Protecting Bedouin Rights in the Negev - New Israel Fund Australia

Protecting Bedouin Rights in the Negev

Thursday 31 August 2023

What is happening in the Negev?

On Tuesday 29 August Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Construction and Housing Minister Yitzchak Goldknopf travelled to watch the demolition of houses in an unrecognised Bedouin village near Tel Arad in the Negev.

Ben-Gvir stated: “We came here to say kudos, and this is sacred work, keep it up, regarding the issue of demolitions and restoring sanity”. He further promised to “continue to come to the demolitions every two to three weeks”.

Field Coordinator, Ma’igal Hoshla, of NIF grantee Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages (RCUV)  responded saying that “this is the first time that a minister arrives to cheer those who ruin a house and leave its inhabitants without an alternative”.

Background on Bedouin villages in the Negev

  • Bedouin are a traditionally nomadic population who have lived in Israel since before the establishment of the state.
  • After 1948, most of the Bedouin were expelled or fled their areas and villages. Only about 10% of the population stayed and they lived under military law.
  • In 1966, they were granted citizenship, but their lands were zoned as agricultural. This meant that all existing villages were suddenly labelled as “unrecognised” and their homes “illegal”.
  • Today, these villages face constant threats of demolition, are still not listed on official maps, and are not connected to basic infrastructure or services. 
  • There has been an ongoing battle for more Bedouin villages to be recognised so that the living conditions and rights to adequate housing, health, education, and employment can be improved.
  • Today there are about 160,000 Bedouin living in the Negev. About half live in seven townships, the other half live in 46 villages, of which only 11 have been recognised by the state of Israel.
  • The Negev is 60% of Israel’s land. The Bedouin live on only 3% of the entire Negev. 

NIF Grantees

Demolitions of Bedouin villages have been an ongoing issue. It has gotten worse since the election of Israel’s current government with over 600 demolition orders being served since the new government took office.

NIF grantees, Bimkom, the RCUV, and Adalah, have been at the forefront of fighting for the rights of Bedouin in the Negev.

Here are some of their success so far this year:

  • Protecting the land of recognised villages: Bimkom, working alongside residents of the recognised Bedouin village Bir Hadaj, prevented the expropriation of more than 247 acres of land belonging to the village, which had been slated to be used for the construction of a new Jewish town, Neve Gurion. The Southern District Planning and Construction Committee instead recommended the alternative plan Bimkom presented.
  • Representing Bedouin voices: both Bimkom and the RCUV have ensured that Bedouin voices regarding planning and demolitions are heard in Negev planning forums. 
  • Increasing education outcomes for Bedouin communities: RCUV assisted 20 communities in petitioning the Bedouin Settlement Authority to establish local kindergartens.
  • Appealing the destruction of Ras Jrabah village: Adalah is currently in the process of appealing the Be’er Sheva Magistrate Court’s decision that the 500 residents of Ras Jrabah must evacuate their village by March 2024. The Negev village, which predates the establishment of Israel, is slated to be demolished to make way for a new suburb for the nearby Jewish city of Dimona.

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