Bedouin families denied water rights in unrecognized villages

Adalah: Decision Infringes the Rights of Arab Bedouin Citizens of Israel to Water and Health, and to Live in Dignity

On 13 September 2006, the Haifa District Court (sitting as a Water Tribunal) rejected an appeal filed by Adalah on behalf of 767 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel living in unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev), demanding access to sources of clean drinking water. Adalah Attorney Marwan Dalal submitted the appeal against prior decisions of the Water Commissioner, who had also denied these requests.

Adalah argued in the appeal, filed on 20 April 2005, that Arab Bedouin living in the unrecognized villages in the south possess the basic human right to water and health, which must be granted by the state in order to guarantee the constitutional right to dignity. The Court’s decision to deny water access to Arab Bedouin families is grounded on pretexts unrelated to the humanitarian issue of the availability of cleaning drinking water. Rather, the Court based its judgment on the political issue of the “illegal” status of the unrecognized villages.

In the decision, Haifa District Court President, Judge Ron Shapira, referred to the case as one which deals with connections to the water mains. However, behind it lies the issue of the organization of “Bedouin settlement,” in his words. On this basis, the Court decided that it did not have the authority to interfere in considerations relating to how “Bedouin settlement” is regulated. The Court added that it is not disregarding the problems of prejudice and discrimination faced by Arab Bedouin citizens, but that, in its opinion, providing connections to the water mains is not the way to resolve the problem of the unrecognized villages. According to the Court’s decision, therefore, the right to water is not absolute, but can be made conditional, in this case on a “clear” public interest “not to encourage cases of additional illegal settlement.”

It is Adalah’s position that by rejecting the appeal on the basis of non-interference in the state’s decisions regarding “Bedouin settlement,” the Haifa District Court, in practice has transformed the Water Tribunal into a rubber-stamp for the state’s discriminatory policies of land appropriation against the Arab Bedouin. These policies aim to take land from Arab Bedouin living in the unrecognized villages by means of depriving them of basic rights and services, such as access to clean drinking water.

The appeal was filed on behalf of Mr. Abdullah Abu Musa’ed, representing 15 families from Tel al-Maleh; Mr. Tweil’a al-Ghanemi, representing 11 families from Gatamat; Mr. Ibrahim al-Atrash, representing 10 families living to the south of the main road between Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva) and Arad; Mr. Salim Abu Qee’an, representing 34 families from Umm al-Hieran; Mr. Eid Salman al-Anbari, representing 40 families from Tel Arad; and Mr. Ibrahim Sabih al-Hawasheleh, representing 18 families from Tla’ Rashid.

D.C.H. Appeal 609/05, Abdallah Abu Msaed, et. al. v. Wat
er Commissioner
(Haifa District Court) (appeal dismissed 13 September 2006).

For more background on the case, see: “Adalah Appeals Water Commissioner’s Refusal to Provide Water Access for Hundreds of Arab Bedouin Living in Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab,” Adalah News Update, 27 April 2005.

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