+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Israel's Bedouin: Civilians in death alone

Israel denies Bedouin citizens basic services in life but claims them as civilians when they die.

Over 400 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its current military operation in Gaza. According to the United Nations, approximately three-quarters of Gaza’s dead are civilians; many are children.

In Israel, two civilians have been killed. One was a Bedouin, the 32-year-old Oudi Lafi al-Waj, who lived in an unrecognized village in the Negev (Naqab) desert, near Dimona. Several Bedouin children have also been injured by rocket fire since Israel began “Operation Protective Edge.”

Bedouin villages do not have air raid sirens, nor are they covered by Iron Dome. They also lack bomb shelters.

Israeli policemen stand by as a bulldozer demolishes the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib for the 64th time (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen stand by as a bulldozer demolishes the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib for the 64th time (photo: Activestills.org)

In the wake of al-Waj’s death, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a non-governmental organization, “submitted an urgent request” this morning to the Israeli High Court for an answer on the petition the organization filed last week requesting that the state provide bomb shelters for the Bedouin.

But in a Sunday hearing at Israel’s High Court, the “state expressed its position that there is no need to provide additional protective facilities to these communities, and advised the Bedouin residents to protect themselves by lying on the ground,” ACRI reports. The organization added that “officials claimed that protecting the Bedouin villages was a low priority.”

               Read +972′s coverage of the latest round of violence

Responding to today’s hearing, ACRI Attorney Auni Banna remarked:

State officials completely disregarded the fact that in villages where there are no shelters, no sirens, and where the houses are built mostly of aluminum – a falling rocket is exponentially more dangerous. The state’s conduct conveys a sense of how they distinguish one type of blood from another, and the abandonment of the Bedouin in the unrecognized villages.

While the High Court declined to take immediate action on the matter, it did request that the respondents–Regional Councils and the Ministry of Justice–respond to concerns raised in the petition about the villages’ infrastructure within 30 days. 

This is not the first time that Israel’s highest court has failed to protect the most basic human rights of the country’s Bedouin citizens. In 2013, the Israeli High Court rejected a petition from the NGO Adalah requesting that the state provide water to the unrecognized Bedouin village Umm al Hiran.

Newsletter Banner 2 - 540

Residents of Umm al Hiran must travel four kilometers to buy water from a citizen who charges “exorbitantly high prices,” according to Adalah.

The High Court’s 2013 ruling denying Umm al Hiran access to the national water network “contradicts the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in which it held that the right to water is a constitutional right and that the Arab Bedouin living in the Naqab… have the right to “minimal access to water,” Adalah pointed out.

Now, Israel wants to include a Bedouin man in its civilian casualty toll.

But Israel claims al-Waj in death only. And the state will surely exploit his death to justify its military operation in Gaza. But in life, in Israel, al-Waj was less than a civilian. He was just a Bedouin—not worthy of basic services or even shelter against rockets.

Israel, state of all its victims
PHOTOS: A life of discrimination for Negev Bedouin
How can you possibly oppose this war?

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. Ayla

      Mya hi and thank you for writing this. I think the more important argument lies in the fact that the Seven Townships–the *recognized* towns that Israel built for Bedouin citizens and into which they coerced them to move–have no bomb shelters or sirens and iron dome protection. I live in the Negev, where over 200,000 Bedouin live. Currently I live in Mitzpe Ramon, a relatively poor town of 5000, and we have public bomb shelters and sirens, and presumably iron dome. Before, I lived in Midreshet Ben Gurion / Sde Boqer, population 1200 (!) and we had the same. to not put bomb shelters in Rahat, Tel Sheva, Segev Shalom, Laqia (sp?), etc., is simply sick. Can we imagine another country that protects citizens of one ethnicity and not another in such a blatant way? and for the past few decades until a recent turn of heart thanks to Prawer, a significant percentage of the Negev’s Bedouin have served in the IDF. To concentrate on the unrecognized villages, which are a legal landmine–though certainly every life is of equal value–is not the strongest way to point out the sickness, here.

      Reply to Comment
      • Arb

        Or perhaps the Israeli government just assumed that it was unlikely that Arabs would target Arabs? That the vast majority of attacks would be perpetrated against Jews?

        In fact, if you look at where the vast majority of rocket attacks are aimed, you’ll see very few have Arab towns in their trajectory. I can point to a similar history with suicide bombings.

        So instead of giving us this BS about supposed bigotry and “sickness,” why don’t you focus instead on the sickness of the Palestinian side that continues to target civilians, almost all of them Jewish.

        Reply to Comment
    2. AvDim

      I don’t know where Iron Dome batteries are placed, nor how many there are. So I’m not going to argue.

      Regarding the shelters, several notes –
      1. Building and maintaining the shelters is the responsibility of the municipality, not the government.
      2. Regarding Ayla’s comment – a Ynet article from 2013 spoke of several shelters in Rahat which were in bad condition. Thought the amount is definitely small for a population of that size, I don’t know where you get your information that there are no shelters what so ever.
      3. I live in a city in the center of Israel and there are no bomb shelters in my neighborhood. I must pay for a bomb shelter inside my apartment, because that’s the law. Are you aware of other countries in which bomb shelters in new apartments are required by law? Don’t you think people in Rahat are bound by the same laws and should have shelters in their own homes? Is it ALWAYS the government’s fault?

      I propose you go out to the Negev, pick up a nice empty spot, put out a tent and demand the government to provide you with water. See how it goes.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sonnehuhr

        While Mya’s at it, she can demand a shelter and an iron dome battery for every person in Israel. Of course if Israel did this, she would complain that the shelters had the wrong colors and the iron domes were too noisy.

        Here we have Hamas killing Israel citizens and Mya finds an angle to blame Israel. In every article she and other 972 writers blame Israel for everything.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Joel

      Iron Dome is positioned to protect the most densely populated areas of Israel. Bedouins live in the least densely populated areas of Israel

      There are about two dozen Iron Dome batteries in all of Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Way to much hyperbole , allot more jews israeli people dont have iron dome protecsion as well.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Memridotorg

      If hamas doesn’t initiate an act of war by initiating the firing of Rockets into Israel, guess what no bedouin deaths, no Palestinian deaths, no death only life. Maybe write an article expounding that thesis

      Reply to Comment
      • George

        Hamas is empowered by Israel’s oppression and destruction of the Palestinian people. Without Israel’s criminal policies, there would be no Hamas. Think about that for a change.

        Reply to Comment
        • Memridotorg

          Israel gave Gaza to palis in 2005. There was no occupation. They left only the Quranic jew hatred remained as you can see. They elected a terrorist as government and used us billions to build terror infrastructure and feed their fat faces while their citizens are used as disposable diapers, which they accept because their totalitarian ideology Islam conditions them to love death over life

          Reply to Comment