The State of Israel ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 1979, however, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2015, discrimination towards the Bedouin community in the Negev continues.
Every year, on March 21, the world marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The CERD, published in 1965, lists the various forms of discrimination and requires state parties to combat racism in general, and racial discrimination in particular. As discrimination against Bedouin citizens of Israel continues, this year, photographer Miki Kratsman and the Negev Coexistence Forum published a photo-report that includes 16 portraits and testimonies of members of the Bedouin community, exposing the ongoing discrimination against them in particular and the whole community in general.
Among the participants in the report: Khaled al-Ja’ar, father of the late Sami al-Ja’ar who was shot dead by a police officer last January; Attorney Rawia Aburabia who petitioned the Supreme Court against the new plan to establish 7 Jewish settlements in the Negev; Ali Zanun, a retired IDF tracker, whose field had been destroyed by State authorities, after serving 30 years in the military, and many more.
While the UN Convention requires state parties to struggle against racial discrimination, the testimonies included in the report all reveal the ways in which the State of Israel itself violates the rights of members of the Bedouin community in the Negev. These actions not only violate the rights of the Bedouin community, but also contribute to the ongoing rift between Negev Bedouin and Jewish residents of the region. While the Convention requires the promotion of understanding among all races, the State’s everyday actions, promotes the opposite. Rather than working to advance equality between the residents of the region, which would create the opportunity to live together in a shared space, the various state agencies actually work to increase the gaps between the groups inhabiting the Negev, and as evidenced by many of the examples in the report, they harm the social fabric of the region.
Through the use of portraits and testimonies, the report seeks to present the ongoing discrimination faced by the Bedouin community. As declared in the UN Convention, such discrimination is unacceptable and all State efforts must be employed in order to eliminate it. On March 21, 2015, we call upon Israel to halt its systematic discrimination against the Bedouin community in the Negev, and to ensure the fulfillment and attainment of the rights that the members of this community are entitled to. We call upon the Israeli government, as well as the international community, to listen to the evidence and look at the portraits presented in this report. It is time to take action to further the rights of members of the Bedouin community in the Negev which are being breached. Israel should create equal access to education, health, electricity and water, create a policy that will reduce the gaps between different groups living in the Negev and act to develop the Negev for all its residents, creating a shared space in the region, based on justice and equality.