The issue of illegal construction in and around Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley is again making headlines, this time using Palestinian Arabs and Bedouin as the proxies.
The United Nations and European Union have both issued statements of concern over Israel’s demolition of illegally built structures belonging to Palestinian Arabs in the Jordan Valley and around Ma’ale Adumim.
More than a 100 people were allegedly displaced by the demolitions of the structures, none of which were built on private Palestinian Authority land.
According to the leftist NGO B’Tselem, the 17 temporary structures included 14 residential huts and 3 livestock barns. The Civil Administration said, however, it had demolished only eight – all of which were built on state land, without government approval. Nor had any of the people who built the structures even attempted to obtain construction permits.
B’Tselem claims that since August 5, the Civil Administration has demolished 57 illegal Palestinian Arab structures in the Jordan Valley and around Ma’ale Adumim. There were 167 people living in 31 of the structures – including 101 children – and the rest were used for sheltering livestock.
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s subcommittee on Judea and Samaria has urged the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai to increase action against illegal Palestinian construction in the Jordan Valley and around Ma’ale Adumim.
The lawmakers warned such activity is intended to block expansion of Jewish settlement.
In the summer months Bedouin clans are often camped out and pasturing their flocks in the valleys and hills around Jerusalem and surrounds. To do so involves a move of up to several hundred head of sheep and goats.
These are usually herded by the older women of the clan who are assisted by their daughters and their children. The men – most of whom work at various occupations – come to visit or stay for short periods of time and then leave to return to their employment.
In past years, and in some cases up to today, the clans used several huge black goats-hair tents in which to shelter from the burning sun. Due to the changes in weather and other environmental conditions, as well as the socioeconomic conditions in Israel, many clans have now switched to using other materials.
The problem with the current rash of construction around Ma’ale Adumim and in the Jordan Valley has to do with the nature of the structures being built. These are not necessarily the type of temporary structures intended to be removed and transported with a Bedouin family upon completion of the pasturing cycle.
They are intended to be removed and replaced with more permanent Arab housing instead.
It is this type of mushrooming presence on the landscape that has the lawmakers so worried and one the international community appears to be racing to encourage.
While the United Nations and European Union have been so meticulous in their monitoring of Israel’s “unjust” enforcement of its law against illegal construction, the two entities often call on Israel to demolish Jewish structures, even when they are built within legal municipal lines.
On Tuesday, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee waded right into the middle of the controversy, stating bluntly that the “land for peace” formula has simply “not worked for Israel.” He encouraged visitors to the Jewish State to visit “all of Israel,” saying “that includes Judea and Samaria.”
Hana Levi Julian