The plight of the Negev Bedouin inside Israel rarely makes the pages of the international press, yet the suppression of these people by the Israeli authorities is a history of racism, intolerance and discrimination more befitting of Nazi Germany than a modern State which claims to be a democracy. As Moshe Dayan said in 1963 “This phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear”.
The sheer irony in Israel’s arrogant stance against the Negev Bedouin, Israeli citizens but Arabs, is sickening: 70,000 people live in 45 villages, their communities do not appear on maps, therefore they do not exist and as such, they have no right to municipal services. No running water, no electricity supply from the national grid, no sewer network, no schooling. Not being recognised as formal communities, they do not have building rights and therefore any shelters which do exist, are bulldozed. As Moshe Dayan said in 1963 “This phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear”.
Throughout its sixty-year history, Israel’s policy towards these Bedouin people has been deplorable, seizing their traditional lands, restricting their nomadic practices and housing them in slums, taking away their grazing rights. This, despite the fact that in 1948 these people swore allegiance to the State of Israel and adopted Israeli citizenship in return for pledges that they would be allowed to continue with their way of life and retain use of their lands. As Moshe Dayan said in 1963 “This phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear”.
From then until 1966, the Bedouin were cornered into a triangle between the towns of Arad, Yeruham and Rahat, a region known in Hebrew as Siyag (enclosure) while the State of Israel claimed over 85% of the Negev Land, alleging that the Bedouin never had property rights. As Moshe Dayan said in 1963 “This phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear”.
While the lands were confiscated, the grazing rights were severely restricted: the 1950 Black Goat law prohibited the grazing rights of black goats, the only animal suited to these conditions, one bred by the Bedouin for thousands of years and whose hair they used to weave into tents. As Moshe Dayan said in 1963 “This phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear”.
Today, over half of the 180,000 Bedouin in the Negev are crammed into the Israeli new townships, destroying their traditional way of life, with no regard whatsoever for tribal or clan culture. Unemployment is rife, livestock is banned, crime is high, hopes are non-existent. Yet this enables the Israeli authorities to claim that the Bedouin have access to municipal services and public utilities in these townships, therefore the pastoral and nomadic lifestyle is an option…which is paramount to being considered illegal. As Moshe Dayan said in 1963 “This phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear”.
The Bedouin community has formed the Regional Council of Unrecognised Villages and is fighting for the traditional land tenure rights of these people, derided by the Israeli authorities and forgotten by the international community, which tacitly approves of Moshe Dayan’s words and ignores the wanton destruction of a culture in a blatant display of racism and discrimination.
Source: A Brieg History of the Negev Bedouin
By Dr. Yeela Raanan
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