Happy New Year from the Negev Coexistence Forum
I would like to take this opportunity, in these last days of 2015, to wish you a very happy new year.
We hope for a better year for us all in 2016, a year with more compassion and humanity for Israel’s minorities and the less privileged populations living here. 2015 was a very stressful year for the NCF and although it feels as though Israel has become a much more right-wing and fanatic place, we did our best to achieve the objectives we set out for the year, and continue to struggle against the instances of racism and discrimination, we frequently came up against.
In 2015 the NCF worked on two main projects – the Human Rights Defenders Network and the Human Rights Campaign.
Under the banner of the Human Rights Defenders Network, we continued to work with groups of women in six unrecognized Bedouin villages, training them to know more about their rights so they can document their lives and the human rights abuses in their villages. We also facilitated two photography workshops for children in the threatened villages of ‘Atir and Umm al-Hiran. Through these workshops, more than children from these villages were given cameras, and taught to use them, by professional photographers. Over the past year, the NCF has also extended the scope of its work and started handing out video cameras to residents of the unrecognized villages. These residents receive training, so that they can better document and monitor human rights violations and daily life in their own villages.
Yosra and Yoav explain to Salimah how to use her video camera
Under the Human Rights Campaign, we published two reports in 2015, as well as an update for the US Department of State about the situation in the Negev. Our report “Discussing Racism in the Negev-Nagab” brought testimonies about the racist policies of our government to light. The testimonies, from Bedouin residents of the Negev, were accompanied by their portraits, taken by photographer Miki Kratsman. The other report, “Community Under Attack” was published on International Human Rights Day, and highlights the ongoing violation of the the Bedouin communities’ human rights. To our great delight, all the photos included in this report were taken by women, members of the Human Rights Defenders Network. As the database of images taken by the Human Rights Defenders grows, we hope to be able to rely ever-more strongly on the use of images taken by the communities themselves for advocacy and lobbying purposes. The NCF also published a number of position papers this year.
As part of the Human Rights Campaign, the NCF organised and led tours in the Negev for about 1000 people from the region and from abroad, so that they could learn first hand about the situation here and meet members of the Bedouin communities. Members of Knesset, representatives of foreign embassies, and a variety of decision makers from Israel and abroad, all toured the Negev with the NCF. The NCF’s knowledgeable staff also gave lectures and presentation to hundreds of people in Israel and abroad on the difficult circumstances of the Bedouin communities. Solidarity was a key part of the NCF’s work and staff members attended hundreds of vigils, solidarity events, court hearings and demonstrations.
The participants of NCF’s photography workshop in the village of ‘Atir
We have tried to provide updates on the situation in the Naqab through different social media platforms, as well as via emails to all our supporters. We want to thank you all – supporters, foundations and individuals – for your ongoing commitment to our work. Without your support, we would be unable to carry out what we believe is invaluable and highly urgent work, in an ever-more difficult political climate, so thank you!
We wish you and your families the very best for 2016, and hope for more compassionate policies in Israel that will enable Arabs and Jews to live in this space with equality and dignity.
All the best,