From Ma’ariv by Ben-Dror Yemini who is a senior journalist with the Hebrew only daily Ma’ariv. He lectures about the spread and impact of anti-Israel propaganda.
It has been posted as a request. There is no URL. I was told it was an op-ed in Ma’ariv so this would be a translation.
Over a year ago, I received a tip that the New Israel Fund was stirring up the Bedouin issue. Not just stirring it up. Among the Bedouins there are two camps.
Contrary to the warped information spread by various organizations, an extensive dialogue was conducted between the authorities and the Bedouins, and the Bedouins had a serious internal dispute. Moreover, the Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev, which are the villages at the core of the problem, in fact chose to listen, to hold a dialogue, to make progress and instate order. Ibrahim Alukili heads the council. This wasn’t in the 1950s, it happened last year, 2012.
Certain figures didn’t care for Alukili’s pragmatic line. Time passed, the arena heated up, and in order to understand why it heated up, and why some insist on causing an Intifada within Israel, you have to go back to those not-so-distant days. Minister Benny Begin tried to promote the plan that eventually became known as “the Prawer plan,” after the director of the Prime Minister’s Office’s Planning and Policy Division, Ehud Prawer.
The principal group with whom Begin had to contend was the village council heads. Begin was beset from every direction. He made a valiant effort to solve a problem that had persisted for decades. He surveyed the territory. He held meetings with the Bedouins. And here’s the surprise. Some of them thought that the plan had fair parts. They wanted to promote an arrangement.
But the figures stirring the pot, not the locals, didn’t care for the pragmatic approach. They wanted and want an Intifada. They took action. They joined together to nip any consent to the plan in the bud. And here’s what they wrote then, over a year ago:
“Alukili is considered as someone who will sabotage other leaders’ attempts to promote a more hawkish line against the government. Alukili recently participated in a promotional conference for the Prawer plan in the village of Wadi al-Naam alongside Benny Begin and other senior officials. His participation provoked the wrath of the unrecognized villages’ committee heads.”
The stunning words about a demand for a “more hawkish line against the government” weren’t published in a Balad party flyer or in one of the publications of the Islamic Movement. They were published on the website run by Shatil, the operational arm of the NIF. This website, according to its own declaration, pretends to present the “government plans for mass eviction and house demolitions in the unrecognized Negev communities,” as well as “to endorse the struggle for recognition for unrecognized communities.” The language makes the intent clear: activities to radicalize the Bedouins’ positions. It’s unclear if it’s the NIF that supported the Islamic Movement, Adalah and Balad, or if these groups supported the NIF.
The result is clear: a new coalition has been created.
The chairman of the Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev, who made an outcry, and who represents the core of the problem, committed an unforgivable crime. He thought there was a need for dialogue. He was thrown out. This is approximately similar to going against, let’s say, Abu Mazen, the moment he gives up the right of return. The left wing already had somebody who portrayed him as making such a concession, and said that he had “sold his soul to the devil.” The devil, of course, is Israel. This is the same ultra-radical and anti-Israel logic that led to the opposition to the arrangement in the Negev. When the NIF’s operational arm states from the outset that this is “mass destruction,” any official who thinks otherwise becomes a “terrorist,” and anyone who makes trouble as adopting a “more hawkish line.”
A few more months passed, and the same website by Shatil reported with joy,
“Two new leaders were elected, Atia el-Issam will chair the council and Mohamed Abu Fariha will serve as his deputy. The new leadership is expected to adopt a more hawkish line.”
Claims were made against Alukili of improper behavior. Right? Wrong? What’s clear is that el-Issam, a member of the Islamic Movement, represents the village of Abu-Talul. This was an unrecognized village. It became a recognized village. How is it that this man represents the unrecognized villages? A senior Bedouin figure told the undersigned that this is contrary to the organization’s regulations. That also sounds logical. But el-Issam was supported by the radical coalition. So who cares about proper procedure when a series of organizations want the man with the hawkish line to be elected?
In a conversation with Alukili, he said that he still serves as council head, and that the elections which took place and his ouster are meaningless. He said that he accepts parts of the arrangement plan, and doesn’t accept others. He also noted that he submitted an alternative plan in partnership with Professor Oren Yiftahel from Ben-Gurion University’s geography department.
The demonstrations on Saturday night make it clear that the radical officials are taking over the Bedouin struggle. They’re turning it into an anti-Zionist struggle. Figures like the Islamic Movement and Balad members are stirring this pot. Without the Israeli authorities, they would kill each other, as is happening in the Middle East. But sometimes they have a joint objective. They don’t want a solution, equality or an arrangement. They want a clash and provocations. Buses from northern Israel are coming to the Bedouin centers. It’s not that most of the Bedouins are with them. There’s no need for a majority. There’s a need for a violent minority. They want international condemnation of Israel, delegitimization and demonization. This is exactly what the organizations funded by the NIF want. This is way they endorse el-Issam and not Alukili.
The NIF may have good intentions. But the NIF’s envoys are at the head of the front of the radicalization of the Bedouins’ positions, cooperating with anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist organizations which have no interest in the Bedouins’ plight. NGO Monitor published a special report on this. These are world-spanning activities. The NIF chose to foster the fanatics. The Bedouins and Israel are paying and will pay a high price for that.
And another thing: Doron Almog, the director of the Headquarters for Economic and Community Development of the Negev Bedouin in the Prime Minister’s Office, has been considered the Bedouins’ representative for years. He’s the best lobbyist they have. He even drew criticism for that from my colleague Kalman Liebskind. This week, Almog published an article in Ma’ariv making it clear that the demonstrations from last week were not in support of the Bedouins but against the existence of the State of Israel.
*Published in part here at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs*
There are serious people in the NIF who want to see a better Israel. They don’t know that the organization in which they are members is playing with fire. In another few days, the radicals plan more demonstrations. A minority that will try to set the land ablaze. A dangerous minority made up of Islamists and Balad activists, with backing from NIF activists. They should read Almog’s article. And primarily, they should start taking action.
In the wake of the column I published last week about Rabbis for Human Rights and Ha’aretz’s campaign of incitement against the State of Israel, I received, as expected, a torrent of criticism. The replies tried to prove that the Bedouins have greater rights to their lands than those which the state authorizes them in various arrangements.
Nowhere did I write that we need to negate the Bedouins’ claims out of hand. Although the court rejected Professor Yiftahel’s arguments in the matter of el-Arakib, the claims from the article co-written by Sandy Kedar and Ahmed Amara must be taken seriously. Those claims deserve careful examination, not incitement.
Every research claim, academic or historic, also has a counterclaim. Thus, for example, the spokesperson for RHR distributed information this week in response to my article, about how the pre-state Zionist movement bought land from the Bedouins. And if the Zionist movement’s institutions recognized their claims of ownership then, then we must recognize them today as well. Prof. Gideon Kressel, one of the most important experts in Bedouin studies, showed me a slightly different picture. He told about the Finnish anthropologist Hilma Granqvist who published a research project dealing with the Arab village of Artas.