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/Naqab.
NCF’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/Naqab Arab community. As a joint Arab-Jewish group, we 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 “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/Naqab. 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/Naqab. 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, discrimination within the public service sphere, right to education and the right to employment. NCF ensures the reliability of the information contained in such reports by conducting its own fieldwork and research.
In the past few years, NCF started working with Members of 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 Bedouin women and girls.
NCF also hosts dozens of tours to the Bedouin communities in the Negev/Naqab to individuals and groups who seek to learn more about this unique community and the violations of its civil and human rights by the Government of Israel.
We also 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 in a critical manner issues that are of concern to both the Arabic and Jewish communities. 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 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.