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Israeli coalition parties join forces to reduce land allocated to Bedouin

Parties agree to put a five-year time limit on the evacuation of the unrecognized Bedouin villages. Rights groups warn that if the government plan is implemented, some 30,000 Palestinian-Bedouin will be expelled from their homes and resettled in unsuitable townships.

A woman of the al-Qian Bedouin tribe stands in front of a house in the unrecognized village of Um al-Hiram (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

Members of the four leading coalition parties have reached an agreement that would further cut the land designated for resettlement of the Bedouin population in the Negev (Naqeb), Israeli daily Maariv reports.

Israeli governments have been working on a policy that would solve the issue of the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev for the past decade. Under the latest plan – commonly referred to as the Prawer plan – the government would forcibly expel between several thousand (according to the government) and up to 30,000 Palestinian Bedouin from their current villages, while several villages will be recognized and become eligible for government services and infrastructure.

The Bedouin who are slated to be removed from their homes will receive monetary compensation and offered new houses in existing townships.

Today, however, Maariv reports that prominent members of Knesset from all major coalition parties agreed to further limit the Prawer Plan. MKs from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, Netanyahu’s Likud and the settlers’ Jewish Home decided to remove modifications made in the plan by former Minister Benny Begin, who was appointed by the previous government to adjust the initial outline to the needs of the population on the ground.

While Bedouin leaders and rights groups weren’t satisfied with Mr. Begin’s work, his negotiations with the local population were scrutinized by the Right, which demanded the government forcefully evacuate most of the unrecognized villages, and opposed any negotiations with the local Bedouin citizens.

The coalition parties agreed to remove much of the land Mr. Begin promised the Bedouin, and also to place a five-year limit for removing the population from their current homes and resettling them into the zones designated under the old Prawer Plan. During this period, Bedouin can appeal their individual cases to the courts, but all remaining Bedouin land claims will be erased after five years.

Around 65,000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel live in 59 unrecognized villages in the Negev, partly because Israel decided not to recognize many Bedouin claims to land in the early years of the state. Other unrecognized villages came into being as a result of population transfers and migration in the 1948 War the years after.

Deprived of government services and infrastructure, the villages expanded in an unorganized and unplanned fashion, resulting in claims that the Bedouin are “taking over” the Negev.

In the 1970s, the government encouraged the Bedouin population to register their land claims, but those claims weren’t recognized.

The Prawer Plan represents the largest effort to resettle a Palestinian population in an area under Israeli control (including the Occupied Territories) today. It is unclear what degree of cooperation or resistance the Bedouin population will show if the government proceeds with implementing the plan. The latest development, however, increases the likelihood of a confrontation between the Bedouin and the government.

Related:
Resource: The Arab Bedouin of the Naqab – Myths and Misconceptions
Bedouin village in Negev to be destroyed, Jewish settlement to be built on site
WATCH: Jewish settlers await destruction of Bedouin village in Negev

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  • COMMENTS

    1. The Trespasser

      So instead of living in stone-age huts and trafficking drugs Bedouins will have to live in apartments, study and get normal jobs.

      Evil, evil Jooz.

      Reply to Comment
    2. NIZ

      Trespasser: “So instead of living in stone-age huts and trafficking drugs Bedouins will have to live in apartments, study and get normal jobs.”

      Maybe you should ask them what they want first…

      Nice, nice Jooz.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Of course they would rather traffic drugs, steal solar panels and other goods and pay no taxes.

        Alhamdulillah, the state is capable to take care of this issue and Bedouin children will have to go to school.

        Reply to Comment
        • directrob

          Are you going for the most racist remark without being banned by the moderators?

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            There is nothing racist in telling the truth.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Trespasser should never be banned. He’s a perfect model of the Ugly Zionist.

            Reply to Comment
          • He has thought up an innovative way to help some of the more troubled teenagers I’ve met in Bethlehem and Hebron. A while ago he was remarkably persistent in getting help for an African refugee woman he found homeless in the street, and whose case no one seemed to want to take on. As ugly Zionists go, he’s not always a terribly successful one.

            (And he will probably kill me for revealing his latent leftist tendencies to the world, but there is often so much bad feeling in these discussion threads that I think it’s helpful to remember that people are never quite as awful as they look.)

            Reply to Comment
          • This site evokes politics at the boundaries of various ideologies. But boundary maintenance is not all ideologies do. You have reminded me of this.

            Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        They want free land. So do I. That isn’t an option for me at the moment, but the Bedouin just take as much land as they want and idiot left-wingers come in to defend their land theft.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ravarik

          You are forgetting one thing. This is their land. If you don’t believe that, they should at least have a fair chance to prove their claims. The case of El Araqib is a case in point. They have purchase documents from 1908, when the El-Touri tribe bought land from the El-Nukbi tribe. The earliest graves in the cemetary are from 1913. They also have British and Israeli documents. Their ownership documents were good enough when Kibbutz Lehavim bought land from them. In 1953, they were told to move for 6 months, but never allowed back. Some came back in any case. They claim (I can’t prove this) that they only learned in 2000 that their lands had been expropriated in 1953. The State claimed that their proofs of ownership were moot because of the expropriation and that the District Court had no right to examine whether the expropriation had been legal. Thankfully, the High Court ruled in December that the residents of El-Araqib must have their day in court.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Only it isn’t ‘their’ land. There may be individual Bedouin that can prove a land claim but the vast majority never have had and do not currently have any actual ownership over the land they use for their shacks. “My grandfather pastured sheep on that hill” is not a legitimate ownership claim. The Bedouin just plop their shacks anywhere they want and expect recognition of ownership from the government. The government offers compromises, the Bedouin urged on by left-wing activists reject them. The government is forced to take forceful action to enforce the rule of law.

            Kibbutz Lahavim and many other Kibbutzim paid off many Bedouin and fellaheen to go away and stop bothering them with absolutely no actual concern for the validity of documents. This is how it usually worked: a Jewish settlement agency would purchase land from the actual owners who would reside in Beirut or Jaffa or Istanbul. The fellaheen would demand that they must be compensated for the loss of land even though they didn’t own it. They would then proceed to carry out acts of violence against the Kibbutz or Moshava or whatever. If they asked for reasonable amounts they were paid off to go away. That Kibbutz Lahavim or any other Kibbutz paid somebody off only means they constituted an annoyance. That’s it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Rauna

            “My grandfather pastured sheep on that hill” is not a legitimate ownership claim. Equally ” God had promised us this land” is not a legitimate ownership claim.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            You seem to be not the first who realized that.

            “We will not set up committees so that the Arabs will know what we are after, we shall act like silent spies, we shall buy, buy, buy.”
            Ben-Yehuda

            However from perspective of certain people, buying land does not grants rights over it either.

            Reply to Comment
    3. “In the 1970s, the government encouraged the Bedouin population to register their land claims, but those claims weren’t recognized.” : Does this mean that the present Knesset, or one recently past, is expunging what a prior Knesset/government did? An example of (always present) Knesset supremacy?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ravarik

        No, it means that in the seventies the government stopped the process. I think the government expected that the Bedouin would submit such contradictory land claims that they would have an excuse to throw everything out. When it turned out that some 3,200 claims fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, it took the wind out of their sails.

        Reply to Comment
        • Still, it sounds like the government is not recognizing those claims that were made. This is either Knesset Supremacy, the present voiding past law, or simply blatant denial of law. Either way, the law becomes less secure as an independent instrument; I think at some point this will bite back on Jewish Israelis–that is when legal change can begin.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Kolumn9

      What is it that makes these Bedouin ‘Palestinian Bedouin’? No, seriously, on the basis of what can these Bedouin be classified as ‘Palestinian’?

      Reply to Comment
    5. XYZ

      (1) Agree the term “Palestinian Bedouin” is wrongly used. These people are not citizens of the Palestinian Authority. They are Israeli Beduin. I don’t know why Noam is twisting himself into “politically correct” knots using such confusing terminology.

      (2) During the Pesach holiday, we drove to the Negev south of Beersheva. This is the first time in several years I have gone there. I noticed how the illegal Beduin encampments east of the road have spread like mushrooms in the intervening years. I see tin shacks, unplanned and spread all over the place. I fail to see what right they have to grab this land and build on it in such an environmentally unsound way. Like K9 said, I would like free land also, but civilized countries don’t work this way.

      Reply to Comment
      • 1.) Have you ever asked them how they describe and see themselves? In the past on this site there have been ruffled feathers when some commenters have tried to define what Jewish identity is, and yet the very same posters who object to that don’t seem to have the slightest issue in telling Bedouin who and what they are. It’s nothing to do with being politically correct.

