MRG photo story: Uncertain future for Israel's indigenous Bedouin

In the next few months, the Israeli parliament is expected to legislate on a plan to demolish homes and displace 30,000 Arab Bedouins from the Negev desert of southern Israel. On 11 September 2011, the Israeli cabinet decided to go ahead with the controversial ‘Prawer plan’ that is aimed at providing a full resolution to continuing issues between the state and Bedouin over land ownership, recognition of villages and provision of basic infrastructure and facilities. 

Since the creation of the Israeli state in 1948, the Arab Bedouin have been subject to a series of discriminatory policies and practices because of their ethnic and indigenous identity and way of life. Successive Israeli governments have expropriated Bedouin lands and attempted to concentrate Bedouin into specific planned townships in a small area of the northeast Negev region. In this process tens of thousands of Bedouin have been displaced and lost their lands. The Israeli authorities have pursued a slow and steady process of suppressing Bedouins’ most basic human rights by not recognising their villages and holding back facilities such as water, electricity and transport.

The state has also crippled the Bedouins’ traditional semi-nomadic way of life by taking over their land and restricting their movement. This has had far reaching consequences for Bedouin, from increasing poverty levels and high levels of unemployment to a loss of traditional culture. Today the Bedouin live in miserable conditions in the Negev desert. They are not recognised by Israel as an indigenous population of the country and are therefore deprived of specific rights accorded to indigenous people under international law.

Minority Rights Group International has published a new briefing, Israel’s denial of the Bedouin, based on a field visit to the region in September 2011. The briefing describes the ongoing human rights violations suffered by Bedouin communities in both the West Bank and Negev region. It discusses the implications of new government plans, under which the situation in both areas will grow significantly worse and calls on Israel to comply with relevant international human rights standards and immediately halt proposed legislation plans to displace Bedouin and develop an alternative plan based on meaningful participation with Bedouin communities.

The briefing is avaialble on www.minorityrights.org from 23 November 2011.

The following photos were taken by Farah Mihlar, author of the briefing, during her trip.

Gallery

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The Bedouin ask mainly for one thing that their historical and traditional link to the land be recognised and that they be allowed to live and work on their own land in freedom and peace.
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The Israeli parliament is imminently expected to vote on a new plan, known as the Prawer plan, that aims at moving most of the Bedouin from their traditional lands into townships. Up to 30,000 people will be displaced by this plan.
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"People live in continuous fear. We want to live, what can we do? Families are getting larger, we have to develop, we can’t stop living even under bad conditions, so we keep building homes and developing them."
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"Five years ago every single family was given demolition orders. We have 7 generations of documentation to prove the ownership of our land but the government does not recognise it."
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Khalil Al-amour, lives in Al Sira, another village where all of the houses have been given demolition order. "We have no alternative plan, we have always been here. We really don’t know where else to go. We have always asked for recognition."
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Aziz's wife, Sabah Ismail says women and children are specially effected in these situations. "I get very angry when I think about it. We had to just stand and watch our houses broken down."
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"The political man wants to take all the Arabs out of our land and keep it for the Jews. We tell them this is our area and we will not move. Together we want to live here with the Jews, it is not difficult for us. Aziz Sayah Abu Madigem, Al Arakib."
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"It was a very hard day for me, for my wife, for all the people who were here After 2 am, we couldn’t sleep. We took the children and walked towards the cemetery, they were frightening us showing guns. A small child."
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Aziz Sayah Abu Madigem’s village, Al Arakib was entirely demolished in 2010. “I didn’t know another place. My grandfather, his father have been born here, this is all we know. There were 564 people in the village.
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The government engages in home demolitions on a frequent basis in the ‘unrecognised villages’. According to available statistics, there were 96 house demolitions in 2006, 227 in 2007, 400 in 2008 and 700 in 2010.
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"The question is, ‘why is my village unrecognised?’ The neighbours across are a Jewish village... they have everything. Why is it the Jews can choose their way of life and we are not getting that choice?" he asks.
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Attia Athamun, lives in Hashem Zane, an unrecognised village. “There is no electricity in our village. Last year, one woman had asthma, she needed oxygen." Attia's plea to the authorities was ignored because he lives in an 'unrecognised village.'
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Successive Israeli governments have expropriated Bedouin lands and attempted to concentrate the Bedouin into specific planned towns. In this process tens of thousands lost their lands and have become displaced.
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Since the creation of the Israeli state, the Arab Bedouin have been subject to a series of discriminatory policies and practices targeted at them purely for their ethnic, religious and indigenous identity and way of life.
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Israel’s indigenous Arab Bedouin population live in shocking conditions facing continuous discrimination. The country’s legislature is now expected to vote on a plan to demolish homes in the Negev desert that could displace as many as 30,000 people.
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Date: 22/11/2011

Countries:

Israel
Palestine

Categories:

Culture and Tradition
Statelessness
Poverty
Racism/Discrimination/Hate speech
Indigenous Peoples
Law/Legislation
Advocacy
Women/Gender
Religion/Religious minorities
Land Rights

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Press Contact Information

Name: Farah Mihlar

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