Before Israel, Palestine was part of the Ottoman empire, then the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to govern the territory from the Mediterranean to Iraq (north) Saudi Arabia (south). Both Ottoman and British officials recorded land ownership claims in order to raise taxes and prevent land disputes. These show that the Negev, far from being an empty desert, had many Bedouin villages in which people owned land and engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry. Can this Israeli myth hit the dust before the Bedouin are forcibly moved to a ‘town’?
Mass opposition to the Begin-Prawer plan for the forcible resettling of Bedouin has led to its being, at the least, postponed and rethought. As the government’s spin on the plan became increasingly frantic – Bedouin leaders supported it… in the Bedouins’ best interest… opposition just foreign rabble-rousers … Begin himself delivered the coup de grace: he had never consulted the Bedouin on the plan and they had never agreed to it.
From the southern tip of the Negev to the northern tip of Galilee, the Israeli government could create the perfect Jewish state if it weren’t for the people in between. Sadly for the zionist dream, only the Bedouin have devised a way of desert living compatible with the area’s resources and the Galilee – well its history is just too multicultural to be truly Israeli. Ben White looks at how the government is going about getting the right people in the right places.
The language of the Israeli government about the relocation of the Negev Bedouin has recently become entirely about furnishing the Bedouin with the amenities of modernity. If modernity is characterised by the free movement of people and capital, cosmopolitan cities, separation of church and state… Israel is no more a symbol of modernity than are the Bedouin.
The Israeli government wants to clear Bedouin from the Negev because they want the land for forest (and settlers) and because of the desperate desire to be a modern western nation. Bedouin must be ‘civilised’ by urban life. Benny Begin knows few Bedouin who oppose the bill and accuses ‘NGOs and rights groups’ of politicizing the issue. Which says more about him than it does about Bedouin people. November 30, London protest.
The Israeli state has declared the Bedouin living in ‘unrecognised’ villages have to move into special townships. These are likely to be worse than the ‘recognised’ villages which, despite their status, lack the amenities which non-Palestinian Israelis enjoy. The Bedouin elders believe the way to fight for their rights is through the law. The younger ones now feel resistance must take more direct form – although they have so far got little support from other Palestinians.
It takes more than the usual amount of twisting history to make the claim that Arabs (Bedouin) have no place in the Negev desert, and that owning that expanse of land is the manifest destiny of Israeli Jews. But that hasn’t inhibited the land-grabbers who believe it’s Israel’s wild west waiting to be conquered once the natives have been ‘concentrated’ in controlled towns. Max Blumenthal details the steps to make this happen.
Jillian Kestler D’Amours begins with the Begin plan and goes back through the Prawer plan to Sharon’s Individual Settlement plan, all of which scheme to rid the Negev of its historic Bedouin residents and land-users and replace them (with dubious legality) with true, i.e. Jewish, Israeli citizens.
The executive committee of Jews for Justice for Palestinians adds its voice to the many Jewish, Israeli and human rights groups which are protesting against the wrongful treatment of the Bedouin and calls on Israeli people and government to leave these Arab citizens of Israel in their villages in the Negev, recognise them and furnish them with the amenities which all Israeli habitations have a right to enjoy.`And ditch the Prawer plan!
Israel’s Arab citizens led the protests against Bedouin displacement by the Prawer-Begin plan on the Day of Rage, August 1. Thousands from north and south Israel joined, as did large crowds in the West Bank who added their protest against displacement from the Hebron area. Protests also took took place in Brazil, Beirut, Amman, London, Morocco, Mauritania, Amsterdam, Dublin and Washington. Activists say the protests will continue into a second day.
The first parliamentary stage of the Prawer plan has passed by a majority of just 3. There is great opposition to this assumption by the Israeli government that it can reorganise Bedouin life from on high and expropriate their land. The government is now scrambling to re-present the plan as a benign plan to improve the lives of the Bedouin, who are Israeli citizens. ACRI, Mondoweiss, video and funds-appeal from Rabbis for Human Rights.
The Prawer/Begin plan to drive the Bedouin out of ‘unrecognised’ villages into permitted centres is a poor reward for these Israeli citizens. Bedouin, like the Druze, were regarded as loyal to the new state (at least, those staying in Palestine had no loyalty to any other state). No wonder treating them as subject to separate laws causes such disquiet even among loyal supporters of Israel.
Here’s a peculiar thing about the JNF (Jewish National Fund). It always claims to be acting in the interests of the environment, or in honour of various Others, from Herzl to countries to individual ambassadors. Having gained its funds from thousands of humble Jewish homes it can thus bestow on its grandiose schemes and land seizures the simple idealistic hopes of many ordinary people. Two articles of protest.
British friends of Rabbis for Human Rights have sent a letter, signed by 65 rabbis from judaic communities in the UK, to PM Netanyahu protesting against his government’s plan to move Bedouin from the Negev and disperse them in towns. They have also produced a petition (see post) to be sent to Netanyahu.
The Israeli claim that it is a democratic state based on law is shown to be laughable in a new report and film from Adalah on the forced displacement of Palestinians. When the Israeli government or the IDF or the Jewish National Fund or settlers want land where Palestinians live, they almost invariably get it and there almost no laws which Palestinians can use to assert their right to their homes or free movement. Adalah questions whether trying to use the notion of rights to protect Palestinians – who may be Israeli citizens – is effective.
The Israeli government has long been determined to corral all Bedouin into official towns in the West Bank and as few towns as possible in the Negev. The cost of following through the Prawer and Begin plans is estimated to be NIS 6.8 billion. Many voices have been raised in protest at this deprivation of the Bedouins’ freedom of movement and self-government, including by Rabbis for Human Rights, the UK’s Union of Jewish Students and Pro-Zion which say the plans are un-Judaic..
One of Israel’s best-paid celebs, TV host Avri Gilad, returns from a tour of the Negev organised by the aggressively Zionist Regavim, declaring that “There’s no more Negev. The Bedouin have taken it over completely. By force…” By buying into Regavim – which uses the law and propaganda to maximise Israeli land and minimise non-Jewish inhabitants – he could have uttered his judgment without leaving home. Particularly given Gilad’s view that “Islam today is the most terrible disease raging around the world”. His views cause no uproar in Israel.
Once a nomadic people herding animals and transporting goods throughout the Middle East and the Negev, the Bedouin tribes have been forcibly moved by successive governments to urban shanty-towns. The Jahalin were shifted to the E1 area of Khan al-Ahmar on the edge of East Jerusalem in 1967. The Israeli Ministry of Defence now plans to move them again into blocks of 800 units near Jericho, to allow settlement expansion and the break up tribal self-government.
Much of the Sinai is now ruled by criminal gangs who capture Eritrean refugees, hold them for ransom – and rape and torture them, either to exert pressure on families, or because they can. Those who escape and cross the Israeli border are then automatically imprisoned for 3 years as ‘infiltrators’. Lucy Newman calls for a change of mind in Israel; reports from Human Rights Watch and Jadaliyya. Sign the petition!
The Bab al-Shams encampment in its brief life inspired and enthused people in Palestine and round the world. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad praised the activists saying that “the Palestinian steadfastness make the most important part in resisting the occupation and settlement.” PA personnel including Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi were prevented from reaching the ‘village’. The protesters were removed on the orders of Netanyahu/Civil Administration, but as a form of resistance which does more than say no, the image has taken wing.