For those of you following the Negev Bedouin land issue… It’s true that last month’s Supreme Court decision regarding Umm al-Hiran and A-Tir was bad. The result was that the demolition and explosion orders did not constitute a violation of the right to land since they could move to nearby Bedouin town of Hura. But make no mistake the Prime Minister can and must stop the destruction of the villages. International pressure is the last best hope. Our movement must take on a rigged system.
I got to get up close and personal last Sunday at a solidarity rally in Umm al-Huran. Without Arab language skills, I felt their energy, it was infectious, contagious … you couldn’t help but feel it!
The villages are considered illegal by the Israeli government, having been built without permit or regulation. They consist of temporary housing built from tin and recyclable materials. Before the rally, we traveled on the “road”, with deep, big potholes to traverse so we didn’t lose a tire or our car. Umm al-Hiran is located in the northeastern part of the Negev, a few miles south of the Green Line. It is near the back of Hura, which is one of the recognized towns established by the Government years ago and is ranked at the bottom of Israel’s socio-economic index.
The nearby town of Hura is unsuited to the agricultural lifestyle of many of Umm al-Hiran’s residents, and suffers from a lack of employment opportunities and severe infrastructure shortages. Hura is over-populated and its master plan does not allow for the growth of another 1,200 people from Hiran.
When we arrived at the rally about 100 people were already sitting around the circle. We expanded the circle and it kept getting bigger, until over 150 sat and listened. I saw religious leaders, social workers, civil society leaders, former Knesset members and current Knesset members. The conversation was in Arabic, but I hear laughter during some presentations. Everyone knows everyone; with much hugging, kissing and hand shaking. We ended with a traditional meal.
Following the 1948 war, members of the Abu Al-Qian tribe who live in A-Tir and Um al-Hiran were evicted from their lands in the western Negev (currently the site of Kibbutz Shoval) by the military. The military moved them to the Yatir area, where they currently live, and they have documents showing the land allocated to them for homes, farming, and grazing. I was told they are willing to go back to their ancestral land (Kibbutz Shoval) and live with Jewish community.
Bedouin land ownership was honoured by the Ottomans and the British, and pre-State aerial photographs document extensive Bedouin agriculture. There is much misinformation. A recent poll conducted by Panel research showed that 70% of Israelis thought on average that the Bedouin wanted forty per cent of the Negev. In fact, they are asking for just 5.4% of the area. When told this fact most Israelis felt the Bedouin claims were reasonable.
I wanted to make sure as many people as possible could communicate their concern about what might be happening—so we made this petition where you can write a letter to the Prime Minister and the President and give Ameinu members like you a front-row seat.
As Americans we can have a role. Our voices are often underestimated when it comes to Israeli politics, but our letters have the power to completely change the outcomes. In fact, our letters may be the deciding factor for a Bedouin “victory” in the Negev.
The test of any democracy is how it treats it minorities. It is all the more challenging in Israel because it was founded as a Jewish state. However, there have always been non-Jewish citizens living in Israel and the country’s Declaration of Independence guarantees them full equality. Democracy is not a right/left issue. At the core of democracy is respect for the value of every human being, a central premise of the Jewish teaching that every person is made “b’tzelem elohim,” “in the image of God.”
Can you sign and send letters so we can put pressure on the Prime Minister and help show solidarity with the Bedouin citizens in Umm al-Hiran and A-Tir? Then share this request with your friends.
Go to www.dontdemolish.org
As the late Theodore Bikel, who played Tevye in countless productions of Fiddler on the Roof, said, “What hurts is the fact that the very people who are telling them [the Bedouin] to “Get out” are the descendants of the people of Anatevka. My people.” Surely the Prime Minister and the Jewish community around the world, will not allow that to happen.
Tell them not to build Jewish communities in Israel on the rubble of Negev Bedouin villages.