The Arabs of the Negev Are Not Israel's Enemy

The Negev Arabs are fighting to protect their land, demanding some 600,000 dunams - only 5 percent of the Negev's land.

Bedouin - AP - 24082011
Bedouin in Sinai in 2004. Jobs for Bedouin were scarce under Mubarak. Things may yet improve. AP

After endless discussions, the demolition of thousands of homes and the establishment of various committees, the last stop regarding Arab land in the Negev was the National Security Council. That's the body that discusses the Iranian nuclear program.

In both cases, the Iranian nuclear program and the Arab land in the Negev, the parties under discussion were absent. In the Negev case, no Arabs served on any of the official committees. Only an enemy receives such treatment.

And so it was that the head of the National Security Council, Maj. Gen. (res. ) Ya'akov Amidror, came armed with the pressure from the extreme right-wing ministers. And even the 183,000 dunams (45,750 acres ) that the Prawer plan was to leave to the Arabs was cut almost in half to about 100,000 dunams. After all, war is war and there is no room for sentiment.

The Negev Arabs are fighting to protect their land, demanding some 600,000 dunams - only 5 percent of the Negev's land. The Arabs want to legalize all the unrecognized villages, which lack the most basic conditions. And the worrisome question is what will happen to this generation, which grew up without infrastructure, water and electricity. Its members know nothing of the state except for the bulldozers that demolish their homes and the inspectors who punish them. Later, people will wonder where the hatred and extremism came from.

With this cabinet decision it's as if the summer of social justice never happened. Where's Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg when you need him? Some 30,000 inhabitants are threatened with uprooting from their homes and land, and some 20 villages are threatened with demolition. A new, miniature version of the nakba is lurking by the door.

The inhabitants of these villages, who have been living there for generations, are not objects to be moved from place to place. After all, "history," "nostalgia," "memories" and "human emotion" are not just the province of people who come from distant places. The people of Al-Arakib have a history and nostalgia for their land and for the cemetery that contains the bones of their loved ones.

The majority in the current Knesset, and even in less extreme Knessets, is prepared to approve any injustice against Arabs. But Al-Arakib has been destroyed 29 times, and Tawil Abu Jarwal has been destroyed 51 times. Each time the people return and rebuild. The Arab inhabitants of the Negev will not come to terms with their expulsion.

Australia, Canada and many other countries are racking their brains on how to compensate their indigenous peoples for the loss of their lands in order to build a civil partnership. But here, they are galloping happily down the hill of apartheid.

The cabinet decision is a painful blow to proponents of social justice, because enthusiasm for social justice wanes without justice in the Negev.