Beduin under fire

Cynical agitators are not interested in protecting innocent civilians. They will exploit any pretext to fan the flames of discord to serve their ends.

July 26, 2014 22:58
3 minute read.
Rocket attack near Beersheba

Beduin area hit by rocket strike that badly wounded two sisters aged 10, 15 .jpg. (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

On July 11, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum addressed “all Muslims” inside Israel via the movement’s al-Aksa TV. He assured Arabs “living in Haifa, Jaffa, Acre, Lod, Ramle and the Negev” that “rockets fired by Izzadin Kassam won’t hit you.... We’re familiar with the geography... Not a single Palestinian Arab child will be hit by one of our missiles. Our rockets are aimed at the Hebrews, the murderers, the Israelis, the criminals. Don’t be afraid. Proceed with your daily lives and celebrate our victory, just as we’ll celebrate it here, in Gaza.”

And there was more: “Our missiles accurately target the homes of the Israelis and the Zionists. As Arabs, you must support Gaza in the streets, by demonstrations, with slogans. You must besiege consulates of European countries supporting the occupation.”

Reality has failed to underpin Barhoum’s intimations that Hamas missiles are somehow equipped with a unique guidance system that detects Jews and will exclusively kill Jews. Without touching on the morality behind the declared goal of selectively targeting Jews, the hollow nature of Hamas’s assertions was tragically exposed last Saturday when a Gazan rocket struck an unrecognized Beduin hamlet near Dimona.

It smashed directly into a wooden structure and killed Uda Alwaj, 32, critically wounded his three-month-old daughter and injured other family members.

Five days earlier, two sisters, aged 10 and 13, suffered shrapnel wounds when a rocket crashed into a recognized Beduin settlement near Beersheba.

Contrary to Barhoum’s boasts, Hamas’s rockets are indiscriminate. They can hit anyone, anywhere. And not only is no one immune from Hamas’s bloody designs against Jews, but some of those Hamas falsely claims to have excluded from harm are among the most vulnerable.

This arises from the reality that not everyone in Israel has access to a bomb shelter or a fortified safe-room. A full 27 percent of the population does not. This is foremost true for residents of older housing, provisional prefabs and ramshackle structures in Beduin encampments.

A number of advocacy groups have already petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the state to put up concrete shelters for the Beduin.

Although the Beduin are not the only unprotected population, their plight is particularly useful fodder for NGOs and especially for politicians eager to score popularity points among their constituents.

Thus ex-MK Taleb a-Sana lost no time in blaming Israel for the devastation visited on the Alwaj family.

As he has it, “The state has deliberately abandoned the Beduin. They are left without shelter and have nowhere to run in case of emergency. The Iron Dome [defense system] doesn’t down rockets that fall in their vicinity as these are deemed ‘open spaces.’ Therefore the Beduin point an accusing finger at the government and hold it directly responsible for the danger in which they find themselves.”

Attractive as Israel-bashing may be, Sana is the last one who should preach. He campaigned against several plans to offer alternative housing to the community in which Alwaj lived. Had the family moved, it would have had access to a bomb shelter.

Besides, this is not a uniquely Beduin problem. It exists among Jews in towns such as Netivot and Dimona.

A rocket recently demolished a prefab in Beersheba constructed years ago to house immigrants from the former USSR. Its plasterboard walls collapsed.

Also distressing is the plight of Gush Katif evacuees, many of whom still languish in what were euphemistically dubbed “caravillas.” These are shoddy trailers, whose walls are often glorified cardboard. The only makeshift rocket shelters available to them are large irrigation pipes in nearby fields.

Sana did not mention them but he did declare that Israel “isn’t only conducting a war but is perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity.” He advocates putting Israel’s civilian and military leaders on trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, reminiscent of the preposterous United Nations Human Rights Council decision on Wednesday.

The only one Sana did not take to task is Hamas, which fired the rocket that killed Alwaj.

Cynical agitators are not interested in protecting innocent civilians. They will exploit any pretext to fan the flames of discord to serve their ends.

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