Following protests in the Naqab over the JNF’s afforestation work, Israeli companies providing electricity and bus services refused to carry out their duties in Bedouin villages

On 19 January 2022, Adalah - The Legal Center for the Rights of the Arab Minority in Israel sent an urgent letter to the CEO of the Israel Electric Corporation, Ofer Bloch, and the company’s legal counsel demanding that the electricity company repair all power outages in the Bedouin villages in the Naqab, without delay.  


CLICK HERE to read Adalah’s letter [Hebrew]


Adalah received complaints from many Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel residing in Shaqib al-Salam (Segev Shalom), Tel as-Sabe (Tel Sheva), Rahat, Ar'ara, Kuseife, Hura and other villages who had power outages, some for four consecutive days. The electricity company, the sole provider of electricity in Israel, refused to enter the villages and carry out its duties, claiming that it lacked “permission to enter the villages” from the police.


In the letter, Adalah Attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi argued that the provision of electricity is an essential service required for a dignified, healthy life. Under the current circumstances, including the cold weather and home studies and work due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, failing to reconnect electricity outrages immediately also violates the right to health, education and employment.


On 24 January 2022, in its response to Adalah’s letter, the electricity company referred solely to power outages in Rahat and none of the others. The company failed to answer to Adalah’s argument that it refused to enter the villages to repair the outrages whatsoever; it simply noted that “the company’s employees work around the clock, day and night, in order to repair the damage to the electricity grid”. Adalah continues to follow up on the electricity issues in the Bedouin villages.


CLICK HERE to read the electric company’s response letter [Hebrew]


Just days before, on 14 January 2022, Metropoline (an Israeli bus company) halted the entry of its buses into several Bedouin villages in the Naqab. According to the bus company, it stopped its service due to "disorderly conduct" during and following the demonstrations against afforestation activities in the Bedouin village of Sa'wa.  


These bus lines serve the following nine Bedouin villages: Hura, Kuseife, Laqiya, Shaqib al-Salam (Segev Shalom), Ar'ara, and Tel as-Sabe (Tel Sheva), Bir Hadaj, Qasr al-Sir and Drijat.


On 16 January 2022, Adalah Attorney Salam Irsheid sent an urgent letter to the CEO of Metropoline, Ran Marom, and to the Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Transport, Michal Frank demanding the immediate re-entry of buses to the Bedouin villages and urging them to avoid adopting similar decisions in the future.


CLICK HERE to read Adalah's letter [Hebrew]


In its letter, Adalah stressed that Metropoline's decision illegitimately restricts the residents’ right to exercise their freedom of movement. Furthermore, since most medical and welfare services are not provided in these villages, Metropoline's decision restricts their access to essential services. Adalah added that the decision constitutes a violation of the Israeli Law, Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services, and Entry into Public Places - 2000.


Adalah emphasized that this decision amounts to a collective punishment placed on citizens merely for exercising their constitutional right to protest. 


Adalah added: “Metropoline’s decision not only restricts access to required services but also constitutes an unjustified collective punishment. The Ministry of Transport and Metropoline must not repeat such an action in the future, especially regarding Bedouin villages in the Naqab, which are in greatest need of public transportation services, since most vital social services, educational facilities and medical services can only be obtained outside the villages."


Adalah was informed that Metropoline renewed the buses' entry into the villages on 17 January 2022.