Thursday, February 26, 2004

The Plight of the Bedouin

While we talk a lot about the slow-motion ethnic cleansing that Israel is imposing on the Palestinians, we forget about the ethnic cleansing of the Bedouin which is occurring within Israel itself. The Bedouin are a nomadic people who live in the Negev desert, an area which Israel wants to develop for future settlements. In order to cleanse the area of the Bedouin, they propose to impose on them the concept of individual land ownership, and then force them to sell the land to the Israeli state. This allows the Israelis to obtain their final solution for the Bedouin, which is to enclose them in urban slums subject to the Israeli welfare state, while seeming to be doing the right thing by 'buying' the land (note here, where the Israeli Orwellian way of looking at the world depicts the 'benefits' of welfare and land ownership as advantages that the Bedouin have in Israel which they wouldn't have in Arab states!). The areas set aside for the Bedouin are rife with unemployment and crime and poverty, the inhabitants are not given proper services, and, ironically, aren't allowed to own the land but only lease it (presumably, so they can be more easily uprooted again when it suits the authorities). As the traditional Bedouin do not accept the concept of individual land ownership (the anarchists should adopt their cause as an example of the anarchist utopian life in action!), the Israeli scheme isn't working, so the thugs who run Israel are predictably resorting to their usual thuggish methods. They claim that Bedouin settlements are built without permits and are therefore illegal and subject to demolition. They destroyed the mosque at Tel Malah (and at least two other mosques), and spray poisonous chemicals on Bedouin crops and any children who happen to be in the area, under the excuse of protection of the environment (it is almost impossible to believe!). The combination of the brutality of the Israeli state and the discrimination evidenced by the failure to provide even the most rudimentary social services (on the doublespeak basis that the villages of the Bedouin are 'unrecognized'), has resulted in radicalizing the Bedouin population (the Bedouin are also being hurt by the American-Israeli Apartheid wall). A bedouin, Mr. Jabir Abu Kaf, said:

"This land was my father's land and my grandfather's land. The government says it will recognise this land as mine if I agree to sell it to the state, but not if we want to do anything else with it. The state wants to eradicate the bedouin and confiscate their land, they want to establish a Jewish settlement here. So they are saying we don't have any papers to prove we own the desert and we don't have planning permission to build homes we have had here since before the state of Israel existed."

In 1963, Moshe Dayan said (note the easy racism):

"We should transform the bedouin into an urban proletariat. This will be a radical move which means that the bedouin would not live on his land with his herds, but would become an urban person who comes home in the afternoon and puts his slippers on. The children would go to school with their hair properly combed."

It is increasingly obvious that the Israeli model for all Arabs, Palestinians or Bedouin, is the South African bantustan model, locking them all away in isolated pockets of poverty and misery, and using the military power of the Israeli state to repress any unrest that might be caused by the brutality. Is the rest of the world going to let them get away with it?