A couple of years ago I was part of the team that produced The Unrecognized, a film highlighting the plight of the Bedouin population of the Negev (Naqab) desert in southern Israel. Despite having lived and worked on the land since the time of the British Mandate and before, their settlements and farms are not acknowledged by the state. Despite paying taxes, the residents are denied basic services such as water and healthcare, which their Jewish neighbours in the area take for granted.
Highlighting the the terrible plight of the Bedouin is an important element in the campaign to end the discriminatory policies of the Israeli state. While campaigners in the West Bank and Gaza are undermined by the extremism of Hamas and its surrogates, no such counter exists for the Bedouin, who welcome their status as part of the Israeli state, and just want to be treated as equals within it. This gives the lie to the idea that Israeli discrimination is simply a response to Arab aggression in the region. Instead, it demonstrates the state’s drive towards ethnic purity, and the inevitable denial of human rights this entails.
For those of us who have visited the Naqab, some of the propaganda disseminated by Zionist groups is quite galling. The JNF extorts people to come and live in the Negev with pioneering slogans such as “You See a Desert, We See an Opportunity” which implies that the land is empty and uncultivated. In fact, as our film The Unrecognized shows, much of the land has already been farmed… by the Bedouin. Our film shows state authorities ploughing up crops that have been planted by Bedouin farmers, and that many kibbutzes were actually established not on new desert ground, but on land that was forcibly taken from its Bedouin owners. The JNF fails to acknowledge the existence of the Bedouin in its publicity material, which has an air of sinister idealism as a result. Gordon Brown, a patron of the charity, should insist that its activities do not discriminate against minority groups. Israel could be a beautiful place to settle, work and live, but only if all its peoples are treated equally.
Cross posted at the LiberalConspiracy, where all comments should be directed, I reckon.