Unrecognized Bedouin villages in Israel

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General view of one of the Unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev Desert of Israel, January 2008.

The term Unrecognized Bedouin villages in Israel refers to Arab villages in the Negev and the Galilee which the Israeli government does not recognize as legal settlements. Approximately half of Bedouin citizens of Israel live in 39-45 such villages.[1] According to the Israel Land Administration, in 2007 40% of the Bedouin lived in Unrecognized villages,[2] although the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages (RCUV) refers to Bedouin in unrecognized villages as half the Negev Bedouin population.[3] The unrecognised villages are ineligible for municipal services such as connection to the electrical grid, water mains or trash-pickup. The Israeli NGO "Adva Center" published a report on this issue saying, "The Bedouin living in the Negev constitute the only group of Arab citizens of Israel that still has a large-scale hold on the land, a hold that the state officially denies in principle, while recognizing in practice."[1][4] Homes in the villages have been subject to demolition by the Israeli authorities.[5] The unrecognized villages are not precisely marked on any commercial maps.


[edit] History

Goats grazing beneath disused garbage bins in the government township of Tel Sheva

During the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the semi-arid region of the Negev was inhabited mostly by semi-nomadic Bedouin tribes. This population became more and more sedentarized, and by the turn of the 20th century many of them lived in small agricultural communities.[6] According to the Goldberg Report, territorial boundaries between Bedouin tribes and claims on lands in the Negev region were not recorded by the Ottoman authorities until 1896, and yet even after that year, it was unclear (and practically unimportant) whether the local law saw these lands as fully owned by the Bedouin.[7] The report further says that the successive British authorities recognized the land arrangements of the previous Ottoman rule, but in 1934 they conducted a land survey and registration and began to collect taxes on land ownership.[8] In the early 1940s the British Mandate government estimated the number of Bedouin around Beersheba at 66.5 thousands, irrigating approximately two million dunams (2,000 sq km).

During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Negev regions saw harsh battles between the newly created Israel Defense Forces and the Egyptian army. In the aftermath of the war, most of the Negev was included within the borders of the newly established State of Israel. Censuses before and after the war indicate that about 80% of the Bedouin population left the Negev to areas that remained under Arab rule.[9]

The Israeli authorities' treatment of the Bedouin population was ambivalent. On the one hand, the Bedouin were considered loyal to the new state, and some of them even volunteered to serve in the IDF. On the other hand, Israel saw the Negev as its "hinterland", being sparsely populated and as the West Bank came under Jordanian rule. The policy eventually adopted was forcing the Bedouin to concentrate in an area of 1,100 sq km, that has become known as the Siyagh region, stretching between the West Bank border to the north east, Beersheba to the south west and Arad to the south. All Bedouin remaining under Israeli rule were granted Israeli citizenship, but the Siyagh region region was placed under martial law until 1966, like many other mostly Arab-populated areas in Israel at the time.[10]

The Bedouin claims for ownership on lands in the Negev were, by and large, rejected by the Israeli authorities, on the pretext that the ownership is not appropriately documented or that the lands claimed are not eligible to private ownership. Both Bedouin citizens and state authorities agree that only a small minority of the claim can be backed with full legally valid documentation, however the Bedouin claimant demand that their traditional ties with the lands, namely the fact that they de facto held the rights on these lands without objection on behalf of the former Ottoman or British authorities, be recognized by the State of Israel as ownership. Prof. Oren Yiftachel, a member of the geography department at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and an advocate for Bedouin rights, told the New York Times, "In pure legal terms, the state has a point, but it is a very technical point, brushing aside tradition and the legal occupation of the land until the 1950s".[11]

In order to reinforce the invisible Siyag fence, the State employed a reining mechanism, the Black Goat Law of 1950. The Black Goat Law curbed grazing so as to prevent land erosion, prohibiting the grazing of goats outside recognized land holdings.[citation needed] Since few Bedouin territorial claims were recognized, most grazing was thereby rendered illegal. Both Ottoman and British land registration processes failed to reach into the Negev region. Most Bedouin who had the option, preferred not to register their lands as this would mean being taxed without representation or services. Those whose land claims were recognized found it almost impossible to keep their goats within the periphery of their newly limited range. Into the 1970s and 1980s, only a small portion of the Bedouin were able to continue to graze their goats. Instead of migrating with their goats in search of pasture, the majority of the Bedouin migrated in search of wage-labor.[6]

