The forced relocation of Bedouins in southern Israel fits Foreign Affairs’ definition of ethnic cleansing.
In September 2011, Israel’s government approved a plan to forcibly relocate tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens in the Negev from their unrecognised villages to government-approved shanty towns. The Prawer Plan, as it is known, advanced again in March this year, when it was endorsed by a committee in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Around half of the Bedouin population in Israel live in 45 “unrecognised villages”, with a handful in the ”process of recognition” by the state (see Israeli NGO Adalah’s “Myths and Misconceptions“). The Israeli government wants to force them out, claiming that their “squatting” is taking over the Negev. In fact, while constituting 30 per cent of the region’s population, today Bedouin are claiming ”less than five per cent of the total area”. Read more
A wine and beer festival to be held in a former Great Mosque is an exemplar of contemporary Israeli history.
This week, the Israeli city of Be’er Sheva (Beer el-Sabe) will hold a wine and beer festival in the courtyard of the city’s former Great Mosque. The municipality’s plans have provoked anger from the country’s Palestinian citizens, including a legal challenge by minority rights group Adalah, as well as a protest tent and condemnation by community leaders and politicians.
This episode is a microcosm of Israel’s hidden history, a country where town and country alike is strewn with reminders of the ongoing ethnic cleansing at the heart of the establishment of a “Jewish and democratic” state. Read more
Condoleeza Rice’s recently published memoirs contains an interesting passage about Palestine/Israel. Rice relates a conversation she had with Tzipi Livni in March 2004, with the discussion particularly focused on Livni’s concerns regarding the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.
The Israeli politician’s central opposition to the refugees’ return — that it could “change the nature of the State of Israel, which had been founded as a state for the Jews” — is nothing new. But the former Secretary of State’s response is instructive.
I must admit that though I understood the argument intellectually, it struck me as a harsh defense of the ethnic purity of the Israeli state when Tzipi said it. It was one of those conversations that shocked my sensibilities as an American. After all, the very concept of ‘American’ rejects ethnic or religious definitions of citizenship. Moreover, there were Arab citizens of Israel. Where did they fit in? Read more
After his famous article earlier this year on Gaza, Judge Richard Goldstone has written a new op-ed, this time seeking to defend Israel against charges of apartheid.
There are numerous problems with Goldstone’s piece, but I want to highlight two important errors. First, Goldstone – like others who attack the applicability of the term “apartheid” – wants to focus on differences between the old regime in South Africa and what is happening in Israel/Palestine. Note that he does this even while observing that apartheid “can have broader meaning”, and acknowledging its inclusion in the 1998 Rome Statute. Read more
Recently the Israeli cabinet approved a major plan for the Negev that seeks to “relocate” an estimated 30,000 Bedouin Palestinian citizens to government-approved townships.
The details that have emerged about the government’s ‘solution’ for Bedouin Palestinians show a continuation of the colonial logic that has shaped Israeli policy in the Negev since 1948. Reports suggest that the state will reject half of the Bedouins’ land claims. For the tens of thousands of Bedouin Palestinians in ‘unrecognised villages’, there is now uncertainty about exactly which communities will be ‘legalised’ – and which will be demolished, their residents forcibly transferred. Read more
This 30 March, the Palestinian minority inside Israel will mark ‘Land Day’, 35 years after Israeli security forces killed six Arab citizens protesting against the expropriation of land by the state. Land Day has become a global day of commemoration and protest for Palestinians, but its significance is that its origins are in the struggle of the Palestinians in Israel. This year there is an added resonance, as the Israeli parliament has only recently passed discriminatory new legislation targeting the Palestinian minority (around 20 per cent of the population). In fact, in recent years, Israeli Members of Knesset have been proposing and passing a whole raft of disturbing proposals, a trend that did not begin with, but was boosted by, the current Netanyahu-Lieberman coalition (see summaries by Adalah and ACRI). Just last week, however, two new laws were passed on the same day. One, dubbed the ‘Nakba Law’, enables “the withholding of funds to public institutions deemed to be involved in publicly challenging the founding of Israel as a Jewish state or any activity ‘denying the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state’. A law, in the words of an editorial in Ha’aretz, “designed to shut people up”. Read more
Shortly after I had arrived in Palestine last month, I visited the devastated community in the Jordan Valley where the Israeli army had, just days earlier, demolished around 70 “illegal” structures. The same week, I visited Dahmash, an “unrecognised” village between Ramla and Lod, inside Israel, where Palestinian citizens face pending demolition orders. Finally, a few days later, I woke up to the news that the “unrecognised” Palestinian Bedouin village of al-Araqib, in the Negev, had been destroyed in a raid involving 1,300 armed police (and cheering volunteers).
Whether under military rule in the West Bank, or as citizens in Israel, Palestinian communities’ ability to grow naturally is compromised by laws, “zoning” plans and permit systems designed to enforce a regime of separation and inequality. In 2008, a UN report detailed how 94 per cent of Palestinian building permit applications are denied in “Area C” of the West Bank, an area that covers 60 per cent of the territory. Read more
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’. Read more
Standing with Palestinian Bedouin activists on the traditional lands of al-Araqib, we watched as Jewish National Fund workers in the distance continued preparing the ground for the ‘Ambassador’s Forest’. Earlier in the day, I had stood on a hillside: in front lay an ‘unrecognised’ Bedouin village, denied basic infrastructure and services. Across the road was a fully integrated Jewish community.
Separation and inequality – it could have been anywhere in the Occupied Territories, where Jewish settlements lie alongside impoverished Palestinian communities threatened with demolition orders for ‘illegal’ construction. But it is not just in the West Bank colonies that the Israeli authorities work with ideologically motivated para-state agencies to ‘protect’ and ‘redeem’ the land. The phenomenon is as familiar in the Naqab (Negev). Demolitions, housing shortages, and politically driven Jewish settlement of the kind faced by Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are also everyday challenges confronting Palestinian citizens of Israel. With all the significant differences in conditions on either side of the Green Line, the Israeli state’s policies towards its minority citizens and the militarily occupied Palestinians have been shaped by similar strategic goals. Read more