Today, March 14th, Bedouin rain-fed food crops sown near the government-planned township of Lakiya in the Negev are being uprooted and overturned by Israel’s ‘Green Patrol.’ This is the second time this year that fields are overturned – just last month some 1600 *dunams were destroyed. Since BUSTAN and 8 other NGOs partnered with Adalah to petition Israel’s High Court against the aerial spraying of Bedouin food crops in 2004, the government’s tactic has shifted from low-flying crop-dusters poisoning fields with agrochemicals (Monsanto’s Roundup) – to plowing and overturning sown fields. It is no less cruel. BUSTAN fiercely condemns Israel’s discriminatory and systematic policies of uprooting Bedouin from land, dignity, and culture. This is NOT a viable ‘solution.’ In fact, this is in violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, to which Israel is signatory. BUSTAN calls upon the the Israeli government and the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) to immediately halt its destructive policies in the Negev. The only road toward a comprehensive solution involves sitting down with Bedouin leadership – and negotiating with the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages (RCUV).
In a part of the country where most of the desert land is referred to as “mawat,” or dead lands (according to Ottoman Land Laws), and despite minimal water access, Bedouin farmers work to till this holy land, to make it come alive with yields. Continually denying a formerly self-sufficient indigenous population access to subsistence farming and grazing herds – simply creates dependence on welfare hand-outs. What will remain after fully disrupting a once viable local economy in the desert? ABC’s. More alienation. More bitterness. More crime. More drugs. And newly paved roads for newly seeded communities with newly planted grassy lawns for newly sprouted Jewish families that may not know just how expensive a price they’ll pay to run their air conditioners in the summers and heaters in the winters – as this will be subsidized by the government. They also may not know how expensive a price Bedouin families are paying to have new neighbors. These ‘pioneers’ may not see themselves as political pawns in the game of Judaizing the region, but nonetheless, they are serving the political objective of maintaining a demographic balance. If the acts of forcibly containing Bedouin to redeem lands for Jewish settlement spawn an internal intifada, no government subsidy will protect lives in the Negev.
We urge you to get involved. More than just visiting and taking pictures on Bedouin camels and enjoying their bitter coffee on your vacation, PLEASE HELP work to develop the Negev for all its inhabitants. Despite the overflow of issues at hand, we must continue to protest the ongoing process of criminalizing Bedouin farmers/shepherds and converting Bedouin into a pauperized and unemployed enemy – referred to in Israeli law as ‘intruders’ that are ‘spreading’ – with contagion. We must make the connections – and continue to research how North American money is utilized to Green the Negev and subsidize new suburban havens with extremely water and energy-intensive infrastructure for Jewish students and young couples to grow grapes for wine or work in aquaculture in the desert – while Bedouin fields are cleared and Bedouin houses are demolished. Perhaps living in a new Jewish neighborhood or a single-family farm is better than living in a neglected and dismal development town and working in one of the Negev’s heavily polluting chemical industries. But we must work for common goals of developing the desert for all its citizens in a democratic and sustainable manner. From past lessons learned – worldwide – healthy, sustainable development is dependent on partnering with the region’s inhabitants, not uprooting them in our name. Next month BUSTAN hopes to organize a festival to showcase the region’s stewards and buttress rain-fed organic farming so future generations of young Jews and Bedouin can learn from the successes of working with the desert, rather than replicating our failed attempts to conquer it. Please join us. We are too small to do this alone.
I leave you with the inspiring words of fellow green warrior Aliza Hava, “We Are One People, One Land.”