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The Palestinian Bedouin Arabs in Israel: Historical Experience and Development Needs for the Future

Ismael Abu-Saad


"It should be clear that there is no room for both peoples to live in this country…If the Arab leave, it is a large and open country; if they stay, it is small and poor. Up to this point, Zionists have been content to 'buy land,' but this is no way to establish a country for the Jews. A nation is created in one move…and in that case, there is no alternative to moving the Arabs to the neighboring countries, moving them all, except, perhaps, those living in Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the old city of Jerusalem. Not one village, not one tribe must remain. They must be moved to Iraq, Syria, or even Transjorden."
-Joseph Weitz, Diaries and letters to Children, Tel Aviv, 1965, 2: 181.

"We should transform the Bedouins into an urban proletariat - in industry, services, construction, and agriculture. 88% of the Israeli populations are not farmers, let the Bedouins be like them. Indeed, this will be a radical move which means that the Bedouin would not live on his land with his herds, but would become an urban person who comes home in the afternoon and puts his slippers on. His children would be accustomed to a father who wears trousers, does not carry a Shabaria [the traditional Bedouin knife] and does not search for vermin in public. The children would go to school with their hair properly combed. This would be a revolution, but it may be fixed within two generations. Without coercion but with governmental direction...this phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear."
-Moshe Dayan, Ha'Aretz interview, 13 July 1963

"The Bedouin are taking over new areas and eating away at the state's land reserves and no one lifts a finger. The way to preserve the Negev, says Arial Sharon, is to grant holdings of additional state lands for 'individual [Jewish] settlement,' kibbutzim and moshavim."
"We are losing the Negev to the Bedouin," Ha'aretz, Dec. 24, 2000.


Introduction
Israel is a multi-ethnic society with a Jewish majority and a Palestinian Arab minority which constitute about 19% of the population. It is characterized by high rates of geographical segregation by ethnicity. It is government policy to keep the Palestinian Arabs separate from Jews socially, politically and administratively.

The Palestinian Arab minority is subordinate to the Jewish majority in almost every aspect of stratification: education, occupation, employment participation and unemployment (Rabinowitz, Ghanem and Yiftachel, 2000; Semyonov 1988; Lewin-Epstein and Semyonov 1992; 1993; Kraus and Hodge 1990). Virtually every measurable economic indicator demonstrates the severe inequality between the Arab and Jewish populations. Economic analysis of public statistical data reveals that the Arab population has higher levels of unemployment (14% for Arab sector versus 9% for national average), lower average income (4,211 NIS average income for Arab sector versus 5,918 NIS national average), and over twice the rate of children living in poverty than Israeli society as a whole (50% for Arab sector versus 25% for national average (Statistical Abstract of Israel, 2000; Mossawa Center, 2001; National Insurance Institute, 2001). It should be noted that the term "National Average" includes the Arab sector. This inclusion de-emphasizes the extremity of the gap between the Arab and Jewish sectors.

In this paper, I will examine the historical experience of the Palestinian Bedouin Arabs in southern Israel and the development needs.

General Background
The Negev Bedouin are among the Palestinian Arabs who remained in Israel after 1948 and are today a minority group of Israeli citizens. They have inhabited the Negev desert since the 5th century C.E.

Prior to the 1948, estimates of the Bedouin Arab population in the Negev, which was organized into 95 tribes, ranged from 65,000 to 90,000 (Marx, 1967, 1990; Falah, 1989b; Maddrell, 1990; Yiftachel, 2002). Traditionally, they were semi-nomadic herders of sheep, goats and camels. They engaged in nonintensive, seasonal agriculture and cultivated over 2 million dunums of land, primarily in the northern Negev (Falah, 1989a, 1989b; Marx, 1990; Yiftachel, 2002). They also controllrd the trade routs through the southern Negev Desert to Egypt and Jordan. During the course and aftermath of the 1948 war, the vast majority of the Negev Bedouin fled or were expelled. By 1952, only about 11,000 remained in the Negev (Falah, 1989b; Marx, 1967, 1990; Masalha, 1997), from among whom only 19 tribes received official recognition from the Israeli government (Falah, 1989b).

Twelve of the 19 tribes were removed from their lands, and the whole population was confined to a specially-designated Restricted Area (seig) in the northeastern Negev, representing only 10% of the territory they controlled before 1948 (Falah, 1989b; Lustick, 1980; Marx, 1967). The Restricted Area, to the northeast and east of Beer Sheva, was known for its low agricultural fertility. In response to this forced removal, primarily from the northwestern Negev where the best agricultural land was located, one Bedouin sheikh stated:
...the land expropriation and the forced expulsions without compensation or the right to return...brought the Bedouin to a situation which [was] difficult both psychologically and materially, and to a lack of security unlike anything they had previously known. (Lustick, 1980, p. 13)

The Negev Bedouin were placed under a military administration until 1966, as were all other Palestinian Arabs in Israel, which meant that they could not return to and cultivate their lands, they were isolated from the Arab population in other parts of Israel, and they needed special permits to leave their designated sections of the Restricted Area to look for jobs, education, markets, etc. (Marx, 1967). The restrictions imposed by the Israeli government represented a form of forced sedentarization, which virtually ended their semi-nomadic way of life; while, at the same time, hampered their (already limited) ability to compete in the Beer-Sheva labor market (Falah, 1989b; Yiftachel, 2002).

During the tenure of the Military Administration, the authorities took great care to prevent the migration of the Bedouin out of the Restricted Area. Bedouin men who were given permits to work in the Jewish sector were not allowed to bring their families with them, thus ensuring their return to the Restricted Area. Even within the Restricted Area, a Bedouin of one tribe could not visit the area of another tribe without the permission of the Military Governor (Marx, 1967). At the same time, there was a rapid influx of new Jewish immigrants to the Negev, and development for the Jewish population. Beer-Sheva became an important regional urban center, and the Bedouin lands reclassified as state lands by the government were allocated to some 50 new Jewish settlements, primarily small 'development towns,' and collective (moshavim) and cooperative (kibbutzim) agricultural villages (Yiftachel, 2002).

The Restricted Area's infertile lands, shrinking grazing and agricultural space, and urban proximity dramatically transformed the lifestyle of the Negev Bedouin Arabs. From controllers of the desert region, they became fringe dwellers of a growing, modernizing Beer-Sheva region (Abu-Saad, 2000; Yiftachel, 2002).

The Military Administration over Palestinian Arabs in Israel was lifted in 1966, and the Negev Bedouin were then brought into greater contact with Israeli society. Since they had lost their lands and traditional livelihood, the vast majority of the Bedouin became dependent on working in the Jewish sector, primarily as unskilled laborers (Abu-Saad, 2000).

Land
Prior to 1948, most Bedouin land was held in the traditional land ownership system of oral contracts. The land laws of earlier ruling powers (Ottomans, British) did not impact the traditional forms of Bedouin Arab land possession and ownership, which was usually clearly demarcated, whether verbally or through documents signed by neighboring tribes and communities (Yiftachel, 2002). As Shamir (1996) stated:
Several accounts indicate the complexity of the relationship between the Bedouin and the Negev's land. Historically, Bedouins had their own legal mechanisms for deciding land ownership disputes and for acquiring, leasing, selling, inheriting, and marking a given area's boundaries. The single most important point in all these accounts is the strong role that land ownership plays in constructing meaning and power in the lives of the Bedouins. The land is said to contain the personality of its owner and as such cannot be taken away even with changed circumstances or long periods of absence. Further, ownership of land is a primary mechanism of stratification and distinction, relegating Bedouins without land to an inferior position in their society. (p. 234)

In the traditional Negev Bedouin economy, land was as essential to basic survival as it was to the accumulation of wealth, by providing the capacity to maintain and increase herds. Under Israeli control, however, over 95% of all lands held by Negev Bedouin Arabs prior to 1948 were declared by the government as state property (Abu-Saad, 2000; Falah, 1989b; Lustick, 1980; Yiftachel, 2002). In other areas, like the Galilee and the Triangle, Israel recognized private Arab land ownership, based on British documentation; though even in these regions the state expropriated 60% private Arab lands (Falah, 1989b; Yiftachel, 2002).
In the Negev, Israel recognized virtually no Arab land rights, both because most Bedouin did not have the written land ownership documentation being required by the Israeli legal system (Shamir, 1996; Yiftachel, 2002), and because in most popular and academic Israeli accounts of the Negev desert, it is conceived of as an empty space in which the Bedouin are only rootless nomads. Shamir (1996) explains that, as such:
…accounts of the relationship between Bedouins and land are almost entirely absent from Zionism's "official story." A host of historians, geographers, reporters, engineers, policymakers, and educators emphasize the rootless character of Bedouin life and describe the Bedouin as lacking the fundamental and constructive bond with the soil that marks the transition of humans in nature to humans in society (hence, for example, the distinction between "planned" and "spontaneous" settlements). One aspect of this official story emphasizes the emptiness of the Negev, while another aspect discovers the Bedouin nomads as part of nature. Both aspects ultimately converge into a single trajectory: an empty space that awaits Jewish liberation, and a nomadic culture that awaits civilization. (p. 235).

The Negev Bedouin have not accepted this legal situation. Those who became Israeli citizens have since submitted some 3,200 legal claims to their expropriated lands, based on traditional Ottoman or British records which attested to their past holdings. To date, however, not even one claimant has been awarded full ownership rights. The Israeli legal system refused to award ownership without documented proof of individual title (Shamir, 1996). On the other hand, the state recognized partial holding rights for the Bedouin-Arabs, either in accordance with land arrangements practiced before 1948, or according to regulations agreed upon by the state and the traditional Palestinian Arab elites after the transfer to the Restricted Area (Babai, 1997; Shamir, 1996). However, these rights remained vague, thus depriving the Negev Bedouin of basic development and planning capabilities (Yiftachel, 2002).

Five decades later the tension involving Bedouin-Arab land ownership is still a central issue in the Beer-Sheva region. Ninety five percent of Palestinian Arab claims to land have not been settled, covering approximately 800,000 dunams (Mena Committee, 1997). Half of these lands are in areas settled by Jews. The compromises reached so far between Negev Palestinian Arabs and state amount only to 30,000 dunams. This low figure reflects the slow pace of the Israeli legal system, but also the on-going Bedouin resistance to state policies, which have attempted to link the settlement of land disputes with forced relocation into seven planned towns within the Restricted Area (Yiftachel, 2002).

Local Development
Following the transfer of the Bedouin population to the Restricted Area in the 1950's, this area was largely neglected by planning authorities for almost twenty years. In several key regional plans, either for the Negev or the Beer-Sheva metropolitan area, (including the 1972 District Plan, the 1991 'Negev Front' strategy; the 1995 Beer-Sheva Metropolitan Development Plan or the 1998 renewed District Plan), the areas of Bedouin Arab settlement were either left blank, as if they were empty, or designated for public uses such as sewage plants, recreational forests or industrial zones. No settlement, agricultural or industrial plans were prepared for this region, thus over the course of 20 years, dozens of 'spontaneous' Palestinian Arab localities evolved, which for the seven tribes traditionally living in the Restricted Area, was on their own lands; and for the 12 tribes transferred there, was in the general area to which they had been relocated by the government. These localities were characterized by tin-shacks, cabins or tents because no permanent building activity (e.g., stone or concrete structures) was allowed in the Restricted Area (Yiftachel, 2002). These 'spontaneous' (from the perspective of the state planning authorities) localities have been denied basic infrastructure and services, such as electricity, running water and roads. By late 2000, their numbers had grown to some 65,000 people, constituting Israel's most marginal and deprived community.

Urbanization
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the government developed plans for the resettlement of the entire Negev Bedouin population into 7 urban-style towns (Tel-Sheva, Rahat, Arara, Kseifa, Segev Shalom, Hura, and Laqiya). The government rationale for establishing these towns was to "modernize the Bedouin," and enable more efficient provision of services; and it used this provision of services (i.e. running water, electricity, paved roads, health clinics, modern schools, etc.) as an incentive to attract Bedouin to the towns. However, the transfer of the Bedouin to urban settlements also coincided with other government aims for the 'development' of the Negev. The first aim was to further decrease the Bedouin's control of land and to stem their 'spontaneous' settlement activities, (Falah, 1989b; Law-Yone, 2002; Shamir, 1996; Yiftachel, 2002). Second, the unskilled Bedouin workforce provided a much needed reserve labor pool to support the industrial and economic development of the Jewish towns in the south, and they began to be absorbed in construction, petty manufacturing, transport and service and agro-industries (Law-Yone, 2002).

Bedouin settlement in Israel was not allowed to go through the more natural and gradual transition from semi-nomadism to an intermediate rural stage, as in other societies that have modernizing and sedentarizing nomadic populations (Law-Yone, 2002). The only alternative given to the population that wished to live in permanent homes with basic services was to move into these government-planned urban settlements. As Law-Yone (2002) stated:
Hierarchies of space based on tribal social structure were now replaced by repetitive lots of uniform size, shape and orientation. Gradations of proximity, enclosure and openess of the desert were replaced by the spatial logic of European urban form. New and strange definitions of private/public spheres were grafted on a population whose own norms were no longer considered valid, if considered at all. (in press).

