Israeli Supreme Court rules that construction of phosphate mine in Bedouin village in the Naqab will be considered only after examining health risks

Petitions by residents, human rights and environmental groups, and local councils prevent sweeping approval of a national mining master plan, which includes the Sde Barir mine in the Naqab; the mine is expected to forcibly displace thousands of Palestinian Bedouin citizens; Israeli authorities continue to halt the planning of the village Al-Fura’a, the designated area for the mine.

On 11 October 2021, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on three petitions that requested that the Court cancel the national master plan for mining and quarrying (National Master Plan 14B, or NMP 14B). Due to the litigation, the Israeli authorities agreed to conduct an environmental impact survey (EIS) – which also considers some health risks posed to the local Palestinian Bedouin population – in the planning process for sites identified by the Health Ministry before final approval.


CLICK HERE to read to the court decision [Hebrew]


On 21 January 2019, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, together with 168 Al-Fura'a residents, the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages of Negev (RCUV), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), submitted a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court challenging the master plan.


The master plan lists, among others, a phosphate mine in Sde Barir in the Naqab (Negev). The construction of the mine is expected to forcibly displace thousands of Palestinian Bedouins – citizens of Israel - in the planned area and its vicinity and cause the demolition of 500 homes, while creating serious health risks and environmental hazards for the remaining residents of the recognized village of Al-Fura’a, the unrecognized villages of Al-Zarura, Ghaza, and Katamat, and the towns of Arad and Keseife.


Filed by Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany, the petition stressed that the Sde Brir site was approved based on an EIS that completely ignored the area's 15,000 Palestinian Bedouin residents.


CLICK HERE For more information about the petition


The Court determined that the construction of the phosphate mine in Sde Barir must be reconsidered based on the results of a new EIS. Although the Court’s ruling means that the plan may be cancelled in the future, the decision’s immediate implications on the development of the recognized village Al-Fura’a remain unanswered. Despite the fact that the government officially recognized Al-Fura’a in 2006, the Authority for Development and Settlement of the Bedouin in the Negev (“Bedouin Authority”) has not submitted a plan for the village, which is required for its development. In two letters responding to Adalah’s demands to complete the local plan, dated 4 November 2020 and 25 May 2021, the Bedouin Authority admitted that it halted the planning process for Al-Fura’a because of the Sde Barir phosphate mine project, and that instead the Authority intends to forcibly relocate the village’s residents. This information was brought to the Court’s attention during the course of the litigation on the phosphate mine. Adalah will take additional legal steps to ensure the right to development for the affected Bedouin communities.


CLICK HERE to read the response of the Bedouin Authority


CLICK HERE to read more about Adalah’s demand to complete a master plan for Al-Fura’a


Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany commented:

“This important step, in which the Supreme Court conditioned the approval of mining projects on the evaluation of health risks to the local population, does not yet remedy the fact that the future livelihoods of thousands of Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel remains unclear. This case raises serious questions regarding the value and implications of recognizing Bedouin villages, as Al-Fura’a’s official recognition fifteen years ago neither exempts the village from destruction nor safeguards its residents against forced displacement and dispossession.”


Case Citation: HCJ 512/19 Younes Dhabsha v. The National Council for Planning and Building (decision delivered 11 October 2021)

CLICK HERE For more information about the petition

CLICK HERE to read the petition [Hebrew]

(Screenshot from ICL Fertilizers promotional video)


Related Press Releases:

Adalah demands that Planning Authorities complete a master plan for the recognized village of Al Fura’a in the Naqab 15 September 2021


Israeli Supreme Court hears arguments against the construction of the Sde Barir phosphate mine in the Naqab 28 July 2021


Bedouin families, human rights groups to Israeli Supreme Court: Stop construction of dangerous phosphate mine in Naqab desert 25 February 2019


Israel announces massive forced transfer of Bedouin citizens in Negev 30 January 2019