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11 March 2007 Colonies Threaten Livelihoods

Israel`s Wall and Spreading Jewish Colonies Threaten Livelihood for Thousands

Israeli bulldozers threaten the lives of thousands of Bedouins to make way for Separation Wall in favor of Jewish settler colonies. The bulldozers came for Hamid Salim Hassan?s house just after dawn. Before the demolition began, the Bedouin family scrambled to gather what they could: a fridge, a pile of carpets, some plastic chairs, a canister of cooking gas and a metal bed frame.

Now, with their house a wreck of smashed concrete and broken plastic pipes, Mr Hassan and his family are living in a canvas tent on a neighbour?s land. Their possessions are piled outside, along with boxes of supplies, including washing-up liquid, toothpaste, corned beef, wheat flour and tomato paste, provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

His tent is small but it affords Mr Hassan a compelling view of the future. Stretched out before him are the hilltops of the West Bank where he and his family, all Bedouin shepherds who fled Israel in 1948, used to live and graze their sheep. Standing there now is Ma?ale Adumim, one of the largest Jewish settlements which is illegal under international law. Snaking up the hillside towards his tent is the West Bank barrier, also ruled unlawful in advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice. When complete, the steel and barbed wire barrier, which here will be 50m wide and include a ditch and patrol roads, will surround Ma?ale Adumim, attaching it to a greater Jerusalem.

For the 3,000 Bedouin living here, most from the Jahalin tribe, this presents an imminent crisis. They came and destroyed my house to protect their wall, said Mr Hassan, 62. They really don?t have enough land already that they had to come and destroy my house? We?ve lost everything.

Earlier this month the Israeli military destroyed seven huts and tents belonging to Bedouin living near a settlement in Hebron, in the southern West Bank. Another group of Bedouin living further east in the Jordan Valley have been given two months to leave their homes near an Israeli military base and a Jewish settlement.

In each case the Israeli authorities argue the homes have been built without permits, but Palestinians say they are notoriously hard to obtain.

Bedouin culture has been eroded as a result. Refugees from the Negev desert in Israel who crossed after 1948, their grazing land has been squeezed by the growth of Palestinian towns, the rapid emergence of large Jewish settlements and lately the vast concrete and steel barrier. Most Bedouin live on land that under the Oslo accords was supposed to be unpopulated farmland where Israel has civilian and military control. Today most live in primitive shacks, many no longer keep animal herds and they have little in the way of formal land ownership documents. They have become one of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities.

Open and free

Mr Hassan, 62, was born in Be?er Sheva, in what is now

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