As recognized by James Anaya in Indigenous Peoples in International Law (2), Bedouin are indigenous to a region that includes contemporary Israel’s Negev and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula regions. It has only been under “the 48” that the Bedouin’s legal status and rights as indigenous peoples within these territories have been challenged, and challenged by an Israeli state only established in 1948. As Ras writes:
Ras explained to us how Arab land rights within the 48 have been systematically undermined by the state of Israel. As he also writes for Adalah, Israel owns over 93% of the lands that define its state boundaries. “Arab citizens of Israel, who represent 19% of the country’s population, hold only 3.5% of the land, with only 2.5% of the land under the jurisdiction of Arab local authorities” (Rass 2006).
Ras then addressed the inherently problematic Israeli Prawer-Begin Plan intent to settle Bedouin land claims in Negev. If implemented, Ras explained that 35 “unrecognized” villages of the Bedouin would be forcibly destroyed, displacing 70,000 Bedouins from their historical lands.
After our discussion at Adalah (which is Arabic for Justice), Ras drove with us through Be’er-Sheva and pointed out to us Israel’s take-over of Palestinian homes, businesses, and mosques. One mosque (pictured below) has been turned into a museum and frequently hosts wine tastings.
We then made our way to some of the unrecognized villages of the Bedouin. We passed this Israeli cemetery (pictured below). Ras was incensed that all of the road signs point to the cemetery and all of the water in the is diverted to the cemetery and not to the historic Bedouin villages nearby.
As at the Lydd Refugee Camp, Bedouins are almost unilaterally not permitted to construct, manage, or improve their homes or public buildings. The solar panels that they have installed are considered illegal.
Infrastructures surrounding the villages, including water, utilities, railroads, and roads, are not provided to the Bedouin, even as they are constructed on or cut through Bedouin villages.
After a meaningful day with the Bedouin, we drove past a site that was cleared for one of unrecognized villages, as part of Israel’s attempts to slowly get all of the villages in the area to relocate from their historic sites into one centralized neighborhood. They promised that if they moved they would be provided with modern homes, water, and electricity. The Bedouin responded that they know where they are from, they know where their neighbors are from, that that is the land belonging to their neighbors, and they will not be a part of a plan that displaces their neighbors.
2) S. James Anaya, Indigenous Peoples in International Law (Oxford University Press).