A Bedouin tragedy, an Israeli tragedy

It’s a mistake to think that the Negev Bedouin’s problems can be solved by adjudicating claims over landownership. It will not raise their education level.

By Moshe Arens HAARETZ

Every few weeks Israelis get a reminder of the difficult conditions under which the Negev Bedouin live. This time it was the tragic case of the two little Bedouin girls strangled to death in the “unrecognized” Negev settlement of Al-Fura’a. There was also the bank robbery in Be’er Sheva, where a Bedouin customer, Omar Walid, was immediately suspected by the police. Even though he was wounded, he was arrested and handcuffed.

The murder of the two Bedouin girls was symptomatic of family life in much of Bedouin society in the Negev – polygamy, innumerable children per family, fathers who don’t know the names of all their children, a world-record birthrate and juvenile delinquency. The automatic arrest of the Bedouin customer in the bank robbery, and the Arad police’s disregard of the complaints lodged by the mother of the two girls, reflected the stereotype of the Bedouin that has developed in Israeli society. This stereotype has flourished even though many Bedouin volunteer for service in the Israel Defense Forces, many are highly educated, and many are productive and loyal citizens.

But the Bedouin population in the Negev is the most disadvantaged sector of Israeli society. With their noble tradition of nomadic existence, wandering across deserts and herding sheep, goats and camels, they find themselves living in a rapidly urbanizing Israel, a modern high-technology economy, without the necessary skills.

There were 18,000 Bedouin in the Negev when the State of Israel was founded. Today there are 200,000. Their record birthrate, partly the result of polygamy practiced by many, is a source of stress and hardship in Bedouin society. Obviously, only a process of Westernization, or in this case Israelization, can bring normality to Bedouin society, and with it a rate of natural increase that’s manageable in a Western society. The key here is education.

Successive Israeli governments have neglected this; instead they’ve tried to entice Bedouin out of the desert into the Bedouin townships that have been set up over the years, with only partial success. These townships are nothing that Israel can be proud of, and the Bedouin who prefer to stay in the desert can hardly be blamed.

After the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai and the abandonment of Israel Air Force bases there, new bases were built in the Negev, some on land occupied by Bedouin at the time. Thirty years ago, as defense minister, I met with Bedouin sheikhs in the Tel Malhata area to express my gratitude for moving out of the area to let the Nevatim air force base be built. I told them I hoped that the day was not far off when a Bedouin pilot would be flying an IAF jet from this base. Thirty years later this remains a dream.

Israeli governments have neglected the Negev Bedouin, but the vacuum has been filled by the Islamic Movement from the north. The Bedouin, who were never particularly religious, are now attending the many mosques that have sprung up all over the Negev. Teachers from the north are teaching their Bedouin students that they are Palestinians.

It’s a mistake to think that the Negev Bedouin’s problems can be solved by adjudicating conflicting claims over landownership. That is not the heart of the Negev Bedouin’s problem. It will not raise their education level, and it will not bring the 21st century to Bedouin family life. Education is the key. Advancing the education of the Bedouin Negev should be made a first priority of government policy. It is too important to be left in the hands of the Islamic Movement.

May 29, 2013 | 3 Comments »

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  1. Dear Minister Arens: When I was in Israel a few years ago, I took a tour of the Northern Negev. The bus toured Ofakim, a community not far from Beersheba, where Israel’s government was developing plots for Bedouin residence; having installed sewers, water hookups, and electric lines. A number of homes had been constructed, some of which were impressive–two story structures with nice patios in the back yard, and trees planted out front. The Bedouin area was directly across the highway. The tour guide remarked that a number of Bedouin families could afford to live in the developed area; but none had done as yet done so. I understand that some Bedouin are reluctant to give up the nomadic life style; but please tell why “The townships are nothing that Israel can be proud of, and the Bedouin that prefer to stay in the desert can hardly be blamed.” Certainly, Ofakim was very nice. Of course, what happened to Omar Walid was sad and unfortunate, and I also understand that some Bedouin serve in the IDF. But the fact that Israel has neglected them doesn’t absolve them from responsibility to cooperate with Israel’s government. A show of good faith on their part, by stopping the drug and weapons smuggling, and theft from IDF bases, would go a long way towards this. Don’t you agree?

  2. Dear Mr. Arens: When I was in Israel a few years ago, I took a tour of the Northern Negev. The bus stopped at a community called Ofakim, about ten miles from Beersheba. The tour guide explained that there was the developed part of Ofakim, which Israel’s government had developed–installed sewers, water hookups, and electric lines. The Bedouin community was directly across the road from the developed part of town; and the tour guide further explained that the government was trying to get the Bedouins to settle in the developed area; which was very nice–the homes were impressive two-story structures, with nice back yard patios and trees growing in front. Furthermore, the tour guide also explained that many Bedouin aren’t poor, and can afford to live in the developed areas. I understand that the Bedouin, historically, have been disadvantaged; and some continue that way today; but please explain what you mean by, “These townships are nothing that Israel can be proud of, and the Bedouin who want to stay in the desert can hardly be blamed.” There was nothing wrong with Ofakim.

    What happened to Omar Walid is sad and unfortunate; and I understand that many Bedouin serve in the IDF; and deserve better than what they get. But the fact remains that Israel will not get the Bedouins to move into townships by giving the store away. The Bedouins need to give Israel an indication of good will, by stopping the drug and weapons smuggling, and vehicle and equipment theft. Don’t you agree?

  3. Jewish Israel is losing the Negev to the muslim beduin:

    The Israeli Negev is not an uninhabitable, arid desert. Instead, it is semi-arid scrubland, and supports pastoral nomads. These muslim arabs are called beduin. Related tribal groups are spread throughout northern Saudi Arabia, southern Jordan, the Negev, and the Sinai.

    The Sinai beduin cooperate with Hamas in Gaza, and with the Israeli Negev beduin, in smuggling drugs, weapons, and economic “refugees” from Africa (who are predominantly muslim).

    The idealistic atheistic Jews who founded Israel had a delusional, romantic notion of the beduin, and considered them to be “real men (albeit primitive)”, and originally tried to copy their “manliness”. The reality is that they are indeed primitive, but have a low IQ, are highly inbred with numerous genetic diseases, and do not contribute much to an advanced technological society.

    Naturally, the original atheist Labor Zionists were sure they could lead these beduin to “Israeli enlightenment” by educating them properly, and providing them with unlimited welfare. And naturally, the beduin responded to the unlimited welfare (money, subsidized housing, free healthcare, etc.,) by increasing their number of wives, who were usually taken from among their young first cousins through arranged marriage, with a resulting fantastic increase in their birthrate, which was always subsidized by the liberal atheist Jews.

    And naturally, the atheist liberal Jews, while cursing Torah-true Jews as “parasites”, continue to praise the beduin as simple, but “noble”, and would never dream of interfering with their “traditional culture”.

    And naturally, many beduin, following the principles of their “traditional culture”, supplement the income derived from Jewish welfare by stealing as much possible from the Jews, and taking over land owned by the Jewish state, in addition to the smuggling.

    And naturally, the government of “Jewish” Israel, is afraid to do anything to antagonize the beduins and bring further condemnation on themselves from the Jew-hating “international community”, but do call any Jew who dares say anything about this stare of affairs “a vile racist”.