30 November 2005
Despite ILA's Insistence to Continue Spraying Crops Cultivated by Arab Bedouin in Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab, Supreme Court Extends Injunction Prohibiting these Operations
On 28 November 2005, the Supreme Court of Israel held a hearing on a petition submitted by Adalah in March 2004 challenging the state's operations of spraying crops belonging to Arab Bedouin living in unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) with toxic chemicals. Prior to the submission of the petition, the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) regularly sprayed crops cultivated by the Arab Bedouin, accusing them of “trespassing” on “state land.” Immediately after the filing of the case, the Court issued an injunction – which was extended again at the hearing – preventing the ILA from continuing with this practice until the Court renders a final decision on the petition.
The petition was filed by Adalah Attorney Marwan Dalal in Adalah's own name and on behalf of four Palestinian Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel living in unrecognized villages in the Naqab, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the Association of Forty, the Forum for Co-Existence in the Negev, the Negev Company for Land & Man, Ltd., Bustan for Peace, the Association for Support and Defense of Bedouin Rights in Israel, the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), and the Galilee Society. The petition was filed against the ILA, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Opening the hearing, Supreme Court Justice Miriam Naor stated that it is even psychologically unbearable to allow the state to spray crops with toxic chemicals. Justice Salim Jubran asked the Attorney General's (AG) representative whether she knew of any another country in the world which uses “spraying” against its own citizens in order to achieve any right to land claimed by the state.
During the hearing, the AG's representative claimed that it is necessary to spray crops in the unrecognized villages in the Naqab with toxic chemicals in order to protect state land, as it is more effective than other means of destroying the crops. She claimed that using other methods, such as digging up the crops with tractors, require a large police presence in order to prevent residents of the villages from resisting the uprooting. She added that the spraying operations are not dangerous, as the substance utilized is accepted for use on agricultural crops.
Representing the petitioners, Attorney Dalal argued that the ILA's practice lacks any authority under the law. The ILA cannot spray agricultural crops with toxic chemicals in order to realize any right claimed by the state, as the law only allows such spraying for one purpose: in order to protect the health and well-being of human beings and the environment. The ILA's spraying operations are not executed for any health-related or environmental reasons, and are thus illegal. Adalah emphasized that the substance used by the ILA is proven to be dangerous and drew the Court's attention to two expert opinions submitted by the petitioners to the Court stating that it carries reproductive and carcinogenic risks and may induce eye and skin irritations, miscarriages, nausea and breathing difficulties. The petitioners also asserted that the expert opinion submitted by the ILA to the Court, which was written by the Ministry of Health's Chief Toxicologist, Professor Gary Winston, was copied verbatim from the website of the company which manufactures the chemical, and therefore lacks credibility. During the hearing, the Supreme Court Justices agreed that the expert opinion submitted by the ILA has serious problems of credibility.
In response to Justice Naor's question regarding the ILA's claim that the Arab Bedouin living in the unrecognized villages who cultivate these crops are “trespassers” on “state land,” Adalah emphasized that it is not possible to consider these citizens of the state as trespassers, particularly since they have been cultivating their land over the course of many generations. Moreover, Adalah added that the ILA cannot make such a claim, given its discriminatory land policies pursued over decades in the area, and especially the expropriation of land belonging to the Palestinian Arab Bedouin in the Naqab.
H.C. 2887/04, Saleem Abu Medeghem, et. al. v. Israel Lands Administration, et. al. (case pending).
See also Adalah News Update: ILA Official Admits to Spraying Unauthorized Chemicals on Arab Bedouin Crops (22 February 2005)