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100k Bedouin Israelis couldn't watch Netanyahu's 'apology' — they don't have electricity

In a video shot in his office, Israel’s prime minister apologizes to the country’s Arab citizens for inciting against them. But a large portion of them couldn’t watch it — they live in ‘unrecognized villages’ that Israel refuses to connect to basic infrastructure like electricity, and the internet.

A view of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Um al Hiran, Negev, Israel, January 18, 2014. Roughly 200,000 Bedouins live in the Negev desert. About half living in the seven government built townships in the northeast of the Negev and half in unrecognized villages which lack basic services such as clean water, electricity and sanitation. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

A view of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Um al Hiran, Negev, Israel, January 18, 2014. Roughly 100,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel live in unrecognized villages that lack basic services such as clean water, electricity and sanitation. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published a video addressing the country’s Arab citizens on Monday, in which he apologized for inciting against them — and undermining the most basic of democratic standards — nearly a year and a half ago, on Israeli election day, when he warned that Arab voters were coming to the polls “in droves.” It’s doubtful that it took him the past year and a half to realize the error of his ways.

The timing is more likely related to Netanyahu’s attempts to push through “law and order” conditions he reportedly slapped on an already approved economic support package for Arab municipalities in Israel worth NIS 15 billion (nearly $4 billion). The package is meant to help narrow the yawning economic and social gaps between the Arab and Jewish sectors in Israel.

The fact that Netanyahu chose to put the video out this week is a slap in the face to the Bedouin citizens of Israel who live in the “unrecognized” village of al-Araqib, who have been facing demolitions and arrests while Netanyahu sat in his comfortable chair and recorded a video they couldn’t watch. Israeli authorities demolished the village for the 101st time Wednesday morning, the latest in a back-and-forth of demolition and rebuilding that has been ongoing since 2010. The village will mark six years of its struggle for recognition this Saturday.

Joint List Chairman MK Ayman Odeh published a response to Netanyahu’s video, in which points out that the 100,000 Arab citizens living in “unrecognized” villages like al-Araqib could not view the prime minister’s apology, since the state has never hooked them up to electricity or any other infrastructure — and certainly not internet connectivity.

[Click “CC” in the bottom right of the video if subtitles don’t appear automatically.]

Odeh nonchalantly mentions that Israel’s Arab citizens are natives of this land (mistakenly translated in the subtitles as “sons of the place”). What he means is that they are indigenous peoples, that they have just as much of a right to live here as Jews. This is of utmost importance, since Israel has never recognized this fact. When it comes to Bedouin land rights specifically, at the heart of the crisis in al-Araqib, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled last year that Bedouin have no indigenous rights.

Indeed, despite Netanyahu’s call for Arab-Jewish equality, Israelis’ fundamental understanding of statehood has always been rooted in providing Jewish citizens (as well as potential Jewish citizens who don’t even live here) with privileges and rights that non-Jewish citizens have never received. The overarching principle guiding Netanyahu’s time in office has been to ensure that Israel is first and foremost a Jewish state; whatever rights Palestinians get along the way is just a generous handout.

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    1. Rascal

      According to Mondoweiss, Netanyahu began his speech by referring to Arab “goats”. Another way to show his “concern” for the Palestinian population. He also lied about his statement that the Arabs were coming out to vote “in droves” in the last election, now claiming that he was only referring to specific political parties. Funny how the lies are conveniently forgotten by the majority of Israelis who still see no problems with treating the non-Jewish citizenry as inferiors because of religion. But, then again, the Israeli so-called “legal” system has authorized such discrimination.

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    2. Bernie X


      I have poor internet reception in the desert!


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    3. Average American

      Bedouins built their homes illegally? The legal system of The Jewish State is Jewish halacha law. Read some of the Talmud for yourself, pretty bad for you if you’re not Jewish. Tell me what is the Bedouins clear and fair path to legally building? Is there one? Or does The State mean it not only doesn’t recognize the village, it also doesn’t recognize the people in the village as human beings?

      Reply to Comment