An Israeli court has ruled that 500 Palestinian residents of Ras Jrabah, a village in the Negev desert that existed before the Israeli occupation was established, must vacate and demolish their homes to make way for a new Jewish neighborhood.
The court rejected the villagers’ claim that they have lived on the land for generations, and ordered them to pay more than $30,000 in legal fees. The court also denied their request to be integrated into the planned neighborhood, named Rotem, and said they could only be relocated to another Bedouin town.
The decision was condemned by Adalah, a legal centre that represents the Palestinian residents, as a crime of apartheid and a violation of their rights. Adalah said that Israel has been systematically displacing and segregating the Bedouin population in the Negev since 1948, and that the court’s ruling was based on a law that prioritises Jewish settlement over the rights of Palestinian citizens.
Adalah said it will appeal the court’s decision, which it said was part of the Israeli colonial objectives and its policy of Jewish supremacy.
Ras Jrabah is one of several unrecognized Bedouin villages in Israel, which lack basic services and infrastructure. The village is adjacent to the city of Dimona, which was built on the lands of the al-Hawashleh tribe, to which most of the villagers belong. The Israel Land Authority (ILA), a governmental body that manages 93% of the land occupied by Israel in 1948, filed eviction lawsuits against 127 households in Ras Jrabah in 2019, claiming that their presence hindered the expansion of Dimona.
The ILA plans to demolish the village and replace it with Rotem, a new neighborhood that will include thousands of housing units for Jewish Israelis. The ILA offered to resettle the villagers in Qasr al-Sir, a nearby Bedouin town that is recognized by the state but suffers from poverty and neglect. The villagers rejected this offer, saying that they would lose their ancestral land and their community ties.
The Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court sided with the ILA on Monday, giving the villagers until March 1, 2024 to leave their homes and destroy them. The court also imposed a hefty fine on the villagers for legal expenses.
The villagers expressed shock and dismay at the court’s verdict, saying that they would not give up their land and their rights. Musa al-Hawashleh, a resident of Ras Jrabah, told Middle East Eye: “We don’t know where we will go. We have been here before the state of Israel and now we will be expelled from our homeland.”
Adalah denounced the verdict as a “cruel” and “unjust” act of apartheid, saying that it aimed to displace Palestinians and replace them with Jews. Adalah said that the verdict violated international law and human rights conventions, as well as Israel’s own Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.
Adalah lawyer Myssana Morany said: “This is part of a system of Jewish supremacy that was constitutionally enshrined in the Jewish Nation-State Law, which prioritises ‘Jewish settlement’ as a value that all state bodies are mandated to promote. Israel’s judicial system approves, time after time, the displacement of Palestinian citizens in favor of Jewish expansions, thereby advancing Israel’s colonial objectives.”
Adalah said it would appeal the verdict to a higher court, and called on the international community to intervene and stop Israel’s policies of forced displacement and racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens.