Culture, Global, Israel, Justice, Religion

Protect the Bedouin: demonstration tomorrow

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?
destruction of Jahalin Bedouin home
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 protected] +972 54 7487005
The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev
tel: 972-8-6283043
fax: 972-8-6283315

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.

14 thoughts on “Protect the Bedouin: demonstration tomorrow

  1. i wish i could be there to counter-protest.
    “never been a threat to Jews”? they terrorize the negev farms, supply the palestinians with stolen cars, are creating a contiguous arab region from gaza to hebron, and are overall bad for the state with their illiteracy and high birth rates. the substandard education is due to their inability to manage funds (which led to the strike over municipal worker payments a few months ago) very few of them serve in the army.
    the reason they live the way they do is because of the infighting in their communities – their inability to live in peace with their own cousins as neighbors should not give them the right to squat on state lands.

  2. lb, that is some of the most bigoted, ignorant shit i ever heard.
    go spend an afternoon in rahat or in an unrecognized village talking with bedouin, as i have, and ask them about what they’re dealing with vis a vis institutional discrimination and their struggle with cultural preservation vs. modernity.
    fyi — the substandard education is due to the fact that the gov’t has a two tier education system — good schools for jews, shit schools for arabs, a fact noted by the u.s. department of state, which reported institutional discrimination against arabs in israel at every level of government.

  3. mobius, i’m sorry, but taking their word for it at face value when visiting a unrecognized village does make anything they say true. cultural preservation does not justify car thieves and semi-organized crime, nor does it justify stealing land.
    considering you’re making a political statement about israel i’m going to assume you speak hebrew (in order to be able to be knowledgeable on israel) – read this:,7340,L-3361782,00.html

  4. You do not know diddly squat about the Bedouin, yet are willing and ready to hoist the banner of a new “human rights” cause. Bedouin criminalized clans afflict communities in southern Israel through brazen thievery and physical assaults that the Israeli police is powerless to rein in. They also control drug, human (prostitutes) and weapons smuggling that often abets Palestinian terrorists. Across the border in Sinai, Bedouin clans provided the logistics for bombing of the hotels that hosted foreign tourists.
    Israeli government lacks resolution to tackle this growing crisis, and the police response has always been half-hearted and ineffectual. Jewish victims are basically left to fend for themselves. I would be more concerned with their plight.

  5. Okay, maybe instead of taking their word for it (and phew, boy that’s amazing – the implication here – what, do you also believe that we shouldn’t hear what African Americans say about their situation because they’re all thugs, drug dealers and welfare mammas? I mean, wow the bigtotry is pretty impressive; that’s pretty much what you’re saying about Bedouin), take mine. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I’ve talked to them (and by the way, a great many of them are busting their butts to try and get out of poverty. They’re motivated, and proud, and they’re working with nothing. I bet you couldn’t make do with what they have to, and you should pray that you never have to. And as for supplying the Palestinians with stolen cars, well, all I have to say about that is that one of the most -well upliftng probably isn’t the right word, but it was at least amusing- articles I ever read was about how Palestinian-Israeli car-thief rings were a good measure of how Jews and Muslim Arabs could work together if they wanted to. Those car thieves were pretty much all Jews. High Birth rates? Well, according to our best measures – not just in the Middle East but everywhere- is that high birth rates are usually a function of low education and lack of prospects. When people get hoisted into the middle class, their birth rate pretty much universally drops off, so if you want to improve that situation (whatever bad for the state might mean in this context) improve their living situation.
    But the truth is that let’s say what you say is true (it’s not) it makes absolutely no difference. It is our responsibilty as jews to act according to the highest ethical standards. THat is the basis upon which we claim israel the land, and as the Torah makes clear, if we do not, the land will vomit us out. SO no matter what you think of the Bedouin, we have the obligation to treat them with respect, dignity and kindness, and we’re not. But we must make sure that we do.

  6. cultural preservation does not […] justify stealing land.
    well then, that clears up the whole zionism thing. i’m sure there are about five refugees in a camp somewhere who’d be more than happy to take back the apartment you’re living in that was built on their village.
    btw, as per organized crime, the bedouin are middle men for russians and israelis who are the actual profiteers (as i learned while working with the task force on human trafficking in israel). just as jews had to take on illicit activities to survive in a societies that denied them a legitimate means of economic advancement (see “prohbition & the bronfmans” for starters), bedouin (as KRG notes) take what they can get. remove the conditions that force them into black market trades and they will no longer prosper in those areas.

