In 1997, a group of concerned Arab and Jewish residents of the Negev/Naqab (Israel’s southern desert region) established the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF) to build a shared society and to provide a framework for Arab-Jewish partnership 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 Arab-Bedouin communities in the Negev/Naqab.
NCF’s mission is to achieve full civil rights and equality for all those living in the Negev/Naqab, since the State of Israel fails to respect, protect and fulfill its human rights obligations, without discrimination, towards the Arab-Bedouin citizens in the Negev/Naqab.
NCF’s activities and projects are based on the principle of Arab-Jewish cooperation. Our membership includes concerned citizens, leaders and academics from both the Negev/Naqab Arab and Jewish communities. As a joint Arab-Jewish group, we strive to maintain a balance and equal partnership in all bodies of the organization, as well as in the decision-making processes.
NCF is engaged in a wide range of grassroots activities.
Since 2000, we have worked with community leaders in Arab-Bedouin villages that the State of Israel refuses to recognize (i.e. “unrecognized villages”) to ensure the delivery of vital basic services to their communities.
In collaboration with other NGOs, NCF has filed legal petitions against discriminatory practices affecting Arab-Bedouin communities in the Negev/Naqab. As a result of one such joint petition submitted to the Israeli Supreme Court in 2005, the Israeli Government agreed to properly dispose of sewage flowing through Umm Batīn village. Other petitions have led to the establishment of health clinics in ten unrecognized villages and to the prohibition of toxic crop spraying.
NCF invests much effort in documenting the Negev/Naqab through various visual projects. In these projects, NCF provides video and still cameras to Arab-Bedouin women who document their everyday lives, as well as human rights violations. One of the direct results of this project was the participation of four Arab-Bedouin women from Umm al-Ḥīrān in the “Forced from Home” exhibition as part of the widely attended yearly Photoville Festival in New York in September 2019. In addition, every year NCF holds workshops with children from the unrecognized villages, guided by professional photographers who introduce them 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 Arab-Bedouin representatives to the United Nations’ Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and to the Working Group on Indigenous Populations. Since 2010, NCF’s representatives have attended almost all the yearly meetings of the UN’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Beyond physical involvement in important international meetings and conventions, NCF also submits shadow reports to the UN on the implementation of various international human rights instruments such as: UPR, CSECR, CCPR and CERD. Reports have covered the topics of home demolitions, lack of services in the unrecognized villages, discrimination within the public service sphere, right to education and the right to employment, right to adequate housing and basic services.
In the past few years, NCF started working with Members of the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) to ensure the promotion of Bedouin rights on the national level. We have focused mainly on the issues of education and employment for Arab-Bedouin women and girls.
Every year, NCF also hosts dozens of tours to the Arab-Bedouin communities in the Negev/Naqab for individuals and groups who seek to learn more about these unique communities and the violations of their civil and human rights at the hands of the Government of Israel.
We are proud to operate the only Arab-Jewish cultural center in the Negev/Naqab called Multaka-Mifgash (meaning “encounter” in both Arabic and Hebrew subsequently). The cultural center provides a safe space to discuss issues that are of concern to both the Arabic and Jewish communities in a critical manner. The Multaka-Mifgash also hosts Arabic lessons, movie nights, lectures, discussions and meetings of different activists.
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 by the New Israel Fund (NIF) in recognition of its’ outstanding work during that year. In bestowing this award upon the Forum, the NIF noted the mutual respect and deep commitment to NCF’s mission that exists between our Jewish and Arab members and our success in actively recruiting a broad spectrum of voices, including Bedouin women and Arab and Jewish students from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.