Waste Waste Waste

Human Waste Palestine Monitor 13 November 2009 Beyond the demolitions in its suburbs and the frequent, violent clashes around Al-Aqsa, Jerusalem hides a quieter shame. Southeast of the holy city live the Jahalin Bedouins, a community that has been repeatedly displaced and moved on, now enduring subhuman poverty beside Jerusalem’s largest garbage dump. An embarrassment to Palestinians and Israelis alike, the Bedouins and their unique way of life is under grave threat. Photo by Lazar Simeonov Eid Raeb is a co-ordinator between the Jabal camp and the European NGOs which are its lifeblood. “The Bedouin life is finished”, he declares without hesitation, “sometimes when I look outside I imagine how it was before, but I know that life is over.” Eid is one of the founder members of Jabal and has taken their journey from land that became Ma’ale Adumim, one of the fastest growing settlements, to here. “After they build (Ma’ale Adumim) in 1979, they began to move us. At first very slowly, one family at a time. After 1993 and the Oslo agreements they build many houses and say they need all the land.” Oslo placed them in Area C, under Israeli control and at their mercy. “At first when they tell us to move here we refuse, but the Israelis say they will use force. They promised us building permission, electricity, water and streets. When we came here there was nothing, just open land.” Photo by Lazar Simeonov The Jabal camp was established in 1997, with each Bedouin family receiving around $10,000 for the upheaval. But the promises of infrastructural support were reneged on, most crucially the Bedouins were denied building permission, forcing them to live for six years in shipping containers. In 1998, the UN committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights expressed “deep concern at the situation of the Jahalin Bedouin families who were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands to make way for the expansion of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement”. The report also condemned the “manner in which the Government of Israel has housed these families – in steel container vans in a garbage dump in Abu Dis in subhuman living conditions.” After concerted pressure from aid organisations and foreign NGOs the residents of Jabal were finally granted permission to build on their land. Eid claims that the site was uninhabited when the Bedouins were moved in, that it was Israeli land to give away and that “Palestinians have no problem with us being here”. Not the case according to Abdullah, a long time resident of Abu Dis, the neighbouring Palestinian village. “Their village is built on land confiscated from Palestinians in Abu Dis. We think very badly of them, that they work with Israelis and sometimes they behave like Israeli soldiers. We had a demonstration against the stealing of our land and they came to shoot at us. That they have their own problems and difficulties does not mean they should accept to live on Palestinian land.” Abdullah refers to a neighbouring Bedouin camp where he claims the residents refused to displace Palestinians and now live in temporary tents away from Abu Dis; “they trade milk and cheese with us, we provide them with teachers. They are with us in our struggle against the Israelis.” Photo by Lazar Simeonov Eid freely admits to his split loyalties. “The Bedouins here are Palestinians. But before when Jordan had this land we were Jordanians and most Bedouins feel closer to Jordan. We work with Israelis and if there is a problem, Israeli police come here.” It is easy to see how their dealings with the occupation forces would be enough to poison a Palestinian’s view of the Jabal Bedouins, while Eid has nothing but contempt for the PA. “They are not a government, they are like thieves. We are starting from zero here, we need schools, water, roads but the PA is helping us only with teachers. We know that more than $1 million has come from international aid but we do not see it. Abu Marzen and the PA take it.” The greatest concern for Eid and Jabal is the massive garbage dump located just 300 metres away. The majority of Jerusalem’s waste is disposed here, including tons of chemicals and dangerous gases each day. The site predates Jabal but as Eid says, the Bedouins had no choice. “For the last ten years they have been promising to take the garbage. They say they will relocate it to a place near Jericho but even if they do the problem will not go away, it is in the earth now. We have now many cases of skin disease in our people and animals and we do not know how to treat it. One animal will catch it and then spread the sickness to many others. Sometimes we cannot see it for weeks.” Photo by Lazar Simeonov Despite a new clinic having been recently built (a joint venture from the PA and German NGO DED), there is not a single doctor in Jabal’s 3,500 strong population. Eid explains the problem “If we need a doctor, we must drive to Bethany. If we need one immediately it is a problem. Sometimes we ask for an ambulance from Ma’ale Adumim, but most times they refuse.” Like most West Bank residents the Bedouins struggle to access treatment in Israeli hospitals and so conditions can go unseen. In January 2007 an 11 month old baby died from a treatable breathing difficulty, while many mothers have chosen to give birth at home with no post-natal care. These incidents come partly from a suspicion toward modern medical practises, which Eid believes represents a broader struggle to modernise. “A Bedouin will always choose the traditional life, the life that is open. He cannot be in a village seeing only four walls and closed doors. People don’t know how to use their house or proper medicine. It is a big problem for us.” Two months ago Eid was visited by a representative from the Israeli Land Administration (ILA), guaranteeing the garbage would be moved in the next two years. “I would like to trust her but I can believe only actions” he says. There was less optimistic news from the ICAHD (Israeli Campaign Against House Demolitions). “The most recent meeting between the Interior Minister and the Mayor of Ma’ale Adumim resulted in a decision to postpone any kind of plan for at least six months”, their spokesperson told us. There are many precedents for Bedouins being forced to endure such conditions. Between 2002-2004 the Israeli Government destroyed 7,500 acres of Bedouin crops in the Negev by spraying the area with illegal toxic chemicals. The effects were hugely damaging to people and animals in the area and the policy was widely condemned as inhumane. In Beit Iksa, several wells were poisoned as part of a campaign to expel the Bedouins by any means necessary. At the time Ehud Olmert defended the policy, “we will displace unrecognised Bedouin communities to make room for thousands of Jews”. Recognition has been a huge problem for the Bedouins and around 20% of their population are not even registered as refugees, giving them no protection from displacement and brutal treatment. Currently a court case is ongoing on behalf of Eizariya camp, Bethany, to determine whether their residents have any right to reverse the 257 eviction orders they have been issued with. Resented by both sides in the Israel/Palestine conflict and struggling to adapt to a modern way of life, the residents of Jabal face an uncertain future. Although they now own the rights to the land, the constant expansion of Ma’ale Adumim poses a constant menace. Without the resources to support themselves they are reliant on a handful of foreign NGO’s, who have been unable to find solutions for the garbage problem or the resultant diseases. Without urgent attention Jabal could become a humanitarian crisis, but there is no authority willing to represent them.



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