Regavim calls on any government that is formed not to abandon the Negev. The Negev is a key part of the Zionist vision! But when the State of Israel fails to govern, other forces fill the void. Regavim invites you to take a long, hard look at where we are and where we’re headed in the Wild South; it’s not too late to change course.
Regavim launches a hard-hitting campaign, calling upon the Israeli government to stop the downward spiral and save the Negev – before it’s too late.
For years, the Israeli government has attempted to counter the loss of governance and the spread of illegal squatters’ camps in southern Israel by offering “compensation” payments and free land to the Bedouin of the Negev – who continue to reject any and all of the government’s increasingly generous offers, because they know that their hardball tactics will be rewarded with more attractive offers as time goes by.
The Regavim Movement has launched a new campaign to address this massive – and growing – problem. The first video clip of the campaign illustrates where the Negev is headed, and what Israel will look like when the Bedouin “country-within-a-country” is established. Regavim’s campaign is a response to a string of recent incidents that have highlighted the anarchy that continues to plague the Negev. The campaign calls upon the Israeli government to put a stop to the downward spiral, and to prevent the creation of a state-within-the-state in the Negev.
In recent years, the State of Israel seems to have lost its grip: Sovereignty in the southern region of Israel has been relinquished to the state that is slowly being built in the Negev. More and more illegal enclaves continue to spring up throughout the territory – and all the while, the Israeli government continues to turn a blind eye.
The takeover of the territory through the construction of tens of thousands of illegal structures has been accompanied by a complete breakdown of governance and the loss of personal security for all the residents of the area – Jews and Bedouin alike. Gangs of criminals continue to invade IDF bases and steal weapons and other equipment; they assault soldiers in broad daylight on main roads and snatch their weapons without fear. Adding insult to injury, the bandits record themselves in real time – marauding on IDF bases, smuggling drugs, shooting up residential neighborhoods with automatic weapons – and upload the videos to social media.
The constant stream of shocking news from the Negev led to the Regavim Movement’s decision to address the issues head on – before the loss of control reaches the point of no return.
Regavim CEO Meir Deutsch: “Ben-Gurion, who famously declared that the resolve of the People of Israel will be tested and proved in the Negev, must be turning over in his grave at the sight of the abandonment of the Negev and the devolution of southern Israel into an ex-territorial no man’s land. Instead of increasing enforcement and governance, instead of iron-fisted rule of law and the dissolution of the illegal squatters’ camps, the Israeli government is whitewashing and ‘legalizing’ them, perpetuating and enabling the Bedouin takeover.”
Earlier this year, a Bedouin man invaded into agricultural lands that belong to the Moshav Nevatim, appropriated a piece of land for himself, and put up an illegal hut. The hut was small, but its impact was huge: the intruder decided to stay there and prevent the Moshav’s workers from entering their fields to work the land. He also threatened whoever made such attempts.
Moshav Nevatim in the central Negev, near Be’er Sheva, is surrounded by clusters of illegal Bedouin squatters’ camps, and has suffered for many years from crime, vandalism, burglary and agricultural theft. Nevatim was recently in the headlines following the shocking desecration of Jewish graves in the Moshav cemetery.
The frustrated farmers of Nevatim asked Regavim for help. We went to the National Enforcement Unit, the Israel Police, and the Israel Land Authority to demand a stop to this illegal land seizure. We explained that threats on farmers are not acceptable, and urged that the invader be kicked out and held accountable.
The lack of effective governance in the Negev is what led to this episode in the first place. For years, the State hasn’t exercised its authority and responsibilities in the Negev properly, rendering it Israel’s Wild South. This has allowed people to take the law into their own hands, which causes major distress and damage for regular, law-abiding residents of the Negev.
Thanks to Regavim’s pressure in this case, the invader was kicked out, the hut was dismantled, and the threats on the farmers were lifted. In March, finally, the farmers returned to work their lands.
We don’t always see the fruits of our efforts immediately, but in cases like these it’s clear how important and significant our work is. We’re hopeful that the Moshav’s workers will never again find themselves under threat; never again will their lands be seized illegally in broad daylight. If they seek our assistance, we will do whatever we can to help.
Ignoring a small problem allows it to turn into a big problem.
Last night’s case in point:
Bedouin bandits infiltrated the Israel Air Force base at Nevatim; IAF helicopters engaged in an hours-long chase.
