Palestinian Bedouin at risk of forced displacement: IHL vulnerabilities, ICC possibilities

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Law


This project seeks to better understand the humanitarian impact of continued forcible transfer of the Bedouin communities living in E1, Jerusalem, and how impunity for violations of international law contributes to the deterioration of humanitarian vulnerabilities. Through qualitative enquiry, combining desk based research and first hand semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, the project will gather together a significant body of evidence to highlight to ongoing deleterious impact of repeated violations of IHL (and impunity for violations) on those living at the sharp edge of the situation in Israel-Palestine, namely the Bedouin communities of E1.

In their 2017 report, Humanitarian Facts and Figures: Occupied Palestinian Territory, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted that forced displacement is listed as one of the four key drivers of humanitarian vulnerability. The report highlighted that, "between 2009 and 2016, Israeli authorities demolished or seized over 4,800 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, mostly in Area C and East Jerusalem". It further indicated that "46 Palestinian Bedouin communities in the central West Bank, home to some 8,000 Palestinians, the majority registered Palestine refugees, have been targeted by the Israeli authorities for "relocation" to a number of designated sites". The expansion of Israeli settlements, considered illegal and condemned as a "flagrant violation under international law" by UN Security Council resolution 2334 of 2016, has been a driver for confiscation of Palestinian private and public land, demolition of homes (including Bedouin shacks) and repeated displacement of Palestinian civilians. The confiscation and demolition of property in Bedouin villages, and the ensuing forcible transfer/relocation of these vulnerable communities, is recognised as a violation of IHL and human rights by the UN, EU and other international actors. Forced displacement of civilians in an occupied territory is also considered a crime under International Criminal Law.

The planned expansion of the 'Ma'ale Adumim' settlement block east of Jerusalem is exacerbating the humanitarian vulnerabilities of the Bedouin and herder communities in the E1 area. Bedouin communities such as those residing in Abu Al-Nuwwar, Wadi Abu Hindi, Al Khan Al-Ahmar, Jabal Al-Baba and Sath Al Bahar are at the front line of defence for resisting Israeli settlement expansion, thus ensuring Palestinian access to Jerusalem. This scenario does not just affect individual Bedouin villages at risk of demolition and transfer, but carries grave implications for the broader Israeli-Palestinian situation. Thus, Palestinian Bedouin at risk of forcible transfer have, unintentionally, become key players in the regional context, whilst simultaneously facing unique humanitarian vulnerabilities that must be better understood.

A number of Israeli policies and practices in those areas, including a restrictive permit and planning regime, demolitions and threats of demolitions of property and the active promotion of relocation plans all contribute to the coercive environment, "which generates pressure on Palestinians to leave their communities". In the Israeli-Palestinian context, impunity for violations of international law, including IHL, has been recognised as a "driver of conflict". In espousing the benefits of holding violators of IHL to account, it has been noted that, "effective accountability not only ensures that perpetrators are brought to justice, but also ensures that victims have access to remedies and serves to deter future violations and to try to repair the harm suffered." As such, it is vital to understand the impact of violations of IHL on the Bedouin and herder communities in Palestine, and engage with the ICC's work. This project will work fill this gap, and produce an edited book and policy report.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit for the research?

There are three key beneficiaries of this research
(a) local groups and individuals facing humanitarian protection risks, namely Bedouin communities, including women and teenagers identified as specific vulnerable groups therein, whose improved capacity to understand, collect evidence of, and communicate issues and experiences illustrating IHL violations will enable greater participation in international accountability efforts, including at the ICC;
(b) in-country researchers and practitioners, in addition to the project partners, whose greater coordination and access to updated analysis will improve the efficiency, effectiveness and timeliness of engagement with international accountability efforts, including at the ICC; and
(c) the international community, including the State of Palestine, acting responsibly in line with the peace and security aims of the UN Charter, including accountability and guarantees of non-recurrence for violations of international humanitarian law through appropriate international legal fora (such as the ICC and UN, as well as the EU and other key players). All of this will maximize humanitarian protection of the Bedouin at risk of forced displacement by responding to past abuse by ensuring accountability for violations before an independent and impartial tribunal, building an environment founded on international law and conducive to full respect of all human rights, and offering some remedy to affected communities by acknowledging harm, seeking justice and empowering local groups to tell their story and be heard.

How will they benefit?

Each group will benefit from the planned activities by way of capacity building. And in particular, the Bedouin community will be in a stronger position to engage with the ICC preliminary examination activities.

In line with the overall purpose and aims of the AHRC-DFID humanitarian protection research grant, and as detailed in pathways to impact, this project offers potential impact in policymaking, practitioner and development contexts by addressing the IHL violations affecting Palestinian Bedouin at risk from the ground up, involving and building capacity of the communities affected, working with local researchers and practitioners and engaging with the preliminary examination activities at the ICC, UN and EU. Palestinian Bedouin at risk of forcible transfer have, unintentionally, become key players in the regional context, whilst simultaneously facing unique humanitarian vulnerabilities that must be better understood to enable and unlock the development potential of Palestine.

The impact, in line with the primary aim of this project, seeks to mitigate in the long term the significant and specific humanitarian challenges faced by the Palestinian Bedouin at risk of displacement in E1, with a view to reducing harm through an increased respect for international law. The specific humanitarian challenges underpin these communities' possibilities for development as well, as illustrated by a range of UN reports and other sources (see Case for Support). As such, this research project on the E1 Bedouin speaks directly to the international community's commitment to development in Palestine, and commitment to peace and justice in the region.


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