In the middle of the Arab uprising of 1936, the Jewish settlement of Kfar Hittim
in the Galilee was established, on 2,000 dunams (200 hectares) of land which the
Jewish National Fund had purchased in 1905.
David Ben-Gurion, who was
then the head of the Jewish Yishuv, gave his tacit approval, as long as it could
be completed in one day, and the plan was carried out.
The purpose of the
settlement, and others like it, was to establish facts on the ground, to ensure
that Jewish-owned land would be included in the future State of
Those were tough days. Arab gangs were intent on killing as many
Jews as possible and wreaking havoc in order to convince the British to limit
Jewish immigration. Kfar Hittim was the first of many Tower & Stockade
settlements, so called because those were the first two building constructed on
the land, in order to protect the brave pioneers who would dwell there. It was
successfully defended on its first evening against Arab
Seventy-six years later, and with a sovereign government in place
in Israel, one would think that there are various ministries whose job it is
today to ensure that new towns are properly planned and established, and that it
is the job of the IDF to defend them.
Well, not exactly. Today, in the
Negev, one doesn’t have to travel very far off the beaten track to find new
But these settlements follow their own rules. Unlike
the case of Kfar Hittim, no Beduin National Fund purchased the land. The
residents just took it. Whether it is privately owned Jewish land, as in the
case of Al Zarnoog, or Bir El Daj, built on JNF lands or state lands, doesn’t
matter to them.
The Beduin understand that their communities must also
have means of defense, but their “Tower & Stockade” is not physical. It’s
virtual, but very effective.
Their protective “Stockade” consists of NGOs
such as the Negev Coexistence Forum (NCF), Adalah, ACRI and the like. Their
virtual Towers are the New Israel Fund (NIF), the EU and the UN, all of which
are extremely well-funded and focused on protecting the “rights” of the Beduin
to the lands on which they have built illegally.
One only has to visit
the NCF website to see how effective their virtual defensive wall is: Entry of
18.05.12: British ambassador learns about NCF, visits Al Arakib. NCF Statement
at UN Forum on Indigenous Issues.
28.05.12: UN Special Rapporteur on
Indigenous Rights vows to pressure Israel on Arab- Beduin rights
28.06.12: NCF participates in conference in
15.07.12: NCF activities in Umm-Mitnan, Al Arakib mark two years
since first demolition.
21.07.12: NCF submits report to UN Human Rights
28.07.12: South African ambassador visits Al Arakib.
its part, Israel has developed generous programs to regularize Beduin settlement
in the Negev, through the Goldberg Commission, established in 2007, and the
Prawer Committee, whose role is to implement the Commission’s
The Prawer plan calls for the legalizing of at least
half of the illegal Beduin settlements established in the Negev. For those
30,000 Beduin whose settlements cannot be legalized, it offers generous gifts of
land of up to 5 dunams per person, thus rewarding illegal behavior with private
land in the land registry.
But of course, this generous offer of the
Israeli government to appease illegal Beduin settlers, costing billions of
shekels to implement, is not enough for their NGO allies. They demand that every
Beduin land claim be legalized, or, as Clinton Bailey writing in Haaretz, put
it: “Get ready for a Beduin uprising.”
Adalah, NCF and other NGO’s ignore
Israel’s democratic process and have taken their virtual “wall of defense” for
illegal Beduin settlements to the international arena. And their campaign
against Israel has borne fruit. Last month, the European Parliament passed a
resolution condemning Israel’s policy toward the Beduin communities living in
“unrecognized settlements” in the Negev Desert.
The European Parliament
had never before addressed the situation of the Beduin citizens of Israel. It
took Adalah, with the massive backing of their virtual “Tower,” the NIF, EU and
the UN, to get the job done right. The director of Adalah’s Negev bureau, Dr.
Thabet Abu Rass, commented on the decision, saying that “achieving recognition
by the European Parliament that the Israeli government practices the same
policies of displacement and dispossession against Palestinian citizens of
Israel as it does against Palestinians living under occupation is a tremendous
With full intention to interfere in the internal workings
of Israel’s democratically elected government and judicial system, another
clause of the European Parliament’s resolution stated: “The European Parliament
calls for the protection of the Beduin communities of the West Bank and in the
Negev, and for their rights to be fully respected by the Israeli authorities,
and condemns any violations [e.g. house demolitions, forced displacements,
public service limitations]; calls also, in this context, for the withdrawal of
the Prawer Plan by the Israeli government.”
All the usual suspects, NGOs
which work to weaken the State of Israel in their so-called post-Zionist world,
such as Adalah, Rabbis for Human Rights, Bimkom and ACRI, back the Beduin
claims. They not only support the usurping of land, they take clear aim at
pillars of our Zionist establishment such as the JNF, which they claim is a
racist, colonial entity that should be shut down.
In ACRI’s Beduin Policy
brief, their solution is simple. It states: “Today there are 45 Beduin
settlements in the Negev where anywhere from between 400 and 4,800 people
reside. They meet all the objective planning criteria for recognition, including
permanent population, population size, number of resident adults, and number of
Thus, not only do they call for the legalizing of all
the Beduin settlements with no other compromise possible, they speak of a
“reasonable” number of 45 such illegal settlements.
Regavim, in its
presentation to the Goldberg Commission, showed proof that in actual fact there
are 2,100 separate settlements covering over 800,000 dunams (80,000 hectares).
The Commission accepted Regavim’s empirical data and thus decided not to approve
all the Beduin and their supporters’ demands.
As can be seen in the
satellite imagery used by Regavim incorporating Geographical Information System
(GIS) data, the yellow dots are the so-called 45 unrecognized Beduin
settlements. What is striking is how these yellow dots are in many cases not
representative of Beduin settlement in the Negev, signified by the red areas By
their use of false and misleading maps and information, the defenders of the
Beduin land grab continue to garner support internationally.
for the Beduin is no less than the establishment of facts on the ground, as
Pnini Badash – the mayor of Omer states, “to create an autonomous region” that
will eventually be contiguous with the oft-promised Palestinian state to be
created only a few kilometers to the north.
The government cannot permit
the financial and political power of the virtual tower and stockade to undermine
the sovereignty of the State of Israel over its land.
Parliament also needs to understand that it is not the Planning Authority for
the State of Israel and that illegal building activity anywhere in the world
should be condemned – not encouraged – in the strongest possible
terms.The writer works for Regavim, an independent professional research
institute and policy planning think tank, and can be contacted on
firstname.lastname@example.org. The mission of the institute is to ensure the
responsible, legal and environmentally friendly use of Israel’s national lands
and the return of the rule of law to all areas and aspects of the land and its
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