Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Israel / Bedouins

Israel's Negev "Frontier"
By Ben White, April 7, 2010
"On this year's Land Day, tens of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel marched in Sakhnin, an Israeli city in the Lower Galilee, to protest against past and present systematic discrimination. But with the focus on Israel's policies of land confiscation, there was significance in a second protest that day. In the Negev (referred to as al-Naqab by Palestinian Bedouins), over 3,000 attended a rally at al-Araqib, an 'unrecognised' Palestinian Bedouin village whose lands are being targeted by the familiar partnership of the Israeli state and the Jewish National Fund. The historical context for the crisis facing Palestinian Bedouins today is important, as the Israeli government and Zionist groups try to propagate the idea that the problems, so far as they exist, are 'humanitarian' or 'cultural'. Even the category of 'Bedouin' is historically and politically loaded, with many disputing what they see as an Israeli 'divide and rule' strategy towards the Palestinians. During the Nakba [n.b. killings and mass expulsions of Palestinians in 1947-48], the vast majority of the Palestinian Bedouins in the Negev -- from a pre-1948 population of 65,000 to 100,000 -- were expelled.
Those who remained were forcibly concentrated by the Israeli military in an area known as the 'siyag' (closure). The military regime experienced by Palestinian citizens until 1966 meant further piecemeal expulsions, expropriation of land, and restrictions on movement. Ultimately, only 19 out of 95 tribes remained. The defining dynamic between the Israeli state and its Palestinian minority has been the expropriation of Arab land and its transfer to state or Jewish ownership. Israel refused to recognise the land rights of the Palestinian Bedouins, who today are alienated from almost all of their land through a complex combination of land law and planning boundaries. An estimated 70,000 to 80,000 Palestinian citizens in the Negev live in dozens of 'unrecognised villages' -- communities that the state refuse to acknowledge exist despite the fact that some pre-date the establishment of Israel and others are the result of the Israeli military's forced relocation drives. These shanty towns are refused access to basic infrastructure. [...]"

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