Another day, another atrocity

November 7, 2006

In News

Sample Letter for Israeli Officials | Sample Letter for European Officials

Case ISR-FEDM 311006

The Housing and Land Rights Network of Habitat International Coalition (HIC-HLRN, in cooperation Village Committee of al-Sira and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, request your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Palestine.

Brief description

(the complete case history can be found at

Israel has declared an area encompassing the indigenous Bedouin village of al-Sira as a military zone, based on 1980 legislation �The Negev Land Acquisition (Peace Treaty with Egypt) Law” allowing the expropriation of lands for the purpose of establishing the Nevatim Air Force Base. Although the village lies outside the air force base, Israeli authorities ordered the confiscation of al-Sira�s lands and the demolition of the entire village, without consulting or informing residents of the decision.

Three months ago, dozens of police officers and officials from the Ministry of the Interior posted seven house demolition warning notices in al-Sira, home to 350 indigenous Palestinian Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel. The village residents challenged the injunction in court. The residents demolished one house by themselves upon the order of one of the judges. The local inhabitants were constructing the house for a divorced woman, mother of four children who suffer from various health problems (retardation, deafness). They now live in a makeshift lean-to.

On 7 September, approximately 200 police officers and inspectors returned to the village and posted 45 demolition notices as well as an additional six houses that had been given a prior warning. This means that all of the houses and structures in the village are to be torn down. As of today, no alternative housing solution has been found for the residents. The building inspector in the Ministry of the Interior asserts that his job is merely to demolish the houses. The State of Israel�s Bedouin Authority, which is responsible for settling this population, has not offered any concrete solutions.

When the court served the injunctions on 7 September in al-Sira, resident mother of five in her sixth month of pregnancy suffered an anxiety attack. She was taken to the hospital where she gave birth to a premature infant. The baby died on 17 September.

The residents have been diligently employing all legal means available to them, including appealing directly to all authorities connected with the case and initiating meetings with government officials, prior to the 7 September demolition orders. To date, the residents have taken the following actions:

4 June 2006: met with the commander of the air force base next to the village. He told the villagers that, despite a plan to enlarge the base, there is no plan to enlarge it in the direction of the village, and that the base does not need their land.

6 June 2006: met with Mr. Ilan Sagy, the construction inspector of the Ministry of Interior for the southern region. He promised to wait three months before demolishing the homes, advised that he could not make any recommendations or suggestions for housing since he is only in charge of demolitions.

8 June 2006: met with Mr. Ilan Yifrach, of the Bedouin Authority, about housing solutions. He posed no immediate solution, but raised the idea to move the residents to a future settlement, called Mar’it, or to the town of Rahat, which is located 40 kilometers from al-Sira.

7 July 2006: met with Mr. Ya’acov Katz, the head of the Bedouin Authority. He said that he had no solution and that he would check the options of Mar’it, Rahat and Laqia (another Bedouin township). Mr. Katz asked the village representatives to consider asking one of the clans in Laqiya for permission to move there. This was a measure to ensure conflict between the Bedouin tribes, in order to divide and conquer.

All of these meetings made it clear to the residents of al-Sira that the State of Israel has no real need for the land and no compensation scheme for the houses to be demolished.

Duty Holders

The State of Israel, its elected government and its military forces bear the duty to uphold norms of applicable international human rights law as minimum obligations in their treatment of the Palestinian Arab citizens, including the indigenous Bedouin community, on the basis of nondiscrimination. The State has assumed these duties, including by way of its treaty ratifications and affirmations mentioned below. By extension, compliance with these rules also is required of local authorities and private parties, which the State of Israel also is required by law to ensure, in order to protect against violations.

Legal Aspects

The State practices reported violate the inhabitants� human right to adequate housing; i.e., the right of all women, men and children to gain and sustain a secure place to live in peace and dignity. House demolitions represent a gross human rights violation and a violation of the international human rights norms, especially provisions regulating adequacy, nondiscrimination and military necessity. It is worth noting that the Israeli authorities generally do not inform the inhabitants in advance of demolition, and do not allow them a chance to salvage possessions or furniture. The Israeli authorities do not ensure that �all persons should possess a degree of security of tenure [that] guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats,� as provided in General Comment No. 4, elaborating the States obligations under treaty. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) requires that States parties, such as Israel, �take immediate measures aimed at conferring legal security of tenure upon those persons and households currently lacking such protection,
in genuine consultation with affected persons and groups�(para. 8[a]). According to General Comment No. 7, �States Parties shall ensure, prior to carrying out any evictions, and particularly those involving large groups, that all feasible alternatives are explored in consultation with the affected persons, with a view to avoiding, or at least minimizing, the need to use force. Legal remedies or procedures should be provided to those who are affected by eviction orders.� States Parties shall also see to it that all the individuals concerned have a right to adequate compensation for any affected personal and real property. (para. 15). The same legal standard provides that evictions �should not result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other
human rights. Where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, the State Party must take all appropriate measures, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure that adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land, as the case may be, is available� (para. 17).

Your action requested

Please write (sample letters attached) to the authorities in Israel, urging them to international law by:

1. Immediately halt impending evictions

2. Fully and urgently compensating all affected communities, including al-Sira, so as to enable the inhabitants to rebuild their houses and other structures, while government provides basic infrastructures and planning, thereby restoring the communities in their own lands.

The United Nations, the African Union and the European Union to take immediate action to:

– publicly condemn Israeli actions;

– ensure that Israel upholds its treaty obligations;

– guarantee security of tenure, personal safety and nondiscrimination against the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, including the Bedouin of the Naqab.

Addresses of Duty Holders:


Ehud Olmert

Prime Minister of Israel
Prime Minister’s Office
3 Kaplan St., Qiryat Ben Gurion
P.O. Box 187, 91919 Jerusalem
Tel: +972 (0)2 670-5555
Fax: +972 (0)2 651-2631


Amir Peretz

Minister of Defense
Ministry of Defense
Kaplan St.
Tel Aviv 61909
Tel: +972 (0)3 569-2010
Fax: +972 (0)3 691-6940

Haim Ramon

Minister of Justice
29 Salah al-Din St.
91010 Jerusalem
Tel. +972 (0)2 670-8511
Fax: +972 (0)2 628-8618

International Officials

H.E. Kofi Annan

UN Secretary-General
UN Headquarters
UN Plaza
New York NY 10017, United States

H.E. Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa

President of the UN General Assembly
United Nations Headquarters
Conference Building
New York NY 10017, United States
Tel: +1 (212) 963-2486, 963-5067
Fax: +1 (212) 963-3301, 963-3133


European Commission


H.E. Josep Borrell Fontelles

President of European Parliament:



Please see the attached Sample Letter.

Kindly inform HLRN and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply to:,