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Negev Bedouin leaders will today file defamation suits against Moshe Shochat, the head of the Authority for Bedouin Education, over racist comments he made as quoted in the New York-based journal The Jewish Week.

Shochat reportedly called the Bedouin "bloodthirsty" people "who commit polygamy" and "who don't even know how to flush a toilet." He later told Ha'aretz he was referring to a specific group of people (from the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages) and was not stereotyping the whole community.

At a news conference yesterday, Bedouin leaders said they would hold a strike at the beginning of the school year if Education Minister Limor Livnat did not fire Shochat. The Bedouin leaders, including the heads of most local councils in the Negev and Bedouin MK Talab a Sana, also said they would petition the High Court of Justice if Shochat is allowed to remain in his post.

"Such racist remarks were never before uttered, not even by [the late Kach leader Meir] Kahane and [MK Rehavam Ze'evi] Gandhi," said Salam Abu Rakayik, the head of the Tel Sheva local council and chairman of the group of Negev local Bedouin councils.

A Sana said he views Shochat's comments as not only a vicious attack on Bedouin but on the education system Shochat represents. The MK demanded that an external task force be appointed to review this case, instead of the internal review commissioned by the education minister. The review should investigate Shochat's behavior during his 14-year tenure. "The findings will make one's hair stand on end," a Sana said.

Jaber Abu Kaf, the chairman of the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, blamed Shochat for the failure of the education system in the Bedouin sector and the shortage of classrooms. "We view the deferral of his firing as an insult to the status of the Bedouin, since we need to save our children from the hands of this racist."

Ibrahim Al Amor, the director-general of the United Arab List, suggested the Bedouin do not need the Authority for Bedouin Education to run their affairs. "Let us lead ourselves. We have people with academic degrees and we are capable of doing this."

Education Ministry spokeswoman Orit Reuveni said in response the ministry has appointed Dr. Doron Mor to investigate the matter.