#PHOTOS | Experimental chemical plant polluting Palestinian village in the Negev

Monday, 10 September, 2012 | 16:50 | Silwanic

Silwan, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) —

Silwanic has learnt that a private Israeli company is using lands belonging to the Palestinian village of Wadi al-Ne’am, north of Beer Sheba, for dangerous chemical experiments. An outdoor chemical plant approximately two kilometers from the village was visited by Silwanic journalists, who found a sign hanging on the barbed wire perimeter that reads “Danger of drowning, do not approach” in Arabic, and “Danger of drowning and poisoning, do not approach” in Hebrew.

The whole region is polluted by chemical fumes that affect breathing, and cause skin irritation. The chemical plant and its industrial pools lie on hundreds of acres taken from villagers some 25 years ago, says tribal elder Sheikh Yussef al-Zaiadin. The plant was built without consultation with any local residents. Information and signposting in Arabic remains unclear around the site. The extent of the environmental impact of the plant is enormous, and as yet not fully documented. Both human residents and cattle are affected by the open chemical pools, with the chemicals produced sprayed over the village and surrounding plains by crop-duster aeroplanes, as a means of testing their efficacy.

This has led to widespread cattle death and the death of surrounding vegetation. Many residents suffer from health problems such as shortness of breath, skin diseases and birth defects.

The chemical plant is only one of many Israeli factories and industrial sites that have confiscated thousands of acres of village land. A major power plant lies 100 meters from the village, while none of its residents receive electricity from the state, as is the situation faced by all “unrecognized” villages in the Negev desert. Residents are forced to use generators and to buy water.

Wadi al-Ne’am is home to 24,000 people, some of whose homes have demolition orders from the Israeli state, others whose homes have already been demolished. The town’s residents own the land it is built on, and do not engage in a Bedouin “lifestyle” as the state claims. Community groups in Wadi al-Ne’am, along with the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, have issued a public statement calling for the Israeli government to intervene and remove the factories and chemical plant from their land, and to put a stop to their attempt to ethnically cleanse the Negev of its Palestinian inhabitants.

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