Bedouin Community Between a Rock and a Hard Place

At the beginning of the week, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition to obligate the state to provide immediate protective solutions for about 100,000 Bedouin.

Or Kashti
Or Kashti
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Aftermath of rocket strike in Bedouin town of Lakiya, southern Israel.
Aftermath of rocket strike in Bedouin town of Lakiya, southern Israel. Credit: Israel Police spokesperson
Or Kashti
Or Kashti

On a hill in a Bedouin community between Dimona and Be’er Sheva, Muhammad Abu Qurinath, chairman of the residents’ committee, sits watching and tries to guess where the rockets will land. He says there isn’t much to do except pray they won’t land nearby. The village, which is recognized by the state authorities and is part of the Neveh Midbar regional authority, has no means of protection. “It makes no difference whether we run into the houses, which are just huts and tin shacks, or remain outside, under an open-sided shelter from the sun,” he says.

“It’s clear that people here are afraid. We don’t have a shelter, a reinforced room or even a migunit (prefabricated shelter),” says Sharif Abu Qurinath, a father of five. “We try to reassure them with words, not actions, simply because there is nothing to do. Because the siren doesn’t always work, we downloaded the Red Alert application. The problem is that the village doesn’t even appear in the app, so we act according to what is happening in Be’er Sheva. If there is an alert there we wait tensely to hear the boom, hoping it will be far away.”

About the only protected place is the Mifal Hapayis club at the entrance to the village, where activities for children at risk funded by the Ministry of Social and NGOs have failed to attract many registrants.

In the unrecognized communities the situation is even worse. “As of now,” says attorney Chen Avitan, who represented two Bedouin local councils at the High Court of Justice, “for most of the Bedouin in the unrecognized communities, it’s not possible to build a reinforced room without that constituting a criminal offense. The statement that the inhabitants should install the migunit themselves is cynical.”

Two of the three Israeli civilians killed by rockets come from weak populations: Auda al-Wad, who lived in an unrecognized village near Dimona, and Narakorn Kittiyangkul, a Thai worker in an agricultural settlement near Ashkelon. At the beginning of the week, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition to obligate the state to provide immediate protective solutions for about 100,000 Bedouin; on Wednesday evening the Finance Ministry suddenly announced a special transfer of NIS 3.5 million shekels for prefabricated shelters for farmers who work in open areas in the Gaza Envelope – just one of the possibilities raised by the Bedouin in the rejected petition.

The Finance Ministry has told Haaretz that “because of the security situation in the south it has been decided to budget for placing prefabricated shelters in open agricultural areas. Decisions about placement of the shelters are exclusively up to the Homefront Command, in accordance with its professional considerations.”

The IDF spokesman has not replied to a question from Haaretz as to whether in the assessment of the Homefront Command the level of danger in open areas in the Gaza Envelope is similar to that in the various Bedouin communities, nor has there been any word as to plans for protecting the Bedouin population.

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