Israel’s “Green Police,” the enforcement unit of the Environment Ministry, along with officials of the Jewish National Fund, in recent days “liberated” some 1,500 dunams of land from Bedouin encroachers, who had planted seasonal fruits and vegetables on public and private land. Armed with tractors, the enforcement officials plowed the land where the plantings had been made, returning them to their owners and nipping in the bud claims that the land had been settled by the invaders “many generations ago,” as has occurred often.
The land that had been used by the Bedouins was located near Yerucham, and near the village of Aro’er. The misuse of the land was discovered by Israeli patrols, which were on the lookout for this kind of specific activity.
In the past, officials said, Bedouins have used this tactic to gradually take “ownership” of land that does not belong to them. When they have worked the land for several years they see themselves as having specific rights to it, including ownership, claiming that the barren land was ownerless. While the land was barren, that may have been for numerous reasons, with owners not using it for agricultural purposes because it was set for construction or other uses.
“Each year this phenomenon repeats itself,” said enforcement official Ilan Yeshurun. “This is an economic crime that hurts the public, to whom most of these lands belong, and it is a crime that could net its perpetrators two years in prison. It should be noted that the state has a program whereby farmers can rent land for production of crops legally, and we recommend that these farmers use that method instead of violating the law.”