Providing Protection for the Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Negev
In recent days, a number of rockets have fallen on some of the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, which are home to tens of thousands of residents. These rockets were not intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system since the unrecognized villages do not appear on maps as populated areas, but rather are defined as “open areas.” Furthermore, in all Bedouin villages, recognized or unrecognized, there is a severe lack of secure buildings in which residents may seek protection, such as bomb shelters.
On May 16, 2021, along with several other partner organizations, we contacted the Minister of Defense and the Israel Defense Forces’ High Command to demand the addition of Iron Dome installations in order to protect the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev and to provide temporary bomb shelters in all Bedouin villages of the Negev, whether recognized or not. In our letter, ACRI Attorney Abir Joubran Dakwar emphasized that the lack of protection for Negev Bedouin residents from rockets is a grave violation of their most basic rights to life, bodily integrity, and equality.
This neglect to provide protective measures for the residents of unrecognized villages, was a component of the appeal that we submitted to Israel’s High Court of Justice in 2014. As a result of our appeal, the Home Front Command presented a plan to strengthen the protection of Bedouin communities, leading to some improvements in the warning systems and even the installation of a few portable public bomb shelters in some of the recognized Bedouin villages. Additionally, the Home Front Command announced that, “if necessary, the possibility of providing Iron Dome installations to defend residents of the ‘scattered’ communities (the term used to refer to the dozens of unrecognized villages), will be considered.” When it came time to distribute and allocate the portable shelters, the court declared that “pulling the ‘blanket’ [of missile protection] toward one area will lead to the exposure of another area,” and as such, it decided not to involve itself in the authorities’ considerations and risk-assessments. With that, the court noted:
"We take into account that we find ourselves – thank God – in a period of relative calm, security-wise, and reinforce that relevant entities within the Home Front Command must update future security solutions for the ‘scattered’ communities, a marginalized area, should the risk-assessment change; ‘and equality will appear before their eyes."
The organizations’ appeal indicated that, in light of present circumstances, there may be no doubt that the risk-assessment has changed, thereby obligating authorities to prepare and implement new protective measures for residents of Bedouin villages.
The letter was sent on behalf of ACRI; Bimkom - Planners for Human Rights; the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev; Sikkuy - The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality; the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality; and Shatil.