Amira Hass, Haaretz, Jul 13, 2009
This article was originally published by Haaretz and is republished with permission.
The Jahalin tribe sends happy tidings from the West Bank to their brethren in Gaza: The effects of the Israeli siege can be overcome by building homes from used tires filled and covered with mud. This way refuse can be recycled, construction costs minimized and structures insulated from the cold and heat, something concrete buildings cannot do.
In one of the Jahalin encampments in the West Bank's Wadi Qelt region, they're building a school and kindergarten from used tires. This ignites the imagination - turning rubbish into treasure. Since their expulsion from the Negev in 1948, the Jahalin tribe has lived on privately-owned land leased from neighboring Palestinian villages. This was long before expanding settlements repeatedly encroached on their property and military edicts denied them the chance to wander with their flocks in accordance with the seasons and available water sources.
The Jahalin themselves built the school close to their homes because the authorities in charge of the land and planning did not do it. The Israeli government and Civil Administration, which have exclusive control over Area C (60 percent of the West Bank), do not take the Bedouin into account when determining their overall planning. Without a master plan, there is no real procedure for obtaining building permits, not for permanent structures for large families or medical clinics. As a result, the Jahalin and other seminomadic groups in the Jordan Valley are not hooked up to the electricity grid and water system. They live in tents and shacks slated for demolition by the authorities. By extension, the "eco-friendly" school and kindergarten are also considered illegal and have been marked for demolition.
Some observers liken the "illegality" of these structures to that of the Israeli outposts. This comparison is not only deceitful but also hypocritical because the outposts are not dismantled despite any demolition orders. Also, behind every outpost is a government agency that has helped establish it. And there is the matter of the settlements, all of which are illegal, not just the outposts.
The root of the problem is not the illegality of the settlements and outposts, but the Israeli Jewish worldview that sanctifies inequality. In other words, what is naturally befitting for Jewish Israelis ought to be denied the Palestinians, and what is painful and lacking for Jewish Israelis is not a problem for the Palestinians. The official talk of two states conceals the prevailing reality of one state, from the river to the sea, a state that embraces the South African ideology of "separate but unequal development of the races." All on the same strip of land, all under the rule of the same government.
Israel's construction of settlements in the territories conquered in 1967 and their 'natural growth' have been the subject of discussions between Israel's top officials and world leaders for decades. As a result, the Bedouin exercising their right to educate their children under humane conditions in a place they have lived for the last 61 years has come to be considered a violation of the law.
The law is determined by man and reflects the current balance of power, either on a global or local scale. Equality, on the other hand, is a human attribute. Throughout history, this attribute has become clearer thanks to never-ending social struggles. Their success - either full or partial - influences the laws.
There once was a law that forbade black slaves from learning to read and write. There were also criminals who broke the law by studying and teaching. Anyone who issues the order to raze a school for Bedouin, approves the order or carries it out aligns himself with the thinkers, jurists, and law enforcement officials of the slavery regime.
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