y Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
35,000 Bedouin residents of Israel’s southern Negev have been denied
the right to hold their first local council election after the Israeli
parliament passed a law at the last minute to cancel this month’s
new law gives the government the power to postpone elections to the
regional council, known as Abu Basma, until the interior ministry deems
the local Bedouin ready to run their own affairs.
and human rights groups say the move is an unprecedented violation of
Israel’s constitutional principles. Taleb a-Sana, a Bedouin member of
Israel’s parliament, has written to its speaker warning that “it is not
possible to have democracy without elections”.
vote in Abu Basma was scheduled to take place six years after the
council was established under the transitional authority of a panel of
mostly Jewish officials appointed by the interior ministry.
say the government changed the law specifically to avoid bolstering the
position of the Bedouin residents, who are engaged in a legal battle
with the state for the return of ancestral lands confiscated decades
Bedouin have a claim on a large area of the Negev and the government
wants someone ruling the council who is on its side until the case is
settled to the state’s advantage,” said Thabet Abu Ras, who was head of
an empowerment scheme for Abu Basma’s residents until 2007.
residents of Abu Basma are among 90,000 Bedouin in the Negev desert who
have been denied any local representation since Israel’s founding in
1948. For most of that time the state has refused to recognise any of
to officials, the Bedouin are living illegally on state land and must
move to a handful of locations in the Negev approved by the government.
Known and very popular cialis coupon which gives all the chance to receive a discount for a preparation which has to be available and exactly cialis coupons has been found in the distant room of this big house about which wood-grouses in the houses tell.
leaders counter that their villages predate Israel’s creation and that
the approved locales are so tightly confined that they cannot maintain
their traditional pastoral way of life.
has faced mounting criticism for its treatment of the 45 so-called
“unrecognised villages”, which are denied all public services,
including electricity and water. The inhabitants are invariably forced
to live in tents or tin shacks because concrete homes are subject to
since the 1970s Israel has established a half dozen “townships”, to
which the Bedouin in the unrecognised villages were expected to
relocate. But the townships, whose rates of unemployment and poverty
are the highest in the country, have attracted only half of the Negev’s
180,000 Bedouin, mostly those without any claim to land.
what many Bedouin hoped was a change of tack, however, the government
of Ariel Sharon launched a plan in 2003 to begin a process of
recognising nine of the larger villages, home to 35,000 Bedouin.
were grouped into a new regional council called Abu Basma, with the
goal of encouraging the inhabitants of the other unrecognised villages
to move into its jurisdiction.
the regional councils law, the interior ministry was allowed to appoint
a panel of officials to oversee local services for four years while the
residents prepared to run the authority themselves, said Gil Gan-Mor, a
lawyer with the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).
added that the interior ministry then sought, under extraordinary
powers, two year-long extensions. But shortly before the deadline for
staging elections was reached this month, the government pushed through
an amendment to postpone elections indefinitely.
interior ministry says the law could be applied to any regional
council, but in practice it is clear that this law was drafted with
only Abu Basma in mind,” he said. “The aim is to continue controlling
the lives of the Bedouin, treating them as though they cannot look
and another group, Adalah, a legal centre for Israel’s Arab minority,
will challenge the law in the Supreme Court next month.
Mahajneh, a lawyer with Adalah, said the regional council’s current
panel was dominated by Jewish officials and headed by Amram Kalaji, a
former director general of the interior ministry identified with the
right-wing Orthodox religious party Shas.
Abu Ras, a geography professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva,
said it was impossible to separate the postponement of the elections
from the wider issue of Bedouin land claims.
Basma is the only one of 47 regional councils in Israel that does not
have territorial continuity, he said. “The council’s jurisdiction is
restricted to the built-up area of each village and does not include
the lands between the villages or the surrounding land. Despite the
Bedouin way of life, Abu Basma has not been allocated any agricultural
added that the chief concern of Israeli officials, although unspoken,
was that the Abu Basma region was the only territorial buffer between
the West Bank and Gaza. “If there is a Palestinian state, Israel does
not want the Bedouin controlling lands that connect those two
Palestinian territories. It would rather the Bedouin were concentrated
in as small a space as possible.”
to Nili Baruch, an Israeli planner, Abu Basma has been starved of land
compared to its Jewish counterparts. Its jurisdiction extends to only
3,400 hectares, making it the most densely populated regional council
in the country.
contrast, the 10 other regional councils in Israel’s south – home to a
total of 45,000 Jews – have jurisdiction over a vast swath of rural
land, nearly 1.2 million hectares.
Ranaan, a lecturer at Sapir College in Sderot and spokeswoman for the
Regional Council for the Unrecognised Villages, an unofficial Bedouin
advocacy group, said the creation of Abu Basma had been a “partial
meant those homes of Bedouin living in the centre of the villages were
no longer under threat of destruction, roads could be paved, and
schools opened, she said. But the planning process in all the villages
was stalled and land claims were not being addressed.
an apparent vote of no-confidence in Abu Basma, only 7,000 of the
35,000 Bedouin residents have registered with the regional council so
far, said Mr Gan-Mor. Shortages of schools and a failure to improve
living conditions meant most had chosen to remain enrolled for services
with the nearby townships.
Bedouin’s land dispute with the government is over 80,000 hectares. Mr
Abu Ras said he believed the government hoped to force an evacuation of
all the unrecognised villages over the next three years, forcing the
inhabitants into the already confined areas available to Abu Basma.
“Only once there is a settlement in its favour will the government think about elections for the regional council.”
Rabina, a spokesman for Abu Basma council, said the criticism that
Bedouin rights had been violated by the law change reflected a
this stage, when there are still many disputes between villages and
families, most of the residents prefer that someone outside the
community makes decisions. The current leadership brings a great deal
of experience and professionalism to the task.”