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A Warning. Or: From Unilateral to Bilateral Warfare
By Amos Gvirtz
10 Dec 2013

The violence that erupted at the protest demonstration in Hura on the �day of rage�, November 30, 2013, serves as a warning sign. Government spokesmen state that most Bedouins support the Prawer Plan, but naturally do not mention the reasons for this. We have witnessed this achingly in the Atir neighborhood, where inhabitants agreed to relocate to Hura after their homes were demolished by government agents time and again. Let us review the way Israeli governments have treated the Bedouin citizens of the state since its inception to this day:

Let us recall that most Bedouins were expelled or escaped during the 1948 war. The expulsion of Bedouins persisted until 1959, ten years after the fighting ceased. In those years, the State concentrated most of the remaining Bedouins in the Sayag region (north-eastern corner of the Negev desert). The State took over their lands, through legislation. Most of the Sayag area was declared agricultural land, where construction is forbidden by law. The government refused to recognize the Bedouin villages that had existed there even prior to the founding of the State. Worse yet, it refused to recognize even villages to which it had relocated Bedouins it had dispossessed previously, and considers them invaders. Thus the State has turned all construction in the villages illegal. It has also refused to provide them municipal services such as water, power, roads, schools (the High Court of Justice intervened in order to enable the building of regional schools), clinics, etc. They do, however, get plenty of demolition services�

Most of the Bedouins are denied the ability to continue making their living as desert farmers, including growing grain and grazing. Confiscation of livestock and destruction of crops are the government�s common means of �showing the Bedouins their place�.

Since the late 1960s the government has been concentrating the Bedouins in townships that maintain the highest rates of unemployment and poverty, as well as crime, in the country. This is definitely the image of failure. Naturally, the State of Israel does not consider this reason enough to halt its project of concentrating Bedouins in townships.

In the 1970s the government did enable the Bedouins to lay claim of ownership of their lands, but at the same time it did not recognize the traditional Bedouin fashion of claiming land. Only those who had registered their land in the Ottoman official claims system (very few did this) is recognized as landowner. This is interesting because prior to the founding of the State, the Zionist movement purchased lands from Bedouins by their traditional system. To this day, the State is willing to compensate whoever will give up his lands.

There is a significant difference in the way Jews and Bedouins use the term �war�. Jews in Israel understand it as a violent clash between two sides of a conflict. For the Bedouins, the term �war� has broader meaning. Expulsion from the country, from their lands, demolition of their homes, destruction of their crops, land-grab, restricting their grazing areas, confiscating flocks, denying them water, electricity and other municipal services in both their unrecognized and recognized villages � these are all acts of a unilateral war waged by the government and enforced by police, army and the �green patrol� that unceasingly impact helpless civilians, whose only sin is being Bedouins in the Jewish State.

The government has, naturally, provided all these actions with legal grounds, helping to justify this unilateral war against civilians, claiming to enforce the law.

The problem is that the present discourse about the Bedouins does not provide us with information on the acts of war the government has waged against these citizens. We are not informed that, in recent years, demolition of Bedouin homes has reached over 1000 houses annually.

We are not told about the destruction of thousands of dunams a year of grain grown by Bedouins. We are not told about restricting grazing areas over the years. We are told that most of the Bedouins are willing to accept the government�s proposals and that only a handful of outlaws disrupt this �idyll�. This is called �voluntary transfer�.

The Prawer Plan is a severe escalation in the unilateral war that the government has waged against its Bedouin citizens. The proposed government law to finalize Bedouin settlement in the Negev is intended to give this injustice a legal guise.

I do not know whether police provocateurs instigated the violence at the Hura demonstration, or whether the rage experienced in this society at what the State of Israel has done to it over the years has reached the point of explosion. I am afraid that this war waged against the Bedouins will not remain unilateral for long. We must all make it stop so it does not turn into mutual warfare.

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