Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Oren Yiftachel Discusses Dispossession of Some Israeli Citizens: Bedouin of the Negev

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Oren Yiftachel Discusses Dispossession of Some Israeli Citizens: Bedouin of the Negev

Article excerpt

Oren Yiftachel, professor of political geography at Ben Gurion University and co-chairman of B'Tselem, spoke at Columbia University on Feb. 20 about his work in the Negev with the Bedouin. He described the Negev as a battleground-one with less exposure than the West Bank or Gaza, but just as critical-where 100,000 people living on their ancestral land are the most impoverished of Palestinians. The Negev, Yiftachel elaborated, is a "grey space" of permanent temporariness where nothing is resolved and people are always under threat.

Although Palestinians of the Negev are Israeli citizens, 46 of their villages are unrecognized, meaning they receive no government services at all. In the last two years there have been more home demolitions within Israel in the Negev than in the occupied territories, Yiftachel said. Israeli bulldozers have repeatedly razed Araqib village-for the 36th time this past March 8-with the intention of planting a pine forest in its place, to be funded by God TV, a worldwide Christian television network.

According to Yiftachel, the Israeli government's position is that the entire Negev is "dead" land, meaning that because the residents did not register the land during the British Mandate, it belongs to the state. The government further claims that the Bedouin are not indigenous to the area, but are nomadic Saudis with no legal autonomy. In fact, Yiftachel said, the Bedouin have not been nomads for centuries. He has found records as far back as the 16th century showing that the Bedouin paid agricultural taxes to the Ottomans, and by the 18th century land allocation was quite fixed. According to a 1922 British census, 89.3 percent of the population in the Negev was in agriculture; the rest were herders who had limited mobility within tribal territories. Many of the "illegal" unrecognized villages are mentioned in 1920 Jewish Agency reports and appear on the 1928 Mandate map.

In 1971, the Israeli government asked the Bedouin to register their land. Claims were launched by 3,320 of them, but today, 40 years on, 90 percent of the claims have yet to be resolved. Last Sept. 11, the government approved a plan for the "Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev," prepared by a committee headed by ex-generals with no Bedouin representation. Under this plan, the government will erase the 46 "unrecognized" villages and move the residents to seven government-planned towns. The few Bedouin whose claims have been recognized may receive some compensation. The ex-generals view this as generous, Yiftachel noted wryly, since in their view the Bedouin citizens of Israel have no land rights at all.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Prof. Emeritus Jack Shaheen has dedicated his career to identifying and countering dehumanizing portrayals of Arabs in American media. He published his findings in such books as Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Culture; Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs after 9/11; and Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (all available from the AET Book Club). In the course of his research, Shaheen collected thousands of anti-Arab images: movies, cartoons, advertisements, comic books and games. These now constitute the Jack G. Shaheen Archive, which Shaheen donated to New York University's Taminent Library. To mark the occasion, the university held a three-day symposium of film screenings and panel discussions.

"Guilty Until Proven Innocent," a panel held on Feb. 24, addressed the issue of the New York Police Department's (NYPD) use of an anti-Muslim film, "The Third Jihad," as part of its officer-training program. The event began with clips from the film, which warns that "Islamo-fascists" plan to "infiltrate and dominate America," and includes a doctored photo of the White House with an Islamic flag flying over it. Those interviewed in "The Third Jihad," such as Bernard Lewis and Walid Phares, explain that the first jihad was the 7th-century Arab conquest; the second was the Ottoman expansion into the Balkans. …

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