The State of Israel has been ignoring the cracks in law and order in the Negev for so long, they’ve become a “grand canyon” – and tonight’s events in the Negev prove the point.
In the last two weeks alone the Negev has seen horrific and varied forms of criminal behavior: The shocking sexual assault of a little girl in her home, the break-in at the Israel Air Force base at Sde Teiman that included a stun grenade attack on our soldiers, a string of robberies in Be’er Sheva that were caught on film and uploaded to social media, the desecration of a Jewish cemetery, a massive ammunition heist, and now, a break-in at the Nevatim base, where Israel’s top-secret aeronautical technology is housed.
It’s time for the State of Israel to draw a line in the sand. For the sake of each and every citizen of Israel, we demand that the government formulate a comprehensive, non-negotiable solution to the problem of Bedouin crime in the Negev.
“Meet Abed. Abed is an 18-year-old Bedouin who lives in an ‘unrecognized’ squatters’ camp in the Negev.
He’s a spontaneous, sensitive guy – and he’s nobody’s fool.”
Regavim’s video illustrates why, despite the state’s efforts to create legal, organized communities for Israeli Bedouin, complete with municipal infrastructure and modern services, these attempts have failed over and over again. What’s the bottom line? Who are the winners, who are the losers, and what are the consequences for the future of the Negev and the State of Israel?
The illegal Bedouin hinterland in the Negev is comprised of tens of thousands of illegal structures, and the State of Israel has been dragging its feet for years in a series of failed initiatives aimed at relocating the Bedouin to permanent, legal, organized settlements.
To encourage and enable the residents of the illegal encampments to relocate to organized towns with proper infrastructure, municipal services, education and health care facilities, the state provides each resident of the illegal encampments with a free, developed plot of land and a “relocation compensation payment” of hundreds of thousands of shekels – but because there are no timetables or deadlines attached to these generous relocation arrangements, the system simply doesn’t work; the illegal encampments continue to grow, with thousands of new structures each year.
The video illustrates how the state has continued to increase and enlarge its compensation and relocation grants over the years, in practice encouraging residents of the illegal encampments to stay put, continue to build illegally, and ‘make a buck’ at the public’s expense.
Last week, the Beer Sheva Magistrates Court sentenced an Israeli Bedouin to seven months in prison, after he was found guilty of polygamy. The man, a resident of the Negev, was already married when he took an additional wife.
Although polygamy has been illegal in Israel since 1951, this is only the second time that a polygamist was sentenced to jail time
Polygamy harms the most vulnerable members of Bedouin society, causing poverty and neglect of women & children. It also has a far-reaching impact on Israel’s economy, as it is funded and driven almost entirely by National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi) stipends and benefits.
Regavim has been studying and monitoring the practice of polygamy in the Bedouin sector for years. We presented the Ministry of Justice with a comprehensive report and analysis of the phenomenon, which acted as one of the factors leading to the formulation of the Ministry’s new directives to grapple with the problem. And we are members of the Inter-ministerial Committee that monitors the application and enforcement of these directives.
Well done to former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Attorney Emi Palmor, former Director General of the Ministry of Justice, for their leadership in bringing about this much-needed change!
We hope that strict sentences, coupled with educational initiatives and awareness campaigns among young Bedouin men, will bring an end to polygamy in Israel once and for all.
Regavim: Preserving Israel’s Resources, Restoring Israeli Sovereignty
Today (September 7), the Shin Bet security agency announced that it foiled a Hamas bombing attack at Bilu Junction in central Israel. Mahmud Makdad, an Israeli citizen from the Bedouin town of Segev Shalom in the Negev, was apprehended as he attempted to plant an explosive device in a bus stop at the bustling junction.
Nine others, nearly all residents of Segev Shalom, were arrested for conspiring or actively participating in the foiled attack – including Mahmud’s brother, Ahmed Makdad.
The Makdad brothers’ mother is an Israeli Bedouin, while their father hails from the Gaza Strip. Mahmud is married to woman who resides in Gaza; he spends half his time there. He was enlisted by the military wing of Hamas to reconnoiter sensitive spots throughout Israel, provide information on the location of Iron Dome installations, and was trained to carry out explosive-device attacks.
Regavim conducted an in-depth study on polygamy in the Bedouin sector, and is a participant in the inter-ministerial team convened by the government to monitor enforcement of anti-polygamy laws and implementation of government policy.
According to Regavim’s 2018 study, as a result of marriages between Palestinian women (mainly residents of the Hebron area & the Gaza Strip) and Bedouin men who hold Israeli citizenship, between 40,000-60,000 Palestinian women and their children were living in the Negev in 2015. This figure, based on Israeli social welfare agencies’ estimates, reflects a rate of polygamy in Israel’s Bedouin sector of some 35%; in these polygamous households, some 70% of the women are Palestinian. A study published by Professor Arnon Sofer in 2004 quoted sources that estimated the number of Palestinians living in the northern Negev at that time was between 50,000 – 65,000.
We cannot ignore the fact that the Makdad brothers are products of the practice of polygamy in the Bedouin sector. As Bedouin men seek a second, third or even fourth wife, a massive ‘import-export trade’ has burgeoned in the Negev, enabling for the connection of families to hostile groups in Gaza/the PA.
While these arrests should not cast aspersions on the entire Bedouin sector, the trend of ‘Palestinianization’ of the Bedouin sector must be addressed!
In recent years, thanks to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s directives and former Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked’s efforts, progress has been made to tackle this issue. However, the government is focusing mainly on the socioeconomic and personal aspects of the practice of polygamy, rather than on its national-social aspects. This time, the ticking bomb was defused – quite literally – but the problem has not been solved.
Regavim: Preserving Israel’s Resources, Restoring Israeli Sovereignty
This morning (October 6), Shaadi Abu Alkiyan of Hura (28) succumbed to wounds resulting from a collision with a wandering camel last week on the main road to his hometown. At the same time as this fatal accident, two other Israelis were wounded in another car crash with a camel near Ovda. Regavim places the blame for these tragedies squarely on the shoulders of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services Division.
The Veterinary Services Division of Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture has failed to enforce the “Camel Law,” which requires registration of ownership of all camels in the Negev, and identification of each camel with a subcutaneous electronic chip. These regulations were formulated in order to prevent camel owners from allowing their animals to roam freely, and to create legal responsibility for any damages caused by unrestrained or improperly attended camels.
Legislation of the “Camel Law” began after David Cohen of Retamim was killed in a collision with a camel in December 2014. In reaction to the accident, Regavim and the bereaved residents of Retamim, who were joined by MKs Betzalel Smotrich and Eitan Cabel, spearheaded efforts to combat the scourge of roaming camels.
Regavim presented alarming Police Department data at a Knesset hearing on the proposed legislation: Every year, more than 1,000 citizens register complaints about wandering camels on the roads of southern Israel, but time after time, the authorities are unable to identify the owners, levy fines, or impose legal sanctions that would deter owners from further reckless negligence that continues to take its toll.
The Camel Law passed its final readings in the Knesset in June 2018, at which time the Veterinary Services Division was given six months to put in place the necessary mechanisms to enforce the law before it became fully activated, in February 2019. Although the Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, was a proponent of the law, the Veterinary Service Division objected to the legislative process from the outset, and rejected the electronic-chip identification system.
“Once again, this is a senseless and unnecessary loss of life. The writing was on the wall – and written in blood on the roads,” says Amichai Yogev, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for the Southern Region. “We have lodged complaints against this particular herd more than once. Although the Ministry of Agriculture’s Pitzuach Unit and the Green Police are extremely motivated and poised for action, without the electronic identification tags, no enforcement activity will be able to achieve its stated goals. Abu Alkiyan’s death is the responsibility of the Veterinary Services Division, the most recent in the long list of victims in the past number of years. Regavim will continue to fight this failure in order to prevent the next fatality. We must not allow this carnage to continue.”
Regavim has uncovered a racket in which the Bedouin are paid off not to damage property they wrongly claim as their own.
Israel’s government pays millions of shekels to Bedouin under the guise of “school security” in a massive protection racket, an investigation by Israeli NGO Regavim revealed.
Regavim, which focuses on land issues, ‘followed the money’ through the judicial system, and forced the Bedouin municipalities of southern Israel to admit that every year, millions of shekels classified as “school security” expenditures simply vanish into thin air.
But vast swaths of land slated for development and construction within the municipal boundaries of the Negev’s Bedouin towns have languished for decades under the threat of violence by the self-proclaimed “owners.”