The Bedouin towns were based on an urban design, with ¼-acre residential housing lots that completely precluded any continued agricultural activity for the Bedouin. Predictably, in the first town created (Tel-Sheva) families refused to move into lots in close proximity to other families, public spaces remained empty, and the appearance of tents in lots next to the modern concrete buildings were common.

Aside from the provision of basic services (water, electricity, telephone hook-up, schools and clinics), the towns lacked the essential characteristics of urbanization. Unlike the neighboring urban settlements in the Jewish sector, the Bedouin towns had no internal sources of employment; nor did they have internal or external public transportation networks to facilitate access to work in other towns. The Bedouin towns also lacked banks, post offices, public libraries, recreational, and cultural centers (with the exception of the largest town, Rahat, of over 30,000 inhabitants, which has one bank and one post office) (Abu-Saad, 1995; Lithwick, 2000).

Many Bedouin have resisted the move to the planned towns. However, others, who were removed from their lands early after Israel's establishment and saw them included in the large landholdings of collective and cooperative Jewish farms or urban developments, gave up hope of ever being allowed to return to their own lands. In the face of pressures applied by the government to remove the Bedouin from their 'illegal squatting on government land', many of these Bedouin moved to the planned towns. In other cases, such as that of Tel Al-Mileh, where more recent land confiscations took place, Bedouin were removed directly from their lands to the government planned urban townships (Shamir, 1996; Falah, 1989b; Marx, 1990; Maddrell, 1990).

Political Development of the Towns
The 7 planned Bedouin towns in the Negev are among the youngest localities in the State of Israel, and the local authorities that manage them were established for the most part in recent years. The older Bedouin local authorities - the municipality of Rahat and the Tel-Sheva Local Council - were established in 1980 and 1984 respectively, before which these towns were incorporated in regional councils of the surrounding Jewish communities. The younger five Bedouin towns were incorporated at first in two Bedouin regional councils, one established in 1988 for Kseifa, Arara (BaNegev) and Segev Shalom, and another established in 1990 for Hura and Laqiya. Both of the regional councils had Jewish mayors appointed by the Interior Ministry, and their offices were located in Beer-Sheva rather than in one of the Bedouin towns. Due to the minimal service delivery and lack of development in the Bedouin towns, the Bedouin residents brought a law suit against the Interior Ministry in the Israeli High Court for the right to have local rather than regional councils, and also have an elected rather than appointed mayor and local council, as is guaranteed by the law. In 1996, the Minister of Interior dismantled the regional councils and established instead a separate local council for each of the five towns, but it did not allow for local elections at that time.

The development of a municipal system and an urban infrastructure in these localities began at a very low starting point. To a great extent this was due to the extremely low economic status of the residents and lack of governmental support and investment in these localities, which were administered by Ministry of Interior appointed Jewish mayors for many years. Elections for local authorities in Rahat and Tel Sheva were held in 1988 and 1992 respectively, because of High Court orders that, for the first time, allowed the residents of the two oldest planned Bedouin towns to exercise the basic right of electing their local community officials. Local council elections in the remaining five Bedouin local authorities were held in 2000, again only after the involvement of the High Court.

Current Situation of the Urbanized Palestinian Bedouin Arabs
The current status of the planned towns provides little incentive for Bedouin to relocate. The official government document ranking local authorities in Israel according to a socio-economic index (CBS, 2002) gives the following ranking for the seven Bedouin towns in the Negev, compared with Beer Sheva and their neighboring Jewish towns see Table 1:

Bedouin Towns

Kseifa

1

Rahat

2

Tel Sheva

3

Segev Shalom

4

Arara

5

Hura

7

Laqyia

8

Jewish Towns

Beer Sheva

115

Dimona

82

Arad

119

Metar

201

Lehavim

205

Omer

209

Note: 1 denotes the lowest ranking among the 210 local authorities in Israel. Source: CBS, 2002

The seven Bedouin towns are among the lowest ranked towns in Israel. By way of contrast, the Jewish towns that are neighbors of many of these Bedouin towns (Omer, Metar and Lehavim) rank among the highest in the country. Beer Sheva ranks at 115, just over half way down the list. Dimona, one of the poorer development towns ranks considerably below Beer Sheva, while Arad, one of the more "successful" development towns, ranks slightly higher.

These rankings are derived from very simplistic unweighted arithmetic aggregates of a small number of disparate indicators. Moreover, they indicate only rankings, without providing any appreciation as to how wide the actual gap is between Rahat, now the second largest city in the Negev, and Beer Sheva, the largest city and the regional capital, only a dozen kilometers away. As such this indicator does not convey the relative deprivation of citizens in the Bedouin towns, or the depth of the tensions that the massive socio-economic gaps with their affluent neighbors is bound to create (Lithwick, 2000).

Published income data conveys a more accurate measure of the extent of the gap between communities. Table 2 presents some data on these economic gaps.

Table 2
Economic Statistics for Bedouin Towns, Beer Sheva National Average, 1999

Average Monthly Salary NIS

Ratio Relative to Beer Sheva

Ratio Relative to National Average Salary

Ratio of Yearly to Monthly

Town
Per Month of Work
Over theYear
Monthly
Yearly
Monthly
Yearly

Rahat

4,382

2,999

.71

.61

.46

.58

.68

Tel Sheva

4,530

3,222

.73

.66

.50

.62

.71

Kseiffa

4,172

2,904

.67

.59

.45

.56

.70

Arara

4,701

3,180

.76

.65

.49

.61

.68

Segev Shalom

4,438

2,987

.71

.61

.46

.57

.67

Hura

4,859

3,652

.78

.74

.56

.70

.75

Laqiya

4,510

3,146

.73

.64

.48

.60

.70

Beer Sheva

6,208

4,906

.76

.94

.79

National Salary

6,494

5,215

.80

  Source: NII 2001

Several important facts emerge from these data. First, the salary per month reflects rates of pay, rather than total annual income. There is a gap of between 25 and 30% in the monthly and annual incomes. These income disparities are greater among the Bedouin, due to the fewer number of months they are able to find work, with the result that annual take home pay is between 30 and 40% below that of the primarily Jewish population in Beer Sheva. Furthermore, the ratio of yearly to monthly salary in the final column is another indicator of unemployment disparities, which are about 10% higher in the Bedouin towns than in Beer Sheva and nationally. In sum, the average urban Bedouin's income is lower mainly because of a lower rate of pay, but also due to lower rates of employment over the course of the year (Lithwick, 2000). The problem is further aggravated by the fact that the majority of Bedouin women do not work (Greenbaum, 2001; Shapira and Hellerman, 1998). As a consequence, family earned income is even more seriously affected, as can be seen in Table 3.

Table 3
Family Salaries for Bedouin, Jewish Towns and National Average, 1999

Average Monthly Family Salary for the Year

NIS

Index Beer-Sheva =100

Index National =100

Bedouin Towns

Rahat

5,003

51

48

Tel Sheva

5,251

53

51

Kseiffa

4,614

47

44

Arara

4,873

50

47

Segev Shalom

4,625

47

45

Hura

6,128

62

59

Laqiya

5,560

57

54

Jewish Towns

Beer Sheva

9,836

100

95

Ofaqim

6,931

70

67

Dimona

9,111

93

88

Arad

9,840

100

95

Metar

18,073

184

174

Lehavim

19,389

197

187

Omer

21,124

215

203

National

10,384

106

100

Source: NII, 2001, Table 5

The family earned income of Bedouin in the towns is about half that of the average family in Beer Sheva, and generally less than half of the national average. Since the average household size in the Bedouin towns is roughly double that of the national average, and the family salary per person (per capita earned income) falls to under 25% of that of Beer Sheva and about 20% of the Israeli average.

A comparison of the suburban Jewish towns (Omer, Lehavim and Metar) closest to four of the Bedouin towns reveals that, the Bedouin towns' average family income is about one-fourth that of the most affluent, Omer. When the per capita earned income gap is taken into account, the Bedouin level is about one-eighth of that in Omer. This comparison shows that the gaps the Bedouin face in the environment closest to them are among the widest economic gaps anywhere in the country (Lithwick, 2000).

In most societies, families have additional sources of income, especially from real and financial assets. Given the low-income levels of Bedouin, it is reasonable to assume that they are able to save very little, and thus have acquired at best few assets, if any. For this reason, the land issue is so critical because that for a number of Bedouin it represents their only additional property. Policies that fail to compensate them fairly for the land that has been expropriated, or that do not permit them to use their land for the most profitable purposes, effectively increase the already large gaps (Lithwick, 2000).

The Bedouin do receive some compensation for these gaps in the form of greater benefits from transfer payments from the government. Child allowances for larger families are larger, but many Bedouin families do not receive them. In Israel as a whole, 98% of children receive child support allowances, but in the Bedouin towns, the proportion ranges from 49 to 92% (Lithwick, 2000). Unemployment benefits should also be higher, but again, their payments are lower than for non-Bedouin.

The consequence of low incomes is a much lower standard of private and public consumption. Cars per household average .92 in Omer, .47 in Beer Sheva, but only .34 in Rahat and .25 in Arara. And the average age of cars in these towns is 5 years in Omer, 6 years in Beer Sheva, and between 9 and 10 in the Bedouin towns. Computer ownership is about one for every four households in Beer Sheva, and one in 25 for the Bedouin towns (Lithwick, 2000).

Public consumption in Bedouin towns is also relatively low, given the important affect of low levels of private income on public consumption. The major determinant of the budgetary gaps of the Bedouin local authorities is the small size of the local tax base. Low incomes make it very difficult for many if not most households to pay local taxes. And the absence of local businesses deprives the communities of what is, for many towns, an important supplement to local government revenues.

Resistance to Governmental Urbanization Plans
Over three decades after the initiation of the urban resettlement program, only half of the Bedouin live in the planned towns (Abu-Saad, 2000; Shamir, 1996; Lithwick, 2000; Yiftachel, 2002). The state's major failure in successfully implementing its settlement plan was fourfold: 1) the structure of Bedouin society, culture, and lifestyle were not taken into consideration when urban-style towns were planned for them; 2) the Bedouin were not included in the planning process; 3) the planned towns were built with a substandard level of infrastructure and services; and, 4) the outstanding land claims of the Bedouin, for the most part, remained unsettled.

The government continues to place numerous pressures on the inhabitants of unrecognized localities in an effort to coerce them into moving to the government-planned towns (Maddrell, 1990; Statistical Yearbook of the Negev Bedouin, 1999; Yiftachel, 2002). The unrecognized (i.e. not government planned, ergo illegal) villages continue to be denied services such as paved roads, public transportation, electricity, running water, garbage disposal, telephone service, community health facilities, etc. Another method employed by the Israeli government to pressure the Bedouin to move into the urban townships was the establishment of a paramilitary unit called the Green Patrol in 1976. Formally, it is defined as a body meant to preserve nature, oversee state lands and protect them from 'squatters.' In reality, the Green Patrol primarily acts to police, harass and evict the Bedouin living outside the urban townships. Herd sizes and grazing areas are very tightly controlled and the Green Patrol confiscates flocks found in violation of regulations. In addition, their tactics include destroying Bedouin dwellings, crops and trees. While the destruction of crops was usually carried out by tractors, this practice was raised to new heights in February 2002, when the Green Patrol used crop dusters to spray herbicides over and destroy 12,000 dunams (3,000 acres) of wheat fields (Association for Civil Rights in Israel, 2002; Cook, 2002; Ornan, 2002; Yiftachel, 2002).

Bedouin in the unrecognized villages are denied licenses for building any sort of permanent housing. All forms of housing (except for tents) are considered illegal, and are subject to heavy fines and demolition proceedings (Falah, 1989b; Maddrell, 1990; Shamir, 1996; Yiftachel, 2002). From 1992 to 1998, a total of 1,298 buildings were demolished and 869,850 NIS (approximately $220,000) in fines were paid, due to the 'illegal' status of these buildings (Statistical Yearbook of the Negev Bedouin, 1999). This policy is also being intensified under the Sharon government, with over 90 destroyed from May through August, 2002 alone (Arab Association for Human Rights, 2002). Israeli Cabinet Minister Avigdor Lieberman (himself an immigrant from the former Soviet Union) clearly articulated official state policy toward the Bedouin in unrecognized villages with the following statement:

We must stop [the Bedouin's] illegal invasion of state land by all means possible. The Bedouin have no regard for our laws; in the process we are losing the last resources of state lands. One of my main missions is to return the power of the [Israel] Land Authority in dealing with the non-Jewish threat to our lands. (Quoted in Cook, 2002, p. 2)

Despite these pressures, Bedouin remain on their lands to prevent their de facto, as well as their de jure, confiscation. In recent years, the Bedouin have formed their own regional councils (not recognized by the Israeli authorities) and drawn up and submitted their own plans for regional development to the Interior Ministry. While none of these plans have been accepted, the Israeli government is facing a serious resistance to its plans for the urban resettlement of the remaining Bedouin and a policy enforcement deadlock (Yiftachel, 2002).


Socioeconomic Status and Welfare
In spite of the government's stated aim of 'improving and modernizing' the lives of the Negev Bedouin through its urban resettlement program, the Negev Bedouin community has the lowest socio-economic status of any group of Israeli citizens. The average Bedouin family size is 8-10 persons, and 54% of the community is under the age of 14 (Statistical Yearbook of the Negev Bedouin, 1999). The Bedouin community has one of the highest rates of natural increase in the world.

The rate of natural increase of over 5% per year in all the government planned Bedouin towns will mean that their populations will double by 2010. Part of the consequence of high rates of natural increase is that families are very large with the average number of children being over 8 per family, there is a high rate of dependency on the working age population.

Though data on many economic indices do not separate the Negev Bedouin from other Palestinian Arabs in Israel, such as in the Poverty Report of the National Insurance Institute (2001), it is widely recognized, based on the available demographic, economic and educational data, that the Negev Bedouin have the lowest socio-economic level in Israel, even compared to other Palestinian Arab communities (Greenbaum, 2001; National Insurance Institute, 2001; Human Right Watch, 2001).

The unemployment rate among Negev Bedouin is estimated at 55% of the total workforce, of which 30% are men and 80% are women (Shapira and Hellerman, 1998). Those Bedouin who are employed are concentrated in low-status, low-paying occupations, such as construction, gardening, service trades, driving, and unskilled industrial labor, all of which pay little, offer little security and little opportunity for self-improvement (Lithwick, 2000; Shapira and Hellerman, 1998). A recent survey of industries in the Negev revealed that Bedouin held only 2.5% of all industrial jobs in the Negev, and even less - if not none - in the larger, more successful, and hi-tech firms (e.g., Motorola, Dell-Vishay, the Dead Sea conglomerate, etc.).

Table 4 shows the percentage of wage-earners in the Negev Bedouin and neighboring Jewish towns earning minimum wage or less.



Table 4
Percentage of wage-earners earning up to the
minimum wage* in 1999

Locality

% Per
Month

% Per
Year

Rahat

33.6

55.6

Tel-Sheva

33.6

52.9

Kseifa

34.4

55.1

Arara

27.2

52.6

Segev Shalom

30.9

53.0

Hura

26.6

45.8

Laqiya

32.2

52.9

Ofakim

38.0

51.4

Beer-Sheva

33.0

43.0

Dimona

29.9

42.5

Lahavim

18.7

25.0

Metar

18.3

25.0

Omer

17.7

24.8

Arad

29.2

40.9

*The minimum wage in 1999 was NIS 2,756.
Source: National Insurance Institute, 2001, Tables 8 and 9

In 1999, the proportion of residents earning the minimum wage or less per year in the Bedouin towns ranged from 45.8% to 55.6%, while in neighboring Jewish towns (with the exception of the poorest development town, Ofakim), it ranged from 24.8% (in the wealthiest suburban community, Omer) to 43%.

State-Sponsored Education in Israel
Israel's state-run educational system is subdivided into a Jewish system (which is also divided into a number of subsystems, e.g. secular schools, religious schools, etc.), and an Arab system, reflecting the ethnic divisions of the society. While these subdivisions give the system an appearance of accommodation of cultural differences and educational pluralism, they exist more for the purpose of serving the interests of the dominant (Jewish) ethnic group, while maintaining control of the Palestinian Arab minority (Abu-Saad, 2001; Mar'i, 1978; Al-Haj, 1995).

Aims, Goals, Curriculum
The 1953 Law of State Education specified the following aims for state-sponsored education in Israel:
to base education on the values of Jewish culture and the achievements of science, on love of the homeland and loyalty to the state and the Jewish people, on practice in agricultural work and handicraft, on pioneer training and on striving for a society built on freedom, equality, tolerance, mutual assistance, and love of mankind (quoted in Mar'i, 1978: 50).

Though nearly 50 years have passed since the enactment of this Law, the aims it specifed remain central to current Israeli state educational policy. To illustrate, in June, 2001, Minister of Education, Limor Livnat, stated that she would not like to see "a single child in Israel" who did not learn "Jewish and Zionist knowledge and values" (Fisher-Ilan, 2001).

Thus, in Jewish schools there is clearly a strong emphasis on the development of national identity, active belonging to the Jewish people, and furthering of Zionist aspirations - all with extremely minor recognition of Palestinian Arab history. Where the curriculum includes reference to Palestinian Arabs, it generally tends to portray them and their culture in a negative light. A number of studies have been done on Israeli Jewish textbooks and children's literature and have revealed Palestinians and Arabs as to be portrayed in many instances as "murders," "rioters," "suspicious," generally backward and unproductive. (Bar-Tal and Zoltack, 1989, Bar-Tal, 1998; Cohen, 1985; Meehan, 1999). Bar-Tal (1998) who studied 124 elementary, middle and high school textbooks on grammar and Hebrew literature, history, geography and citizenship found that Israeli Jewish textbooks present the view that Jews are involved in a justified, even humanitarian, war against an Arab enemy that refuses to accept and acknowledge the existence and rights of Jews in Israel. Even with the recent and much celebrated revisions in textbooks, Raz-Krakotzkin states that:

…in all the textbooks there is not one single geographical map which shows the [pre-1948 Palestinian] Arab settlements - only the Jewish settlements are shown. Generally speaking, the land itself has no history of its own, and the history of the land is presented as the history of the Jewish myth about it. The whole period, between the second temple and the Zionist settlement is not taught at all. But more precisely, the Israeli student has no idea whatsoever about the settlement of the country before '48, that is to say, has no idea about the history of the expelled themselves and of their life before the expulsion. And so the mythical image of the country was created as 'the Promised Land of the Jews' and not as a cultural-geographical entity in which the [Jewish] colonization took place (1999, p. 5).

A 17-year-old Jewish high school student described the contents of the textbooks in Jewish schools and viewpoints expressed by some teachers as follows:

Our books basically tell us that everything the Jews do is fine and legitimate and Arabs are wrong and violent and are trying to exterminate us…We are accustomed to hearing the same thing, only one side of the story. They teach us that Israel became a state in 1948 and that the Arabs started a war. They don't mention what happened to the Arabs-they never mention anything about refugees or Arabs having to leave their towns and homes… Instead of tolerance and reconciliation, the books and some teachers' attitudes are increasing hatred for Arabs (Meehan 1999, p.20).

While the 1953 Law of State Education and state-sponsored curricula strongly emphasized the development of Jewish identity and values, no parallel aims were ever set forth for the education of Palestinian Arabs in Israel, though in the 1970s and 1980s some attempts were made by committees directed by Jewish educators (Al-Haj, 1995). Instead, the general and specific curricular goals that have been developed for Arab education tend to suppress rather than enhance the formation of a Palestinian Arab identity. The overall aims of the educational system, as well as specific curricular goals, require Palestinian Arabs to learn about Jewish values and culture, and the results of this can be seen clearly in the government-sponsored curriculum for primary and secondary schools (Al-Haj, 1995; Mar'i 1978, 1985; Peres, Ehrlich and Yuval-Davis, 1970). Palestinian Arab students are required to spend many class hours in the study of Jewish culture and history and the Hebrew language (and in total, more than they spend on Arabic literature and history). Thus, they are required to develop identification with Jewish values and further Zionist aspirations at the expense of the development of their own national awareness and sense of belonging to their own people. The Arab national identity is much less emphasized, and the Palestinian identity goes completely unrecognized (Ma'ri, 1978; 1985; Al-Haj, 1995). However, the basic goal of Jewish studies in Palestinian Arab education is not the development of cultural competence in Jewish Israeli society as much as it is to make Palestinian Arabs understand and sympathize with Jewish/Zionist causes and suppress their own national identity in Israel (Al-Haj, 1995; Mar'i 1978, 1985; Swirski, 1999). In reaction to this unbalanced curriculum, Rashid Hussein, a Palestinian Arab intellectual issued the following warning in 1957:

It is a known fact that he who has no self-respect will not respect others. He who has no national feeling cannot respect other nationalities. If the [Palestinian] Arab student is hindered from learning about his people, his nationality and his homeland in school, he will compensate for the lack in his home and on the street. He will eagerly accept anything he hears from other people or reads in the newspaper, and this may lead him into a wrong and distorted view of nationalism. The school, which has deprived him of something in which everyone takes pride, will be regarded by him as an enemy. Instead of learning in school the meaning of nationalism imbued with humanism, he will absorb only a distorted version. What will the school have achieved? What kind of generation of [Palestinian] Arab youth will it have educated? Instead of educating its students to believe in fraternity and peace and to believe in the sincerity of its teachers, the school will bring forth a bewildered and confused generation, which looks at the facts in a distorted manner, and considers other nations to be their enemies; a generation filled with inferiority complexes, feelings of abasement, unable to take pride in its youth, in its homeland and its nationality (1957: 46).

Hussein's warning went unheeded, however. In the 1970s, a group of Jewish Israeli researchers, Peres, Ehrlich and Yuval-Davis, addressed the same issues. They criticized the curriculum imposed upon Arab schools by the Ministry of Education for attempting to instill patriotic sentiments in Palestinian Arab students through the study of Jewish history, and pointed out the absurdity of the expectation that the "Arab pupil … serve the state not because the latter is important to him and fulfills his needs, but because it is important to the Jewish people" (Peres, Ehrlich, and Yuval-Davis, 1970: 30), an ethnic group from which the Palestinian Arab student is categorically excluded. It is only natural that the lack of culturally and nationally relevant subject content and experiences in the schools forces Palestinian Arab students to look to other sources for their identity development (radio, cable TV, internet, etc.).

Nevertheless, this lack of attention towards Palestinian Arab history, culture and identity, and its contemporary political concerns, has incessantly been maintained in the curriculum for Palestinian Arab schools. Nor does the curriculum deal with the particular social, cultural and educational needs of the Palestinian Bedouin Arabs in southern Israel as they are rapidly being transformed into an urbanized population within a modern, Westernized, hi-tech economy. This lack of emphasis on the contemporary social, political and identity-development concerns of Palestinian Arab youth lessens the relevance of the educational experience to the point of seriously estranging them from school (Abu-Saad, 2001; Al-Haj, 1995; Brown, 1986; Mar'i, 1978). As a Palestinian Arab student stated:


Everything we study is about the Jews. Everything is Jewish culture. We study Bialik [Jewish nationalist poet] and [the biblical] Rachel. Why do I have to study them? Why don't they teach me Mahmud Darwish [Palestinian nationalist poet]? Why don't they teach me Nizar Qabbani [Arab nationalist poet]? Why don't they teach me Edward Said? Why don't they teach me about Arab philosophers and Palestinian poets? I know that my Arabic language is not very strong, because I know if I don't speak fluent Hebrew I can't function in this country…. I know that the Arabic language in Palestine is endangered. Schools, not individually, but the educational system as a whole has a very negative impact on our identity. The whole world now recognizes the existence of Palestine and that there is something called the Palestinian people. So why are they still teaching me about Bialik and Rachel? What is the problem in teaching us Palestinian history? The problem is that they are afraid. They don't want us, Palestinian Arabs, to develop an awareness of our national identity (quoted in Makkawi, 2002, p.50).


In 1978, the late Palestinian Arab educator and researcher, Sami Mar'i described the status of Palestinian Arab education within the Israeli state school system in the following terms which, unfortunately, still provide an accurate description over 20 years later:

Arab education is a victim of Israeli pluralism not only in that it is directed and managed by the majority, but it is also a tool by which the whole minority is manipulated….[It] is not only an example of the Israeli pluralism by which Arabs are denied power, it is also a means through which the lack of power can be maintained and perpetuated. Arab citizens are marginal, if not outsiders….The Arab Education Department is directed by members of the Jewish majority, and curricula are decided upon by the authorities with little, if any, participation of Arabs. Arab participation does not exceed writing or translating books and materials according to carefully specified guidelines, nor does it extend beyond implementing the majority's policies. (Mar'i, 1978: 180).

