The Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Negev – Facts and Figures
At one point, there were 46 unrecognized Bedouin villages. Following the State’s recognition of 11 of them, 35 villages in the Negev remain unrecognized. Some of them have existed in the same place preceding the establishment of the State, while the rest have remained in their locations for decades, following the State’s transfer of the villages’ residents to their current locations during the period of military rule.
The Arab-Bedouin population in the Negev exceeds 250,000 people. According to different estimates, approximately 25%-40% of this population live in unrecognized villages (see, for example, the Negev Coexistence Forum’s figures). The least populous of the unrecognized villages is home to over 400 men, women, and children, and the largest village’s population surpasses 10,000.
Despite the fact that 11 villages have been recognized by the government and the urban planning institutions, their residents continue to lack basic infrastructure, including water systems, electricity, roads, waste collection, and more, lacking reasonable access to health services or education. This is due to the State’s refusal to develop these communities and their local infrastructure, or to grant building permits for residential purposes due to the conditioning of all development on the recognition of land ownership.
The unrecognized villages’ territory constitutes 2.7% of the total area of the Negev (approximately 350,000 dunams). The total territory over which ownership is currently disputed constitutes 4.9% of the Negev’s total area (approximately 640,000 dunams).
All 35 of the villages that have not yet been recognized meet every criterion listed by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) for the definition of a “township,” as characterized by various social phenomena: according to the CBS, a “township” is a place that is permanently populated, in which over 40 adults reside, with an independent administration that is not located on the land of any other locality. The sole criterion that the unrecognized villages fail to meet is the Interior Minister’s official declaration that they are indeed “townships.”
Every village has its distinct physical and social structure, internal planning logic, and unique identity. The village functions as a “township” in every sense, on the basis of internal agreements.
The significance of the State’s refusal to recognize the village is as follows:
The State has never conducted any planning assessments, nor has it invested anything whatsoever in their development.
Everything that currently exists in the village is illegal and cannot be legalized, because the law alleges that it does not exist. Thus, residents of the unrecognized villages cannot receive building permits, and the structures in the villages are accordingly designated as “unauthorized” and face threats of demolition. In 2018, for example, approximately 2,326 structures were demolished in Arab-Bedouin communities in the Negev, 604 of which were residential.
As a result of decades-long neglect, the Bedouin population suffers from a severe socioeconomic crisis.
Failure to recognize the villages has caused grave and ongoing violations of residents’ most basic rights, including the right to decent housing, the right to enjoy basic infrastructure and services – education, health, employment, and economic development – the right to adequate planning, and to participate in decisions on the nature of the locality’s future development.
The time has come to recognize the Bedouin villages, to involve residents in planning and authorization processes, and to treat the residents as equal citizens with equal rights.
ACRI, The Regional Council of the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev, Bimkom - Planners for Human Rights
Mechanism of Dispossession and Intimidation: Demolition Policy in Arab Bedouin Communities in the Negev/Naqab, Negev Coexistence Forum, June 2019
The Unrecognized Negev Villages in the Shadow of Government Policy (Hebrew), ACRI & Bimkom - Planners for Human Rights, May 2017
Between Discrimination and Abandonment: The Bedouin Recognized Villages and the Jewish Settlements in the Negev, Negev Coexistence Forum & Activestills, March 2014