LETTER: Suburban limits on bedouin

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The Independent Online
From Ms Elizabeth Lightstone

Sir: I was disappointed with the report your newspaper ran about the controversy over the Jahalin bedouin tribe which lives near the Israeli city of Maale Adummim outside Jerusalem ("Bedouin face expulsion to make way for settlers", 17 May). Your reporter puts forward the case of the bedouin very eloquently, yet nowhere does he see fit even to ask for a reaction from residents of Maale Adummim or any Israeli officials. Furthermore, the most recent development in the story, a preliminary ruling by the Israeli High Court in favour of the Jahalin, is mentioned only briefly.

Israel, like all other developed countries, has been undergoing a process of urbanisation. Much of what is now residential London, for example, is built on what not long ago was common land, originally open for grazing. Surely no British government would have stopped the city's expansion to preserve those lands; rather, the farmers would have been expected to move. Yet Israel, it seems, is expected to stop development at the behest of a tribe of nomadic herders, originally from a different part of the country, which never even held title to the land they now claim. Clearly the claims of the Jahalin must be weighed against the needs of their neighbours in Maale Adummim so that a just resolution can be reached.

The report calls Maale Adummim a "dormitory suburb" which is "deserted during the day". This is false. Aside from housewives who are home during the day, many of the town's 20,000 residents work in Maale Adummim: in shops, schools, professional and municipal offices, and the nearby industrial park of Mishor Adummim. True, most commute to work in Jerusalem, but this is no different from the routine in most suburban parts of Britain.

The claims of the Jahalin will, it appears, be resolved by the courts after both sides present their cases, as is proper in any society.

Sincerely,

ELIZABETH LIGHTSTONE

London, NW4

17 May

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