        2.) Bedouin communities lost a lot in 1948 when their land rights were not recognised by the state. Some communities were displaced beyond the Green Line (where they are now facing mass displacement again, with the authorities drawing up plans to transfer them out of Area C). Others were internally displaced by the state. Ironically, they went where the state put them, and now they are to be moved on from there too. Is this ‘civilised’ behaviour? You are talking as though these Bedouin are getting some lovely special privilege that you don’t get, and while it’s true that they have historically received rather different treatment from the government than you have, it’s hardly privileged.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          1) I see myself as a cherry flavored meat popsicle and demand that anyone addressing me use that as my description. If you meet Israeli Bedouin that describe themselves as Palestinian it makes just about as much sense.

          2) What the hell is a Bedouin community? In 1948 they were nomads and certainly didn’t own any land. They were displaced from the border areas which functioned as their temporary home only some of the time. More recently they have settled down and started taking over vast stretches of land with no legitimate claim to any of it. They are getting a lovely special privilege of FREE LAND while I have to pay through the nose for it and they are only getting this lovely special privileges because the government up until now hasn’t enforced planning laws near their communities. Now they are getting the lovely special privilege of FREE APARTMENTS, while I would have to pay through the nose for an apartment. And they have the gall to complain about it and you have the gall to deem them discriminated against. Of all the stuff I read on 972mag this is the most ridiculous. I wish to be displaced like they are being displaced. I’ll set up a tent outside of Ramat HaSharon and keep taking over more and more land until the government agrees to give me an apartment and a cash settlement. Apparently all I have to do for this is to declare myself a Bedouin and maybe just for the hell of it I’ll call myself a Palestinian to get all the left-wing loonies on my side.

          Reply to Comment
          • That analogy is specious. On the comment thread about left-wing and right-wing attitudes to the separation wall, I wrote, “Community can be like a patchwork, containing multiple subgroups (e.g. Druze and various Bedouin tribes). Those patches may also overlap significantly, with people being comfortable describing themselves as both Druze and Palestinian and Bedouin and Palestinian – or, God forbid, maybe even Bedouin and Palestinian and Israeli. These aren’t mutually exclusive.” I stand by that comment. Bedouin communities in the south Hebron hills and those in the Negev have a lot of commonalities, and culturally they function as part of the wider Palestinian community even though they have aspects that distinguish them as Bedouin. This is how a community works – there are enough subgroups within Israel’s Jewish community to attest to that. Unless someone has shoved a large wooden stick up your backside and left you in the freezer, you don’t have nearly such good grounds for calling yourself a popsicle. And why does it matter to you how these people understand themselves? I don’t understand why you even asked the question, let alone so heatedly.

            It isn’t true that there were no stationary Bedouin communities prior to 1948, but even if it were, the argument wouldn’t stand. If you can get hold of a copy of the autobiography of Isaac Diqs (a Bedouin man who lived through the Nakba as a child), this provides an interesting window into Bedouin life in pre-48 Palestine. His family moved between two locations, depending on the season, but those lands were very much their own. In the years following Israel’s establishment, the state was unfortunately very selective in how it determined claims of ownership, which is why the ‘present absentees’ ended up trapped in unrecognised towns and villages while forbidden to return to their own homes. Bedouin faced an even worse deal because of their nomadic life (whether current or historic), which meant that their right to land was seen as even more tenuous. They lost livelihood because of that, and it is difficult to argue that this is OK because their life didn’t fit the state’s conception of ownership.

            When you say that ‘you want to be displaced as they are being displaced’ – I don’t think you can have any real idea of what it is you are asking for, or the difficulties that these demolitions and transfers have caused for the affected villages. What the state is doing here is not an exercise in philanthropy, and the argument that it is pure benevolence is reminiscent of the treatment meted out to Native Americans, who were also thought to be receiving all kinds of perks (education for the kids, stable housing) that they just weren’t sufficiently grateful for. Their migration patterns were also used as an excuse to shift them from certain parcels of land, because of course they didn’t own it, not really. The Negev is subject to a ‘Judaization’ effort, and analysis of the Prawer Plan can’t be easily divorced from that. This isn’t simply a case of the authorities deciding to pass out free candy.

            I can understand the frustration about having to pay through the nose for an apartment in a crazy housing market, but there is a risk that such frustration causes you to stop seeing the harsher aspects of Bedouin existence. When it comes down to it, I don’t think you’d want to trade places with someone from al-Araqib.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            How dare you try to define me and what I might do in the privacy of my own house?

            I ask the question because the Bedouin were not treated by the settled Arabs as kinsmen up until, well, very recently. The idea that the Bedouin have some kind of shared identity with Palestinians going back to any point before the rise of the state of Israel is absurd. There is no point in time where Palestinian society (read Palestinian Arab society pre-1948) considered the Bedouin a part of it. On what possible basis can the Bedouin be considered Palestinian when since 1948 they have lived as Israeli citizens? They might be Arabs, and they might be Bedouin, but there is no basis for them being Palestinian in any reasonable sense. If you choose to define all Arab-speaking Muslims and Christians as Palestinians that is fine but that is an extremely arbitrary definition and is essentialist in its nature.

            The Bedouin had no fixed homes and had no registered land. Herding sheep over a wide territory does not mean you own it. If you wish to argue to the contrary the West Bank will be full of settler flocks of sheep in no time and you are going to have to explain the double standard. Neither the Ottomans nor the British accepted the Bedouin claims to the land and their claim to the land in the first place was based on military capacity to ensure control and charge for passage. Again, the settlers can (and potentially do) use the same means to declare ownership over land and again you have a double standard. Why is it that the Bedouin can get away with such a ridiculous double standard where you defend their claim over any land they plop a tent on?

            I am perfectly comfortable with the idea of being displaced into better housing conditions and to receive cold cash for a fictitious land claim. The state is not acting out of benevolence. It is acting out of a need to actually establish the rule of law in the Negev where the Bedouin have been riding roughshod for at least the past 30 years. It proposes reasonable compromises to the Bedouin some of whom reject the compromises because they insist on fictitious claims to land or even more insane insist on ownership on the basis of residing over land that EVEN THEY accept they have no actual ownership over. What kind of nonsense is it where the Bedouin claim land that they admit was state land which they were allowed to use it in the 1950s with the universal understanding that Bedouin were nomads?

            Yes, I have to pay through the nose for land while the poor Bedouin are offered housing and compensation for land that even they most of the time admit isn’t theirs on which they have set up ever expanding clumps of ugly shacks with 3rd world standards of living. Every single person in al-Arakib has a second home they can use for housing. Most of those homes they got for free from the government. There isn’t a single person there that is actually left homeless when their shacks are destroyed over and over by the police. I feel no pity for them whatsoever.

            Also, from now on I demand to be called a Palestinian Bedouin cherry flavored meat popsicle and insist that you are being oppressive by continuing to disagree with me.

            Reply to Comment
          • “How dare you try to define me and what I might do in the privacy of my own house?”

            I will try my best not to. The resulting mental images are a bit much for my sensitive leftist bleeding-heart personality to take. :)

            “The Bedouin had no fixed homes and had no registered land.”

            This isn’t true. Prior to 1948 there were multiple settled Bedouin communities (in fact, I have even read a few things saying that settled communities were in the majority, but I want to look into that properly). In the case of Al-Araqib, the cemetery contains graves dating from the nineteenth century to the present day, suggesting fixed residence from that time onward. They also hold deeds showing that they purchased land in 1907 and another parcel in the early 1920s. Then there are Bedouin in a different position, who have resided on certain land for generations but who hold no formal recognition of ownership. This is where the double standard comes in – and it isn’t me enacting it. The modern-day settlers at Susya are separated from the ancient Jewish community that lived there by about a thousand years, but this still doesn’t stop them from arguing that their presence is simply a natural and just continuation of that former community. The authorities affirm this – but they don’t accept that same argument from continuity when it’s used by Bedouin, even though Bedouin residence in the area doesn’t come with an interlude ten centuries long. What interests me most about this situation is the fact that Bedouin communities are receiving identical treatment under the Prawer Plan irrespective of whether they hold land deeds or not, and that the Plan aims to preclude Bedouin residence in whole areas of the Negev (a barrier not placed on Jewish citizens). It is a means of containing the population and controlling its development, part of the wider Judaization strategy.

