The Regional Planning Committee: First Destroy – and then Discuss Appeal

Photo: Tal Adler, Al-Foraah

If that surprises you, it means that you have little idea on how the mechanism of dispossession and destruction in the Negev actually works. But this week the district court in Be'er Sheva decided in favor of a Bedouin citizen, and overruled the lower court decision, delaying the destruction of an illegal structure until the appeal hearing.

In a courageous decision the Honorable Judge J. Danziger ruled that the Regional Planning Committee in the Southern District must delay a building demolition in Al-Foraah west of Arad. No demolition will take place before the district court's decision on an appeal against the decision of the Magistrates Court not to delay the demolition of the house.

In his decision the judge cited the petitioners' argument that the house status as illegal stems from the Planning Committee's failure to develop a plan of the village Al-Foraah. The default of the regional committee is prominent considering that the government has recognized the village officially and already issued a development plan from the Interior Ministry and from the Planning Committee. The Planning Committee failed repeatedly to develop a plan for the village. At the same time it continues to demolish houses that where built when no procedures were available to the residents to build their houses legally.

The claim that the Honorable Judge chose to include in his ruling exposes a part of the mechanism used to dispose the Bedouins and blame them at the same time. The Planning Committee issued orders to demolish houses in recent years in both recognized and unrecognized villages despite the fact that the lands that the Bedouins reside on have almost no approved plans nor is there any legal path available to for receiving permits for the construction of new houses. Therefore, the Committee's use of administrative demolition orders and in determining the illegality of houses is a manipulation aimed to hide the true nature of an ethnocentric conception of land use rights. The Committee's policy is designed to hide its own defaults by criminalizing the Bedouins.

It is even worse, since the absence of master plans have never prevented courts from ruling in favor of the regional committee. Even in this case the Magistrate Court ruled that there was no reason why the demolition order should be delay until after the appeal is discussed. That is despite the fact that demolishing the house would make the appeal redundant. Honorable Judge Danziger stated that regardless of the prospects of the appeal it is inconceivable to allow a demolition of the structure before the appeal hearing.

The judge writes:

"As we know, the right of a party to present an argument is one of the rules of natural justice and the lifeblood of the legal proceedings. We have to keep making sure of the fulfillment of these rules. Failure to give an order to delay execution will make the appeal filed by the applicant to the District Court empty of any real significance. That will nullify his right to a hearing, as well as the turning the right to receive his day in court a hollow symbol.

Even if the chances of the appeal are minimal, as argued by the respondent, and without expressing a position on this matter, the respondent will not suffer any real damage by a delay of implementation of the demolition order until the decision in the applicant's appeal is made, which most likely will not to take long. However, the right to be heard and the right of access to the courts those are without doubt harmful to the applicant.

Execution of the demolition order before the applicant's appeal hearing creates a "fait accompli" in a way that it is impossible to return the situation if the appeal will be decided in favor of the applicant, without expressing any position regarding the chances of the appeal."

"This important decision," said counselor Adv. Kais the petitioner's counsel, "gives hope that the courts will refrain in the future from being a rubber stamp of the Planning Committee which will force it to turn its efforts rather to planning and construction and focus less on demolition."


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