At this moment the Israeli government is plowing the crops, in order to destroy them, of Bedouins in the Negev. 500 dunams (120 acres) of Halil al-Zarqan’s lands, of the small village Al-Mazraa in the Eastern Negev are being destroyed this morning by governmental tractors.
Israel does not recognize the traditional ownership of its Bedouin citizens over land in the Negev. Since 1948, Israel has used one method or another to confiscate 98 percent of the lands that were owned and used by the Bedouins prior to the establishment of the State. Now the government is battling its poorest citizens over the last 2 percent of their traditional lands. Instead of negotiations and civil methods, the government is using every means of force available.
As part of this forceful battle with its citizens, Israel has left over 50 percent of the Bedouin citizens in “unrecognized” villages, with no running water, roads, electricity, etc. Part of this battle is preventing the Bedouins from using their traditional lands in any way possible. Halil, and others like him, sow their lands with wheat, praying for rain. Most years the rain in the Eastern Negev will allow the wheat to grow only an inch or two. So the wheat is then used as grazing land. At least maybe it will pay back its cost. This year maybe there was enough rain to actually reap something — to make bread for the family. But the Israeli government made sure this will not happen and plowed before the harvest.
Halil lives in a tin shack. He takes his water containers to the closest water point a couple of kilometers from his home to bring water home to his family. There are no employment opportunities for Halil and his family. He is one of the poorest people in Israel. And the government is now spending money on him — in the destruction of his meager rain-fed desert crop.
Pasture for the Bedouin flocks
The sole income of most of the Bedouins in the unrecognized villages live is livestock ownership. In order to generate any kind of income the Bedouins must take their flocks to graze in the spring — now. This year over 30 percent of the grazing land that the government allowed the Bedouins to use year after year is closed to them. The reason given: the army must have more areas for training and the grazing land is good for this. So thousands of sheep herders are watching as their sheep die of hunger. The government does not see any reason that it is responsible for her (poorest) citizens whose livelihood has just been destroyed.
After months of communications to no avail, with no alternative, these peace-loving shepherds entered the army training area without permission. The Green Patrol, the government’s anti-Bedouin shephard police force, is threatening that this Sunday it will use all force necessary to remove the tens of thousands of sheep out of their traditional grazing area, as is demanded by law.
For more information contact Yeela Raanan, the Regional Council for the Urecognized Villages. 054 7487005 firstname.lastname@example.org
This report was edited for clarity.