As part of a "forestation" plan, Israel's Jewish National Fund began clearing cultivated lands at the "unrecognized" Bedouin village of Sawa in the Negev desert this week, sparking angry protests by the villagers. The protests started Jan. 10, when villagers and Bedouin leaders expressed their objections the JNF plan to plant trees on an area of 5,000 dunums (1,250 acres), much of which had been planted with wheat only a few months ago. Tractors arrived at the area the following day to begin clearing the fields, and villagers physically resisted. Police detained 18 local youth for throwing stones. Protests continued for the following two days, with the security forces firing rubber-coated bullets, tear-gas and malodorous "skunk water," causing several injuries. Border Police joined the Israeli Police force at the scene.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) announced May 18 that the Israeli bombardment has resulted in over 58,000 Palestinians being displaced from their homes in the Gaza Strip. Of these, 47,000 are currently seeking shelter in facilities run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. The bombardment has also led to the destruction of health infrastructure such as COVID-19 testing labs and clinics. The destruction exacerbates privation imposed by the ongoing blockade of the Strip.
In a meeting hosted by the Yazidi autonomous territory of Ezidikhan in northern Iraq last month, representatives of tribal peoples and ethnic minorities from across the Middle East and North Africa agreed on a framework for a region-wide alliance of stateless nations struggling for self-determination and autonomy. The meeting at the Ezidikhan seat of Shingal (also rendered Sinjar) was attended by representatives of the Mandaeans and Zoroastrians as well as Yazidis. Messages of support were also sent by the Shabaks of Iraq, Ahwazi Arabs of Iran, Berbers of Libya, and Palestinian Bedouins residing in the state of Israel. Delegates announced formation of a Confederation of Indigenous Nations of the Middle East open to all stateless peoples of the region. "We are are expecting even more indigenous nations to sign on," said Ezidikhan Minister of Justice Nallein Sowilo. She noted that the Kawliya and Yarsanis, whose territory is divided between Iraq and Iran, have also expressed interest in joining. "We are all natural allies. That is why we call this an alliance of First Peoples. We represent the Middle East's ancient heritage of ethnic and religious diversity."
The Supreme Court of Israel ruled Aug. 27 that a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank had been built on land that was privately owned by Palestinians, and as a result, the settlement had to be removed. The case involved the settlement of Mitzpe Kramim, an outpost in the Jordan Valley built 20 years ago. The settlers claimed that they had been granted authority to build there by the Israeli government. Palestinian plaintiffs filed suit in 2011, arguing that they were the legal owners of the land and the construction that had been undertaken by the settlers was illegal. They asked that the buildings be evacuated.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on May 28 detailed abuses against civilians by both the Egyptian government and militants in the Sinai Peninsula, some of which HRW classified as war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. The information in the report was collected over a two-year investigation into the conditions facing civilians in Sinai. The abuses detailed in the report include mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and unlawful air and ground attacks against civilians. These actions are part of the government's fight against the ISIS-affiliated militants in Sinai. HRW claims that both groups are guilty of committing atrocities against civilians, but the Egyptian government is responsible for the majority of the abuses.
Israeli authorities have revoked the citizenship of hundreds of Bedouin Palestinians in the Negev desert in recent years, leaving many stateless and without recourse to appeal the decision. Since the establishment of Israel in 1948 the Bedouin community has faced policies of dispossession and displacement. More than half of the 160,000 Bedouin in the Negev live in "unrecognized" villages, leaving them deprived of water, electricity and other basic infrastructure. In recent years, Israeli authorities have started revoking the citizenship of Bedouin residents, according to a new report in Haaretz newspaper.
Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev region of southern Israel for the 113th time since 2010 on May 17 morning, and for the fifth time this year. The head of the local council, Aziz al-Turi, told Ma'an News Agency that Israeli bulldozers accompanied by police forces raided the village and demolished the steel-structure makeshift homes "without any consideration for their residents." The last time Israeli forces razed homes in al-Araqib was only weeks ago, on April 25. "All demolition crimes will not scare us or stop us from rebuilding our homes and holding on to our lands," al-Araqib resident Sayyah al-Turi told Ma'an. "We will stay here despite the injustice and criminal demolitions, we will not submit to their plans of uprooting and displacing us."
An Israeli cabinet committee approved a contested bill on May 7 seeking to enshrine Israel's status as a Jewish state into the country's central legislation, sparking concern the heightened discrimination Palestinians would face should it become law. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted unanimously to move the "Jewish State" bill—which is also being referred to as the "Nationality" or "Nation State" bill—to a preliminary vote in the Knesset, Israel's parliament. The bill declares that Israel is "the national home of the Jewish people," and that "the right to realize self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people," Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.