AHMAD ALKHUZAM WRITES – One would assume that civilization has come a long way since the injustices of apartheid. But Negev Bedouins face the reality of being forced to pack up and leave.
The Israeli government will finalize the parliamentary bill for the Prawer plan, which will forcibly relocate up to 70,000 Negev Bedouins at the end of this year. The Negev Bedouins are nomadic Arab tribes that have resided in rural towns unrecognized by the state. After 1948, the state awarded them citizenship, but the unrecognized towns they live in have no legal documents of private ownership. Negev Bedouins have lived in these areas under the Ottoman rule and the British Mandate for decades before the Israel state emerged.
Today, most of the Negev Bedouins reside in an area called Siyag, as they were concentrated by military rule up until the 1960’s. Approximately half of these Bedouins have already moved willingly and forcibly since the 1950’s to state-planned towns. According to The Guardian, between 40,000 and 70,000 of the remaining Bedouins that have not already relocated will forcibly be moved to seven “over-crowded, impoverished, crime-ridden state-planned towns.” Moreover, a Human Rights Watch report, “Off the Map,” states that Israel has ratified a number of international human rights treaties that include protecting against forced evictions. The treaties also include choice in place of residence, but the government disregards these ratified treaties when it comes to the Negev Bedouins and violates international law.
In response to recent protests against the Prawer plan, the Israeli online newsletter, “The Jerusalem Post,” reports Prime Minister Netanyahu stating, “Attempts by a loud and violent minority to deny a better future to a large and broad population are grave. We will continue to advance the law for a better future for all residents of the Negev.” Decades of oppression is projected to cause violence, as already seen in the case of current protests where 15 officers were wounded.
This dynamic, reminiscent of South African apartheid, where long-time residents are forced into slums is cause for push-back. Who will be the Negev Bedouin’s Mandela?