The Bedouin are stealing our land
Last Thursday TV personality Avri Gilad went on a trip to the northern Negev with Regavim – an independent, professional research institute and policy planning think tank involved in protecting Israel’s national lands. So disturbed was he by what he saw on that trip that upon his return he immediately penned the following post on Facebook:
- “I came back from a tour of the Negev conducted by Regavim. I’m appalled by what I’ve seen. There’s no more Negev.
The Beduin have taken it over completely by force….
By shameless criminal activity, with insolence met only by fear and submission, the Beduin have taken over the entire Negev.”
He noted that though he had visited Beersheva and Arad, he had never entered Beduin towns like Laqia, Hura or the others he saw on this trip. Gilad also wrote that the government of Israel has virtually agreed to give Beduin clans in the Negev over 60 percent of the state land they have illegally settled on. On top of this, former MK Benny Begin sweetened the deal recently, offering them more land and additional monetary compensation. Avri Gilad, in his post, called on the government “to stop the Begin plan immediately,” and said, “We have to re-conquer the Negev.”
He concluded by saying “we must have one law for everyone – both for a Jew who encloses his balcony [without authorization] and for a Beduin who uses a fence he stole from Omer to enclose five dunams [0.5 hectares] of land as his.”
Gilad’s post went viral, and when interviewed later on Army Radio, he stated over 450,000 people had seen it.
However, it didn’t take long for the many defenders of the Beduin’s supposed right to take whatever land they want to jump into action. These foreign-funded, radical left-wing NGOs have done a great job training the various Beduin tribes to always refuse the Israeli government’s every offer of compromise and hold out for 100 percent of their claims.
They came out swinging with an opinion piece published in a daily newspaper calling Avri Gilad a racist.
The author of this piece continued with what she called “facts”: “What is known as the Beduin diaspora are 35 unrecognized villages in the Northern Negev on an area between Beersheva, Yeruham, Arad and Dimona.” This, however, is the “big lie” – that only 35 “unrecognized villages” exist.
The author appears to have forgotten that nowadays programs like Google Earth exist (although a tour of the facts on the ground with Regavim is preferable) allowing all and sundry a close-up look at what is really happening to the area between Beersheva, Arad and Dimona. Fact: There are not 35 illegally built villages on state-owned land, but over 2,000 illegal settlements, spread out over 80,000 hectares (800,000 dunams). How do these NGOs imagine they can continue to hide the facts when the means of independent verification are so accessible? Do they really believe Israelis are that gullible? But she continued to wax poetic, citing folklore as history, claiming most of these illegal villages were set up before the establishment of the state. Even worse, with the savvy help of these NGOs, the Beduin of the Negev have been able to successfully petition the UN for status as indigenous people. Even though there are Beduin throughout the Middle East, the only place the UN has bestowed indigenous status on them is in the Negev. Their fallacious argument is simple and clear: the Beduin were here before the state was established, and thus before the Jews were ever here.
But as much as these NGOs try to frame and fudge the public debate around the illegal villages of those 20% of Beduin who have grabbed state land and claim to have ancestral title to it, Regavim hopes for an equitable solution to the problem. Because of growing public awareness, the government program to overcome the lawlessness in the south is scheduled for renewed discussion.
It is important to understand that overall, Regavim is not opposed to the government’s plan, and believes that regulating the Beduin settlements is vital both for the State of Israel and of course for the Beduin population.
However, unfortunately, the current proposal is very problematic. Regavim wants a program that will achieve its goals, one that will be good for the country, good for the land, the environment and good for all the residents of the Negev. To accomplish this, Regavim has developed some amendments to make the program more efficient, and dramatically increase the chance of its success in practice.
However, even taking into account our new government’s effort to refine and improve the program, the basic problem remains. The public both here in Israel and in the court of world opinion must be made aware of the actual facts on the ground as seen by Avri Gilad and understand the urgency of a fair and implementable program, and not just a giveaway of our national lands. Otherwise, Israel will continue to be painted as the perennial bad guy – the conqueror and the oppressor. This image is successfully perpetuated due in large part to the efforts of the radical Left, European government-funded NGOs that have trained the Beduin in the “accept our position or nothing” strategy and have extensively misled the public.
The writer works for Regavim, an independent, professional research institute and policy planning think tank and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org. The mission of the institute is to ensure the responsible, legal and environmentally friendly use of Israel’s national lands and the return of the rule of law to all areas and aspects of the land and its preservation.