“Arab-Bedouins are an indigenous population that has been living in the Negev-Naqab for hundreds of years, long before the establishment of the State of Israel. Yet, the State has been treating our community as a foreign intruder.
In 2017 the Israeli government, disregarding the unique Bedouin way of life based on agriculture and animal husbandry, approved a new plan for development that directly continues its ongoing forced urbanization plan for the Bedouin community. The new plan allocates about 200,000,000$ a year for 5 years allegedly for the development of the Bedouin community but is contingent on relocating Bedouin from ‘unrecognized’ villages into government-planned towns. This is not an agreed and it was drawn up without consultation with the community and its leaders. Once again, the State is forcing its own plans on the Bedouin community, while disregarding the wishes and aspirations of its members.
The plan includes a significant element land dispossession and home demolitions. With more than 1,000 structures demolished in the community over the past year (2016), the State’s answer to the Bedouin housing crisis is more demolitions. The State uses this policy in order to coerce the inhabitants of the villages to move to urban towns according to its plans. In many cases, the actual goal is to put pressure on Bedouin citizens to drop their land ownership claims. The prevalent home demolition policy in the Negev/Naqab systematically violates the right of members of the Bedouin community to adequate housing, even in the most narrow interpretation of that concept.
The Israeli Government plan to develop the Negev/Naqab aim to concentrate the Bedouin community in a limited number of villages and on small tracts of land while establishing more and more Jewish communities in the area The Bedouin community of some 240,000 souls comprises about 35% of the area’s population, yet only 12.5% of the settlements in the area are designated for the community. Furthermore, three new Jewish localities that were approved recently, are planned to be built on top of existing Bedouin villages and lands.
One of these threatened villages is Umm al-Hiran, which is located where the new town of Hiran is already being built. Its residents were displaced to their current location by the military government in the 1950’s, and are now struggling against the State’s plan to move the entire village into the town of Hura. During the first massive home demolition in the village in January 2017, two men lost their lives. Yaaqub Abu Alqian, a resident of the village, was shot and severely injured by police while driving away from his home that was subsequently demolished later that day. During the shooting he lost control over his car which hit a police officer, Erez Amedi, who was killed on the spot. Yaaqub was denied medical treatment and died shortly after from his wounds and loss of blood.
The State of Israel must immediately stop its violent home demolition policy. It must draw up an agreed plan in cooperation with the Bedouin community, stop its ongoing forced urbanization project and allow the Bedouin to pursue their own traditional way of life by recognizing the unrecognized Bedouin villages. Only a solution based on the public’s participation and recognition of its aspirations, desires and way of life will lead to the organization of the Negev-Naqab space in a way that respects and enables a dignified life for all its residents, Arabs and Jews alike.”