Bedouin Damage to State Infrastructure Soars by 87 Percent in 2010, Ministry Says

The amount of damage done by Bedouin to state infrastructure in the Negev was 87 percent higher in the first half of this year that it was for all of 2009, according to an internal Public Security Ministry document.

The report, prepared in advance of a tour by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch of Bedouin locales in the Negev, paints a grim picture of the Bedouins' attitude toward the state.

According to the document, there were 148 incidents of damage to infrastructure in the first six months of 2010, compared to 79 in all of 2009. In addition, 70 suspects were arrested or detained in connection with this vandalism, compared to 10 during all of last year.

"There is alienation toward state institutions, harassment of [Jewish] home owners in new neighborhoods, violence toward public employees and the police, an increase in Bedouin involvement in crime, an erosion in the Jewish population's sense of security, a stronger sense of solidarity with Israeli Arabs and the Palestinian problem, development of a culture of lawlessness, and significant damage to the rule of law," the report said.

The document also detailed the Bedouins' socioeconomic situation. About 180,000 Bedouin live in the Negev, of whom 80,000 live in unrecognized villages. The average Bedouin family has 6.1 children - double the average in the Jewish sector.

"The police's deployment is not keeping pace with the growth rate of the population," it warned.

With regard to education, the document noted that "the Bedouins' educational level is low compared to the general Israeli population." Moreover, the appointment of teachers and principals often depends on political and tribal affiliations.

In addition, the report warned, there has been an ongoing infiltration of the Bedouin education system by the Islamic Movement, which is affecting the content of the studies: Teachers with extremist opinions from both East Jerusalem and the north are entering the school system and instilling extremist opinions in their students.

As for health, the Bedouins have a "low awareness of hygiene, which causes many illnesses," the report asserted, adding that "Bedouin infant mortality is higher than the national average."

The Bedouins' socioeconomic status is the lowest in the country, it continued, due to difficult living conditions, high unemployment and a lack of employment opportunities.

In its summation, the report warned that "the sense of discrimination and deprivation, the poverty, and the health and employment situations carry a potential for social dynamite that, at a moment of extreme crisis, is liable to explode. The younger generation is developing alienation and hatred for the Israeli establishment and the state. Moreover, there are processes of Islamization and politicization, and of increasing involvement by [other] Israeli Arabs in the problems of the Bedouin population, that are creating a more extreme nationalist outlook."

Aharonovitch has praised Bedouin community leaders for their efforts to address some of these problems, but he is also demanding that they take action to reduce violence and crime among the Bedouin.

"We have difficult problems in the Bedouin sector today," the minister said. "I am not asking, but demanding, that they be involved in these problems. I am not going to conduct negotiations with Bedouin criminals and hooligans. You have a say - take advantage of it."

He added that he will work to open police stations in more Bedouin communities in the Negev. Currently, the only one is in Rahat.