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NCF's Update from the Negev-Naqab




19.4.19

Happy Passover from NCF



This Passover, Jews and Arabs alike are saying:

"No ONE of us can be free until EVERYBODY is free"
(Maya Angelou) 
Photo: Khitam. Bīr Haddāj,  2018

In the Past year, NCF has worked to promote equality between the Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel in the Negev/Naqab.

We exposed the brutal policy of house demolitions and the state's failures in finding employment solutions for Bedouin women. We brought thousands of people to tour the unrecognized villages, in hopes of breaking down the barriers for a shared society. We had solidarity visits with hundreds of partners in Israel and around the world.

We demonstrated against the unjust imprisonment of Sheikh Sayah, a Bedouin human right defender, and lobbied the UN committees in order to pressure the Israeli government to ensure the protection and the implementation of the Bedouin people's rights.   

In the name of freedom of speech, NCF fought (and won) in the Supreme Court so that it can continue the valuable work of the Multaka-Mifgash, the only joint Arab-Jewish cultural center in the Negev/Naqab.

But there are still many challenges ahead, and freedom for all is still out of grasp.
In order for NCF to continue its activities, we need your support! 


21.3.19

NCF at the United Office in Geneva


NCF’s Bedouin community representative to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR): “The so-called development in the Negev/Naqab is done on our expense, we need the support of the international community”.

The statement was given on the 11th of March (Monday) during the pre-session of the CESCR Working Group. Following a report submitted by NCF and Adalah, which depicted the discrimination of the Bedouin community in the southern region of Israel. The Committee will convene to examine the implementation of the Covenant in Israel in September-October 2019. “Israel signed the Covenant and is obliged to implement its recommendations”.

The report mentioned the severe neglect of the education and health systems, and the inability of the state to effectively promote Arab Bedouin employment. In addition, the organizations expressed concern with the government’s “development” plans that will lead to the displacement of 36,000 Bedouins from their villages, and severe budgetary neglect in the fields of education, health and employment, which causes huge gaps between Jews and Arabs in the Negev.

Strong reservations were made regarding the Five-Year Plan for Development (Government Resolution No. 2397), which they claim serves as a pressure tool to evacuate the 35 villages that are being denied recognition in the Negev/Naqab: "The residents of these villages are completely excluded from the budgets ... The Plan includes an allocation of NIS 42 million to increase the enforcement of the Planning and Construction Laws in the Negev/Naqab, and another NIS 30 million to plant trees in the evacuated lands, in order to prevent the residents from returning to their homes."

The pre-session of the Working Group, which took place in Geneva from 11-14 March, is part of the United Nations monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the UN Covenant on Cultural, Economic and Social Rights (1966), to which the State of Israel joined in 1992. Member States who signed the Covenant are committed to promise the protection of five central rights: the right to education, the right to health, the right to work, family rights and the right to adequate standard of living. The latter was discussed at length in the report due to the housing shortage and the policy of house demolitions against the Bedouin population in the Negev/Naqab, and included harsh criticism of the Authority for the Development and Settlement of the Bedouin in the Negev: "The Authority enters the villages in order to negotiate with the families, while the eviction itself is not even negotiable”, it said.

Speaking in-front of Committee Members, Amir Abo Qweder NCF’s representative to the UNOG, said: "This year, my brother 'Akef's house was demolished, his wife Amani and his little children Judah and Gina had to return to live with their grandmother to this day. They are still subjected to harassments and investigations by the Yoav Special Unit”. Abuo Qweder himself is a resident of an unrecognized village, added: "Minister Uri Ariel is proud of dispossessing and evacuating tens of thousands of Bedouin from their villages. He does not treat us as citizens, but rather as criminals! ".

