This report is based on field work that Human Rights Watch carried out during March-April and December 2006 in 13 unrecognized Bedouin villages and three government-planned Bedouin townships in the Negev. Wherever possible, Human Rights Watch interviewed Bedouin in their homes in order to get a sense of life in the unrecognized villages and to witness directly the aftermath of home demolitions. Since unrecognized villages are not marked on any Israeli maps, nor signposted from Israeli roads, nor connected to the paved road network, locating and reaching the villages was part of the research challenge.
Human Rights Watch also spent time with Bedouin shepherds in their grazing areas to better understand the impact of Israeli restrictions on grazers and herders. Most Bedouin whom we interviewed were willing to be identified, although some asked that their identity be withheld.
Finally, Human Rights Watch interviewed activists, community organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), academics, and lawyers in Israel. Human Rights Watch also obtained information from Israeli authorities regarding their policy toward the unrecognized villages.
Human Rights Watch submitted a detailed letter with preliminary findings and a list of questions to the Government of Israel on May 14, 2007. The Ministry of Justice sent a lengthy reply on July 23, 2007. Human Rights Watch welcomes the governments attempts to provide some additional housing solutions for the Bedouin and appreciates the ministrys detailed response, which contained some information and statistics that we were unable to obtain elsewhere. However, the government did not address the existence of institutionalized discrimination against the Bedouin in regard to planning processes, choice of residential communities, access to land, and enforcement of building codes, and did not provide answers to many of our questions regarding what measures Israel is taking to redress this discrimination. We have included the relevant government information and responses in the body of the report.
Human Rights Watch also benefited from access to court petitions covering matters such as discrimination in planning and access to land. The information in this report is updated as of December 2007.
This report focuses on discriminatory land and planning policies in the Negev, disproportionate punitive policies of demolition and eviction directed at Bedouin, and the consequences for Israels Bedouin population. It does not cover other problematic Israeli policies toward the Negev Bedouin that Human Rights Watch encountered, including the withholding of government services and utilities to citizens of the unrecognized villages and limitations on available land and permits for Bedouin farmers and shepherds. In a 2001 report, Second Class, Discrimination against Palestinian Arab Children in Israels Schools, Human Rights Watch examined discriminatory distinctions between the Jewish and Arab education systems in Israel, including the grossly under-resourced Bedouin education system.4
Note on terminology: Palestinian Arab Bedouin see themselves as a part of the larger Palestinian Arab minority inside Israel. Some Bedouin prefer the label Palestinian or Palestinian Arab rather than Bedouin, in an effort to combat what they see as the Israeli states deliberate policy of dividing its minority Palestinian Arab population. While Palestinian Arab Bedouin share many characteristics with the Palestinian Arab community in Israel, Bedouin have a distinct history of a nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyle throughout large areas of the modern Middle East, and some historians date Bedouins presence in the Negev back 7,000 years, when the Bedouin roamed back and forth between the Sinai and Negev.5 In this report we have adopted the short term Bedouin when referring to the Palestinian Arab Bedouin population of the Negev.
Many organizations advocating for the Bedouin prefer to use the Arabic transliteration Naqab in referring to the Negev area of Israel. In this report we have used the more widely recognized term Negev except where quoting individuals and organizations.
Reference is made throughout the report to seven government-planned Bedouin townships and to newly recognized and unrecognized villages. The seven government-planned townships are: Hura, Lakiya, Rahat, Segev Shalom, and Tel Sheva (constructed post-1968); and Arara BNegev and Kseife (post-1980).
Six previously unrecognized villages have been newly recognized, but only on a portion of the land which they previously utilized, meaning that village homes outside the newly recognized village borders are still being demolished. These six villages are: Abu Karinat, Bir Hadaj, Qasr al-Sir, Drijat, Um Batim, and al-Sayid. Three recognized villages/townships are new: an as-yet-unnamed village for the Tarabin tribe, near Rahat (partially populated), Moleda (at the planning stage, unpopulated), and Marit (exists only on paper). Of these nine, only one has a detailed plan and building permits, and three have detailed plans but no permits. Three other villages/townships are planned and awaiting statutory approval: Ovudat/Avde, Abu Tlul, and al-Fura/El-Foraa.
There are presently 39 unrecognized villages. Some of these are historic villages but two-thirds were established post-1948 on sites to which the military had forcibly moved Bedouin from elsewhere in the Negev. These Bedouin were forced to abandon their historic villages during this period and today some of the Negevs Jewish farming communities and towns are built on the sites of these traditional Bedouin villages.
4 Human Rights Watch, Second Class, Discrimination against Palestinian Arab Children in Israels Schools (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2001), http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/israel2/
5 See for example, Martin Ira Glassner, The Bedouin of Southern Sinai under Israeli Administration, Geographical Review, Vol 64 (1): 31-60 (January 1974), and Clinton Bailey, Dating the Arrival of the Bedouin Tribes in Sinai and the Negev, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol 28(1): 20-49.