While the social protest movement was starting up on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard, the unrecognized Negev village of Al-Arakib marked the first anniversary of the beginning of the demolitions. The Israel Lands Administration didn't make itself scarce for the occasion. Instead, in honor of the heartwarming event, it carried out another demolition, the 28th. Even before the last bulldozer left, the residents received the bill for the demolition work: NIS 1.8 million.
In light of what's happening, I wonder if anyone would need to invest in a fantasy film, even if it's in 3-D, if a nonfiction film can be produced with flesh, blood and tears. In every corner of the Negev one can see, just like in the movie "Avatar," how a brutal and cold-hearted machine is fighting against the beauty of human nature. Every Arab village must be subdued and confined to a minimum amount of land because a "Jewish character" must be bestowed upon every grain of sand so that this "redeemed" land, in Zionist terminology, speaks only Hebrew.
But in the ultimate of ironies, there is no better manifestation of the Zionist concept of making the desert bloom than the unrecognized Arab villages of the Negev - vibrant islands in a sea of gold, in the middle of nothing whatsoever.
The Negev has more than a million dunams of land, but it's only the Arab land, less than 5 percent of that expanse, that the government covets. Those unrecognized villages are home to 90,000 residents, and an entire generation of alienated people who grew up there lack even basic living conditions. Some people say infrastructure cannot be provided to these villages, each home to a few hundred residents. But a quick check on Google shows that many communities in Israel have fewer than several hundred people and they are recognized to the full extent of the law.
It's not just the redemption of the land that the government is losing sleep over. The government is also concerned about the high Arab birthrate, particularly in the Negev. But it can't have it both ways, because only in societies with high socioeconomic conditions are birthrates low. The government must decide either to pursue a policy of discrimination, with the accompanying high birthrates, or grant the people rights and have low birthrates.
We will not allow despair to get the better of us, because from a historical perspective, things do change. In the 1950s the Jewish town of Upper Nazareth was built on land in Nazareth, a town hemmed in from every direction. Herzl Rosenblum, the editor of Yedioth Ahronoth at the time, was overjoyed at the sight. "Down below, at the foot of those surrounding mountains, you see little Arab Nazareth looking up at us," he wrote.
In the annals of that same history, the previous generation of Arabs in Israel will remind you how they built their homes on Shabbat. During the week, they built for the Jews, and on Shabbat, when the construction supervisors rested, and because, as the Arab saying goes, the exploitation stops when there is prayer, the Arabs stole away to build their own homes, room by room.
In this way over time the feeling among the Arabs grew that the country belonged to the Jews and the Arabs were just stepchildren. At the same time, there were those super-patriotic Arabs who were not pleased when the Arabs fought for their rights, as if it were some despicable form of "Israelization." In this way the extremes of Arab nationalism and the Israeli right wing came together, and not for the first time.
Currently, with the revival of campaigning for social issues, the Negev should not be forgotten. The true test of a society is its ability to address its serious ills. If social justice is the goal, it should be sought in the dark recesses of society. There's a lot of injustice there, because the more the light diminishes, the more exploitation rules.
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