Netanyahu gov’t to approve plan to contain Negev Bedouin, forcibly relocating 30,000 people, reducing Bedouin land by two-thirds
“The plan is to concentrate them in certain areas, where they will receive land and till it…”
No, these are not the words of a Czar regarding the future of the Jews in the land. These are the words of David Rotem, an Israeli Member of Knesset from the Yisrael Beitenu party, deciding the future of the Bedouin, citizens of Israel, and the indigenous people of the Negev. His version of the Praver plan will be voted on by the Israeli government on Sunday, September 4th. (Hebrew, “On the way to approval: large cut in lands for Bedouin, YNET, 9/1/11).
I don’t know where to begin…
That the Bedouin have owned and used the Negev land for centuries before the establishment of the state of Israel?
That since the establishment of the state of Israel, their wish has been to become a legitimate part of their state?
That the policies of the state of Israel over the last 60 years have brought them to penury, living in tin shacks, at the threat of even these being demolished at the whim of a bureaucrat?
That the land they are holding on to now is no more than 3% of the Negev lands – and that the policies of oppression and destruction are in order to further reduce these lands to only 1.5% of the Negev land.
That on average a Bedouin farmer can use no more than 3 dunams (1 dunam = 1/4 of an acre) to support his family of 10, while a Jewish farmer in the Negev has no less than 30 dunams, and at times even 1,000?
So let’s remember how we got to where we are now:
Retired Supreme Court judge Eliezer Goldberg listened to many voices, and together with a small committee put together “the Goldberg Report” in 2008 under the auspices of the Olmert Government. This report, while using positive rhetoric, such as “the villages must be recognized, as much as possible,” also recommended that Bedouins should not receive land beyond Route 40, re-establishing the norm that Bedouins, while being citizens, are not really a fully legitimate part of our country. The Bedouin community, which had fully cooperated with the Goldberg committee, was disappointed.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert assigned Ehud (Udi) Praver to create a plan implementing the Goldberg Report recommendations. Praver’s plan was released a couple of months ago. This plan did not implement the Goldberg Report recommendations, but rather created a completely new plan.
In developing this new plan, NO BEDOUIN were consulted. NONE. Creating a plan for a community, without even thinking of considering their voice, is a strong statement – indicating that Israel still perceives the Bedouin as less than citizens. It also means that the chance of implementing the plan is really low.
The Praver plan includes massive violent enforcement, concentration, no clear statement as to the recognition of villages, use of “divide and rule” tactics intended to split the community, and no option for the community for negotiations. The end result was to be – reduction of actual use of land by the Bedouin community from 300,000 dunams to no more than 200,000.
Naturally, the leadership in the Bedouin community felt betrayed yet again, and together with organizations such as ACRI (the Association for Civil Rights in Israel) and Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights, expressed their disapproval of this plan. But, evidently, that was not important to Prime Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu: his concern was the criticism from the Right.
It is with sadness, disappointment and a feeling of intense distaste that I write of the next steps decided upon by Netanyahu:
Netanyahu gave Yaakov Amidror, the director of the National Security Council (NSC), the mission to “correct” Praver’s plan. Yet again, the Bedouin are treated not as citizens, but as a security issue. In addition, Foreign Minister Liberman assigned MK David Rotem, Chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in the Knesset, to study the plan, and insure it is in accordance with his party’s (Yisrael Beitenu’s) line.
MK Rotem is demanding that the maximum amount of land allowed to remain in the hands of the Bedouin be no more than 100,000 dunams, and that another 300 paramilitary police be assigned to enforce the relocation and containment of the Bedouin.
There are 100,000 Bedouin living today in the villages, an agricultural people and young population with an annual growth of about 5%. The entire land they utilize is 300,000 dunams – used for their homes, their livestock, and their agriculture. Rotem is demanding that it be reduced to 100,000 dunams. By contrast 50 newly established Jewish single family ranches in the Negev have received about 1,000 dunams each from the State. The words of MK Rotem “…concentrate them, there they will till their land”, are extremely ironic pending this planned process of dispossession.
MK David Rotem’s opinions on Arabs are well known. For example, he presented a law conditioning Israeli citizenship on service in the Israeli army. Now the Bedouin – who have no say in the plans for their future within their own country – have to accept the plans created for them by a person of MK Rotem’s views.
I don’t believe it is possible, even with the use of massive force: police brutality, bulldozers, arrests, fines, demolitions, and village erasures – to evict the Bedouin from their lands and contain them.
We are about to step into a very dark era in Israeli history, making the Bedouin community suffer tremendously before the government will change its ways.
Eventually, at some time in history, Israel will realize that its treatment of its Bedouin population must be one of inclusion and dignity. But I am fearful of what will happen until then.
For more updates see the website of Dukium, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, a group of concerned Arab and Jewish residents of the Negev engaged in collaborative Jewish-Arab efforts in the struggle for civil equality and the advancement of mutual tolerance and coexistence.
Please take initiative and do what you can to help change Israel’s treatment of its Bedouin population.
Recognition Now calls on the Government of Israel to integrate the Arab-Bedouin community of the Negev into the region based on the principles of partnership, equality, human rights, and a future of prosperity for all the Negev residents.
For more information: Dr. Awad Abu-Frieh, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Halil El-Amour, email@example.com