  7. Bedouin tribes have always been part of the negev. Waylaying? Smuggling? Of course! They have successful been doing this during the time of the Islamic Dynasties and during the Ottoman empire. It was part of their self-help way of survival. They have been doing this when the Falestini still were just scatterred Arab tribes.
    Now, the Bedouin way of life is coming to an end. This needs our special attention and sensitivity. Where cultural preservation is not a viable option (the Negev is a small place for nomadic tribes), they should at least receive least fair treatment, reasonable help, compensation and a chance to adapt urban life, when possible.
    And some common sense: It can have disastrous social consequences if you try to forcibly settle nomadic groups without giving any thoughts to the special needs they have. As a reward, this will be a great gift to Israeli society.

  8. the fact remains that, as darya has said – the police has not done anything about bedouin crime. if there’s a real human rights issue here – it’s that they are among the biggest traffickers in women in the area.
    Kol Ra’ash Gadol – like said previously, taking their word for it is ridiculous. israel would be a better place without them – the few that contribute to society steal in the army as well (first hand knowledge of this), and overall have refused to accept the fact that world is changing and israel does not owe them anything, least of all to support their way of life which is only a drain on israel.
    mobius – “the bedouin are middle men for russians and israelis who are the actual profiteers” – so what? this makes it any better? the profiteers are no better nor worse than the smugglers themselves.
    “just as jews had to take on illicit activities to survive in a societies that denied them a legitimate means of economic advancement” – no, no and NO! i’m sorry, but you cannot be justifying their activity?!?! i follow this blog quite closely, if these same people were wearing kippot you would be the first to condemn them. “îé ùîøçí òì àëæøéí ñåôå ùéúàëæø ìøçîðéí” – he who has mercy on the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful!

  9. LB, you seem to know an awful lot about the reality on the ground regarding the Bedouin. Since you’re such an expert, I assume that you’re here in Israel. I’d be glad to take you down next time I go so that you can see that “contiguous arab region from gaza to hebron” first hand, see the Bedouin villages that were established by the Israeli government in the 50’s, that are now being razed to make way for Jewish farms and towns, etc… Just as I don’t wish to be judged by the actions of those Jews who are bringing in girls from Eastern Europe as sex slaves to work in Tel Aviv, not all Bedouin should be judged by the actions of those criminals in their midst. If there is a crime perpetrated in Israel, it must be dealt with, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a Bedouin, a Jew, or the Israeli government.

  10. Yaakov,
    i sense your sarcasm regarding my knowledge. you’re right – i am no expert. here’s my take though – you’re aboslutely right that all crimes must be dealt with – regardless of the identity of the perpetrator. Also, I may have come on a bit strong at first here, to make myself a bit more clear. many Bedouins have been squatting on much land, illegally. True, the courts have ruled in their favor in some cases – and the state has not carried out the courts’ rulings in some places as well – a situation which must be rectified. also true – most bedouins are probably not thieves, pimps and mobsters. that being said – too many are. much of the prostitutes (read: sex slaves) smuggled into israel are being smuggled by bedouins. a huge portion of car robberies in the south are by bedouins. bedouins demand “protection” funds so as to prevent them from robbing and destroying their farms. note i did not say here “the bedouins” which is a generalization i made earlier. the issue is just much more complicated than demonstrating in favor of bedouin rights. in my opinion, the most important issue overall here – is the crime (people are living in fear in much of the mid to northern negev) and the police oversight, nay, ignoring of the situation. overall, i think this situation is not a plain – all the bedouins are criminals because they have been wronged and therefore all must be done in order to help them – like everything else in israel, it’s a bit more complex than that.

  11. you cannot be justifying their activity
    justifying and explaining are two very different things. unfortunately anti-arab bigots always have a hard time differentiating between the two. you could explain why suicide bombers exist, but they always hear it as you “justifying” suicide bombing. it’s just a minor example of rube goldberg syndrome.

