It is nothing new that Bedouin homes and communities are under pressure from the Israeli government. From the inception of the state, and despite the fact that the Bedouin have never been a threat to Jews, Israelis or the state of Israel (belying the insistence that whenever an Arab settlement is targetted for destruction, or fails to recieve services it has something to do with their terrorist activities), the Bedouin have from the beginning, been shuffled about, forcibly resettled – multiple times- have failed (despite court orders) to receive water and power in their new placements, have a substandard educational system, and so on. The policy of settling nomads is one that was favored by colonialist powers of previous eras – the world has since then come to see its results in all the places where it has occurred. Must we continue such policies in the modern state of Israel? Must we continue to take away the little in property and dignity that the Bedouin have left? Must we harm those who have done us NO harm whatsoever? Who, in fact, serve in the army? Are we so short of enemies that we need create more?
Just as a side note, I strongly recommend that anyone in Israel, or who goes to Israel, makes some effort to learn the story of and see for themselves the situation of the Bedouin there. One way to do this is through Rabbi for Human Rights in Israel, who have long worked with the Bedouin and tried to help them in many different ways. My first exposure to the ongoing shame of Israeli treatment of the Bedouin was through Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom (whose birthday is today. “Happy” birthday.) who works for this organization. In the USA, Rabbis for Human Rights, North America provides support for RHR’s work in Israel, and also has a campaign against torture.
In this ongoing and unforgiveable mess, I recently received an email from The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev, forwarded from Deborah Brous of Bustan regarding the current change in policy towards the Bedouin for a protest to take place tomorrow, July 16th.
The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages invites you a
demonstration by the Knesset
No More Demolitions of Bedouin Homes in the Negev!
Monday, July 16th, 2007, at 11:30am
According to Olmert’s government, Israel’s policies toward the
Bedouin is changing: a new evacuation-compensation plan will be
established, in which the Bedouins will be offered extended
compensation for evacuation from most of their ancestral villages. In
order to “soften” the Bedouins, the government has decided to
implement mass demolitions. They believe the Bedouins will accept the
offered compensation and will be willing to leave their ancestral
villages. We are witnessing the beginning of this policy: Israel has
demolished 110 Bedouin homes since the beginning of 2007. More than
600 children have been made homeless by the Israeli government, while
their parents have no “legal” alternatives for creating them a home.
Was it not enough harm to leave these villages in the state of
Non-Recognition for the 60 years since the establishment of The
State? Must the government choose to continue with its destructive
policies towards the Bedouin community and by violent means take away
the little they have left?
We call upon the Israeli government to treat their Bedouin citizens
with fairness and dialogue, not with violence. The tactics of the
government to pressure the Bedouin out of their homes will bring
about only frustration and misery.
The government of Israel claims that there are not enough lands to
allow the continuation of the villages, therefore they must implement
this policy of concentration. If so, how is there sufficient space
for 60 new single-family ranches in the Negev, each consisting of
hundreds of acres, but there is not sufficient space to leave 80,000
(Arab) citizens in their historical villages? The unrecognized
villages consist of 14% of the Negev population, and live on less
than 1.8% of the Negev land — they are not the “squatters” as the
government portrays them.
Families who have ben left homeless by the government demolitions
will live in a refugee camp by the Knesset, starting tomorrow,
Monday, July 16th. We will begin the camp with a demonstration by the
Come join us in our demonstration! Do not allow the continuation of
the destructive policies towards the Bedouin community in the Negev!
For more information: Yeela Raanan, the RCUV.
email@example.com +972 54 7487005
The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev
As the friend who forwarded me the letter notes, from an ecological perspective, clearing out the Bedouin to make room for ranches is a
tremendously harmful way to develop the desert. Of course, the JNF, even with the good work it has done, has historically done ecological harm as well – usually of the “do first, think later” variety, through the draining of swamps – swamps which helped to maintain ecological niches, clean water, and water sources for varied animal life; through the planting of European pine forests all over Israel – which are not ecologically appropriate for those areas, but rather created pine barrens – caled “barrens” for good reason– and which, as they die off, are leaving huge swaths of empty monocultural (and now, no-cultural) areas
If you are outside Israel and can’t get to the demonstration, write to the JNF, to KKL, and to the government. Be warned however, that the JNF is feeling touchy about this project. You will receive a boilerplate response that isn’t quite cricket. The villages of the Bedouin are unrecognized – but that’s not their fault. They were established by the government itself: the IDF “resetteld” the Bedouin in those places to concentrate them according to the prevailing colonialist wisdom of ending nomadic communties – and of course, they wanted to clear the Negev for their own purposes. Since then, despite the Israeli Supreme court ruling otherwise, the government has failed to provide water or power, nor have they medical services. Many of these settlements are bordered by – or on top of- power stations (how ironic is that!) toxic waste dumps, trash dumps and the like.
Rabbi David Seidenberg writes in his generally blunt manner:
The government policy for all of these decades has been leading to this one struggle to uproot these people. The government towns established to resettle the Bedouin are full of unemployment and crime, designed with no other purpose than to concentrate the Bedouin so they take up as little land as possible, cutting them off from any possibility of living a traditional life. The government has refused to give these citizens the services, rights or protections given to others so that it can eventually take away their land. Im tirtsu: Don’t let this nightmare of a “dream” become a reality!
I hesitate to ascribe quite that much malevolence to the policy. IMO, it’s probably more thoughtless than deliberate. Nevertheless, it must stop now, before more harm is done. The results of this horrendous policy must be made clear, and prevented.