Al Jazeera Reports on the Deepening Bedouin Crisis in Israel

I first wrote about the Bedouins in this blog on June 23, 2005, shortly after meeting in person with Hussain Rafay’a, President of the Regional Council for the Arab Unrecognized Villages in the Negev.  My visit to Ber Sheva and to the Negev desert included visiting several of the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the region.  My post from this visit includes pictures of what I saw.  I was accompanied by Anat Hoffman of the Israel Religious Action Center, and we also met with Faisal Sawalha, who is responsible for Resource Development and Public Relations for the Regional Council for the Arab Unrecognized Villages in the Negev.

In short, my observations then were that the Bedouin situation is deplorable, that the Bedouins deserve better as Israeli citizens, and that Hussain Rafay’a was a level-headed businessman who could be reasonable in negotiating on behalf of the people that he represents (he was elected to his position).

To read all of my posts on this subject, you can search this blog by entering "Bedouins" in the Site Search box in the left column.

Almost one year later, having posted updates on this situation several times, things appear to be getting worse for the Bedouins.  In my view, the Israeli government should engage with the current leadership of the Bedouins and not continue to stand behind the bureaucratic position that they will not negotiate with unrecognized representatives of an unrecognized group.  Why do I feel that I’ve seen this movie before? And I don’t like the way that it ends…

Al Jazeera has caught on to the Bedouin story and recently reported on the latest developments in the region.  for a link to the full story, click here.  Based on my own independent research and discussion on the Bedouins with people that I trust, this article does capture the essence of the problem.

Some excerpts:

According to Bedouin leaders, the Israeli government is intent on removing about 40 Bedouin villages in the Negev region that are inhabited by as many as 80,000 people – an allegation the government denies.

Last week, Israeli police reportedly stepped up the destruction of Bedouin homes and outbuildings in what are termed "unrecognised villages".

"Like they are doing to our Palestinian brothers in the West Bank, they are doing here to us," said Talab al Sani’e, a Bedouin and a member of Israel’s Knesset.
"They are destroying our homes and stealing our land and trying to concentrate us in small reservations in order to take our land and give it Jewish settlers."

Sani’e told there was "systematic discrimination" against the Bedouins.
"Some of these so-called unrecognised villages predated the state of Israel.

I wonder who needs recognition from whom," said Sani’e.
"Israel has created 140 Jewish towns and villages in the Negev. And now they want to destroy Bedouin villages."

Hussein Rafaya’a, president of the Regional Council of the Unrecognised Villages, accused the Israeli government of illegally confiscating more than 98% of Bedouin land.
"Between 1948 and 1966, Israel seized 12 million dunams [one dunam is 1000 square meters], and in 1978, they confiscated more than 100,000 dunams. And now they chasing us to steal our remaining land."

Saqr Salouk, editor-in-chief of the Naba News Agency, a local news outlet covering the Bedouin community in southern Israel, accuses Israel of committing "ugly acts of racism against Bedouins."

It is my experience in business that two parties can negotiate an acceptable solution to a problem as long as both sides genuinely wish to come to the table and each side is willing to give up something to get to a resolution that benefits both sides.

It is clear that the State of Israel cannot negotiate with Hamas as long as Hamas will not renounce terrorist violence and continues to refuse to recognize the existence of the State of Israel.  Looking at the Bedouin situation from the outside and with some, though limited, personal exposure to a few of the leading players in this scenario, I believe that it would be in the best interests of both the State of Israel and the Bedouins for a constructive negotiation to occur now in order to resolve the plight of the Unrecognized Villages of the Negev.   

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