Monday, August 29, 2011

Wikileaks releases US Embassy-Israel cable describing institutionalized discrimination and denial of public services to Israel's own Bedouin citizens


A cable just released by Wikileaks from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv describes institutionalized discrimination and the denial of public services to Israel's own Bedouin citizens. Despite their citizenship and the fact that Bedouins "continue to serve voluntarily in the IDF and otherwise support the state, media commentators and Israeli politicians often refer to the threat of a second ’intifada’ coming from the Negev Bedouin."

The 70,000 Bedouin of the Negev community have never been included in GOI (Government of Israel) land planning, do not qualify for provision of any public services, and therefore do not officially exist on Israeli maps. Many Bedouin are life-long residents of these communities, but are considered squatters by the government. Without legal status, these communities receive no government resources, including municipal services and infrastructure development.

The cable describes the squalor and poverty of one of the villages under the heading "Is this Israel?" The Government of Israel decided to forcibly relocate Bedouin communities in order to create a ’buffer zone’ around an airbase because they feared Bedouin may acquire anti-aircraft missiles for use against Israeli aircraft, or to prevent vandalism and theft.

Comment: The Bankruptcy of the Israeli government's concept of "security":

The cable notes the government's claim that some of the Bedouin are a threat to the security of the Nevatim air base in the Negev. This is yet another example of the bankruptcy of the Israeli government’s concept of "security." Israel can gain the security it needs by recognizing the Bedouin villages and providing Bedouin Israeli citizens of the Negev with the same basic human and civil rights that Israeli Jews enjoy, and remedying the extreme poverty – the worst in all of Israel – from which 200,000 Negev Bedouin suffer. That would work wonders for strengthening the loyalty of the Negev Bedouin to the state, who have voluntarily served and fought in the Israel Defense Forces for decades. And it would help solve the problem of impoverished Bedouin engaging in crime.

Instead, the government egregiously mistreats and discriminates against the Negev Bedouin, increasingly alienating the younger generation, and then, claiming that they are a threat to national security, insists that the homes of those near the Nevatim air base must be demolished and their villages uprooted so that they can be relocated elsewhere to continue to live in neglect that the government has been all-too-happy to perpetuate.

The government’s claim that the Negev Bedouin are a threat to national security and must therefore be forcibly relocated reminds us of the boy who kills his parents and then begs for the mercy of the court because he is an orphan. Who is creating, and exacerbating, threats to Israel's security? The government's own self-destructive policies towards the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and towards Israel's own Palestinian Arab citizens. Moreover, national security can't be invoked with even a shred of credibility to justify the woeful mistreatment of the many Negev Bedouin who live nowhere near Nevatim - such as the Bedouin of the village of Al-Arakib, demolished 26 times this past year. Al-Arakib is about 10 miles north west of Beersheva, while Nevatim is some 25 - 30 miles southeast of Beersheva.

Following is the text of the US Embassy cable reprinted from Wikileaks.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05TELAVIV1124 2005-02-25 11:23 2011-08-26 00:00
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 2004 TEL AVIV 3393

¶1. (SBU) Summary: Emboffs met February 17 with Bedouin
community representatives in two Negev desert Bedouin
villages not legally recognized by the GOI to discuss issues
affecting their lives and possible PD small grants assistance
to educational programs. The Bedouin in these two
unrecognized communities live in poor, makeshift conditions,
without the benefits of municipal services or basic
infrastructure. Highlighting the Bedouin's tenuous
residential status in the state, and GOI distrust of this
segment of the population, the Jerusalem Post reported
February 18 that the GOI intends to relocate hundreds of
Bedouin families in illegal Negev communities near the
perimeter fence of an airbase. The report draws the
conclusion from unnamed Israeli military sources that the GOI
fears that the Bedouin, who are citizens of Israel, may
acquire anti-aircraft missiles for use against Israeli
aircraft. This cable offers a snapshot of life in these
illegal villages and a Bedouin perspective on the political
context. End summary.

Many Bedouin Marginalized

¶2. (U) Emboffs met February 17 with Attia El-Asam, southern
region coordinator of the Association of Forty, a Bedouin
advocacy organization, and Haled Abu Huti, manager of the
Association to Promote Advanced Technological Community in
El-Asam's spartan Be'er Sheva office. El-Asam explained that
his organization was established in 1987 to advocate for
Bedouin communities in the Galilee that did not receive legal
recognition from the GOI. Since then, El-Asam said, the GOI
has recognized about 70 percent of those Galilee communities
and his organization has turned its focus to the Bedouin
population of the Negev.

