A Bedouin Negev Is No Less Israeli Than a Jewish One

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Police detain a man as Bedouins protest in Sa'wa, Wednesday.
Police detain a man as Bedouins protest in Sa'wa, Wednesday.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The Zionist mindset on autopilot: The Bedouin are taking over the Negev. Next, they’ll take over the entire country. Israel is in danger. We must act immediately. With force, of course. From the outside it seems like the eve of a civil war. Foreigners, separatists, invaders, enemies within, trying to take over a region and tear it away from the state.

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In reality, these are citizens of the state, fighting for their rights on land that is theirs as much as it is that of the Jews. At present, they have no national aspirations, but the Negev was Bedouin long before it was Jewish. What’s wrong with that? Bnei Brak is Haredi and the Negev is Bedouin. The kibbutzim are Ashkenazi, and the development towns are Mizrahi and Russian. That’s how it goes in a multinational, multicultural polity. But when the Haredim build more neighborhoods and towns for themselves, the state doesn’t fight them. When the Bedouin want their own land for themselves: A danger to the state.

All the mendacious Zionist slogans, along with the bad old ways of doing things, are enlisted in service of the cause, as though the state has yet to be founded. Making the desert bloom, that value on which we were raised, means making it bloom for Jews alone. Settling the Negev, another well-tended Zionist value, means Judaizing it. Neither settling the Negev nor making the desert bloom interests Zionism. Only Judaization does.

Well, Judaization is the flip-side of ethnic cleansing. If making the desert bloom is a value – and it is unclear why – what’s wrong with having the children of the Negev make it bloom, the people who know the desert, are used to living in it, and love it more than anyone else?  And if settling the Negev is a value – again, unclear why – what’s wrong with settling it with Bedouin? Are they not people? Not Israeli? Then at least let us say so.

And now, rolling out of the mothballs, comes Zionism’s rusty old gun from ’48 – planting. So innocent, it could make you cry. Cover the land in green. It’s so Zionist, and now, so environmentalist as well. On the eve of Tu Bishvat, the festival of trees, planting in the Negev. When we were children they took us to Gan Meir in Tel Aviv on Tu Bishvat for planting, and it was exciting. We knew nothing then. We didn’t know that the money in the blue box was used to paper the country over with pines, to cover up the crimes of 1948 and the silent ruins so that no Arab would return to their home, which was turned into a grove. Now we’ll plant such an unnatural grove in the desert too.

Itamar Ben-Gvir has already received permission from Rabbi Dov Lior to plant in the shmita year (the fallow seventh year in which planting is forbidden in Judaism), and rushes to the Negev with saplings in his trunk. The noted halachic teacher Amit Segal, also a newsman for Channel 12, ruled: “The incomparably natural and Zionist action of planting trees shall not be stopped.” Segal is correct. It is so Zionist and natural to plant trees to cover up crimes. Once they even brought all the foreign ambassadors to plant the “Ambassadors Forest” without telling the diplomats that the only purpose of the pretend forest was to block off access to the long-suffering village of al-Araqib, demolished 183 times to date.

“We’ll build, plant, develop. They’ll burn, destroy, sabotage. It's so clear who holds this land sacred,” Ofir Dayan waxed sanctimoniously on Twitter. For how can one compare the wondrous Jewish planters with animalistic Bedouin destroyers? Let us plant groves upon private lands in Kfar Shmaryahu or on the ruins of Dayan’s home, and we’ll see who holds the land sacred.

We’ve already partially cleansed the Negev once, in 1948, and we are trying to chase the descendants of those refugees from their new refuge as well, in the southern Hebron hills. Some quarter million Bedouin Israelis live in the Negev. This community has many social and economic problems requiring various treatments. Malicious planting is not one of them. A Bedouin Negev is no less Israeli than a Jewish one. The day we acknowledge that, some of those problems will solve themselves.

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