Al-Arakib after an Israeli Lands Administration ordered demolition, July 2010. (Photo: Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)
The Israel Land Administration (ILA), the powerhouse behind Jewish territorial expansion, is being challenged in Israel's high court over race and gender discrimination. Yesterday a judge gave the government agency and steward over state-owned lands 60 days to come up with an explanation as to why women and Palestinians should not be appointed to their high council.
The petition [in Hebrew] against the ILA's high council was submitted in 2010 by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Itach-Maaki: Women Lawyers for Social Justice (IM). At the time of filing the suit, all of the council's 22 members were Jewish men, and 10 are currently representatives of the Jewish National Fund (JNF).
On Tuesday, ACRI and IM issued the following press release:
The Supreme Court issued the interim decree yesterday (21 May) in a case filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Itach-Maaki: Women Lawyers for Social Justice. At a previous stage in the proceeding, the State proposed appointing women and Arabs as deputy members of the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) Council. In her reply, ACRI Attorney Rawia Aburabia argued that the State's proposal does not meet the legal requirements for due representation, and that standing members from these groups should also be appointed.
The State now has 60 days to explain why the Council should not appoint permanent Arab and women members in a manner ensuring due representation of these populations.
Founded in 1960, the ILA is an administrative dumping ground for territory expropriated by the Absentee Property Laws and a spillover Ottoman "dead lands" statue. In the early years of Israeli statehood, land funneled into the ILA was then strategically leased to Jewish residents, businesses, kibbutzim, and moshavim. The land transfers were then regulated by the state, making "the desert bloom" (after disenfranchising the original inhabitants) in accordance with a larger Zionist dream.
As a result of the state land confiscations the ILA now controls 93% of the territory inside of Israel's 1967-borders, of which 13% is shared with the JNF. Over the Green Line, the ILA also administers land leased to Israel’s "legal" Israeli settlements and the four "national parks" in the West Bank.
Aside from charges of discrimination in the high council, the ILA is also under fire for targeting Bedouins in cases of home demolitions. Most notably the ILA ordered 38 demolitions against the same village, al-Arakib, and authorized the aerial spraying of pesticides over their crops.
In 2011 the government also approved the ILA's Prawer Plan, a blueprint for transferring 30,000 Bedouins out of their Negev villages. For decades, the ILA has claimed ownership of the land tracks, citing a 1950s transfer of ownership to the state. At the time, tens of thousands of Bedouin residents–some with valid property titles—were rounded up and re-settled near Beersheba. The internal displacement was ordered as part of Israel's eight-year formal military occupation over its Palestinian citizens. When the internal occupation ended in 1956, Bedouin landowners had lost their land titles to the ILA vis-à-vis the Absentee Property Laws. Today, these communities in the Negev now make up the 45 "unrecognized villages" populated by 80,000 Bedouins.
In an escalation, last month the ILA's Prawer Plan was backed by a 100-officer, eviction trained, police force. The unit will begin Bedouin home demolitions this summer in order to clear the space for perspective Jewish tenants.