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Counter Israel’s policy of Bedouin demolition (ACTION ALERT)

Call for a letter-writing campaign
from the Recognition Forum

Photo from Negev Coexistence Forum

For about two years now, the Israeli government has been carrying out an unwritten policy of wiping from the face of the earth entire villages of Bedouins in the Negev. This policy is well demonstrated by the repeated demolition of ‘Tawil Abu Jarwal’ village in the eight-month period between September 2006 and May 2007. In February 2007, members of the Al-Nasasra clan received warnings that all village houses would be demolished. The unrecognized Bedouin villages such as ‘Al-Sadir’, ‘Atir, Um al-Hiran’, ‘Tel-Arad’ received similar warnings, and all households in the village ‘Amara-Tarabin’ received demolition orders. We request your participation in a letter-writing campaign that we are initiating in order to counter this policy of force, coercion and demolition by the Israeli government.

Map from Recognition Forum, Negev Campaign


In 1948, on the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel, there were about 110,000 Bedouins in the Negev. Following the war, there was an ongoing evacuation of the Bedouins from southern Israel. A census made in 1960 reveals that 11,000 Bedouins remained. During the early 1950s, the State of Israel concentrated the Bedouins in the area of the Sayag (see attached map). Entire tribes were displaced from their lands in the western and southern Negev and transferred to the Sayag area. The state declared a large part of the Sayag area to which the Bedouins had been moved as lands over which there was no municipal government. The planning and building law legislated in 1965 zoned all of these lands as agricultural, so implicitly building was forbidden there. Every house already built was therefore considered to be “illegal”. Thus with a single sweeping political decision, the State of Israel transformed the entire Bedouin population into law-breakers, though the Bedouins’ only crime was to exercise their basic human right to housing.

In the late 1960s, a new stage commenced, in the policy of concentrating the Bedouins into narrower areas. The government started to establish a small number of townships, in which it intended to concentrate all the Bedouins. In order to encourage them to move to these townships, it began a policy of demolishing houses, destroying crops, confiscating herds of sheep and goats and denying basic services such as water, electricity, access roads, schools, clinics, sewage systems, etc. Only after public and legal struggles was the government obligated to build twenty regional schools and eight clinics for these unrecognized villages, and to connect some of the villages to the water system. Not only were the lands of the Bedouins nationalized and expropriated so that few of their lands remained available to them, but this rapacious policy of expulsion was accompanied by an enormous publicity campaign and by demonization of the Bedouins.

The townships have been a failure from every point of view – they remain a pocket of unemployment and welfare assistance, blighted by problems of hard crime and violence, and suffering from a dearth of workplaces, public transportation, banks, large businesses, industrial zoning, basic infrastructure, etc.

Bedouin tribes that were once dispersed throughout the entire Negev (see map), and intensively used about 2,000,000 dunams (200,000 hectares) of land, live today on about 240,000 dunams (24,000 hectares) and struggle to preserve ownership of a further 450,000 dunams (45,000 hectares). Today, the Negev Bedouins number about 160,000, out of which about 80,000 live in dozens of unrecognized villages and the rest in the eight new townships. If the state succeeds in concentrating the Bedouins into the townships (of which another nine are planned), the area remaining available to them for sustenance (grazing flocks, cultivating crops, etc.) will be reduced dramatically.

It can be seen from the above that the State of Israel is engaged in persecuting its Bedouin citizens, while coveting their remaining lands. The terrible situation in the townships proves that these were established not out of concern for the Bedouins, but from the desire to evict them from their lands.

Sample Letter:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

Re: Opposition to the deliberate policy of your government to eradicate villages in the Negev

How can it be that Israel has villages inhabited by hundreds and sometimes thousands of Israeli citizens but which remain unrecognized by your Government? How can it be that tens of thousands of Israeli citizens are denied the simple right to a roof over their heads, to running water for their houses, to electricity, health services, roads or sewage systems, simply because your Government wishes to force them into townships? How can it be that there are Israeli citizens who are denied the opportunity to choose the way in which they wish to live?

Having already transferred entire tribes of Bedouins from their lands to elsewhere in the Negev, how can the Government then fail to recognize the new villages thus created? Why does the Government refuse to return these inhabitants to their original dwelling places despite promises to do so? Why is the State of Israel unwilling to recognize villages that were already there, on their lands, even before the State’s establishment?

Is it permissible for the State of Israel to persecute these citizens because they were born as Bedouins and not as Jews?

Did this policy come about in order to snatch from the Arab Bedouins their remaining lands in the Negev, just as the majority of their lands were expropriated long ago?

Being a nation that (justifiably) struggles against anti-semitism around the world, it is difficult to understand how you can harm Israeli citizens in this way, simply because they are Bedouins rather than Jews.

I respectfully appeal to you to desist from this racist policy against the Bedouins and permit them to live in their dwelling places according to their needs, their traditions and desires, as is permitted to every Jewish citizen of Israel.


Please send letters of protest to:

Mr. Ehud Olmert

Prime Minister of Israel,

Fax: 972-2-6513955,

Email: eulmert@knesset.gov.il

Office of the Prime Minister,

Government Offices, Jerusalem, Israel.

Ms. Tsipi Livni

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Fax: 972-2-5303704

Email: sar@mofa.gov.il

Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

Government Offices, Jerusalem, Israel

Mr. Shimon Peres

Deputy Prime Minister,

Fax: 972-3-6954156,

Email: info@sp.pmo.gov.il

Ministry of Development of the Negev and the Galilee and Regional Economic Development.

Prof. Daniel Friedman

Minister of Justice

Fax: 972-2-6287757

Email: sar@justice.gov.il

Ministry of Justice

Government Offices, Jerusalem, Israel

Mr. Roni Bar-On

Minister of the Interior

Fax: 972-2-6701585

Email: sar@moin.gov.il

Ministry of the Interior

Government Offices, Jerusalem, Israel.

Mr. Meir Shitrit,

Housing and Construction Minister

Fax: 972-2-5847688

Email: sar@moch.gov.il

Ministry of Housing and Construction

Government Offices, Jerusalem, Israel

We also ask that you send copies to Israeli ambassadors in your countries and to members of parliament in your countries.


Recognition Forum.

Recognition Forum

Association Forty, Association for Support and Defense of Bedouin in Israel, Coalition of Women for Peace, Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, New Profile, Rabbis for Human Rights, Ta’ayush, The Committee Against House Demolition.

For more info, contact: