Israel should form an independent commission to investigate discrimination against the Bedouin, Human Rights Watch said.
The organization’s 130-page report released Monday called on Israel to cease demolishing the homes of Bedouin citizens in the Negev. The report said that “discriminatory Israeli laws and practices force tens of thousands of Bedouin in the south of Israel to live in ‘unrecognized’ shanty towns where they are under constant threat of seeing their homes demolished and their communities torn apart.”
Israel has demolished thousands of Negev Bedouin homes since the 1970s, and hundreds in 2007 alone, according to the report. Israeli authorities say that 45,000 existing Bedouin homes in approximately 39 unrecognized villages were built illegally and were potential targets for demolition.
Israeli officials contend that they are simply enforcing zoning and building codes. The Human Rights Watch report said that officials systematically demolish Bedouin homes while often overlooking or retroactively legalizing unlawful construction by Jewish citizens.
Israel has established seven existing government-planned townships to relocate the Bedouin, but they must renounce their ancestral land claims in order to do so.
“Israeli policies have put the Bedouin in a lose-lose situation,” said Joe Stork, the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The state has forced them off the land they claimed as their own and into illegal shanty towns cut off from basic necessities like water and electricity.”