Staffing in the state-sponsored education system for Palestinian Arabs is also determined, first and foremost by political considerations. The hiring of teachers, principals and supervisory staff ultimately lies in the hands of the central Ministry of Education office in Jerusalem, so the local Palestinian Arab schools do not have the last word in deciding who is qualified to work for them. Qualifications and training alone are not enough for Palestinian Arab citizens in Israel to get a teaching job; rather, they must also undergo a security check - without their knowledge - to get the secret stamp of Shin Bet (General Security Services-GSS) approval before they can be hired. For jobs requiring a public tender, such as senior teaching, supervisory or management posts, Jewish candidates need to present only education, qualifications, and experience. Palestinian Arab candidates, however, must also obtain the approval of the GSS representative, who is chairman of the appointments committee for the Arab educational system, in a process from which they are completely excluded and have no means of appealing. Without this approval - which is based on a classified GSS 'security check' - no teacher, principal or supervisor can be appointed to a Palestinian Arab school (Haaretz, 2001, Sa'ar, 2001; Lustick, 1980; Al-Haj, 1995). As a young Palestinian Arab teacher stated:


I belong to the state of Israel only in the geographical sense. According to an agreement they imposed on me. I am an employee of the Ministry of Education. Receive a salary. Live here. But in the spirit, in the soul, I belong to the Palestinian people. So you tell me how I can educate children in these circumstances. A simple example - I've run into a lot of students here who draw, let's say, a Palestinian flag. Now I've got to tell the student that this is forbidden. But the student will consider me a traitor. And maybe I'll also feel that I'm a traitor. But if I show any approval of his drawing maybe they'll fire me, or summon me for an investigation. So what do I do? I don't tell him anything. I pretend that I don't notice. (Grossman, 1992, p. 50)

While professionally qualified teachers can be turned down for political reasons, the Palestinian Bedouin schools in southern Israel suffer from a serious shortage of qualified teachers, with the Ministry of Education reporting that 23% of the teachers lack basic training and credentials (Melitz, 1994; Katz, 1998). According to the report of the Investigatory Committee on the Bedouin educational system in the Negev, (Katz, 1998), 978 new teachers would need to be trained and hired by 2002, though the capacity of the local teacher training facility, even in combination with the number of Bedouin university students, falls far short of this goal.

As a result of these hiring and promotion processes, Palestinian Arab staff members in the state-sponsored Arab school system are very tightly controlled, while Jewish staff members may be openly hostile to the populations they serve, with impunity.


Special Dilemmas in Education for Palestinian Bedouin Arab in Southern Israel

The formal school system represents a new organization for the Palestinian Arabs in southern Israel who historically maintained a Bedouin lifestyle. Traditionally, most of Bedouin education was not formalized, but rather acquired through actual observation and participation in the process of day-to-day life. There was no defined curriculum to be artificially acquired, nor were there any unnecessary drills (Jamali, 1934). Instead, the informal system of education they developed was very efficient in preparing Bedouin youth for the life they were to lead as adults.

The Bedouin's traditional forms of education were severely disrupted by the changes that occurred in the process and aftermath of the establishment of the state of Israel (e.g. radical reduction of the Bedouin population, loss of lands, transfer to 'restricted areas', and implementation of military administration). The loss of land and restricted mobility greatly reduced the viability of the informal education that had prepared Bedouin children to take on their adult roles in the work of herding and agriculture.

Under the new Israeli government, a law was passed in 1949 making education compulsory and mandating that every child receive free elementary schooling (from the ages of six to thirteen). The state was obliged to provide trained teachers, salaries, facilities and curricula (Abu-Saad, 1991; Al-Haj, 1995). However, the new Israeli institutions gave priority to the absorption and educational needs of Jewish immigrants; so, inevitably, schooling for Palestinian Arabs received much less attention, especially among the southern Bedouin population which was widely-dispersed. Thus, most of the Palestinian Bedouin tribes in the south had no access to formal education for a whole generation (Maddrell, 1990).

At the same time, there was little interest in the new Israeli schools among the Negev (southern desert) Bedouin tribes, many of which had been promised they would be allowed to return to their lands and former way of life (Maddrell, 1990). During the period of the Military Administration, students who wished to obtain a high school education had to attend schools in the northern Palestinian Arab villages because there were no high schools for Arabs in the south. It was only feasible for a few students to pursue this option because of the high cost and the difficulties in obtaining a permit to leave their area.

After the military administration over Palestinian Arabs was lifted in 1966, several developments led to increased demands for formal education from the Negev Bedouin community. First, as they were more extensively exposed to modern Jewish society and became involved in its economy, the importance of formal education became more apparent to them. Second, they were able to have more contact with the Palestinian Arab villages and towns in other parts of Israel, in which the educational system was better established. Furthermore, following the War of 1967, when they were able to visit their relatives who had fled/been expelled to the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the first time since 1948, they found that many of their counterparts were educated and had become teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc.; while they, for the most part, had had only had limited access to education, and the vast majority of them had remained illiterate (Abu-Saad, 1991). Since many women had also attended school in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, intermarriage between these two previously separated segments of the Palestinian Bedouin Arab community resulted in educated women coming to live in the Negev. These contacts had a tremendous impact on the dynamics of the Negev Bedouin community and led them to send their children, girls and boys, to school in greater numbers (Abu-Saad, 1997, Abu-Saad et al, 1998).

As the demand for education grew, the Israeli government opened more schools and free education became more available to the Palestinian Bedouin Arab community in the south. However, the value and viability of this education were gravely affected by ethnically-based policy considerations that took precedence over the goal of providing Palestinian Arab students with the knowledge and skills they required in order to compete successfully in the Israeli labor market.

In addition to problems with the aims, goals, curriculum and staffing of the educational system discussed above, the Negev Bedouin schools have inadequate physical resources, which has been used as a tool for furthering governmental policy objectives other than education. Throughout the Negev Bedouin state-sponsored school system, facilities and equipment are insufficient, and, in some cases, altogether lacking, especially in schools located in the unrecognized villages. The schools in the planned towns, which include elementary, middle, and all of the high schools, are classified as permanent. Most, though not all of these schools, are housed in modern buildings and have basic amenities such as electricity and indoor plumbing. However they do not have sufficient laboratories, libraries, sports facilities or teaching materials. In addition, the schools are overcrowded since the developers have not kept up with the population growth and increasing rates of enrollment. According to the Katz report (1998), 730 new classrooms were needed in the course of the following five school years in the schools in the government-planned towns just to keep up with the growing number of students in the towns themselves. (The needs for the population in unrecognized villages were left unspecified due to uncertainty as to whether government policy would necessitate increased transportation services or more school buildings in unrecognized villages). The Ministry of Education has not allocated funds for implementing this plan.

There are fifteen elementary schools located in unrecognized villages, the majority of which were established before the government built the seven planned towns. Since government policy now calls for concentrating the whole Negev Bedouin population into these towns, the Ministry of Education classifies the schools dispersed throughout the areas of unauthorized settlement as 'temporary' (Statistical Yearbook of the Negev Bedouin, 1999). As such, these schools have not been expanded, have substandard services and equipment, and are poorly maintained (Abu-Saad, 1997). They lack indoor plumbing, and only in 1998 were they supplied with generator-powered electricity (despite the fact that many are situated near power lines) after a long struggle by the Bedouin community which culminated in an Israeli High Court decision ordering the Ministry of Education to supply these schools with electricity (Haaretz, Aug. 24, 1998).