  12. “Squatting on much land illegally?” Just who do you think put them there? They wre here long before the Jews were, and they were forcibly settled, in a way of life not culturaly syntonic to them, in the nastiest places that the IDF could find – because it wouldn’t interfere with Israeli-Jewish settlement growth. Then it turns out those places are wanted for Jews, so all that time when the government forced them to live there, making do with nothing, and refusing to recognize the very settlements into which they put them, is shot to hell. IN the face of that, the “fact” of their criminal activities is not irrelevant, in sofar as it is explanatory in many places and many cultures where the outsiders are pushed into criminhal activitry and then condemned for being poor and criminal. It is however, irrelevant insofar as how the Israeli government is obliged to treat them – as citizens, with equal rights- which Israel has not done.
    The have an obligation, as a government to act properly. We have an obligation as Jews, to ensure that they do. HOw the Bedouin do or do not act is completely irrelevant. I- who have had long term relationships with Bedouin and find your comments wrong and ugly- reiterate that comments like yours are not dissimilar to calling African Americans welfare mommas, thugs and drug dealers: it isn’t true, it isn’t an appropriate statement to generalize to all A-A’s, it isn’t culturally descriptive, and even it were, thatwould be irrelevant, beause the responsibility of governemt is to treat citizens equally, and whenthat government has a history of oppression and mistreatment, then they have an obligation ot fx the behavior and to ameliorate its effects after the fact.

  13. KRG,
    You have seen the Bedouin, and so have I. Their hospitality is second to none; they pry you with esteem – along with pastries, refreshments, fruit, etc. You come a stranger and leave a friend and brother. Having sold you a bill of goods, you are to them another useful idiot Jew.
    I am amazed at your willingness to whitewash the well-known and undisputed facts that clearly cast them as a scourge of their Jewish neighbors even as you hold the State of Israel to an unrealistic and unprecedented standard that if applied across the board would spell its ultimate destruction.
    But high-minded principles are above such concerns. Those who disagree with you only up your dander and elicit accusations of bigotry, racism, etc along with your ultimate trump card: fanciful offense on behalf of African Americans. Such potent arguments ought to browbeat any opponent. Incidentally, you bring to mind the BBC coverage of the Israeli countermeasures to the bombing of Sderot: one-sided and self-righteous.

  14. All right, I’ll ken to “self-righteous,” if you like. I don’t really see how it undermines a single thing I’ve said. And IMO, the world could use a lot more righteousness on the part of quite a few parties. But which is the one-sided part: demanding that a government actually do what it’s supposed to by protecting all its citizens? The part where I mention that the place in which they illegally reside is the one in which said government placed them? The part in which I mention that the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the government was not living up to its obligation to the citizens to provide them with water and power? After which the government continued to fail to supply those things?
    And let’s be clear: I’m not saying this is a special obligation of the Israeli government that other governments don’t have: all governments have this obligation. But the one which is under discussion is the Israeli one, which in addition to the obligation of general governments, ought to have some additional obligation to behave with the justice of the Torah under whose rubric we claim that particular piece of land and not somewhere in Uganda, or perhaps as a recent fiction writer fancifully suggested, Alaska. How about Mishpat echad yihiyeh lachem? I don’t recall it said, “unless it’s an inconvenience because the land you thought was worthless has now come to seem desirable.”
    I don’t see how holding the Israeli government to that standard would spell its destruction; that seems to be the card played whenever people want to do something that they ought not to: Oh, if we do that, Israel will be destroyed! Reports of Israel’s demise -to paraphrase Twain somewhat badly- are being greatly exaggerated. Not to mention bandied about like Spock ears at a Science fiction convention: too many of them, not original, and not really of any use to those who take them.
    It sounds to me that you had one visit with a Bedouin family which left you impressed with their hospitality but unswayed in your opinion. I suggest that instead, make not one trip, but many. Perhaps if you have the opportunity to meet them over a longer period of time, to engage with them and see what their lives are actually like, over time, you might come away with at least the impression that it’s wrong to tar an entire people with the brush of bad behavior.
    Or maybe it’s okay for people to think of Jews as a bunch of rich, money grubbing, Milken/Abramoff types (Since you don’t like the African American example). Just in case the point was not clear: Saying that x has done bad thing y, doesn’t mean it’s okay for a government to say all persons who are in the class of z can be treated badly because they all do y. To the contrary, governments have an obligation to treat citizens as individuals, not as classes. Even if all of them but one, do y. Heck even if every single one of them do y. To do otherwise is bigotry and must be prevented by all persons of decency. To evict people from their homes for a second, or third time, after limiting their way of life, is at best, thoughtless. NOmadic groups are an inconvenience to settled folks – always have been. It is probably what the story of Cain and Abel is about. God seems to favor the settled these days; but how will the outcome look at the end of the story? I leave the moral to be drawn as an exercise for the reader.
    NOw, please, feel free to blast away.

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