Although the Israeli government does not officially recognize these discredited ownership claims, when Bedouin municipalities build public-use structures such as schools, kindergartens and health clinics, they do so on land that has been untouched due to these phony ownership claims – and pay huge sums under the guise of “security services.”
In effect, the government is paying these “owners” not to damage the structures erected on land for which they have no legal right of ownership.
Regavim requested a breakdown of expenditures for school security in Bedouin municipalities. These budgetary items were then compared with the same data provided by Jewish municipalities in the Gaza-border region, which is classified as a high-security area.
The Naveh Midbar Bedouin municipality, which has 21 schools in its jurisdiction, spent nearly NIS 6.8 million for “security” in 2016, and a similar amount in 2017. In 2018, that expenditure rose to NIS 7.3 million.
The Al Kasum Regional Council, which provided the budgetary data we requested only after we were forced to submit a Freedom of Information petition through the courts, is home to 22 schools, and its security budget for 2016 stood at some NIS 9 million. In 2017 the security budget grew to NIS 10.5 million, and in 2018 it stood a NIS 11.7 million.
How do these sums compare with the security outlays in Gaza-border Jewish communities? The Merhavim Regional Council’s 10 schools were protected by a mere NIS 965,000 in 2016; the cost of security remained unchanged in 2017.
The Bnei Shimon Regional Council, which provides security for 7 schools, spent NIS 690,000 in 2016, and only NIS 665,000 in 2017.
The Ministry of Education does not cover security costs for educational institutions in local council jurisdictions; these sums are covered by the Israel Police.
The Ministry of Interior Security, for its part, clarified that it does not employ any security personnel in the Naveh Midbar or Al Kasum Municipalities; no such position or job description exists.
The Police Department’s response to Regavim’s inquiry further clarified that the Ministry contributes hundreds of thousands of shekels per year toward the security budget of the older, more well-established Bedouin towns of Hura and Lakiya, but these outlays do not hold a candle to the astronomical sums spent in Naveh Midbar and Al Kasum.
Regavim discovered this isn’t the end of the saga. On-site inspections in the schools of Naveh Midbar and Al Kasum proved that there is no security at all. The gates are wide open, anyone and everyone can come and go at will; no guard posts, no guards.
The security budget for each of these institutions is NIS 30,000 per month – whether there are 1000 students, or 80 students. The municipalities explained that this is spent for “night-time security,” a recognized expense only for dormitory schools (which do not exist in the Negev Bedouin sector).
“These findings indicate that the municipalities in question are paying “internal protection money” to the people who claim ownership of the land on which the schools were built,” says Amichai Yogev, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for the Southern Region.
“The official documents provided by the municipalities do not answer the real question – where is all of this money going – but they do illustrate beyond a shadow of doubt that these inflated budgets are a mechanism of unparalleled, hard-core corruption.”
“According to data provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics, over 95% of these municipalities’ budgets is funded by the government through a variety of ministries, and they are classified in the lowest cluster of the socioeconomic scale,” Yogev emphasizes.
“The bottom line is that the money that could and should be used for the benefit and welfare of the students is ending up in someone’s pocket. Someone is enjoying a fat payoff, at the expense of the very real and very critical needs of the community as a whole. The Israel Police must conduct a full and thorough investigation, and bring the guilty parties to justice.”
Today (May 16), the Israel Police and General Security Service (Shabak) announced the capture and arrest of a crime and terror cell from the Bedouin town Bir Hadaj in the Negev. All five suspects have been charged with damaging the IDF’s security installations on the Israel-Egypt border in order to facilitate their drug-smuggling operation.
Regavim would like to remind the public: Bir Hadaj has long been the crime and drugs capital in the Negev. We’ve reported on bands of marauders from Bir Hadaj who infiltrate the IDF base at Tze’elim, stealing everything they can get their hands on, from weapons and ammunition to the personal belongings and private cars of soldiers serving on the base. We’ve reported on the hothouses that have sprung up on the training grounds at Tze’elim, where a well-known crime family from Bir Hadaj has been growing marijuana – an operation exposed by Regavim’s hidden camera. The theft and vandalism that has battered nearby Kibbutz Revivim also originates in Bir Hadaj.
Let’s also not forget that most of the houses of Bir Hadaj were built illegally, on Jewish-owned land that was seized by force. “The lawful owners of the land, represented by Regavim’s legal department, petitioned the District Court as well as the Supreme Court, but their land has not been returned to them.”