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Jordan Valley Jews Fight Bedouin Encroachment

The problem of Bedouin encroachment on state-owned lands may have met a partial solution; Jewish residents brought about an evacuation of one new encampment.

It occurred in Maskiyot, in the Jordan Valley, this week, where a dozen families of the now-destroyed Gush Katif neighborhood Shirat HaYam now reside. Yossi Hazut, head of the town secretariat, told Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew newsmagazine what happened:

"The Bedouin are taking over lands in many places, and no one is doing anything about it," Hazut said. "In our area, families from Shechem and Tubas constantly come here and set up camp. Even when we turn to the courts, they don’t do anything, thus giving the Bedouin more strength."

"A few days ago," Hazut recounted, "a Bedouin family came to the entrance junction to our community and camped out there. We refused to accept this, and within a short time of their arrival, we set up our own camp in the same place. Haaretz reporter Amira Hass wrote that the Bedouin had been there for many years, but the family was unable to produce even one piece of evidence to that effect. Maybe they’ve been in Shechem or Tubas for many years, but in Maskiyot they’ve only been for maybe a day and a half."

"Before setting up tent there, we turned to the authorities, but we receive no response. So we decided to take action against this ‘fresh infiltration.’

"We set up our camp, with three families and a few supporters, just about five meters away from the Bedouin. A policeman came and told us to leave because it wouldn’t help anyway. We stayed firm and said that we would leave when the Bedouin leave.

"For about three days there was a standoff, with no violence. But on the fourth day, about 200 Arabs from other places came by, led by the head governor of Tubas, and the picture changed drastically. They came with PLO flags, clubs, rocks and metal poles, and when the European and PA press came, they tried to take apart our encampment. One of them tried to choke me, another one of us got punched in the eye. Only when a patrol of soldiers came by and cocked their guns did it end."

But just barely. As Hazut explained, "It was terribly frustrating to see a soldier telling an Arab to move, and he answers, ‘Don’t want to, what are you going to do, shoot me?’ Are we sovereign here or not?"

In the end, after five days of protest, police came and took apart both encampments – which the Jews see as a victory. "Yes, Bedouin are taking over in many places," Hazut says, "but what we profited is that the Jews of the Jordan Valley have raised their heads. This story has reverberated widely. People are beginning to understand finally that we can do something, even if it has a price. In nearby communities, people are beginning to think that maybe each town can deal with ‘its’ Bedouin. We have breathed some new life, and that’s what’s important. We’re beginning to be viewed as ‘crazies,’ in the positive sense. So perhaps we’re not crazy enough, but we have taken one step and we will continue from here…"

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