Analysis: Fear of a Beduin intifada in the Negev

The situation among Israel's most neglected community will only continue to get worse without immediate action to improve education, employment and law enforcement.

January 19, 2017 13:04
2 minute read.
A Beduin boy holds Palestinian flags as he takes part in a rally marking Land Day in Umm el-Hiran

A Beduin boy holds Palestinian flags as he takes part in a rally marking Land Day in Umm el-Hiran. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Everyone who is well-versed in the goings-on in the Beduin community of the Negev over the years should not be surprised by the magnitude of the events that occurred during the demolition of homes in the village of Umm al-Hiran on Wednesday.

Some 250,000 Beduin live in the Negev and the community has continually grown since the founding of the state thanks to a high birth rate. Throughout the years they have built homes, planted crops, paved access roads and established villages, illegally, without permits. And worst of all - without any resistance from Israeli law enforcement.

The Beduin population has been completely neglected by successive governments of Israel over the years in the fields of education, industry, employment and socio-economics. Even in the early 2000s, when stricter enforcement of agriculture practices began, no alternative was suggested for the Beduin. This led many in the community to slide into crime, including home break-ins, car and metal theft - and, in recent years, serving as drivers for terrorists infiltrating from Gaza or the West Bank and providing them with hideouts. All of this has been done for money. Only 1-1.5% of the community enlists in the IDF. And the warnings of an expected Beduin intifada have fallen on deaf ears.

Absurdly, the Settlement Authority for the Bedouin in the Negev was not established until 2007. The authority attempted to construct a new reality for the community. Only in 2011, the recommendations of a special committee formed to deal with the subject began to be implemented. The committee recommended a plan to establish organized Beduin towns, to build industrial zones and to integrate Beduin youth into society and into the education system. Little by little enforcement against law-breakers was increased and the agitation within the community increased. However, this plan was halted for political reasons and because of various opposition. The industrial zones are yet to be completed and no employment alternatives have been provided.

Throughout the history of the country, the Beduin population has been Israel's weakest socio-economic group, with the lowest percentage of high-school graduates and academics and the lowest income, as well as among the highest rates of involvement in crime. Government plans to improve their situation were too little, too late. The Beduin students who cannot study in Israel go instead to universities in the Palestinian Authority and Jordan and are influenced by extremist Islamist groups that are active there. The Islamic Movement has succeeded in penetrating deep into the population, mainly taking advantage of deep frustrations with the terrible situation and a lack of suitable solutions. Thus, a situation has been created in which, over the years, hatred for Israel, great frustration, and, most of all, rebelliousness against the laws of the state have developed.

It is important to note that just a small percentage of the population is involved in terror or security activities against Israel. However, the dominant extremist voices of Arab MKs and the heads of the Islamic Movement continue to incite. Without continued diligence and firm enforcement on the one hand, and without the giving of suitable benefits on the other hand, the situation will only get worse.

Lior Akerman is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Protest following Beduin Village demolition (Courtesy)

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