Reported Bedouin land grab exposed
October 23, 2012 – Atara Beck – Israel Correspondent, Jewish Tribune
At a recent event at the Menachem Begin Heritage Centre hosted by Regavim, an NGO that launched an “emergency campaign to save the Negev” from alleged Bedouin land theft, Professor Raphael Israeli of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said that he blames subsequent Israeli governments for allowing the situation to fester for decades.
“The question of the Bedouin is only a small part of the problem of the Israeli Arabs,” who “proclaim their Palestinian identity openly, although they’re Israeli,” the professor said.
“From the beginning, Israel was mistaken by letting them cultivate their own separate identity through education…. That error is being maintained to this day,” he declared.
“If you educate two sets of citizens in two separate languages, you teach them two separate value systems.”
For instance, the Naqba – Arabic for catastrophe and the word used to mark Israel’s Independence Day – is “the most important day on their calendar.”
When the ultra-left Meretz party was part of the government coalition, it introduced some of the most virulent anti-Israel poets into the Israeli curriculum, thus “raising doubt” in the minds of young Israelis about their entitlement to the land while increasing the confidence of the enemy, Israeli said.
During Israel’s early years, most Bedouin, who also consider themselves Arabs, were loyal to the host state; however, a number of factors have changed that, most notably the “surge of Islamic fundamentalism” in the region, which has “seeped into their identity.”
Chiding the Israeli leadership, he continued, “If we are liberal, we have to consider so-called human rights, and therefore, give them more tools to fight the Jewish state from the root. This is one of the reasons we have this predicament, because the Israeli government did not dare dismantle each one of them [illegal Arab, including Bedouin, settlements] as it happened. Settlements that began with 10 families became 1,000 families….
“No Israeli government so far has had the courage to reduce this policy.”
While Israel continues to make great progress in medicine and high-tech, “it gives us great hope. But in a way, we are digging our own grave.”
A member of the Steering Committee of the Ariel Centre for Policy Research and a scholar of Islamic, Middle Eastern and Chinese history, Israeli has authored several books, including: Arabs in Israel: Friends of Foes? An excellent work that was first written in Hebrew in 2002 and translated into English six years later, it discusses in detail Israeli policy that led to the current crisis while presenting suggestions on how to deal with it.
In a discussion with the Jewish Tribune, Israeli said, “If you take measures, things can still be reversed. But if you go to sleep, you’ll wake up and see that things have changed. It’s that simple.”
It could become “a disaster,” he stated.
Israeli has enjoyed visiting professorships around the world, including at York University in Toronto in 1983-1984. At the time, there were already clear signs of an anti-Zionist trend, he told the Tribune.
“I was myself harassed, but of course, it’s much worse now,” not only at York, but on campuses worldwide. He attributes this to a “growing number of Arab students who have learned to take advantage of democracy,” coupled with badly needed funding for the universities. Islamists, “in conjunction with the extreme left, which parades under the cloak of anti-Zionism, organize attacks that were unheard of in the previous generation.”
The day after the evening program, Regavim took three busloads of people to the Negev to witness the remarkable expansion of illegal Bedouin settlement. Several participants remarked on the need for a police escort throughout the day, asking why Jews should feel threatened in their own state.
Jeff Daube, director of the Israel branch of the Zionist Organization of America, drew chuckles when he mimicked Prime Minster Netanyahu's strategy of drawing a clear red line at a Regavim event showing the danger of the expansion of illegal Bedouin settlement in the Negev. (Photo: Atara Beck)