An Arab Israeli woman sits next to ruins from her dwellings which were demolished by Israeli bulldozers in Um al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in Israel's southern Negev Desert on January 18, 2017. (REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
February 16, 2017
The impact of Israeli policies on Palestinians in the occupied territories is dominating headlines, but in southern Israel, another Arab community has been struggling to stay on land they call home.
Thousands of people protested Israel’s plans to demolish the Bedouin village of Um al-Hiran last month after a Bedouin man and a Israeli police officer were killed in an operation there.
Um al-Hiran is just one of many villages Israel wants to level and replace with a Jewish town. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, reports there are around 200,000 Bedouins living in the Negev Desert, with at least 80,000 living in 36 “unrecognised” villages. Residents say obtaining permits to legally build homes and develop basic infrastructure for electricity and water is nearly impossible in these communities.
The Israeli government says many Bedouin villages in the southern region were built illegally on state land, and has recently approved a five-year plan it says will help integrate these communities into Israeli society. But according to Adalah, the Bedouin have been on the disputed lands for decades. And some fear the government’s integration plan is just a repeat of earlier efforts to displace thousands of Bedouins to make room for new development projects.