Mansour Abas couldn’t believe his eyes and choked
At the end of his cabinet swearing-in speech, Abbas called for a “solution to a bloody conflict of more than 100 years in order to provide solutions to the hardships of the citizens – education, welfare, employment and granting municipal status to settlements which will enable them to develop agriculture”. Abbas also announced that he will strive for a civil partnership that would bridge the gaps on the religious and national level so that we understand each other and won’t face each other as enemies”.
Before the end of his speech, MK Amsalem asked in fake innocence:” You refer also to the settlements in Judea and Samaria? You will also support those settlements, or these are different citizens – the Jews”?
Abbas chose to dodge the question and answered: “David, Raam has a vision. I hope that you and the Likud as well as Yahadut Hatora and all other parties of the Knesset have the same vision…to live in peace, security, partnership and tolerance”.
Amsalem’s question holds provocation and pretence of innocence. It reflects a phenomenon – the syndrome of the bully playing the victim. The right wing tries to portray a misrepresentation of symmetry between the Bedouins’ status on their land and the status of the settlers on Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories. So to speak, if they are entitled to “laundering”, the others are entitled to it as well. MK Smotrich has already conditioned the recognition of three Bedouin villages in “laundering” three outposts in the Occupied Territories. The Regavim association, who specializes in manipulations of this type of propaganda, even organized a “protest tent” for the “discriminated” settlers.
It is the settlers’ consistent media strategy that is aimed for radical re-framing and at its core is deleting differences. Supposedly there is no difference between Rahaṭ or Umm Batīn and Kiryat Arba and Hebron. There is no difference between Israel and the Occupied Territories. And there is no difference between justice and injustice. The reason, the parties are known and subject to identity. The main narrative is simple, simplistic and catchy, formatted in black and white: the Arabs are violent and are attacking while the innocent Jews are the victims, in any context..
This is the way to impose a discourse that mainly blurs boundaries, blurs values and distorts consciousness. At its core – erasing the moral difference between the robber and his victim.
There is no symmetry
But there is not even a hint of symmetry. There is no analogy. The Bedouins live on lands that belonged to their ancestors, in a pattern that was customary in the days of the Ottoman empire and was kept during the time of the British mandate. True, many of them don’t hold official valid documents that are legally recognized. They have been rooted in their families’ lands for generations, and this is documented in a variety of evidence. Most of them live in historic villages existing for hundreds of years. The land ownership is enshrined in a tradition that is still adhered to. And the proof: disputes between neighbors over plot ownership are difficult to trace.
The Bedouins requested the State to respect their land ownership and grant recognition to their villages. The State’s refusal to recognize the land ownership and plan villages turned them, against their will, into planning and building “offenders”. This refusal resulted in villages deprived of services and infrastructure, with no recognition and hence without building permits. The State refused to regulate their homes even though it did it in the Arab communities in the north.
Still, the Bedouins’ houses in the Negev, although most of them do not receive a permit, are built on lands belonging to their families. They don’t take over lands of others. The settle from lands belonging to their inhabitants, including private lands that have been for generations in the ownership of Palestinian families.
It should be emphasized: the settlements’ lands do not belong to the settlers. In most cases they were robbed from their owners in twisted ways. More than once by robbery under the sponsorship of the State, based on so called legal arguments such as “declaring” lands as state land in false pretext. Sometimes this robbery is enshrined in fraud, many times in extortion, impersonation and tricks. And all by exploiting the weakness of those under occupation,
Many of the settlers innocently bought or leased their plot of land. They are not aware that “settling organizations”, fictitious companies and straw men have made a hostile takeover on their plot before them.
And in the end: establishment of settlements contravenes international law which forbids transferring population into areas held by combat – occupied territories. Expanding the settlements is also a breach of international law. Entrenching in settlements is in itself robbery.
The common ground: dispossession practices
Therefore, the correct comparison is not between the settlers and the Bedouins but rather between the Bedouins and the Palestinians in the occupied territories. This is because the main similarity between the Negev mountains and Samaria hills is in the dispossession practices. True, in the West Bank these practices are carried out by the army while in Israel by the police and other enforcement forces. However, the principle is the same: land takeover for the benefit of the Jewish population, while at the same time isolating the Arabs in distinct, neglected and weakened spaces and demolishing their homes.
However, although the dispossession practices are similar, circumstances are different. There is a difference between citizens and subjects. The Bedouins, although poor and discriminated, and although about 2,500 structures of theirs are being demolished brutally and with no reason every year, still they live in a State that allows protest, election and influence. And therefore recognition of their villages, even if crawling, will come. On the other hand, The Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have no political power. The martial law dispossesses them from their lands and their ability to defend themselves is limited.
Between righting an injustice and robbing the poor man’s lamb
Let’s go back to the “naive” question. No, former minister Amsalem, you can’t compare the unequal. The reality is not virtual as portrayed in Regavim’s films, and animation cannot turn evil for good. Recognition of the Bedouin settlement is correcting historical injustice and returning robbed lands to the owners. On the other hand, legalization of settlements and “laundering” outposts are institutionalisation of an historic injustice, robbing the poor man’s lamb.
The settlers are not a poor community in need for a solution to its distress, but rather a strong population requesting legalization of injustice it committed. Regavim will continue to portray the Palestinians in Israel and in the Occupied Territories as enemies and portray the Palestinian citizens of Israel as red metastasis of cancer that is spreading on the map as well as other motives from the fascist rethoric. They will label the juvenile youths of Judea and Samaria’ hills as “young settlements”, and turn a blind eye to their violent actions. And of course they will label the High Court of Justice as “Arab lovers” and “enemy of the settlers”.
However, clumsy propaganda videos cannot mask reality. They cannot erase the just cause of the Bedouins nor the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
Haia Noach is the CEO of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality.
To access the Hebrew version please click here
Photo taken by Elianne Kremer during a visit to the unrecognized village of az-Zarnūg
Translation: Rachel Ben Porat