As part of the Israeli government’s policy of confiscating, uprooting and resettling the Bedouins into townships, a new measure [destruction of crop land with toxic chemicals] was introduced on February 15, 2002, against the residents of 10 unrecognized villages (with a population of 20,000 Israeli citizens).
On 3 March 2003, without prior warning, two airplanes belonging to the Israel Lands Administration (ILA), accompanied by a large number of police forces and Green “Black” Patrol members, sprayed toxic chemicals on houses and on more than 2,000 dunams (500 acres) of crops belonging to the residents of Abda, an unrecognized village in the Negev.
Elderly people and children who were in the fields were also sprayed. The children started to panic, and suffered from trauma because they believed that war started and chemical weapons were used against them. Village residents immediately evacuated those children to the closest clinic at Mitzpah Ramon (a Jewish locality). The doctor refused to receive them until the Vice President of the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages of the Palestinian Bedouin in the Negev (RCUV) contacted the Ministry of Health and Kupat Holim. The RCUV sent an urgent letter to the Health Ministry requiring an official investigation in the matter.
Labad Tasan, the head of Abda Local Committee said that the ILA sprayed the crops, the people, and even the animals were not saved. A Green Patrol officer aimed his gun at one farmer who tried to stop them from spraying his land. Labad added that spraying the crops created panic among the children. The children, who had just received gas masks, thought that the war had started in Iraq.
Jaber Abu Kaff, the RCUV President who visited the children at the clinic said that spraying the crops with chemicals at Abda village was a barbarian, inhuman, and immorale act. He emphasized that the new Sharon government is proceeding with its plan to try to uproot the Bedouin from our father’s and grandfather’s land. “But we will stay in our land as long as we are alive and we urge all those people with a conscience to stand with us.”
Abda was ‘formally’ recognized by the Israeli government in 1992 after a 6-month sit-in, in front of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament). Despite formal recognition, Abda’s residents continue to lack municipal infrastructure, including water, electricity, access roads, health care, education, etc., like all other unrecognized villages. Formal recognition came as part of a government plan to attract tourists and transform the surrounding area, including the original village site of Abda, into a national park due to the presence of Nabatean ruins. Residents of Abda were expelled from the village and today live some 4 km from the village site.
Thereare 45 unrecognized villages in the Negev (Naqab) with a total population of 70,000.
For more information contact:
The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages of the Palestinian Bedouin in the Negev (RCUV), PO Box 10002, Beer Sheva. Tel. 08-628-3043; Fax. 08-6283315; Email, firstname.lastname@example.org