¶3. (SBU) According to the Association of Forty's data,
El-Asam said, the Negev has about 45 so-called "unrecognized"
Bedouin villages, with some 70,000 Bedouin residents, or half
of the total Negev Bedouin population. These unrecognized
villages have never been included in GOI land planning, do
not qualify for provision of any public services, and
therefore do not officially exist on Israeli maps. Many
Bedouin are life-long residents of these communities, but are
considered squatters by the GOI. Without legal status, these
communities receive no government resources, including
municipal services and infrastructure development.

¶4. (U) El-Asam highlighted that, while the Bedouin now
compose about 30 percent of the Negev population, the GOI has
recognized as legal only seven communities or "townships"
wherein the Bedouin population can legally reside. According
to The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights In Israel -
Adalah, the GOI initiated a program to resettle the Bedouin
in these seven townships during the 1960s-70s. Many Bedouin
refuse to move to the legal townships, El-Asam said, because
they assert that conditions in the townships are not much
better than those in the unrecognized communities. The GOI
is in the process of recognizing another 10 of the 45
unrecognized villages, El-Asam noted.

¶5. (SBU) (Note: Seven of the 10 villages slated for such
recognition will ostensibly house Bedouin from surrounding
areas as well. GOI plans for these villages include new
houses, landscaping of surrounding hills to allow for grazing
of camel and sheep, installation of sewage systems, and
construction of schools, mosques, and community centers. The
GOI planning team responsible for these seven villages,
however, told emboffs in the summer of 2004 that the GOI does
not have even a quarter of the money needed for completion of
the projects. End note.) El-Asam claimed that the GOI
nonetheless provides electrical and other municipal services
to 60 Jewish National Fund-sponsored single-family farms in
the Negev for Israeli Jews, none of which are connected to
larger communities.

¶6. (U) No high schools exist in any of the unrecognized
villages, according to El-Asam, and only 16 of the villages
contain even makeshift elementary schools. El-Asam claimed
that 70 percent of the children in the unrecognized villages
live below the poverty line. (Note: According to Adalah, a
September 2004 Supreme Court ruling rejected Adalah's
petition demanding establishment of preschools for 300
Bedouin children in two unrecognized Negev villages. The
Court deferred to the Ministry of Education, which argued
that existing preschools in neighboring villages are
sufficient to meet the children's needs and that since the
villages are unrecognized, publicly funded preschools could
not be set up there.)

Is this Israel?

¶7. (U) After the office meeting, Emboffs followed Haled Abu
Huti to the unrecognized village of Elfawy, population 3,500,
where he resides. Emboffs drove down dirt roads that ribbon
the barren Negev landscape into a congested, tin-roofed
shanty town. Livestock were scattered in the living areas of
homes, parts of which were outdoors. A gaggle of children
played on the dirt floor porch of the provisional
kindergarten. Piles of garbage lay at the village entrance.
Abu Huti said that his organization received assistance from
the German Embassy to construct a kindergarten in Elfawy that
serves some 20 children during the day. In the afternoons,
Abu Huti's organization conducts courses for mothers in the
school. The one-room facility is equipped with some toys and
educational material and a generator provides electricity for
only three hours in the evening.

¶8. (U) In the neighboring village of Abu Ashiba, population
1,500, Abu Huti showed Emboffs a kindergarten for which he is
soliciting funding. The school is held in a stable-like
structure with concrete floors and a corrugated sheet metal
roof, but without a toilet, electricity, or playground
equipment for its 25 children. The children playing on the
dirt porch and single swing seemed oblivious to the
still-nursing camel and her baby standing several meters
behind them. According to Abu Huti, the village is currently
in what he described as the long process of being recognized
by the GOI.

Bedouin Viewed with Distrust

¶9. (SBU) Although many Bedouin -- who are citizens of Israel
-- continue to serve voluntarily in the IDF and otherwise
support the state, media commentators and Israeli politicians
often refer to the threat of a second "intifada" coming from
the Negev Bedouin. The February 18 Jerusalem Post reported
that the Israel Air Force (IAF) is currently moving scores of
Bedouin families to create a buffer zone around the Nevatim
airbase in the Negev to "reduce any missile threat" from the
Bedouin. "(Israel Defense Forces) intelligence didn't rule
out the possibility," the Jerusalem Post reported, that
anti-aircraft missiles from Gaza could "reach" the Bedouin
living near the airbase "since the smugglers were Bedouin
from the Sinai with close links with their Negev tribesmen."
(Note: According to Embassy sources, another possible reason
for the IAF to create the buffer zone is to prevent vandalism
by the surrounding Bedouin communities, including the
stealing of construction materials. The Jerusalem Post
article notes that members of the Bedouin community around
Nevatim "apparently" have stolen equipment and left gaping
holes in the fence.... ") The GOI reportedly plans to expand
the Nevatim base and has already issued orders to demolish
some 50 illegal structures, home to some 300 Bedouin.

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Hat tip to Jerry Haber for the link.