Israelis without solid ground beneath their feet from lords of the Negev to inhabitants of a reservation.

 
FREE EXCERPT

The Negev Bedouin are the only group of Israeli Arabs who, despite having been uprooted from the lands on which they were living when the State of Israel was established, despite being forcibly moved to a new and more barren area, and despite suffering large-scale land expropriation in this new area also, still retain, to a considerable extent, ownership rights to land--a right officially denied them by the State on principle, but acknowledged in practice.

In spite of this, the Negev Bedouin constitute the largest social group in Israel of whom it may be said that they still do not stand on solid ground. Since 1948, the Bedouin have struggled not only to attain state recognition of their title, or right of ownership, to their lands, but also to receive the same government services provided to other Israelis, so that they can live normal communal, economic and cultural lives. And while the Bedouin have been struggling for all of this, Israeli governments have labored consistently to displace them from their lands and confine them in the fewest possible settlements. Israeli governments also exclude the Bedouin from their development plans, as if they were a group superfluous to Israeli society and its economy.

The Bedouin who live in "unrecognized" villages exist in a kind of legal-political bubble. These Israelis are forbidden to erect permanent housing, prevented from exercising the basic right to register their place of residence in their identity cards, excluded from local government, prevented from exercising the basic political right of running for office and voting in local government elections, prevented from receiving full government services, and precluded from exercising the basic proprietary right of buying and selling a home. Moreover, they are governed by bodies set up by the state in order to control them--and them only.

Bedouin living in government-planned townships exist in a political-economic bubble of their own: on the one hand, they are deprived of adequate infrastructure and employment opportunities, which might enable them to be economically active and enjoy a standard of living comparable to that of the Jewish settlements in the surrounding area; while on the other hand, like the "unrecognized" villages, they are generally excluded from government development plans, whether national or regional.

Today, the Bedouin lack the community resources needed for economic development, and they are at the very bottom of the government priorities list. At the same time, the Jewish population of the Negev (the Bedouin constitute 25% of the Negev's population) is weak and divided, with each group vying to promote its own interests without cooperating with its neighbors. In such circumstances, the...

To continue reading

REQUEST YOUR FREE TRIAL