Friday, April 27, 2012

Blue Planet Project and Lifesource's Paper on the Right to Water in Palestine

Last month, the Blue Planet Project and Lifesource published a paper on water issues in the West Bank and Gaza.  While covering a very different situation than what we looked at in the Naqab/Negev desert area, their paper gives a very good overview of the water sources and the politics and policies surrounding water usage.

It's also a very well laid-out report, and organizes its sections effectively and clearly.  The report can be viewed here:

The Lifesource website has more information about water issues in the West Bank and Gaza:

- F.B.J.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

5-page Preliminary Report

Today, we held our preliminary presentation for the law school.  Many people showed up, and the presentation went very well.  By a lucky coincidence, three judges from Israel happened to be in town, and came to our presentation!

Everyone asked interesting questions, and we are looking forward to giving our full report in September.

You can read the preliminary report here:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

ActiveStills and Al Araqib

A man irrigating his new planted olives trees, after Israeli authorities demolished houses and uprooted olive trees in the unrecognized village of Al Araqib, October, 2009

 A photographic documentation of the Al-Araqib village between the years 2009-2011. Al-Araqib is one of the 45 unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev desert, south Israel. Since July 27, 2010 till the end of 2011, the village was demolished 33 times. Despite of daily harassment, ongoing house demolitions and the Israeli government's determination to forcefully transfer the Bedouin population out of their historical land, the residents of Al-Araqib continue to struggle for  their land.

The Activestills collective was established in 2005 by a group of Israeli and international documentary photo-graphers, out of a strong conviction that photography is a vehicle for social change.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Other Arab Spring - a movement for natural resource access

Thomas Friedman posted a fascinating op-ed piece in the N.Y. Times the other day, positing that basic resources like food and water play a major role in the Arab Spring political movements.

Says Friedman in this article:
"All these tensions over land, water and food are telling us something: The Arab awakening was driven not only by political and economic stresses, but, less visibly, by environmental, population and climate stresses as well. If we focus only on the former and not the latter, we will never be able to help stabilize these societies."
Link here:

- J.K., F.B.J.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A College for the Bedouin

Rahat (photo from Wikimedia)

Haaretz published a very interesting opinion piece this week asking if a plan by Israeli President Shimon Peres to open a university for the Bedouin near the city of Rahat is really "what the Bedouin need right now."

The university will be built as a part of the Age of the Negev project, an "employment park" to be built near the impoverished Bedouin city of Rahat for the benefit of the Bedouin community. While the project will be built outside of the city, according to the piece, Rahat has been given a 46 percent stake in the joint venture that will manage the project, meaning that a good deal of the park's revenue will flow to municipal coffers.

The question is, does the building of this park, and the university within it, really solve any problem? Surely, in the western sense, it does. It will provide jobs for Bedouin workers, especially for women, who, according to the writer, are sorely in need of employment. Age of the Negev will direct financial benefit to Rahat, one of Israel's most impoverished communities.

But, the writer argues, the project deflects from the elephant in the room. The Prawer Plan, if passed by the Knesset, will force the dislocation of a great many Bedouin. The effect of the plan will be to try and "civilize" the Bedouin, moving them into communities like Rahat and Segev Shalom while expropriating the Bedouin's land for "state purposes." This comports with Israel's longstanding state interest in the "Jewishization" of the Negev, a policy reaching back to the days of David Ben-Gurion.

To Shimon Peres, the Age of the Negev is a shining example of Israel's plurality, its willingness to reach out to minority communities and do tikkun olam, the Jewish virtue of "repairing the world." But to the Bedouin community, it is just another example of a colonial power trying to displace its traditional way of life.

While projects like Age of the Negev are backed by good intentions, we have the results of the westernization of the Bedouin. Cities like Rahat are beset with poverty. Since most Bedouin don't serve in the army, many employers will not hire them, meaning that, unable to farm their land and tend to their animals, some Bedouin have turned to lives of crime. Ironically, this has had the effect of turning Israel's policy of civilizing the Bedouin into a massive security threat for the state, as some Bedouin turn to lives of smuggling on the Egyptian border. Unemployment and poverty are among the ingredients of radicalization, and one cannot help but think that Israel's policy towards the Bedouin might someday result in disastrous consequences for the state.

So while the government and organizations like the JNF introduce initiatives to "improve" the lives of the Bedouin, as the opinion piece argues, efforts like this are merely a smokescreen to deflect the true injustice being inflicted upon the Bedouin people. The cultural misunderstanding here is significant, and is a true impediment to successful coexistence between Jewish and Bedouin Israelis in the Negev.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Prawer Plan

Adalah and ACRI submitted a brief against the Prawer Plan this month. The controversial plan was formulated as a practical implementation of the Government's policy regarding the Bedouin, but opposition groups say the plan—moving beyond recommendations of previous committees to a positive effort at breaking up long-standing communities—will wreak havoc on the Bedouin of the Negev. A joint press releases states:
[T]he government is ignoring the facts and reality on the ground, failing to seriously examine alternatives, and proceeding with the clear intention of ousting the residents.  Such an implementation of the Prawer Plan would also constitute a gross violation of the residents’ rights under Israeli law to appeal against eviction and demolition orders as afforded to them by their constitutional rights to property, dignity and equality.
The organizations further contend that the Prawer Plan is simply a tool for furthering Jewification of the desert:
[T]he central tenant of the proposed law is the “concentration” of Bedouin in limited predefined areas which will force them to abandon their traditional agricultural livelihood, while industrial areas, a military base, and new Jewish settlements are expected to be established on the lands of the unrecognized Bedouin villages.  
Read the full press release here:

Learn more about the Prawer Plan from Adalah here: