Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Bedouins of Amra

Israel never ceases in its contempt for non-Jewish life. We have Jonathan Cook to thank for the following. But by reporting this outrage, will it change anything? Will the world find the courage to sanction Israeli ethnic cleansing, its racism and blatant fascism that we thought went out with the Second World War? What are we afraid of?

By Jonathan Cook in Amra

August 26, 2009 -
The inhabitants of the Bedouin village of Amra have good reason to fear that the harsh tactics used by the Israeli army against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been imported to their small corner of Israel’s Negev desert.

Over the summer, the Tarabin tribe, all of them Israeli citizens, have had the sole access road to their homes sealed off, while the dirt track they must use instead is regularly blocked by temporary checkpoints at which their papers and vehicles are inspected at length.

Coils of razor wire encircle much of the village, and children as young as eight have been arrested in a series of night-time raids.

“Four-fifths of our youngsters now have files with the police and our drivers are being repeatedly fined for supposed traffic violations,” said Tulab Tarabin, one of Amra’s 400 Bedouin inhabitants. “Every time we are stopped, the police ask us: ‘Why don’t you leave?’”

Lawyers and human rights activists say a campaign of pressure is being organised against the Tarabin at the behest of a nearby Jewish community, Omer, which is determined to build a neighbourhood for Israeli army officers on the tribe’s land.

“The policy in Israel is that when Jews need land, the Bedouin must move – no matter how long they have been living in their homes or whether their communities predate Israel’s creation,” said Morad al Sana, a lawyer with the Adalah legal centre for Israel’s Arab minority. “The Tarabin’s crime is that they refuse to budge.”

The 180,000 Bedouin in the Negev have never been welcome, says Oren Yiftachel, a geographer at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva. They are descendants of a few thousand who managed to avoid expulsion from the southern semi-desert region during the 1948 war that founded Israel.

Many of the surviving Bedouin, including the Tarabin, were forcibly relocated from their extensive ancestral lands in the 1950s to an area close to the Negev’s main city, Beersheva, Prof Yiftachel said. Israel declared the Bedouin lands as “state land” and established a series of overcrowded “townships” to house the tribes instead.

“The stated goal is one of ‘Judaisation’,” Prof Yiftachel added, referring to a long-standing policy of concentrating the rural Bedouin into urban reservations to free up land for Jewish settlement. About half of the Negev’s Bedouin, some 90,000, have refused to move.

According to a recent report from the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the townships have “continuously ranked as the poorest, least developed and most crime-ridden towns in Israel”.

The refuseniks, such as the Tarabin, have faced unrelenting pressure to leave their 45 rural communities, none of which is recognised by the state. The villagers endure “third world conditions”, according to ACRI.

“The unrecognised villages are denied basic services to their homes, including water and electricity, and the villages themselves have no master plans,” Mr al Sana said.

As a result, he added, the villagers are forced to live in tin shacks and tents because concrete homes are invariably destroyed by the authorities. In the past two years, several shacks as well as the local kindergarten in Amra have been demolished.

The stark contrast between the dusty encampment of Amra and the green lawns and smart villas of Omer, only a stone’s throw away and the country’s third wealthiest community, is unsettling even for some of Omer’s 7,000 residents.

One, Yitzhak Nevo, a philosophy professor at Ben Gurion University and a leading activist with Dukium, a Negev coexistence group, said that, although the lands on which the Tarabin live fall under Omer’s jurisdiction, the Bedouin have been entirely excluded. “Even though they live within Omer’s municipal limits, their children get no education from us; our health clinic does not treat them; they are not hooked up to our water or electricity supplies and their refuse is not collected.”

He said Amra had been treated as nothing more than an eyesore until the mid-1990s when the powerful mayor, Pinhas Badash, decided that the Tarabin were both harming property values and obstructing the town’s expansion plans.

As Omer’s new neighbourhoods reached the limits of Amra, Mr Badash stepped up the pressure on the villagers to leave. A few years ago he pushed through the building of a new community for the Tarabin away from Omer. Two-thirds of the tribe relocated, while the remainder fought the attempted eviction through the courts.

“It was a very dirty business in which those in the tribe who left first were offered cheap land on which to build while the rest were threatened that they would be offered nothing,” Mr al Sana said.

Amra’s remaining Bedouin have found themselves surrounded by a tall wire fence to separate them from Omer. Two gates, ordered by the courts to ensure the Bedouin continued to have road access through the town, were sealed this year.

Since the beginning of the summer police patrol Amra’s side of the fence around the clock and the Tarabin report that a private security firm chases off any of them found inside Omer.

Nissim Nir, a spokesman for Mr Badash, denied that the Tarabin were being hounded. Omer made a generous offer to relocate them from their “illegal” site, he said.

Recently Mr Badash announced that thousands of acres around Omer would be forested with the intention of stopping the Bedouin from returning to the area once they had been evicted.

Mr Tarabin, 33, accused the police of being little more than hired hands carrying out Mr Badash’s plan.

“We are being suffocated. There are night-time searches of our homes using bogus pretexts, and arrests of young children. We are photographed and questioned as we go about our business. At the roadblocks they endlessly check cars entering and leaving, and fines are issued. No one visits us unless they have to, and we stay home unless we have to leave.”

He added: “Why is it so impossible for Omer to imagine allowing us to be a neighbourhood of the town?”

A report by Human Rights Watch last year severely criticised Israel’s treatment of the Bedouin.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is .

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (, published in Abu Dhabi.

Monday, August 17, 2009

tree art

Is this the latest fashion in tree art on the streets of Amman and will it catch on? T

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Amusing advert in Jordan Times

A furnished apartment to let. Then read on -

'In Al-Kursi - 2 km from Mecca Mall'. Is being 2 kms from Mecca Mall a recommendation? T

Friday, August 14, 2009

Down the Drain - Update!

After posting my original note, below, I went out for lunch and upon my return -- glory be-- a couple of rigs and gang of men working on the water pipe situation (on a Friday afternoon, no less). We'll see if it is solved by this evening...

So, I take some lessons: 1) never give up 2) go public earlier (seems to create some kind of positive energy) and 3) must find out which office sent them (for next time). Um Dunya

Down the Drain

Since last Friday (7 Aug 09), a broken water main under the street outside my house has been leaking clear, fresh water directly into a street drain. Neighbors phoned and the harriss says that last Saturday someone came by to look at it, promising to "fix it later." Since then, my husband and his office staff have been calling every possible phone number at Maaytuna ("our water" company) trying to find someone to take a report and follow up on it. From the emergency number to another office number to another - for one hour they were bounced from one person to another. Someone gave them the number of the director of the "office of complaints." At 10 am on a weekday, his phone rang and rang; no one answered, no voicemail, nothing.
In the meantime, the water has been bubbling freely for one week, sending many cubic meters of good water down the drain. (I should mention that new water lines were laid under the street within the last year.)

With the millions of donor dollars thrown at water conservation and awareness projects, many of which try to convince rural Jordanian women to use less water than they already do (they get so little to start with), this lack of interest and negligence towards water loss in a well-off Amman neighborhood is infuriating. What needless waste!

I will write to the Jordan Times and ask them to find and post the phone number for reporting water leaks next to their little cartoons that say: "Save Water - Every Drop Counts!" The number listed in their Emergency Numbers table got us nowhere.

In the meantime, if anyone has a suggestion of how to report this to a "live body" and get action, I would be very grateful! Um Dunya

Monday, August 10, 2009

Challenging the Law

I had an interesting conversation with a police officer friend this morning. He made the point that people are really 'challenging the law', for instance at the celebrations of Tawjihi results and at weddings. The Government, police, schools etc make a huge effort to tell people not to indiscriminately fire their guns, drive around hanging out of car windows etc, not only is it illegal but it is dangerous.

Do people listen? Seemingly not. Why don't they listen? Why isn't the law respected and obeyed? Especially when it is in the interests of the whole community?

I am a friend of the Traffic Police and can write out tickets and, believe me, I could fill many books a day. No seat belts, using mobiles, jumping red lights, children on front seats, driving down one way streets the wrong way, double parking and so on and so on. T

Monday, August 03, 2009

Well well I do declare!

“There is no such thing as inevitable war. If war comes it will be from failure of human wisdom”.
— Bonar Law (British Prime Minister 1923-24)

Came across some interesting Declarations and Promises in relation to Jordan even though the British went back on their main promises to the Hashemites at the time of imperial hegemony, the following seem to have held. So to counter Zionist propaganda, that has gone on for the last ninety years in their fantastical claims that “Jordan is Palestine” nonsense, and their use of selective historical documents, I post the following. For while the Zionists have their Balfours, and Sykes/Picot, the Jordanians, it would seem have Bonar Law, Churchill and the League of Nations who were also operating at about the same time.

(1) British PM (1922-23) Andrew Bonar Law statement of 28 July 1920 to the House of Commons.

“The authority of the Palestine Government did not extend East of the Jordan”

(2) Winston Churchill Declaration and Promise to Amir Abdullah ibn al Hussein on behalf of the British Government 28 March 1921:

“Trans-Jordan would not be included in the present administrative system of Palestine and the Zionist clauses of the Mandate would not apply to Trans-Jordan”.

(3) 16 September 1922: The Council of the League of Nations confirmed the international personality and separate entity of Trans-Jordan, when it passed a resolution declaring that all the zionist clauses in the Mandate for Palestine did not apply to Trans-Jordan and that the British Government accepted full responsibility as Mandatory for a separate Trans-Jordan.

(4) 27 April 1923: British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs declared:

“Subject to the approval of the League of Nations, His Britannic Majesty’s Government will recognize the existence of an independent Government in Trans-Jordan under the rule of his Highness Amir Abdullah Ibn al Hussein, provided such Government is constitutional and places HBK government in a position to fulfil their international obligations in respect of the territory by means of an agreement to be concluded between the two Governments”.

By 1929 the three conditions in that declaration were fulfilled with the ratification by Britain and Trans-Jordan of the 1928 Agreement (The Declaration of Trans-Jordan’s Independence) and with the approval of the League of Nations.

This is just a tiny observation of a very complex period in Jordan’s modern history. Indeed over the course of millennia this piece of land east of the River Jordan was always separate from Palestine. “The River Jordan – or Jordan line – which extended from the Yarmouk to the Dead Sea and south along the Ghour to Aqaba, gradually came to be known as a political or administrative boundary during the periods of the Moabites, Edomites, Ammonites, as well as the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Nabataeans, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Muslim Arabs. In AD 640 the Arabs named Palestine ‘Jund Filistin’, and Trans-Jordan ‘Jund al Urdon’. In fact Jund al Urdon included some parts of Palestine. And as Dr Ma’an Abu Nowar concludes “Thus all through history, although Palestine and Jordan were under the same successive foreign occupiers, they were always separate, and Jordan was never part of Palestine.”

All the above taken from a 1993 publication by Dr Ma’an Abu Nowar (copyrighted), entitled “From Our Hashemite Arab History – The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan 1920-1929 Years”