Know More About Palestine

Saturday Sept. 25, 2010 10:17 AM (EST+7)
INTERVIEW: Why aren't the Bedouin treated like Israeli citizens?

Read more: Negev, Bedouin, unrecognized villages, Arakib, Araqib

RAMALLAH, Sept. 25 (JMCC) - The Electronic Intifada interviews Ismael Abu Saad, founder of Ben Gurion University's Center for Bedouin Studies and Development.

Jillian Kestler-D'Amours: Tell us about the Palestinian Bedouin community in the Negev.

Ismael Abu Saad: The Bedouin community is the poorest community among the Palestinian minority in Israel and even it's the poorest community in the whole country. Historically they lived in the desert. They had their own land. They grazed sheep. They engaged in traditional agriculture and they practiced their life peacefully for thousands of years.

They were not interested in real interaction with the central governments throughout history because all they wanted was to practice their way of life without any disruptions and interference from the government. Traditionally, the Bedouin never registered their lands, not because they didn't want to register their lands, but because it wasn't part of their traditional way of life. They dealt with it in their own traditional law system. They buy and sell all other things without documentation. That wasn't part of the culture.

JK: In the late 1960s, the Israeli state began moving Palestinian Bedouin into seven urban townships in the Negev. What impact has this plan had on Bedouin communities in the area?

IA: The seven planned towns are the poorest towns in the country. Unemployment is very high. Those towns are dormitory towns: people only sleep there. There are no jobs. There is no economic infrastructure. There are no facilities. I live in [the Bedouin town of] Lakiyeh; there are close to 10,000 people living there and there's no bank. To cash a check, you have to drive to Beersheba. It's crazy.

We see now that half of the Bedouin community doesn't live in the townships that the state planned for the Bedouin because those towns really didn't solve the problem. Urbanization failed. It was a very destructive way of life. You can't bring people from a traditional way of life into urbanization. The experience, the seven towns that they built, I call them government land towns, they failed.

Why don't we learn from our mistake, from the government's mistake? Why do the Jews have the right to live in agricultural villages, in kibbutzim, in urban towns [and the Bedouin don't]? Why don't you open this option for the Bedouin? Why don't you treat the Bedouin Arabs like the Jewish citizens? The Bedouin are in a catch-22 now. They can't maintain their way of life and the government is offering them only one option and this option doesn't suit their way of life.

Read the story at EI...






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