September 02, 2005

Beyond recognition

Every so often an individual case brings the reality of Israel's apartheid system into view. A couple of days ago the Guardian reported the case of Israel trying to force Bedouin Arabs into a township by refusing amenities to a village that predates the existence of the state itself. The case is that of cancer victim Ennas Al-Atrash
Ennas was diagnosed with cancer in her chest cavity in January and subjected to weeks of chemotherapy and two operations. She was sent home to recover with a daily injection of medicine to boost her collapsed immune system. The drug has to be stored at a steady temperature between zero degrees and 4C (32F-39F).

But the Atrash family has no reliable means to do so because the Israeli government refuses to allow 80,000 Bedouin Arabs to be connected to the power, water or sewerage infrastructure on the grounds that their villages are illegal - even though many have stood since before the modern Israeli state existed.
The day after this report appeared (ie yesterday), a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in London, Dan Shaham wrote this to the Guardian
However, like every modern state, Israel has a system of planning permission. When a nomadic group settles illegally on state or privately owned land, it is simply unrealistic to expect that they be permanently connected to water and electricity; no modern state can be expected to provide limitless residential amenities.
Now, today, Physicians for Human Rights have responded thus
We would like to draw attention to the historical context of the unrecognised Negev villages to shed light on some of the problematic remarks of Mr Shaham from the Israeli embassy (Letters, September 1). Enass al-Atrash's village was established before the state of Israel came into existence. Israel's policy aims to move the Arab-Bedouin from their land and place them in what can only be termed as townships. One way of encouraging the residents of these "unrecognised" villages to leave their villages is by denying them basic services and rights, such as water and electricity.

Physicians for Human Rights and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, together with the al-Atrash family, petitioned the Israeli high court demanding that the girl's home receive a steady supply of electricity, because it is wrong to use the child's illness as a way to force the family to leave its home and move to a township. As every other modern state, Israel should supply the girl, a citizen of the state, with all she needs for a healthy life - in her family's home. What Enass - a three-year-old who suffers from cancer - needs to fight her terrible disease and save her life is electricity. That's all we've asked.
Shabtai Gold and Orly Almi
So nearly sixty years after the establishment of the state, the zionists are still. not simply demolishing houses, but destroying, or trying to destroy, whole villages.

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