[The following English version of an open letter to President Obama was issued by the Protection Committee for Bedouin Communities in the Jerusalem Periphery on 10 March 2013.]
Dear Mr. President,
In the name of the Protection Committee for Bedouin Communities in the Jerusalem Periphery we extend to you our warmest greetings. We write to welcome you to Palestine next week and also to seek your support as a matter of urgency due to the Government of Israeli’s (GOI) announcement in December 2012 that it will go ahead with the E1 settlement development plans in the Jerusalem periphery.
As the political stakes are raised and the race for Jerusalem accelerates, we ask that you remember the human face of the E1 plan. We, the Jahalin tribe of the Bedouin Palestine refugree population number some 2,300 individuals and have lived as pastoralists in the hills of the Jerusalem periphery – which the occupying power says is empty of Palestinians – since the early 1950s. The same occupying power has bulldozed our homes countless times in order to make way for the building of the Maale Adummim settlement, considered illegal under international law. As you may know, the israeli authorities now intend to transfer us away from our pastoralist communities in and around the E1 area, onto Palestinian land elsewhere. The proposed transfers would destroy our traditional economy and disintegrate our social fabric; our transfer would also leave one of the most strategic parted of the West Bank for future Palestinian development empty for Israeli settlement expansion. The GOI’s announcement to renew development plans in the E1 area is a direct challenge to the international community, and specifically to you, Mr. President.
If for a moment during your busy schedule you look out over the hills of the West Bank and you catch sight of our make-shift communities, please know that our presence is currently protecting the land of the future state of Palestine, to which you are committed. Now is the time for concrete action before it is too late. As you meet with the Government of Israel to protect the visibility of the two state solution and to call for an end to the occupation, so you will be safeguarding our homes and the heritage of the Palestinian people.
We, the affected communities, are clear in our call for protection to remain in our current locations and to continue our traditional lives in peace.
With sincere regards and our deepest thanks for your support,
Members of the Protection Committee for Bedouin communities in the Jerusalem periphery.
(Source / 24.03.2013)