A unique kind of protest: Arabs and Jews defend Bedouins’ rights in the Negev

With the increase in the demolition of Bedouin homes in the Unrecognized Villages of the Negev, culminating in this week’s destruction of 10 houses, the “Together Forum” has established a Protest Tent at Shawkat Junction.

The Tent opened on August 13th with a unique method of protest, one that is enriched and amplified by cultural activities, art performances and social interaction. During the activities, visitors are singing protest songs, narrating personal stories accompanied by traditional instruments, delivering or listening to lectures focusing on different aspects of the civil resistance, particularly law and human hights; and listening to moving personal testimonies about human rights abuses.

Raed Abu El-Qa’ien, from A’tier village, told a disturbing story about three young girls who died after a storm destroyed all the village’s houses in 1997. Visiting the Negev soon afterward when he was Minister of Infrastructure, Ariel Sharon then lectured the villagers on the virtues of building cement houses capable of withstanding stormy weather. Because Bedouin are usually forced to build illegally on their ancestral lands, concrete building-blocks are not allowed, so most Bedouin families live in make-shift dwellings topped with zinc rooves.

Public figures, Knesset members, artists, NGO members and International Human Rights NGOs are visiting the protest tent. The tent’s activities are accompanied by protests and children’s demonstrations featuring the following slogans:

“My House is About to be Demolished!”

“Yes for Development - No for Destruction!”

“You are traveling to your home, I have nowhere to go!”

On Saturday afternoon, an assembly meeting will encourage all parties to stand firm against home demolitions and against the Governmental Plan devised by PM Ariel Sharon’s Government.

Hundreds of Negev residents, Bedouins and Jews, are expected to attend the meeting along with supporters from all over Israel, including artists and public figures. During the day, activities for family members will take place, including creative arts.

The Government’s Six-Year Plan, which was approved early in 2003, proposes to destroy the 45 unrecognized villages, and to concentrate the 75,000 residents into seven planned settlements. The plan was prepared and signed without any participation of the Bedouin communities of the Negev, and goes against their needs, rights and traditional way of life.

“Together Forum” members are struggling to stop this plan and to establish a new alternative plan in full cooperation with the Bedouins in order to serve the needs of all the Negev residents — Bedouins and Jews alike.

The tent’s activities will continue next week.

For more details, please contact:

Michal Levertov at 058-313 878

For more information about the unrecognized Bedouin villages, please contact:

Maha Qupty at 055-348666.

(“Together Forum” includes 28 NGOs members, Jewish and Palestinian alike, as well as International NGOs. It was established in order to resist the Israeli Government’s Six Year Plan. “Together Forum” is an initiative of the Regional Council Of the Unrecognized Villages—RCUV.)