In 1997, a group of concerned Arab and Jewish residents of the Negev (Israel’s southern desert region) established the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF) to provide a framework for Jewish-Arab collaborative efforts in the struggle for civil equality and the advancement of mutual tolerance and coexistence. NCF, also known as “Dukium” in Hebrew, is unique in being the only Arab-Jewish organization that remains focused solely on the specific problems confronting the Negev.
NCF considers that the State of Israel fails to respect, protect and fulfill its human rights obligations, without discrimination, towards the Arab-Bedouin citizens in the Negev. As a result, the Forum has set out as one of its goals to achieve full civil rights and equality for all those living Negev.
The Forum’s activities and projects are based on the principle of Arab-Jewish cooperation and as such, among our members are leaders and academics from the Negev Arab community. As a joint Jewish-Arab group, we maintain a balance and equal partnership in all bodies of the organization, as well as in the decision-making processes.
NCF is a community-based organization and volunteers are situated in the heart of our work. More specifically, NCF volunteers take responsibility for a project, issue or activity reflecting their areas of interest and expertise. This could include website maintenance, international advocacy and public relations, attending conferences, participation in NCF meetings, solidarity visits with victims of house demolitions, editing and distributing our newsletter, translating materials, organizing cultural events, and more.
NCF is engaged in a wide range of grassroots activities.
Since 2000, we have worked with community leaders in “unrecognized” Bedouin villages to deliver vital basic services to their communities.
In collaboration with other NGOs, NCF has filed legal petitions against discriminatory practices affecting Bedouin communities in the Negev. As a result of a joint petition submitted to the Israeli Supreme Court in 2005, the government agreed to properly dispose of sewage flowing through Umm Batīn. Other petitions have led to the establishment of health clinics in ten unrecognized villages and to the prohibition of toxic crop spraying.
NCF also invests much effort in documenting the Negev. Through various visual projects, NCF provides video and still cameras to women who document their everyday lives, as well as human rights violations. NCF also works with children from the unrecognized villages. Each year, NCF holds workshops, guided by professional photographers, who expose Bedouin children to the world of photography.
We also work to provide accurate and reliable information to the public and to decision-makers shaping public policy. Since 2005, NCF has sent Bedouin representatives to the United Nations’ Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and to the Working Group on Indigenous Populations. Since 2010, NCF’s representatives attended the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
NCF also submits shadow reports to the UN on the implementation of various international human rights instruments. Reports have covered the topics of home demolitions, lack of services in the unrecognized villages and discrimination within the public service sphere. NCF ensures the reliability of the information contained in such reports by conducting its own fieldwork and research.
In December 2010, NCF was awarded the Emil Greenzweig Prize for Human Rights by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). The award was given to NCF for constituting “a Jewish-Arab organization struggling for the rights of a national minority from a wide humanistic and civil viewpoint” and more specifically, for providing important support to the Bedouin community of Al Arakib.
In October 2011, the Forum was awarded the Miriam Fligelman Levy Cross Cultural Prize for its work this year by the New Israel Fund (NIF). In bestowing this award upon the Forum, the NIF noted the mutual respect and deep commitment to the cause that exists between our Jewish and Arab members and that we actively recruit a broad spectrum of voices, including Bedouin women and Arab and Jewish students from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
Haia Noach, NCF Co-Founder and Executive Director:
Haia Noach is a vocal Israeli human rights activist and author who has relentlessly advocated for the rights of the indigenous Bedouin in the southern Negev desert for almost two decades. Haia was born and grew up in the Negev (Naqab) and became intensely involved in these issues after learning that her Bedouin neighbors were forced to relocate from their homes and villages. She holds a Master’s degree in Geography from Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
Haia is also the among the initiators of the Recognition Forum (a coalition of NGOs fighting for recognition of Bedouin villages in the Negev), and the Social Coalition Against Unemployment and Privatization.