Tal Avrech, NCF’s international advocacy coordinator said: “The State of Israel deliberately and constantly chooses to ignore the Bedouin living in unrecognized villages. It prevents them from accessing their basic civil and human rights, in order to exhaust them so that they will align with the agenda it is trying to promote. Israel continues to ignore the Bedouin residing in unrecognized villages in both its internal and external surveys and reports, acting as if they just don’t exist. But they exist, and they are equal citizens of the state. NCF chose to write its report to the CESCR so that the voice of the Bedouin in the Negev/Naqab will echo in the hallways of the United Nations”.
* This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Adalah and NCF and do not necessarily represent the views of the European Union.
F


NCF in the Media


Hala Abo Freh, Umm al-Hiran. Photo: Meged Gozani, Haaretz

“Photographing Umm al-Ḥīrān – Countdown”
The Umm al-Hiran Photography Book, “Umm al-Ḥīrān Parting Moments”, prepared by the village women as part of the Negev Coexistence Forum's documentation project, is dedicated to the memory of Yaaqub Abu al-Qian, may he rest in peace.

Haaretz’s reporter, Vered Lee, came to the village to speak with the project’s participants and coordinators and hear about their experience.

Taken from the article:
The photo book ... documents from a female perspective the residents living in the unrecognized village in the Negev, forced in April 2018 after a long struggle to sign an evacuation agreement and move to the township of ūrah. The separation period from the village, which is about to be evacuated, was documented by a group of Bedouin women who take part in the "Yuawiruna – Photographing for Human Rights" project, which has been operating in the village for the past four years on behalf of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality. As part of the project, participants receive a still camera and a video camera, professional guidance in photography and exposure to human rights issues. They meet once a week in a house in the village, go out to take pictures throughout the village, present the photographs during their meeting and learn to improve the language of photography and analyze the photographs while discussing the situation in the village and their lives as Bedouin women in Israeli society.

Hala Abo Freh, documentation coordinator for the Yuawiruna project, said: "The process of working with the women flooded me with memories of my childhood that connect me back to my roots. It really enlivens the past. I see before me a population that is displaced by the state - it is a path that my family has also made and through which I recognize how much we have lost from our culture and our natural way of life. " 


31.1.19

The political persecution of NCF and the Multaka-Mifgash cultural center continues!
 

Rubik Danilovich, Mayor of Beer Sheva Municipality, a continue to persecute the Negev Coexistence Forum  for Civil Equality and the only Arab-Jewish culture center in the Negev, the Multaka-Mifgash.
The Beer Sheva municipality demands that municipal taxes be paid in the amount of NIS 480,000 retroactively for seven years of activity from a public shelter in neighborhood D in the city.
This was only one month after the organization won its appeal in the Supreme Court against the eviction order from the Beer Sheva municipality, which demanded that NCF evacuate the shelter due to political activity that it claimed violated the contract.
After more than a decade of Arab-Jewish activity from the public shelter in Beer Sheva, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality received on January 20, 2019 a notice regarding the demand for payment of municipal taxes for 7 years of activity (2012-2018), as well as for the current year, totaling NIS 480,000 (the business rate for municipal taxes, otherwise known as Arnona). This is the first time that NCF has been asked to pay municipal taxes for using the public shelter. Needless to say, NCF is a non-profit organization and does not conduct any business-like activities from the Multaka-Mifgash cultural center.

The payment notice was issued only ten days after a ruling was made in the Supreme Court regarding the matter of NCF's appeal against the eviction order that was issued in December 2017 by the Beer Sheva municipality. The municipality claimed that NCF held activities that do not conform to the allocation contract to which it is signed. Among the events that NCF hosted were: A discussion of conscientious objection; an event about the Nakba; and a workshop to photographing demonstrations. NCF’s appeal alleges that the municipality, after allocating the building to the organization, cannot intervene in its content or cancel the contract based on its interpretation of what constitutes legitimate political activity. Attorney Dan Yakir from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said that the complex issues in society are the essence of promoting a common space, and as long as they are not infected with racism and incitement, the municipality does not have the right to intervene in them.

This week, NCF submitted a letter to the municipality demanding that the payment, which is tainted by extraneous considerations, be canceled immediately. In a letter submitted by Attorney Yishai Shnidor and attorney Carmel Pomerantz on behalf of NCF, it was argued that this retroactive charge of municipal taxes is illegal, other than in exceptional cases, and stated that: "The failure to issue the charges for municipal taxes in the past was not a mistake of the municipality. In that NCF, which is a volunteer institution for the benefit of the public that conducts social, not economic / business / for-profit activities, is not supposed to pay municipal taxes." In addition, the lawyers added that it is impossible to avoid a serious aspect of extraneous considerations that exists in this new affirmation, which arises "to actual harassment and an attempt to circumvent a ruling ... The connection between the two events is evident."

