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New Negev Bedouin leadership faces daunting challenges
Email from
Yeela Raanan

This past Saturday, September 29th, the Bedouin villages` leaders voted in a new head for the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Israeli Negev (RCUV).

It is seldom that we are privileged to see a struggle with such optimism: the Israeli governing bodies, in charge of determining and shaping the lives of the Bedouin in the Negev have been working to destroy any significant grassroots leadership. We have seen the results in the past three years, in which the Government of Israel has brought forth and is attempting to implement the infamous Prawer Plan. Due to the efforts of the Israeli governing bodies the leadership of the unrecognized villages was silenced.

And despite it all optimism prevailed, and the leadership has regrouped and has voted in with an overwhelming participation and overwhelming majority two new leaders into the RCUV: Atia el Asam RCUV head. Muhamad Abu-Freiha RCUV deputy head. The challenges facing these two and the rest of the leadership of the unrecognized villages is astounding. We wish them all the luck and offer them all the support possible.

And the challenges are only becoming greater.

The Government of Israel is moving ahead with its plans to erase the Bedouin village of Im el Hiran, and build on its place a new Jewish community, ironically named `Hiran`. The 1,500 residents of Im el Hiran appealed to the courts, requesting that this decision be overturned. The residents of Im el Hiran had been moved in the early 1950s by the Government of Israel to their location today, with a decree that demands that they remain there, live there, grow their sheep and crops there, but MAY NOT build homes. Now the government wants to uproot them once again, claiming their shacks and houses are `illegal`, and demands that they join the town of Hura, further disrupting their way of life, community and livelihood.

However, last week the judges decided that the request of the villagers to remain on the land and become recognized was not a reasonable request and denied this appeal. The village will be erased, the villagers displaced, and Jews will be brought in to populate a new community in its place.

I read on Friday Amira Hass`s article in HaAretz - The right not to worry, in which she describes the choice of Palestinians to go to the Israeli courts in a last appeal to justice, writing: Because there is still a belief that those people who sit at the summit of prestige and knowledge know and see enough to worry about this place`s future lest the ideology of Jewish preeminence destroy it.

Amira ends her article, with words that resonate well with the judges` decision to erase Im el Hiran - And here is the real surprise - the fact that they are not worried. The justices don`t even seem to worry about their names being associated with names of other jurists who preceded them and like them accepted the reasonableness of the means and the justice of slavery, racial segregation and the cult of the party and leader - and being sent to Siberia.

The Government of Israel is also moving ahead with the Prawer Plan. It is scheduled to be voted in in the Knesset in a month. In the meantime the government has allocated large sums to destroy. You can view the list of demolished homes on the Negev Coexistence Forum`s website. Some of the demolitions are in villages to be erased. Some in recognized villages. However this is always true: the residents of the homes demolished never have an alternative location for their homes.

Al-Araqib is being demolished over and over again. The count now is 39 total village demolitions. The people of Al Araqib are still holding on to their ancestral lands, hoping that their determination will deter the government from its plans for erasure of many more villages. Al-Araqib residents will be happy with all and any support. Contact Awad Abu-Frieh, +972-52-2714020.

Muhammad Abu Frieha, the RCUV new deputy head is calling out the government of Israel to cease from all home demolitions, as long as the residents do not have any other option for building their homes. Further, Muhammad is demanding that any resolution of the situation of the unrecognized villages will be created through negotiation and not coercion.

Atia El Asam, the new RCUV head is working to strengthen the community and its leaders. Atia demands that the Government of Israel withdraw the Prawer Plan, as it is based only on demolitions, village erasures, and land confiscation. He calls for the Government to recognized all the 45 villages on their lands.

Further, Atia El Asam is requesting that all the supporters of the rights of the Bedouin of the unrecognized villages join the RCUV again in the challenging task of recognizing the villages and the villagers` rights. Please contact the RCUV, and tell us of your willingness to support, how you would like to do so, and of any ideas of how to forward this really important cause.

In Hebrew or Arabic:

Atia El Asam,, +972-50-5702064.
Muhammad Abu Freiha, +972-54-4470810

In English:

Halil El Amour,, +972-52-2700365
Dr. Yeela Raanan,, +972-54-7487005

For more information: Dr. Yeela Raanan.

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