The Israeli government has promoted the sedentarization of the Bedouin population. In 1963, Moshe Dayan said:

We should transform the Bedouins into an urban proletariat - in industry, services, construction, and agriculture. 88% of the Israeli population are not farmers, let the Bedouin be like them. Indeed, this will be a radical move which means that the Bedouin would not live on his land with his herds, but would become an urban person who comes home in the afternoon and puts his slippers on. His children will get used to a father who wears pants, without a dagger, and who does not pick out their nits in public. They will go to school, their hair combed and parted. This will be a revolution, but it can be achieved in two generations."

—Israeli General Moshe Dayan to Haaretz, 1963[6][12]

Dayan added, "Without coercion but with governmental direction ... this phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear."

In 1979 Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon declared a 1,500 square kilometer area in the Negev a protected nature reserve, rendering a major portion of the Negev almost entirely out of bounds for Bedouin herders.[citation needed] In conjunction, he established the Green Patrol, which has been called an 'environmental paramilitary unit',[13] with the mission of fighting Bedouin 'infiltration' into national Israeli land by preventing Bedouin from grazing their animals, seen as creating 'facts on the ground.'[citation needed] During Sharon's tenure as Minister of Agriculture (1977–1981), the Green Patrol removed 900 Bedouin encampments and cut goat herds by more than 1/3.[citation needed] Today the black goat is nearly extinct, and Bedouin in Israel do not have enough access to black goat hair to weave tents.[14]

[edit] Today

[edit] Unrecognized villages vs. urban townships

Denied access to their former sources of sustenance via grazing restrictions, severed from the possibility of access to water, electricity, roads, education, and health care in the unrecognized villages, and trusting in government promises that they would receive services if they moved, in the 1970s and 80s tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel resettled in 7 legal towns constructed by the government.[15] In 2003, about half of the Bedouin population of approximately 150,000 lived in 7 urban townships, and half lived in 45 unrecognized villages.[16] Since grazing has been severely restricted, and the Bedouin rarely receive permits to engage in self-sufficing agriculture,[17] few of the Bedouin in unrecognized villages see the urban townships as a desirable form of settlement.[18][19]

[edit] Environmental hazards

Unapproved construction of unrecognized villages is considered an environmental hazard by prominent Israeli environmental figures arguing that Bedouin take up open spaces that could be used for touristic purposes and construction of towns to accommodate new settlers under the Blueprint Negev.[14]

In the portion of the Negev available for civilian purposes, a large number of citizens live together in close proximity to a range of types of hazardous infrastructure. In the past few decades both Bedouin and Jews of the region have come to share some 2.5 % of the desert with Israel's nuclear reactors, 22 agro and petrochemical factories, an oil terminal, closed military zones, quarries, a toxic waste incinerator (Ramat Hovav), cell towers, a power plant, several airports, a prison, and 2 rivers of open sewage.[20] Much of this infrastructure is concentrated on the grounds of the unrecognized village of Wadi el-Na'am.

[edit] Demolitions, development and demographics

Demolished house in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Alsara, January 2008.

Bedouin advocates argue that the main reason for the transfer of the Bedouin into townships against their will is demographic.[21] Today there are around 160,000 Bedouins living in the Negev, and the number is increasing fast.[citation needed] With an annual growth rate of 5.5%, their birthrate is amongst the highest in the world; there will be 320,000 Bedouin in the Negev by 2020.[citation needed] In 2003, Director of the Israeli Population Administration Department, Herzl Gedj, described polygamy in the Bedouin sector a "security threat" and advocated various means of reducing the Arab birth rate.[22] In 2003, Shai Hermesh, the treasurer of the Jewish Agency and head of its effort to establish a solid Jewish majority in the desert told The Guardian: "We need the Negev for the next generation of Jewish immigrants" and added, "It is not in Israel's interest to have more Palestinians in the Negev."[19]

In 2005 Ronald Lauder of the Jewish National Fund announced plans to bring 250,000–500,000 people into the Negev through the Blueprint Negev, incurring opposition from Bedouin rights groups concerned that the unrecognized villages might be cleared to make way for Jewish development and potentially ignite internal civil strife.[23][24][25][26] Some Bedouin advocates claim the Blueprint Negev is motivated by demographic considerations, aimed at the increasing Jewish population to offset the skyrocketing Bedouin population.

