Dear diplomats, friends and partners,
The last couple of months have been hectic! A lot has happened, and like many other non-profit organizations in Israel, it has us worrying and then some!
To keep you updated with the situation and our work, we summarized in the following newsletter what seems to us as the most important things to know. If you share our concerns and wish to know more, you can contact us, and we will gladly answer all of your questions!
Update on the planned NGO taxation law
Just recently, the Israeli government planned to introduce Knesset legislation that would place a 65% tax on any funds received by Israeli NGOs from foreign governments, if the organizations were involved in advancing any public issue in the Knesset, a court of law, the Government, or a local council two years before or two years after receiving the funds. The obvious goal of the proposed law is to cut off badly needed funds from all human rights organizations in Israel. The proposed law is a menace to the very existence of our organization, and such legislation could have disastrous effects on the lives and human rights of the Bedouin community, as no one would have the possibility to report human rights violations perpetrated by the government and its administrative branches. The legislation obviously intended to damage and neutralize Israeli civil society. Indeed, one of the pillars of an effective democratic state is a thriving civil society.
After a wave of protests from friendly foreign governments, PM Netanyahu decided to set the proposal aside, thus removing the immediate danger. It is important to note that the proposal still rests on the table and can be brought back to the Knesset at any time.
We wish to express our gratitude to the many diplomats for their support and opposition to this dreadful law!
Most of you have heard about this unrecognized Bedouin village located west of Route 40. al-ʿArāgīb was demolished twice during May alone. As the protests against the home demolitions and evictions have taken place every Sunday for 13 years, and even though the trial to determine the ownership of the land is still ongoing, the harassment of its residents by Israeli authorities continues. On May 30th, the Yoav unit raided the village at 5:15 am and arrested Sheikh Sayyach Al-tori, his son Aziz and Sabach, Aziz’s wife. The three were interrogated for many hours and were eventually released. The next day, al-ʿArāgīb was destroyed once again for the 217th time since 2010.
Residents of al-ʿArāgīb during the vigil that takes place every Sunday.
Israeli Government plans to build new Jewish settlements in the Negev on Bedouin land and villages.
While the Government continues to refuse to promote the recognition of more than 30 Bedouin communities, it has set a precedent in allocating 1.6 billion NIS (approximately 437 million USD) for the accelerated establishment of 14 new Jewish communities in the Negev during the next two years. This is part of a large wave of planned efforts to expand Jewish settlement in the area. The heads of the coalition openly declared that the goal of the settlement wave was to ensure Jewish dominance of the land and “demographic balance.”
It is crucial to realize that some of these settlements will be built in place of Bedouin villages without any consideration for the families living there, including some of our dear colleagues.
*If you wish to learn more about this ongoing issue, read this article by NCF’s Executive Director Haia Noach and Shmulik David from a partner organization.
The map shows where the government plans to build some of the new Settlements in the Negev in the next two years – Map provided by the organization ‘Bimkom’ and translated into English by NCF with their agreement.
Lack of schools and kindergartens in the Negev-Naqab
Six years ago, the Education Ministry presented a plan to reduce the number of Bedouin children who don’t attend preschool. However, due mainly to the lack of kindergartens in the unrecognized Bedouin villages, 5,045 children from the Bedouin community (17% of the 3 to 5 years old) are not registered in an educational facility, while almost all Jewish children the same age are in educational facilities.
Several studies have proven the benefits of preschool education, and we will continue to demand that the Israeli government fulfill its duties and provide the necessary infrastructures to allow all children the same rights and access to early education.
Tours of the Negev-Naqab
The Negev Coexistence Forum conducts dozens of tours every year – for diplomats, groups, and individuals who wish to learn about the long-time struggle of the Bedouin community for recognition and respect of their human rights, from the community members and the villagers themselves.
During the month of May alone, we conducted six tours with students from Beit Berl College, a group of German students, activists from the Churches with No Apartheid in the United States, and several feminist groups against house demolition, including Itach Maaki, al Tufala and Sidreh. We also had a tour with representatives from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Human rights tour of the Negev-Nakab conducted with the group “Churches with No Apartheid.
Our meetings at the Knesset
Huda Abu-Oiad, our Local Advocacy coordinator, participated in several discussions at the Knesset. She brilliantly exposed the difficulties encountered by the Bedouin community in the Negev-Naqab, especially by the Bedouin women exposing the Government’s responsibility for the lack of infrastructure such as clinics and kindergartens not only in unrecognized villages but also in recognized Bedouin townships.
As part of his work, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality takes part in discussions at the Israeli Parlement once a week.
Huda Abu-Oiad at the Knesset (Israeli Parlement) on May 30, 2023.
Our photography projects
Our photography projects are doing great. Over the past weeks, four workshops were conducted with children from unrecognized villages and four others with women as part of the Yuṣawiruna – Photographing for Human Rights project. Nura and Intisar, our two photo coordinators on the field, talked about dreams and how to bring them to light in photos. The topic of dreams became a fascinating ongoing discussion with various groups. Another topic that often comes up with groups of children these days is how home demolitions affect their lives.
Photography workshop in Bīr Haddāj.
“Fusing Horizons” exhibition
The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality has the great pleasure of taking part in the exhibition in honor of Yossi Yonah’s book launch, “Fusing Horizons”. The exhibition presents several photos made by women from the unrecognized Bedouin villages of ʿAtīr, as-Sirrah, and Tal ʿArād. These photos are part of the Negev Coexistence Forum’s human rights Yuṣawiruna project – photographing for human rights.
The exhibition is being shown at the Sapir Gallery in the city of Sderot. It started on Wednesday, 31 May, and will continue until June 29. You can still visit!