JPost Op Ed – Last Thursday TV personality Avri Gilad went on a trip to the Northern Negev with Regavim – an independent, professional research institute & policy planning think tank involved in protecting Israel’s National Lands. So disturbed by what he saw on that trip, he returned and immediately penned the following post on Facebook “I came back from a tour of the Negev conducted by Regavim. I’m appalled by what I’ve seen. There’s no more Negev. The Bedouin have taken it over completely by force”. He continued, “By shameless criminal activity, with insolence met only by fear and submission, the Bedouin have taken over the entire Negev.” He noted that when he previously travelled to Be’er Sheva or Arad, he never went in to Bedouin towns like Laqia, Hura or the others he saw on this trip.
Gilad also posted that the Government of Israel has virtually agreed to give Bedouin clans in the Negev over 60 percent of the State Land they have illegally settled on. On top of this, former MK Benny Begin sweetened the deal recently, offering them more land and additional monetary compensation. Avri Gilad, in his post, called on the Government ”to stop the Begin plan immediately,” and that “We have to re-conquer the Negev.”
He concluded by saying “We have to have one law for everyone — both for a Jew who closes in his balcony [without authorization] and for a Bedouin who uses a fence he stole from Omer to enclose five dunams (1.25 acres) of land as his.” Gilad’s post went viral. and when interviewed later on Galatz Radio station, he stated that over 450,000 people had seen it.
However, it didn’t take long for the many so-called defenders of Bedouin rights to take whatever land they want, to jump into action. These foreign-funded radical left wing NGO’s, have done a great job training the various Bedouin tribes to always refuse every Israeli Government’s compromise offer, until they are offered 100% of their claims. They came out punching with an opinion piece published in a daily newspaper calling Avri Gilad a racist.
The author of this piece continued with what she called facts. “What is known as the Bedouin diaspora are 35 unrecognized villages in the Northern Negev on an area between Be’er Sheva, Yeruham, Arad and Dimona”. This however is the “big lie” – that only 35 “unrecognized villages” exist. Did she forget that nowadays programs like Google Earth exist, although a tour of the facts on the ground with Regavim is preferable, for a close up look at what is really happening to the area between Beersheba, Arad and Dimona. All can be seen on Google Earth.
FACT: There are over 60,000 illegal structures built by Bedouin in the Negev (Ministry of Interior), increasing by 2000 new illegal structures yearly. There are not just 35 illegally built villages on state owned land, this illegal building covers an area of over 800,000 dunam (200,00 acres) and is established in over 2000 residential clusters (towns, villages, hamlets, hilltops & outposts).
How do these NGO’s continue to try to hide the facts when modern means of verification are so accessible? Do they really believe Israelis are that gullible? But she continued to wax poetic, citing folklore rather than history, and claiming that most of these illegal villages were set up before the establishment of the State. Even worse, with their savvy help, the Bedouin of the Negev have been able to successfully petition the UN for status as indigenous people. Even though there are Bedouin throughout the Middle East, the only place the UN has bestowed indigenous status on them is in the Negev. Their fallacious argument is simple and clear: the Bedouin were here before the State was established, and thus before the Jews were ever here.
But as much as these NGOs try to frame and fudge the public debate around the Illegal villages of those 20% of Bedouin who have grabbed State land and claim to have ancestral title to it, Regavim hopes for an equitable solution to the problem. Because of growing public awareness, the Government program to overcome the lawlessness in the South is scheduled for renewed discussion.
It is important to understand that overall, Regavim is not opposed to the Government’s plan, and believes that regulating the Bedouin settlement is vital both for the State of Israel and of course for the Bedouin population. However, unfortunately, the current proposal is very problematic. Regavim wants a program that will achieve its goals, one that will be good for the country, good for the land, the environment and good for all the residents of the Negev. To accomplish this, Regavim has developed some amendments to make the program more efficient, and dramatically increase the chance of its success in practice.
However, even taking into account our new government’s effort to refine and improve the program, the basic problem remains. The public both here in Israel and in the court of world opinion must be made aware of the actual facts on the ground as seen by Avri Gilad and understand the urgency for a fair and implementable program, and not just a giveaway of our National Lands. Otherwise, Israel will continue to be painted as the perennial bad guy – the conqueror and the oppressor! This image is successfully perpetuated due in large part to the efforts of the radical left, European government funded NGO’s that have trained the Bedouin in the “accept our position or nothing” strategy and have extensively misled the public using falsifications and mistruths.
The writer works for Regavim, an independent, professional research institute & policy planning think tank and can be contacted on email@example.com. The mission of the Institute is to ensure the responsible, legal & environmentally friendly use of Israel’s national lands and the return of the rule of law to all areas and aspects of the land and its preservation.