The destruction of the ‘illegal’ homes of 20,000 Bedouin families will not help facilitate their resettlement in new places. Nor will it transpire quietly.
“”Law for Bedouin Settlement in the Negev,” which the Knesset is expected to pass soon, has angered the entire Bedouin population in the south – one-fourth of all the Negev’s residents – and threatens to drive them to violence. Although the state dealt harshly with Bedouin in the past by moving them from place to place, confiscating their flocks, destroying their homes and even spraying their crops with poison, its actions never resulted in an uprising, perhaps because these violations were small-scale: a family here, a clan there.
The proposed law, on the other hand, will adversely affect almost all the 200,000 Bedouin in the Negev. It will do so in two ways: by rejecting their claims to ownership of most of their property, and by destroying the homes of some 20,000 families, who will be transferred to undeveloped plots in “authorized” locations. All of this is part of the government’s so-called Prawer Plan, upon which the law for settling the Bedouin is based.
Israel has always denied Bedouin their rights to the land they owned before 1948, because they had no official documents from the Ottoman and British periods to prove their ownership. In those periods, however, Bedouin acquired lands under their own tribal law, the law then valid in the desert, which accepted such transactions based on oral guaranty and dispensed with written proof.
In the 1970s, the state seemingly modified its stance, inviting Bedouin to register their ownership claims, which amounted to 240,000 acres in private claims. This procedure was not intended to make their claims legal, but rather to enable the state to acquire their lands through purchase, and that, moreover, at minimal prices, which the Bedouin largely rejected. Over a 40-year period, the Bedouin sold the state only 16 percent of the land they claimed. Their characteristic patience allowed them to sustain the hope that it would ultimately offer them a just compromise that would not deprive them of land they once acquired by law, albeit their own. […] ”
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