NCF stated in response: "It appears that even after the Supreme Court's ruling, the municipality, under the pressure of extreme right-wing elements, continues to persecute and silence those who are trying to promote joint activity of Arabs and Jews in the city. The decision to go after a non-profit organization for an astronomical retroactive payment for municipal taxes is a brutal provocation and illegal decision. Which marks a new record in the fight that the Beer Sheva municipality is leading against freedom of expression. The municipality failed miserably in the past when it tried to silence NCF and evict us, and it will fail in doing so once more.”


21.11.18

Sheikh Sayah will be sent for 10 months in prison starting 25th of December 2018



Photo by: Azez A-Turi


In an outrageous decision, the Supreme Court rejected Sheikh Sayah Abu Madhi’m A-Turi’s request for an appeal
 

Sheikh Sayah Abu Madhi’m A-Turi is a leader in the fight for land in his unrecognized village al-‘Arāgīb, and one of the leaders in the longest battles for Bedouin land in the Negev/Naqab. Sayah, 69, was born in the village in 1949. He was married in the village and had his children and grandchildren there.

In December 2017, the Be’er Sheva Magistrates Court convicted Sheikh Sayah of 19 counts of trespassing, 19 counts of unlawful entry into public land and one count of breach of law. He was sentenced to ten months in prison, five months' probation and a 36,000 ILS fine.
Sheikh Sayah appealed the Magistrate Court’s decision with the help of the Human Rights Defenders Fund and Advocate Shehadeh Ibn Bari who represents him in the criminal case. The appeal was denied. A motion for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has recently been filed. The court instructed the state to submit its response by November 2018, before deciding whether to grant leave to appeal. The motion was denied today by the Supreme Court.

The village of al-‘Arāgīb is located west of Road 40, between the Lehavim and Goral junctions, in the midst of a large Jewish National Fund (JNF) forestation project spanning tens of thousands of dunams. Until 2010, when the state began its repeated demolitions of the village, some 400-people lived in it, farming their land and growing mainly winter crops. The population has since shrunk and residents now live near the cemetery, where they were forced to move after the demolitions a number of years ago. They continue to fight against the demolition from there.

On June 27, 2010, the village of al-‘Arāgīb was completely destroyed by state authorities and has since been destroyed each and every month, including Ramadan. As of October 2018, the village had been demolished 135 times.
Sheikh Sayah leads the heroic fight for the village and its land. He faces a united front of state authorities that have joined forces to prove his land ownership claims are false. The Israel Police, the State Attorney's Office, the Negev Bedouin Development Authority, the Israel Land Authority – all work against this steadfast man who continues to live in impossible conditions, with no running water or electricity, leading his community out of faith in the justice of his path. Sayah uses his public position to raise awareness and promote recognition for other unrecognized villages in the Negev facing similar difficulties.

Two of Sayah's sons are on trial for similar offenses. The criminalization of Sayah's living on the land and the findings that these offenses carry prison sentences effectively criminalize dozens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Bedouin citizens with similar status in the land. There is reason to believe Sayah and his family have been singled out for enforcement action to the full extent of the law precisely because they have opted for a non-violent struggle for Bedouins' rights in the Negev. Throughout all legal proceedings taken against him Sayah has repeatedly expressed a strong public stance of determination and perseverance and shown he was prepared to pay the heavy cost of refusing to give up the fight. 
 
NCF will continue to support Sayah and his family in their just struggle.
If you wish to join us in support of Sheikh Sayah on the day of his imprisonment, please contact: intl.advocacy@dukium.org
If you wish to join the weekly protest in the Lehavim junction (every Sunday, 15:00) please contact: hn@dukium.org


 

 
Read online on NCF's website

Visit NCF's villages project website and start to read and watch photos and videos from the Bedouin villages in the Negev-Naqab at: dukium.org/maps
Check out NCF's record of house demolitions in the Negev-Naqab