It is my pleasure to stand before the esteemed Committee today and convey to you the messages and grievances of my people in the Arab Bedouin villages of the Naqab .The Arab Bedouin community in the Naqab is indigenous to the land and have been living in the desert area for over 200 years. The State of Israel continuously denies our indignity and our connection to the land, using forceful mechanisms and all its power to displace and concentrate Bedouin citizens on the least amount of land. But the Bedouin people are resilient and strong and we will not leave our ancestral lands, despite Israel’s ongoing denial of our historical rights and the harsh conditions it is inflicting upon us. As Palestinians, Arabs and Bedouins citizens of Israel, we face constant harassment and fear of being relocated into urban, dense, crime-ridden townships against our will.
Dear honored members of the Committee, the Bedouin people find themselves in an impossible situation, where we have to ask the oppressor for permission to stay on our own ancestral land.
Israel is carrying out large-scale demolitions every year, destroying crops and sabotaging the roads our people had to build with their modest means, with the aim of making our lives in the unrecognized villages unbearable. In 2018, the Bedouin people experienced more than 2,326 demolitions under the pretext of unauthorized construction. A few weeks ago, the Israeli authorities placed a demolition order on a dog kennel in one of the recognized Bedouin villages. With no possibility of obtaining a building permit, the entire community is being criminalized and persecuted for merely willing to have a roof over its head.
Decades of no official recognition, lack of real investment, home demolitions and forced evictions; have led the Bedouin community into extreme poverty. In 2016, the poverty rate among Bedouin individuals stood at 63.4%, and among Bedouin children at 68.2%. These numbers are even higher if you consider the fact that the State of Israel rarely survey in the villages it refuses to recognize. Extreme poverty is also the result of constant violations of Bedouin rights to education and employment. About 62% of Bedouin women over 25 have acquired less than 11 years of education and as a result, can only obtain low-wages, temporary positions at best. All of the programs suggested by the Government in the plans for development, had failed to address the barriers Bedouin women and men face in accessing the job market.
Ironically, in the past few years, the Naqab had witnessed an unprecedented development and growth. However, the Bedouin community hardly get to share the resources and the development with its Jewish neighbors. Since 1948, all of the planning for our community, all decisions taken regarding the Bedouin people, have been done behind our backs, without true cooperation, on our expense, while simultaneously denying Bedouin people equal access to justice, with no adequate presence of Arab representation in the relevant bodies which make these decisions for us.
Israel uses all means possible to pressure the Bedouin population and does not hesitate to use any method to displace the Bedouin. Our basic rights are being constantly denied from us as we stand tall and fight for equality and justice. I stand here today, representing my community, appealing for equal access to water and sanitation, access to equal education, and for the recognition of my village, and more than 34 other Bedouin villages. We are strong and we will continue to fight, but we need the international community to stand by our side. I carry to you the testimonies of people who suffer persecution and discrimination on a daily basis, but are steadfast in their strong determination, stubbornness and unwavered forbearance in their pursuit for equality and justice!