate to an alternative site prepared for them by the Israeli civil authority because they worried that the area alloted to them, the farmland in Abu Dis, would bring them into conflict with the local inhabitants. 3. On July 10, 1996 a conditional ruling was made by the Supreme Court which ordered the commander of the Judea and Samaria Civil Authority to clarify within 45 days the if the law permits him to give a ruling to destroy the tribe's structures (tents and tin huts). The Jahalin claimed that they occupied the land for over 50 years, while Israel believes that they arrived in the 1980's and claims that it is in possession of aerial photographs which prove this.

Appendix III: Articles From the Israeli Press

The following transcript of a news broadcast from this fall illustrates Israel's desire to reach an agreement with the Jahalin which will satisfy all parties. Israel Radio Channel 2, Midday News, September 10, 1996 ________________________________________________

Geula Even: The civilian authority in Judea and Samaria opened negotiations with representatives of the Jahalin tribe near Maaleh Adumim. The negotiations are geared to relocating the tribe by agreement rather than by force. For details lets go to our correspondent, Yoni Ben Menachem. Yoni Ben Menachem: Following the decision of the Supreme Court last week, representatives of the Civil Authority in Judea and Samaria opened negotiations with members of the Jahalin tribe. The Supreme Court ruled that the alternative site built for the members of teh Jahalin tribe meets satisfactory housing standards and is located in Area C (under Israeli total Israeli control) and not in Area B (to be under Palestinian civilian control and Israeli security control). [The Jahalin had expressed worry that should their alternative site be in Area B, they would come into conflict with the Palestinian residents] The goal of the negotiations is to avoid a forcible relocation to the alternative site in the agreement. Teh Civil Authority claims that even the Jahilin tribes people understand well that they may be subject to forceable relocation and that they prefer at this point to find a mutually agreed upon solution to the problem. The Palestinian Authority has attempted to injure Israel politically with this issue. Colonel Udi Zarachia, head of the coordination and liason authority in Bethlehem met with members of the Jahalin Tribe and offered a series of additional benefits to convince them to move to teh alternative site willingly. Every family will receive a sum of NIS 12,000 [approximately $4,000] and will be alloted a private plot in the settlement with water, electricity and transportation facilities.

The Civil Authority put together a comprehensive program for the new site and presented it to representatives of the Jahalin tribe. The Civil Administration believes that it will be possible to arrive at an agreement by whcih the Jahalin will voluntarily agree to the relocation in a short period of time. However, the spokesperson from the Civil Administration , Peter Lerner, stressed that if the negotiations fail, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria will not hesitate to relocate the Jahalin families by force in order to uphold the law.

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Samuel Schwartz Director of Academic Affairs Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles ***Good luck everyone. And please discern the truth. All the Best, Lynda Brayer


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