Regavim and the Bedouin: Take two

June 25, 2013 by  
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In late April Israeli media personality Avri Gilad went on a tour of a Negev with nationalist Regavim NGO. He recently revisited the area with the Bedouin.

Avri Gilad

Avri Gilad

He came back shocked and penned a Facebook status that made quite an impact. As the Jerusalem Post summed it up: ” “I came back from a tour of the Negev conducted by Regavim. I’m appalled by what I’ve seen. There’s no more Negev.”

The Bedouin have taken it over completely by force….

By shameless criminal activity, with insolence met only by fear and submission, the Beduin have taken over the entire Negev.”

Gilad was persuaded however to go on another tour, Here is a translation of his new status.
Bedouin Chapter 2

My previous post on the Bedouin caused quite a commotion. Jewish residents of the Negev/Naqab identified with it in a big way. There was a lot of anger among the Bedouin and Jews from the country’s centre. I committed myself to go on another tour, this time with the Bedouin, to hear about their situation. On Thursday I kept my promise.

Here are 10 more things I learned about the Bedouin in the Negev.

1) At Ben-Gurion University I viewed aerial photographs of the Negev taken by the British from 1945 onwards. It’s uncomfortable to admit, but most of Negev was settled by Bedouin, the entire land is cultivated; you can see the squares with the names of the tribes marked on. Whether they had ownership of the land, as Israeli law demands, is another matter. But what is clear is that they were settled there.

2) The Bedouin themselves openly admit the existence of Bedouin criminality, violence, destruction of property, theft, protection rackets, and wild driving. All these phenomena impact first and foremost on their own communities who suffer the most. They actually yearn for some courageous law enforcement to ensure that their dejected restless young people, are reined in. Non-enforcement is a form of racism.

3) They explained all these phenomena in terms of the huge disparity between us Jews, and them who live in galvanised iron shacks which are without electricity, running water, education, or other infrastructure. I heard a story about a young Bedouin fellow who every Holocaust Remembrance Day goes out to Beersheba for a session of burning rubber with full-volume music blaring to express his anger. Obviously, had this second generation survivor ran into him in a Beersheba street while the Yom Hashoah siren is blaring [when everyone is meant to show respect by standing still-tr], I’d be glad to stop him in his tracks and lie him down on the hot bitumen. Now, that I’m at home, sitting at the computer in air conditioned comfort and therefore a lot calmer I’m not sure that had I lived in tin shack without water, electricity, insulation, roads or a future, I would have managed to do something different to what he does.

4) The Bedouin have been deeply insulted by every single government plan to regulate their situation for one reason: they are excluded from the decision-making process. As we say in Hebrew, no one talks to them at eye level. No one includes them in the those discussions and planning for their own lives. They are used to being patronised by Jews , they are used to being seen as security risk. But just because they are used to it, doesn’t mean that they will cooperate with any solution that will be framed without them.

5) One of the main problems of the Bedouin is bigamy and polygamy. The Bedouin would be pleased to see the state will intervene on this score, and apply sanctions against men who take more than one wife, mainly because it primarily devastates Bedouin society itself. But the state? It prefer to pay social benefits and avert its eyes rather than deal with the matter. Seems strange to me. And cowardly.

6) In Hura, a comparatively new and well managed Bedouin town near Shoket Junction, I saw new residential homes. Adjacent to each home there was a shed or a barn with hundreds of sheep and cattle. The stench was terrible. I realised that you can take the Bedouin out of agriculture, but you cannot take agriculture out of the Bedouin. Forcing all the Bedouin to become townspeople instead of village-based farmers is just another patronising idea that has caused great deal of harm.

7) Bedouins themselves are willing to move into recognised villages and vacate lands where they are too thinly spread to be provided with infrastructure. They demand the recognition of villages that already exist and connecting services to them. It only seems fair to me that if a Jew in Israel can decide whether to live in a rural or urban environment, the same should apply to the Bedouin. Applying different laws to different people – this is the most difficult problem facing Israel.

8) And more on the subject of infrastructure, even recognised villages do not necessarily have electricity or running water. I saw the ORT schools, Pais (lottery-sponsored) community centres, a lot of good will, but without electricity and water. It’s just not right that any Jew who parks a caravan in the [Occupied] Territories gets connected immediately to the electricity grid and a Bedouin, in a recognised village, needs to cart around water tank trailers and install polluting generators all over the place. That’s not the way to build civic solidarity.

9) When a Bedouin leader arises who does not revert to the “it’s their fault” syndrome, such as Hura Mayor Dr Muhammad Al-Nabari (pictured), he manages to bring together the government, the Jewish National Fund, commercial enterprises and Jewish philanthropists from around the world to immensely transform his town. The Bedouin can take their fate in their own hands and take action. The Jewish state is yearning for visionary Bedouins. It would collaborate excitedly with any who gets out of the “victim’s room”.

10) In short, the Negev’s Jews suffer, the Bedouin suffer, the state does not dare to look straight into the problem and acts in non-transparent fashion. We should gather all those involved in a hotel near the Dead Sea (or a tin shack in Abu-Basma) to discuss the matter together. The solution is not impossible but it can only be achieved in the dialogue between equals, with good intentions on one side and a willingness to enforce the derived solution without compromise on the other. Do we have a leader who could do it? Do they have a leader who could do it? Or does it have to come to open warfare between us and them before we start thinking of a respectful arrangement?

My thanks to Dr Thabet Abu-Ras who took me on tour, thanks to Professor Avner Ben-Amos and Professor Oren Yiftachel, thanks to lawyer Rawia Aburabia and Hula mayor Dr Muhammad Al-Nabari who met me, and shared their common knowledge with me.

Something personal to end this long post – Once again I noted down that I tend to be persuaded too hastily, to respond too acutely and pass judgement in the presence of one side only. It is part and parcel of my ADHD impulsivity and my general tendency to superficiality. It’s likely that I’ll probably won’t change significantly, but I’ll try my best. Readers must take this into account …

Hebrew original:

Translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne, Australia.


2 Responses to “Regavim and the Bedouin: Take two”
  1. Ari says:

    Ben, pre-dating the creation of the modern state of Israel – i.e. 65 years is not a winning argument here. Jews have lived in Israel uninterrupted for over 3000 years. Bedouin moved from the Hejaz region (now called Saudi Arabia) all over the Middle East in the late 1700’s. By definition the Bedouin were nomadic detesting any form of land ownership or village environment. They literally followed the “green grass” for their flocks. Calling them indigenous of anywhere but the Arabian desert is an outright lie which exposes your deep hatred for the real indigenous population of Yehuda & Israel i.e. the Yehudim (Jews).

  2. ben eleijah says:

    Smear tactics. The Bedouin pre-date the creation of Israel and the planting of Zionist colonies in Palestine. They are the indigenous people of the land, who are facing destruction of villages by expanding settlements. The iron wall proposed by Zeev Jabotinsky. The existence of criminality does not make this untrue.

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