It has recently come to our attention that the extremist organization “Regavim” has distributed to the foreign press an English version of the document they produced in November essentially supporting the government’s position that the Bedouin of the Negev have no legitimate land claims and are “taking over the Negev.” We are therefore reissuing the English version of our response highlighting the inaccuracies upon which both the Israeli government and Regavim base their positions.
IMAGE: A map of current Bedouin communities, shown on top of a map of British tents. Courtesy of Professor Yiftachel.
READ: RHR’s response to Regavim’s harmful distortion of facts on the Negev Bedouin
A government sponsored bill currently in front of the Knesset would likely lead to the demolition of tens of “Unrecognized” Israeli Bedouin villages in the Negev, and transfer of some 40,000 Israeli citizens from their homes to artificially created poverty stricken townships. They would be dispossessed from most of their remaining lands. The legislation has been temporarily frozen after an international “Day of Rage” on November 30th organized jointly by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from the Occupied Territories drove home the widespread opposition. Agricultural Minister Yair Shamir replaced former minister Benny Begin as responsible for the legislation, but in fact increased home demolitions and the approval of new Jewish communities where “Unrecognized” villages currently exist lead to great concern that the government intends to implement their plan without legislation.
The Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, along with the Israeli NGO of socially responsible planners, “Bimkom,” has created an alternative zoning plan showing that all of the 35 “Unrecognized” villages can be recognized and developed according to the highest planning standards, while allowing Israel’s other development goals in the region.
An RHR commissioned opinion poll indicates that most Israeli Jews believe disinformation, such as the claim also in the Regavim document that “The Bedouin are taking over the Negev.” When they learn that the sum total of documented historic Bedouin land claims are a mere 5.4% of the Negev for over 30% of the population, the majority of Israeli Jews indicated that this is fair.
In the U.S., the Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal movements are on record opposing the current plan, as are sixty British rabbis ranging from Orthodox to liberal.
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