“The south is under attack, and not only from Gaza. The illegal occupation of the Bedouin is eroding Zionist sovereignty in the Negev, and the Negev is in danger and there is a real fear of hostile takeover.” “Illegal construction in the Negev is creating a harsh phenomenon which disrupts daily life in the region. It starts with Bedouin extorting protection money, continues with agricultural terrorism that deals a fatal blow to Jewish income, and ends with entire areas being left open to the expansion of Islamism in Israel.” These are just a few of the statements that Minister Galant said today during a Knesset debate over the implementation of government decision No. 748 to establish five new Jewish towns in the Negev, two of which are supposed to be built on top of existing Bedouin communities.
ACRI has one response to such hateful words:
Instead of promoting the rights of Bedouin citizens and recognizing their villages, which they have lived in for decades and some of which have existed even prior the state, Minister Galant chooses to blame the victim, to repetitively disparage and incite against Arab society in Israel. This is not the first time that Minister Galant has expressed such racist and hateful sentiments towards Bedouin residents. There is no doubt that such words coming from the mouth of an elected public official only contributes to aggravating prejudices, damaging the relationship between Bedouin citizens of Israel and the authorities, and placing blame on one of the most vulnerable populations in Israel, a population that continues to live in poverty and subpar conditions due to the ongoing policy of planning discrimination.
The Bedouin residents of the Negev live in unrecognized villages, in shameful poverty, with constant danger of losing the roofs over their heads. This is not due to some predetermined destiny nor a “cultural choice,” rather it is a direct result of a governmental policy that deliberately discriminates against them in all aspects of life. Not only does the government ignore the existence of 35 Bedouin villages that are in desperate need of recognition, urban planning and development. It also neglects to invest in recognized Bedouin villages, which also suffer from socio-economic challenges. Moreover, the government is building five new Jewish towns, two of which are planned to be built on existing Bedouin villages. The Town of Diyah will be built on the unrecognized village of Ktamat, home to 1,500 residents; and the town of Neve Gurion is supposed to be built on part of the lands of Bir Hadaj, a recognized village with 6,000 residents.
The November 2015 decision to build these five new Jewish towns is the latest in a string of decisions to build Jewish towns in the Negev. Amongst those decisions are: the November 2013 decision to build the Shizaf township at the Tlalim Junction; the November 2014 decision to build a new strip of five new towns in Mevo’ot Arav; the 2013 decision to build five new Jewish towns along Road 25; the 2010 decision to build a new city at the Tel Arad Junction and; the 2013 decision to build the Jewish town of Hiran on top of the Bedouin village Umm Al-Hiran, resulting in the eviction of Arab citizens from their homes.
The longstanding government policy to “regulate” unrecognized villages stems from an erroneous assumption that denies both Bedouin purchasing rights and their historical connection to the land. The main reason that the government chooses to regulate or recognize Bedouin villages is to invest and develop these villages to ultimately assimilate Bedouin populations from nearby unrecognized villages. In this way, the state punishes the Bedouin population twice: first, non-recognition of the unrecognized villages and, second, lack of development of the recognized villages.
In order to change the current reality, the State needs to acknowledge the relationship between Bedouin citizens to the land, recognize the unrecognized villages, provide appropriate urban planning for these villages, and promote economic development.
Bimkom and ACRI’s joint webpage “Unrecognized villages in the Negev in the shadow of government policy”- Information on government plans to promote Jewish towns in the Negev and their impact on Bedouin villages.
Almog Ben Zichri, Minister Galant presented a plan against “hostile Bedouin building” filled with distorted data, Haaretz, 5.6.2018
Guy Nirdi, Minister Galant decided to wage open war on Bedouin dispersal, Globes, 4.6.2018