To isolate East Jerusalem and bifurcate the West Bank, the Israeli regime is planning to annex the E-1 corridor, displacing 3,000 Palestinian Bedouins in the process. This policy brief situates Israel’s apartheid policies in the E-1 corridor within the wider framework of Israeli settler colonialism. It also shows how the large sums of humanitarian aid Palestinian Bedouins have received from international donors entrench the status quo of Israeli territorial expansion. Finally, it offers recommendations to donor states, international organizations, and Palestinian national stakeholders, among others, for how to secure the rights of Palestinian Bedouins and to challenge Israeli apartheid.
In the early 1950s, the Israeli regime expelled Palestinian Bedouins from their lands in Tel Arad in the Naqab, forcing them to relocate to the area now known as E-1. And in recent years, these Palestinians have faced a second wave of forcible displacement. Between 2009 and 2020, Israel destroyed 315 Palestinian structures in the 18 Bedouin communities within the E-1 corridor — 133 of which were donor-funded — thus displacing 842 Bedouins.
Beyond demolitions, the Israeli regime also displaces Palestinian Bedouins by rendering their lives unlivable: it denies them basic economic and social rights, including educational institutions, healthcare facilities, running water, electricity, a functional road system, and adequate public transportation. As a result, they have no choice but to relocate. And while these policies affect the entirety of the Bedouin community, they have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable and marginalized social groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), Palestinian civil society organizations, and international agencies have supported Palestinian Bedouins in the E-1 corridor with humanitarian aid, aiming to maintain basic healthcare, education, and economic well-being. But these aid programs are structured in a way that limits their impact and, ultimately, harms their intended beneficiaries. That is, they are fundamentally depoliticized and are designed in isolation from the Bedouin communities.
Without their buy-in, aid priorities often do not reflect the needs of their recipients. As a result, aid programs simply mitigate the impacts of Israeli policies — and, in many cases, help to sustain Israeli apartheid conditions — rather than confront the root causes of Palestinian suffering. In the absence of requisite accountability for Israeli apartheid, this depoliticized aid thus fuels a vicious cycle: donors help Bedouin communities rebuild after Israeli demolitions, only to have Israel destroy donor-funded projects, necessitating additional aid and leaving Bedouins more dependent on donor support.
Donor investment in the Israeli regime’s 2004 “fabric of life” road infrastructure plan exemplifies the dangerous effects of so-called humanitarian aid. The plan would construct Palestinian-only roads to separate them from roads servicing Israeli settlements, and would likely enable Israel to annex the E-1 corridor and further displace Bedouin communities. The Israeli regime frames the plan as humanitarian, as a way to facilitate Palestinian mobility in the wake of the apartheid wall. And while the PA and donor states initially rejected the plan, a 2010 report revealed that 32% of Palestinian roads funded by USAID between 1999 and 2010 overlapped with the “fabric of life” plan.
Moreover, USAID pressured the PA into accepting these roads as part of a take-it-or-leave it approach within a broader infrastructure development package. The plan thus demonstrates how so-called development projects within the aid framework are continually utilized to entrench Israeli occupation and settler colonialism.
To achieve justice for Palestinian Bedouins:
- Donor states should hold the Israeli regime accountable for its settler-colonial and apartheid practices in their aid programming. They should reframe their aid programs to include provisions that directly confront Israel, including by conditioning arms sales and instituting accountability measures for demolitions, displacement, and land confiscation.
- International organizations and UN bodies working in the E-1 corridor should establish clear procedures and reporting requirements to ensure that their projects do not perpetuate Israeli apartheid and Palestinian dispossession. They should also act as intermediaries and convey the voices and priorities of the Bedouin communities and Palestinian CSOs to the donor community to ensure aid programs reflect the needs of their beneficiaries.
- International legal bodies should mediate the aid delivery process, protecting donor states that confront Israel’s apartheid policies by crafting provisions to ensure that Israel does not prohibit or restrict aid programs.
- Palestinian CSOs should collaborate in supporting Bedouin communities. This includes diversifying their sources of funding beyond institutional fundraising from traditional donors to better enable them to determine areas of intervention, target groups, and effective methodologies.
- The PA should uphold its responsibilities towards Bedouin communities in education and healthcare; it should support them by investing in a resistance economy; and it should support the mobilization of the Palestinian public to provide protection for Bedouin communities.