Beduin women in Rahat, Israel..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir came under attack on Monday for comments the previous day in which he called for an improvement in living standards for Beduin, which would include dealing with polygamy and reducing birth rates.
Upon the initiative of United Arab List-Ta’al MK Taleb Abu Arar, a protest is to be held at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Congress Center in the BIG shopping center in Beersheba, to discuss “the racist and extremist comments of Minister Shamir,” Abu Arar’s office said.
“We need to take the Beduin and start to take them out of the desert a bit and get them closer to the normal state in terms of legislation, lifespan, social-economic standards and education,” Shamir said while on a tour in the Negev.
The state is blind to the issue, as the Beduin population is predicted to grow to more than half a million by 2035, the minister said.
About 14 percent of Israeli Muslims are Beduin, according to a 2012 report by Prof. Arnon Soffer of the University of Haifa, titled “Israel: Demography 2012-2030.” By 2030, they will account for around 23%-25% of the Muslim population, as they have one of the highest birthrates in the world. Their population doubles about every 15 years.
Shamir said he wanted to focus on economic solutions before dealing with the issue of unrecognized villages and land claims.
He expressed concern that more than 1,500 Israeli Beduin are studying at the Islamic University of Hebron, saying they may be exposed to extremist anti-Israel ideology there. He said he would do his best to try to keep them studying in Israel.
Hadash MK Dov Henin responded to Shamir, saying that polygamy is a problem for women and children, but to counter it the state needs to “begin to treat the Beduin as citizens and not as a demographic threat.”
Shamir took over responsibility from former minister Benny Begin in January for handling the Beduin land issue for the government.