Dear diplomats, friends & partners,
For many of us civil society actors and human rights activists, the month of July ended with a bitter aftertaste and a sense of exhaustion. Indeed, the Israeli government has been relentless in its efforts to target and threaten everything related to human rights. The Negev has not been spared, and we are focusing all our efforts on advocating for the Bedouin community in every way possible.
Here are some of the things we have done in the last month:
Chikli’s plan to develop the Negev-Naqab
The Ministerial Committee for Regulating the Settlement and Economic Development of the Bedouin Community in the Negev recently approved the Chikli Plan. Chikli, who, as Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Minister of Social Equality, is responsible for the Bedouin community, presented the committee with a plan that is essentially aggressive and aimed at concentrating enforcement efforts in four places, including Rahat and its environs, Hurah, Mareit in the Arad Valley area, and Bir Hadaj.
The plan could lead to a massive eviction of villages, including the inhabitants of Tal-Arad near Arad and later the inhabitants of Awajan near Lakiya. The plan aims to quickly complete the process of forced concentration in existing towns without adding or recognizing any Bedouin village. This contradicts the government’s plan to build 14 new Jewish settlements in the Negev. It vaguely promises to speed up the establishment of industrial zones in the Negev-Naqab, but provides no funds for this purpose. On the other hand, it allocates funds to strengthen law enforcement forces, in particular, 18 million shekels (almost 4.5 million euros) for the police to use force against Bedouin villages located on future national infrastructure.
We again emphasize that while the Israeli Government is ostensibly promoting the development of the Negev-Naqab, it does so without consulting with the Bedouin community. Contrary to what should be in a democracy, the Government continues to see the Bedouins as an obstacle to development rather than as partners in the decision-making process. It should be noted that none of the Bedouin leaders or representatives were invited for consultation. A decision was made on their behalf.
As a result, no viable alternatives for preserving Bedouin communities and serving them and their growth were considered. The Israeli Government continues to demolish their homes and expel them, against their will, from their ancestral lands for the benefit of others, contrary to international conventions ratified by Israel.
As a reminder, in 1986, the United Nations recognized the “right to development” in its Declaration on the Right to Development. It states that “development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom.” In 2007, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People recognized the right to development as an indigenous right.
Children’s Photography Workshops
This month, our team conducted several Photography workshops with children in the unrecognized villages of Umm al-Ḥīrān and ʿAtīr. During the workshops, the children talked about school, the end of the school year, their grades and what they want to learn in the future, and what opportunities they have. They talked about the holidays (the upcoming Eid). They also talked about the possibility of moving as a result of the new plans to displace them. All these matters worry them greatly!
Photo taken by the children of Umm al-Ḥīrān after a photography workshop.