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PHOTOS: A life of discrimination for Negev Bedouin

In honor of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Negev Coexistence Forum For Civil Equality and Activestills highlight the immense gaps between the recognized Bedouin villages and the Jewish towns in the Negev. The conclusion is clear: while the basic rights of the Bedouin residents have been recognized by the government, they are still violated on a regular basis.

Text: Michal Rotam / Negev Coexistence Forum For Civil Equality

Photos: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org

The entrance to Carmit Jewish village, Negev, Israel.

The entrance to Jewish village of Carmit, Negev, Israel.

Over the past decade, the Israeli government decided to recognize 13 previously unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev. While the recognition of two of the villages is still in its initial stage, the other eleven have already been geographically recognized. However, despite the change in policy, which was supposed to provide services, infrastructure and detailed planning for these villages, not much has changed much on the ground.

In practice, in the vast majority of these villages still lack infrastructure; the services are poor and inadequate for the large number of residents; and the policy of house demolitions as well preventing Bedouin from receiving building permits continue.

At the same time, over the last decade, three new Jewish towns were established in the Negev area – two of which were settled by religious Jews. Another four Jewish towns are currently in the advanced planning stages. These towns, populated by a relatively small number of residents, enjoy a variety of services allocated by the government, and receive building permits for new structures as well as extensions to existing ones. In addition, plans for at least twelve more towns are now on the agenda. Most, if not all, are designated for Israel’s Jewish population.

The entrance to Umm Batin village, Negev, Israel.

The entrance to the Bedouin village of Umm Batin, Negev, Israel.

House demolitions

Given the denial of building permits in most of the recognized villages, their residents are subjected to a government policy of house demolitions, similar to the situation in the unrecognized villages. Both new houses, which are built due to population growth, as well as houses that were have been even slightly renovated, are considered illegal and are demolished by the Israeli Land Administration and the Ministry of Interior. When it comes to the demolitions, the state claims that no alternative solution exists for the dwellers; they are often left shelterless, with whatever personal belongings they managed to save before the demolition. On the other hand, the house demolition policy does not apply to the new Jewish settlements, no house demolition policy is implemented, and illegal buildings and farms are legalized retroactively.

A house demolition in A-Sayed, Negev, Israel.

A house demolition in the Bedouin village of A-Sayed, Negev, Israel.

Construction in Givot Bar, Negev, Israel.

Construction in the Jewish village of Gvaot Bar, Negev, Israel.


Connection to running water, which is recognized as a human right by the United Nations, is not a trivial issue within the recognized Bedouin villages of the Negev. Ten out of the 11 recognized villages only have central connection stations, and in order to bring the water to the houses, the residents must incur the costs of laying their own pipelines and infrastructure. The maintenance and water carriage costs must also be paid by the residents, and due to the low water pressure, the residents who live far from the water station must accumulate water in tanks. However, in Jewish towns in the Negev, every house is connected to running water and enjoys pipelines that reach their homes.

A view on flora and trees in Retamim Village, Negev, Israel.

A view of the lawns and trees in the Jewish town of Retamim, Negev, Israel.

Water points seen in Umm Batin Village, Negev, Israel.

Water station in the Bedouin Village of Umm Batin, Negev, Israel.

Paved Roads, sewage, garbage disposal, and electricity

Most of the paved roads in the recognized villages lead only to the local school and clinic. While the village of Tarabin A-Sana has paved roads, and in Derijat roads are under construction, the other nine villages have no paved roads or sidewalks. When it rains, driving becomes almost impossible, and some of the villages become completely isolated. In some of the villages, like Umm Batin and Abu Tlul, even the road to the local school or clinic is not paved.

The Hebron spring flowing in the middle of the Bedouin village of Umm Batin, Negev, Israel.

The Hebron river flowing in the middle of the Bedouin village of Umm Batin, Negev, Israel.

Ten of the 11 recognized villages are not connected to a sewage disposal system. For lack of any other option, sewage is disposed in ways that harm the environment and the quality of life of the residents. Despite the fact that the eleven recognized villages are ascribed to two regional councils, some of them does not enjoy garbage collection services. While four of the villages do enjoy these services, there are three villages that do not. Every Jewish town of the Negev enjoys garbage disposal, as well as recycling centers.

The garbage container at the Bedouin village of Bir Hadaj, Negev, Israel.

The garbage container in the Bedouin village of Bir Hadaj, Negev, Israel.

The recycling post at Yatir outpost, near Umm al-Hiran, Negev, Israel. The settlers at Yatir outpost await the forced evacuation of Umm al-Hiran.

The recycling post at Yatir outpost, near Umm al-Hiran, Negev, Israel. The settlers at Yatir outpost await the forced evacuation of Umm al-Hiran.

In most of the recognized villages, one can find electric pylons that bring electricity to the local schools and clinics. Yet, in ten of the 11 villages, the residents’ homes are not connected to the national electricity grid, and therefore must use solar panels and generators in order to produce electricity on their own (this is similar to the case of the unrecognized villages). In some of the villages, like Umm Batin and Abu Tlul, even the schools and clinics are powered by generators.

A view on the Bedouin village of A-Sayed, Negev, Israel.

A view of the Bedouin village of A-Sayed, Negev, Israel.

A view on the Jewish village of Shumeria, Negev, Israel.

A view of the Jewish town of Shomaria, Negev, Israel.


While all 11 recognized villages contain elementary schools and middle schools, only six villages have their own high schools. For instance, in A-Sayed, there is no high school and the pupils must travel each day to the nearby township of Hura. The high school in Abu Tlul, a village with 4,500 residents, operates in makeshift structures.

The elementary schoole basket ball field at Gvaot Bar, Negev, Israel.

The elementary school basketball court at Gvaot Bar, Negev, Israel.

The Ort high school at the Bedouin village of Abu Talul, Negev, Israel.

The yard at the Ort high school in the Bedouin village of Abu Talul, Negev, Israel.

Although the establishment of more schools in the villages is a positive step, there is still a lack of classrooms, especially since they serve the nearby villages as well.

The school's transportation point at the Jewish village of Gvaot Bar, Negev, Israel.

The school’s transportation point in the Jewish village of Gvaot Bar, Negev, Israel.

The elementary school's transportation point at the Bedouin village of Bir Hajag, Negev, Israel.

The elementary school’s transportation point in the Bedouin village of Bir Hajag, Negev, Israel.

After more than a decade since the establishment of the regional council and the recognition of the villages, according to most of the criteria we have examined, the situation of the villages remained pretty similar to the situation of the Bedouin unrecognized villages in the Negev. The basic rights of the residents of the Bedouin villages that were recognized by the state are still violated.

Click here to read the full report in Hebrew.

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    1. george smiley

      I object to the blatent use here of direct photographic comparison. This technique is unfair and inappropriate, as it results in an extremely negative, damning indictment of Israeli society. Such tricks as DPC paint a false picture of Israel as a smugly self-satisfied bully,

      Reply to Comment
    2. george smiley

      I think women only got the vote in the 1970s in some Scandinavian nations, Joel. And the British used to burn witches. Not sure how anyone’s past political incorrectness is useful in addressing the destruction of their homes today.

      Reply to Comment
      • BaladiAkka 1948

        Women’s suffrage
        Finland (not a Scandinavian but a Nordic country): 1906
        Norway: 1913
        Denmark and Iceland: 1915
        Sweden: 1921
        Maybe you’re thinking about Switzerland: 1971

        That said Joel is of course trying to justify the discrimination and land theft of the indigenous population by Zionist invaders.

        Reply to Comment
        • george smiley

          That’s it. The Swiss. From all I understand, it looks as though the Swiss are an odd people. They appear to rank with North Korea and Israel in terms of social conformity and state brainwashing. Can anyone confirm this?

          Reply to Comment
          • Marcos

            George, you realize that all your presence does is degrade the quality of the discussion, right? You provide no merit your political stance

            Reply to Comment
          • george smiley

            What a rude comment, Marcos. Just because you’re an intellectual, doesn’t mean ordinary folk like me and Ginger can’t also have a say, ask our questions etc. We don’t all have to be Phd students, Marcos.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Vadim

      The building of playing grounds, bus stops and other facilities are under the responsibility of the municipality. These municipalities receive funds from several sources – the state, local taxes (like Arnona, but also building permits and the like) and donations.

      Unrecognised (aka illegal) villages (both Jewish and Arab) cannot expect to receive funds from the state. If Arab legal villages receive less from the state than their neighbours – it’s wrong and should be fixed, no questions about it.

      But much of the difference shown in these photos does not stem from different state funding. High percentage of people not paying local taxes, a bizarre set of priorities and corrupt impotent municipalities all contribute to this difference.

      Reply to Comment
      • Since the piece purports to deal only with recognized villages, and I suspect that the tax base of these villages is rather low irrespective of collection, the real question is whether recognition of a village implies State investment to bring it up to newly formed, recognized Jewish villages in the area. I understand that the latter may enjoy donations from within Israel and around the world (maybe especially US citizens), but I would say this should allow the State to shift proportionately more resources to the Bedouin recognized villages to compensate for decades of neglect. Most investment would end upon completed project: pavement, sewers, water lines, municipal buildings, electricity grid.

        The piece also notes that sometimes illegal Jewish settlements in the area are connected to grids and can be more easily become recognized. The question is whether indigenous growth should compel recognition and then action, or, as in Israel’s early development phase, growth should be decided to down (as to where immigrants go). Given Israel’s immigrant history, the latter is a natural bias.

        The piece is in my view wrong in saying that rights have been recognized but not applied. When a right is not applied, it is not recognized. The courts exist to partly remedy this.

        Reply to Comment
        • Penultimate paragraph, “to down” should be “top down.”

          Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            Actually, Israel already does this with many existing Israeli-Arab communities which end up receiving 4-5 times per capita the support nearby Jewish communities receive.

            As a recent study (by a female Arab Israeli researcher – gotta love Israel!) shows, the problem is two-fold: first, Arab communities have little industry which means they can’t gain taxes that way; second, Arab-Israelis pay taxes at 40-45% rate of what’s due (she didn’t specify whether it’s 40-45% who pay or whether the municipalities receive 40-45% of what’s owed). If Arabs paid taxes at the same rates as Israeli-Jews, then their communities would be at around 60-70% of their needed tax base and the Israeli government’s extra support would go much farther.

            Reply to Comment
          • These are Bedouin villages, not Arab villages generally. It would be nice to know her sample mix.

            I find it very strange that a 55% or more tax default rate is allowed. This suggests that the official tax rate is disproportionate to real income, which means that something is being officially overvalued; I would guess it is land, which the Arab citizen is basically trapped onto. I find it hard to believe that Tel Aviv has such a default rate, and I doubt “Arab culture” explains lack of Israeli enforcement, if that there be.

            There are points of entry of Arab Israelis (as you poke by noting this research is such). This does not imply pronounced, enduring structural discrimination is absent. I recall a 972 piece on Administration’s success in altering some Arab Israeli demographics, which is one reason why I think of Administration as part of the informal Israeli constitution, as distinct from the ruling government. It is not all bad news. But far from all good.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Caligula's Horse

      Thanks Greg! Changing one word makes your piece easy to follow and extract your well-honed non-verbose point in less than the time it takes to ride a train from Detroit to Tokyo.

      Reply to Comment
      • george smiley

        Succinctness isn’t Greg’s strong point, it’s true. He shares that weakness with many great political writers.

        Reply to Comment
        • It’s because we’re having to dodge everyone all the time. The more words, the more hidey holes.

          Reply to Comment