Australian professor assisting Bedouins with land rights claim

July 1, 2009 by Henry Benjamin
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Adjunct Professor John Sheehan is assisting Bedouins in the Be’er Sheva region in preparing  native title claims similar to those of Australia’s indigenous Aboriginals…and for Mabo, read Muri.

Professor John Sheehan

Professor John Sheehan

The test case is likely to use a Bedouin named Muri , the son of a sheikh whose family have lived in the area for centuries.

Professor Sheehan,who has links to the University of Technology Sydney [UTS], responded to requests for assistance from the  Regional Council for the Unrecognised Villages in the Negev.

He is Deputy Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Complex Real Property Rights and is recognised as Australia’s foremost authority on native title.

In a statement to J-Wire, Sheehan said: “Australian knowledge in this area is by no means perfect.” However his expertise is being used in what a spokesperson said is in one of world’s longest running land disputes invlolving the Bedouin people of the Negev Desert.

In Israel, Sheehan visited seven Bedouin villages recognised by the Israeli Government followed visits to, according to his spokesperson,”100s of unofficial villages”. He discussed Australian native title with academics at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

In his statement, he claims that one village occupied by the Bedouins “for centuries” in a manner similar to Australian native title conditions, has been ear-marked for demolition by the Israelis.

The spokesperson told J-Wire: “He is now finalising his initial property rights opinion and is advising on the preparation of a “native title” claim by a traditional landowner.” This claim is expected to mirror the Mabo approach to recognition.

In 2007, the Goldberg Commission recommended that a committee be established to settle the claims. In order to satisfy the Israeli Courts, the claims will have to be translated into comprehensible common law property rights. Dr Sheehan believes that mirroring the 1992 Mabo Australian native title case will give the Bedouins a strong chance of success.

There are about 200,000 Bedouins living in Israel.

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