In 2010, Israeli authorities demolished the unrecognized village of al-Araqeeb and by January 2011 had demolished structures there an additional eight times after residents attempted to rebuild in the wake of each demolition.[27]

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b "Off the Map: Land and Housing Rights Violations in Israel’s Unrecognized Bedouin Villages"; Human Rights Watch, March 2008 Volume 20, No. 5(E). The report: PDF, 5.4 MiB
  2. ^ Bedouin information, ILA, 2007
  3. ^ Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages website (The RCUV figures include the five villages which remain unrecognized despite incorporation into the Abu Basma Regional Council)
  4. ^ Shlomo Swirski and Yael Hasson, "Invisible Citizens: Israeli Government Policy Toward the Negev Bedouin", "Adva Center - Information on Equality and Social Justice in Israel", February 2006
  5. ^ "Nomadic bedouin fight to survive in the village which does not exist: Israel accused of discriminating against Negev desert clans", Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, Tuesday April 1, 2008; "Bedouin village faces demolition due to new Jewish neighborhood", Zafrir Rinat, Ha'aretz, 18 November 2007; Israel: End Systematic Bias Against Bedouin, Human Rights Watch, March 31, 2008
  6. ^ a b c Rebecca Manski."Criminalizing Self-Subsistence"; News from Within", Summer 2006
  7. ^ Report of the Commission to Propose a Policy for Arranging Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, a.k.a. the Goldberg Report, pp. 6-8 (in the Hebrew version)
  8. ^ Ibid
  9. ^ The Goldberg Report, pp. 9-10 (in the Hebrew version).
  10. ^ Ibid, pp. 12-13
  11. ^ Al-Araqib Jornal: A Test of Wills Over a Patch of Desert, by Isabel Kershner, The New York Times, August 25, 2010.
  12. ^ Donald Macintyre.End of the road for the Bedouin The Independent, November 29, 2005
  13. ^ Devorah Brous: "Uprooting Weeds"
  14. ^ a b Manski, Rebecca. "Bedouin Vilified Among Top 10 Environmental Hazards in Israel;" News From Within, Vol. XXII, No. 11, December 2006
  15. ^ Jonathan Cook."Bedouin in the Negev face new 'transfer"; MERIP, May 10, 2003
  16. ^ Sonia Nettnin."Negev: Bedouin Health, Bustan Eco-Builders"; Arabic Media Network, October 26, 2007
  17. ^ Aref Abu-Rabia. The Negev Bedouin and Livestock Rearing: Social, Economic, and Political Aspects, Oxford, 1994, pp. 28, 36, 38 (in a rare move, the ILA has leased on a yearly-basis JNF-owned land in Besor Valley (Wadi Shallala) to Bedouins)
  18. ^ Jonathan Cook.Making the land without a people"; Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 Aug-1 Sep 2004
  19. ^ a b Chris McGreal."Bedouin feel the squeeze as Israel resettles the Negev desert: Thousands displaced from ancient homeland; The Guardian, Thursday February 27, 2003
  20. ^ Rebecca Manski.A Desert Mirage: The Rising Role of US Money in Negev Development;News from Within October/November 2006
  21. ^ BUSTAN on the Blueprint; Excerpt of Rebecca Manski."The Rising Role of American Money in Negev Development"; News from Within, October/November 2005)
  22. ^ MERIP on Gedj
  23. ^ Rebecca Manski. A Desert Mirage: The Rising Role of US Money in Negev Development;News from Within October/November 2006
  24. ^ Ohalah Resolution on Blueprint Negev
  25. ^ Daniel Orenstein.When an 'ecological' community is not" Haaretz
  26. ^ Brous' Open Letter to the JNF; Baltimore Jewish Times, January 2006
  27. ^ Ilana Curiel (January 16, 2011). "Bedouin village razed again; residents: Fascist state". Ynet. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4014380,00.html. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 

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