An Israeli court has ruled that 500 Palestinian residents of Ras Jrabah, a village in the Negev (Naqab) desert that predates the establishment of the state of Israel, must leave their homes and lands by March 2024 to make way for a new Jewish neighborhood.
The Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court issued the decision on Monday, following a lawsuit filed by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) in 2019. The ILA claimed that the presence of Ras Jrabah, which is unrecognized by the state, hindered the expansion of the nearby city of Dimona.
The court ordered the Palestinian families to demolish their own homes and pay a sum of 117,000 shekels ($31,700) to cover legal expenses. The court also rejected the residents’ request to postpone the eviction until an alternative solution is found.
The residents of Ras Jrabah belong to the al-Hawashleh tribe, a native Palestinian Bedouin community that has lived in the area for generations. They own land in both Ras Jrabah and Dimona, which was built on their lands after 1948.
The government plans to replace Ras Jrabah with a new neighborhood called Rotem, which will include thousands of housing units for Jewish citizens. The project is part of a larger plan to Judaize the Negev and displace its indigenous Palestinian population.
Adalah, the Haifa-based legal centre for Arab minority rights, which is representing the residents, said they will appeal against the decision. It argued that the court “disregarded” the residents’ arguments and ignored their historical and cultural ties to the land.
“Since the Nakba, the state of Israel has employed a range of tools and policies to forcibly displace the Bedouin residents in the Naqab,” Adalah said in a statement¹. “These policies are aimed at concentrating them in impoverished townships and seizing their lands for the benefit of Jewish settlement expansion.”
The case of Ras Jrabah is not an isolated one. There are dozens of unrecognised Palestinian villages in the Negev, home to about 90,000 people, who face constant threats of demolition, eviction and discrimination.
One of the most prominent examples is Umm al-Hiran, another Bedouin village that was ordered to be demolished by Israel’s high court in 2017 to make way for a Jewish-only colony called Hiran². The residents have been resisting the eviction for years, despite facing violence and intimidation from Israeli forces.
Amnesty International has condemned Israel’s plans to forcibly transfer Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Negev as a violation of international law and a manifestation of its apartheid regime.
“The Israeli authorities must immediately halt all plans to forcibly evict and displace these communities,” Amnesty said in a statement in May. “Forcible transfer amounts to a war crime under international law when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population.”
The Palestinian residents of Ras Jrabah have vowed to fight for their rights and dignity until the end. 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”.