Our friend Yolande Knell addresses the Bedouin question. I think it is fair to say that she sees it solely from the Bedouin perspective. So much so that her article comes across as another bit of pure Israel-bashing.
The fundamental issue concerns the human rights of a people who wish to hang on to their traditional way of life, when it clearly conflicts with the interests of certain other people who wish to abide by the law-and-order to which they’ve become accustomed.
In an ideal world, live and let live is a fine principle. But the reality is less than ideal. Compromises must eventually be reached and accepted all round.
Yolande Knell’s piece suggests Israel has pushed the noble Bedouin community from pillar to post, deliberately depriving them of their traditional way of life, forcibly relocating them to a static enclosure situated beside a rubbish dump. There are complex facts surrounding the legality of Bedouin rights to land, but Knell dismisses these in a cursory way and skews them till they seem discriminatory and racist:
“They mostly live in areas that Israel declared as state land or on private land leased from Palestinians. Some have deeds showing they bought territory when Jordan was in control of the area between 1948 and 1967.
Many of the nomadic communities settled there after leaving their ancestral land in the Negev desert. The Bedouin that remained became Israeli citizens but still have a tense relationship with the state.”
“When Jordan was in control” she says. Or would it be more accurate to say: “when Jordan invaded and occupied it in 1948 and annexed it in 1950”
Knell uses emotive language, sub-headings and pictures throughout.
It’s ‘Dalé jâ vu Farm’ all over again; and as with gypsy and traveller sites that perplex our own communities, these disputes are highly political.
I don’t claim particular expertise on this problem, but from what I’ve read it seems that many people feel that the Bedouin have indeed been treated harshly by successive Israeli governments. Equally their uncooperative behaviour has made things more difficult for everybody including themselves. The anomalies in their demands parallel our own Gypsies’ and travellers’ contradictory demands for the right to proper housing while insisting that they need to travel. Many people ask why should the nomadic gypsy lifestyle be romanticised to such an extent that it trumps the rights of the rest of society? Similarly, the question of enforcing the law in respect of illegal building. Consider the outcry if a traveller’s illegally erected shack is demolished, and its occupants evicted, in other words if it’s treated in exactly the same way as if it had it been constructed by a member of the settled community without proper planning permission, a scenario in which enforcement of the law goes without saying.
There are generally two sides to such tales of woe, and to understand the situation you’d need to know much more than you could learn from Yolande Knell’s one-sided polemic. Actually I suspect that anyone reading it wouldn’t realise that there is an alternative perspective.
One aspect she ignores is:
“The Israeli government has made numerous attempts over the years to solve the disputes with the 40% of the Negev Bedouin population which does not currently live in one of the seven purpose-built towns. Additional new towns are planned, with offers of free land, a waiver on infrastructure development costs and financial relocation packages for those moving there from illegally constructed encampments. No other sector of Israeli society is eligible for these benefits.”
So agree with it or not, if balance of any sort is to be achieved the BBC should be telling us that the Israeli government is at least trying hard to solve this difficult conundrum in as much detail as they tell us about the woes of the Bedouin. I don’t see what is to be gained from incessantly pushing a pro Palestinian agenda by publishing endless Israel-bashing articles and emotive images.