            Shift to Area C, and a similar thing is happening there – not just to Bedouin (many of whom were displaced from the Negev in ’48, or who share tribal affiliation with Negev Bedouin) but to non-Bedouin Palestinian residents. In 2011 the government issued plans that would see 27000 Bedouin displaced from Area C,
            an announcement that was paralleled by an intensified rate of home demolitions in non-Bedouin communities. Looking at these patterns, I think there is a reasonable suspicion that Bedouin are being used as a test case in a particularly ugly form of population management.

            “I ask the question because the Bedouin were not treated by the settled Arabs as kinsmen up until, well, very recently.”

            The sense of belonging has increased in recent decades, largely due to shared experiences of the kind defined above. (In his book on modern Palestinian identity, Rashid Khalidi looks briefly at what checkpoint lines and roadblocks have contributed to its development – such experiences do change how a community sees itself.) However, there definitely were community relationships between Bedouin and non-Bedouin prior the founding of the State, and they can be viewed as part of the same society. There have been some fascinating oral history projects that demonstrate these ties, in addition to other anthropological work on the minutiae of everyday life. I am interested in this evolution of community not out of any great love for identity politicking (I have no time for that), but partly because it’s hard to make sense of history as a whole without examining these micro-histories and mostly because it’s just interesting. It also provides a good antidote to the unfortunate paternalistic idea that modern technology is the hallmark of a solid functioning society, and that putting Bedouin in apartment blocks (‘better housing’) is automatically a desirable thing. They don’t view those apartment blocks as you do, and having spoken to many Bedouin women, I know that for some of them the very idea of having to live like that causes sincere distress and what I can describe only as a kind of claustrophobia. Imposing this on them isn’t great.

            This does not mean that they want a ‘third world standard of living’. When I first started visiting Bedouin communities, I expected those standards of living. On one occasion I was due to go to a village when I knew I would have my period, and before that visit I worried about how I was going to manage with unhygienic toilet facilities and no proper waste disposal and no running water and in a hut with a lot of pain, probably a dozen children and no privacy, and I thought about how I hate feeling dirty. But I had to go, so I stockpiled some painkillers and went with gritted teeth. That visit did away with most of my prejudices about ‘primitive’ Bedouin. Basic conditions do not necessarily mean bad conditions. It was a humbling experience for me and it left me deservedly ashamed. Whatever your views on Bedouin land rights in the Negev, try not to see their life as some kind of savage ugly existence. It’s unhelpful.

            Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          “Palestinian Beduins” are Beduins who are citizens of the Palestinian Authority. Why is it too hard for you all to say “Israeli Beduins” when referring to Beduins who are citizens of Israel? How the heck are you going to identify them as Israeli citizens if you choke on saying the word “Israeli” for your own reasons? I don’t even believe that they object to being called “Israeli Beduins” in order to differentiate them from Beduins who are citiznes of the PA, whom this article is not referring to?

          Reply to Comment
          • See my reply to K9. I don’t have any problem with calling them Israeli citizens.

            I didn’t consider the possibility that readers might just be confused as to where these Bedouin are located. I took the objection to the word ‘Palestinian’ to be an assault on their community links – because unfortunately that’s what such objections usually are. Sorry for misunderstanding you.

            Reply to Comment
          • If these Israeli citizens have had their prior registration of land expunged in some cases, then this should be a matter of constitutional law. What is slowly happening is that “citizen” is becoming multi-tiered. Because these individuals are not Jewish no cry is made. I fear, ultimately, that evolving Knesset Supremacy, allowing a sitting Knesset to overrule agreements of previous ones, will yeild crises within the Jewish community proper. But it much easier to just talk of the “other” and be done with it.

            Reply to Comment
    6. Burlington Vermont has a sister city with Arad and Bethlehem. A few years ago we visited both cities . We were treated with great respect in both cities. We met many kind people. While in Arad we were treated to a wonderful meal by the the Mayor or Arad and stayed in a lovely hotel. The Mayor of Arad also introduced us to a Beduin family one evening. The family served us a meal in a tent prepared and served by the Beduin Family who were very kind to us. The food and family were wonderful and the boys played instruments for us. Everyone got on and it was one of the best memories we took back to Vermont. Why can’t we all get along and share the land? My Jewish mother Edith Berkman would turn over in her grave to hear what is happening in the area. My friends Ben and Jerry, the great ice cream makers know that everyone likes to eat ice cream and everyone needs to have a home and feel safe in their homeland. No DISCRIMINATION for our sisters and brothers.

      Reply to Comment
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