Local Officials Raze Bedouin Veterans' Club

A club for demobilized Bedouin officers and soldiers was demolished yesterday by local inspectors, leaving only the sign and an Israeli flag beside the ruins.

"Instead of giving us a clubhouse, they tear it down. How far can this idiocy go?" demanded Lt. (res.) Faisal Abu Nadi, head of the forum for discharged Bedouin officers and soldiers. He accused the state of treating the Bedouins like second-class citizens and of trying to cause a rift between their community and the Israel Defense Forces.

"We used to hold activities for pre-army youth and encourage Bedouin teenagers to join combat units in the IDF," said Abu Nadi, who has managed the club near the Shoket Junction in the south since its establishment 10 years ago.

Abu Nadi did everything he could to avert the demolition, including forgoing a visit to the President's Residence on Independence Day, but in vain.

The local planning and building council issued a demolition order for the club some 10 days ago.

"I sent a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, asking him not to tear down the club, as it would do great harm to Bedouin relations with the state," he said. "But nothing was done."

Pointing to the houses adjacent to the destroyed club, he added, "Those houses were built two years ago without building permits, yet they have not been demolished. But the building for our club, which was donated to our organization by a family in the region, was torn down. There's no logic in it."

"Instead of embracing the Bedouin soldier, who encounters great difficulties in the course of his enlistment and afterward, the state still treats us like second-class citizens," he charged.

Nadi said he has been trying to solve the problem with officials of various ministries for a long time. On Independence Day, he passed up an invitation to the festive reception hosted by President Shimon Peres in order to remove the club's tin roof, having been told that if he did so, it would not be torn down.

"I was wrong," he said wryly.

Nevertheless, he said, "We'll continue to encourage Bedouin youngsters to join the army. The state won't spoil our relations with the IDF. We only want an alternative clubhouse somewhere so that we can continue our activities until we build a new one."

The Interior Ministry said the demolition was carried out not by the ministry, but by the local planning and building council.