This situation coincides with the official policy of encouraging the Palestinian Bedouin Arabs in the south to move to the government-planned towns (Personal interview with Officials of the Ministry of Interior, March, 1980; Maddrell, 1990; Meir, 1986). An education official stated that:

the government is reluctant to develop schools for temporary settlements because they want the beduin to move to permanent areas. The beduin tend to move when the schools are relocated. If they don't then the children simply don't go to school. (quoted in Maddrell, 1990: 16)

According to law, the government is responsible for providing Bedouin children with an education; however, it has subordinated this responsibility to its goal of concentrating the Palestinian Bedouin Arab population in designated settlements. The educational infrastructure continues to be used for this purpose up to the present time and efforts to bring about change have been met with open hostility. For example, when a group of Palestinian Bedouin community leaders and parents in the Negev organized to improve these temporary schools, the Jewish director of the Bedouin Education Authority (which administers the temporary schools), called them "blood-thirsty [Bedouin] who commit polygamy, have 30 children and continue to expand their illegal settlements, taking over state land." When questioned about providing indoor plumbing in these "temporary" schools, he responded: "In their culture they take care of their needs outdoors. They don't even know how to flush a toilet." (Berman, 2001; p.3). A lawsuit was brought against the Bedouin Education Authority's director by Palestinian Arab community and legal organizations to the High Court of Israel. Despite the negative publicity, the Ministry of Education has not removed him from his position.

The problems of curriculum, infrastructure and staffing described above have affected the capacity of the state-sponsored schools to retain and educate Negev Bedouin Arab students. Approximately 37% of Negev Bedouin Arab children drop out before graduating from high school; as compared to 29% and 17% in the broader Palestinian Arab sector and the Jewish sector, respectively (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2000).

To compound the problem of high dropout rates in the Negev Bedouin Arab schools, the success rates of the children who do stay in school and complete the twelfth grade are very low, even compared to other Palestinian Arab students in Israel. In the 1999-2000 academic year, only 16.8% of Negev Bedouin high school students passed the matriculation exams (a basic requirement for continuing on to higher education), compared to 27.5% in the broader Palestinian Arab sector, and 45.6% in the Jewish sectors (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2000). In the year 2000, only 6.4% of Bedouin students who took the exams had matriculation scores that met minimum university requirements for admission. Of the Bedouin students who met these minimum requirements, only a tiny handful have actually attended and obtained an academic degree (Abu-Saad, 2001; Human Rights Watch, 2001).

Consequences of Ethnic Educational Discrimination
In summary, despite the seeming recognition and accommodation of cultural differences by creating separate schools for the Palestinian Arab citizens if Israel, the state-sponsored Arab educational system has been, and continues to be, directed by members of the Jewish majority and governed by the same set of political criteria which aim to control Palestinian Arabs, and exclude them from identification with and full partnership in the State.

Discrimination at every level of the education system winnows out a progressively larger proportion of Palestinian Arab students as they progress through the school system--or channels those who persevere away from the opportunities of higher education. The obstacles that Palestinian Arab students face from kindergarten through university function as a series of sieves with increasingly finer holes. And at each stage, the education system filters out a higher proportion of Palestinian Arab than Jewish students. Children denied access to pre-school do less well in primary school. Children in substandard, under-resourced schools have a far higher drop-out rate. Children who opt for vocational programs are often limited to preparation for work as "carpenters, machinists, or mechanics in a garage," (Human Rights Watch, 2001, p. 3).

Many Palestinian Arab students who might otherwise have academic or professional aspirations are barred from higher education - the point at which the unequal Jewish and Arab school systems converge - by an examination system established in a manner that gives preferential treatment to Jewish students. Palestinian Arab students who stay in school perform less well on national examinations, especially the matriculation examinations (bagrut)--the prerequisite for a high school diploma and university application. Others are weeded out by a required "psychometric" examination - an aptitude test, which Palestinian Arab educators describe as a culturally-biased, direct translation of the test given to students of the Jewish school system (Abu-Saad, 1996; Al-Haj, 1995, Human Rights Watch, 2001). As a consequence, Palestinian Arabs applying for admission to the university are rejected at a far higher rate than are Jews. All but 5.7 percent of the students receiving their first university degree in the 1998-1999 school year were Jewish (Human Rights Watch, 2001). As with every other aspect of the state-sponsored education system in Israel, such inequitable outcomes are not a matter of chance, but rather a matter of policy. A former Advisor on Arab Affairs to the Prime Minister of Israel explained the following: "Our policy towards the Arabs is to keep them illiterate by preventing the Arab students from reaching the universities. If they were educated, it would be difficult to rule them. We should make them wood-cutters and water-carriers" (quoted in Khalifa, 2001, p.25).

Future Prospects

This review of official data and recent research clearly reveals that the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel are an underdeveloped community living in a developed nation, facing political, economic and social discrimination. No real attempt has been made by the state to integrate the Palestinian Arab localities, in general, and the Negev Bedouin towns in particular, into the national infrastructure in a viable and meaningful sense. Nor have they been given sufficient resources for independent development

The political system in Israel is based on ethnic identity, and as such, it excludes the Palestinian Arab minority from full inclusion and participation. The overwhelming majority of the Jews in Israel want the State to maintain its Jewish-Zionist character, and its commitment to favor the interests of the Jews over those of other citizens (Ghanem, 1998; 2001). Smooha (1995) summarized the dominant views of the Jewish majority with regard to the Arab citizens of Israel:

  1. The Arabs are a hostile minority and must be watched;
  2. The Arabs should be grateful for the progress they have made since 1948;
  3. Israel is the state of the Jewish people and a Jewish-Zionist state. The Arabs must make do with limited individual rights and not demand recognition as a national minority;
  4. The Arabs in Israel are a new minority with no connection to the Palestinian people; and,
  5. The Arabs must accept the fact that they are excluded from the centers of power and decision-making in the state (quoted from Ghanem, 2001, p. 182).

To turn this situation around, far-reaching political changes touching on all aspects of the lives of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel in general, and the Bedouin community in particular, must be made. The changes called for can be briefly summarized as:

  1. Allocation of national resources - including land - on the basis of equality, regardless of ethnic identity; and a reallocation of resources to close the socio-economic gaps that have been created and perpetuated since the inception of the State by inequitable funding;
  2. Participation of Palestinian Arab citizens in all sectors of national life, including senior government posts, employment opportunities, and qualification for state benefits; and
  3. Redefinition of the State of Israel from the 'Jewish state' to the state of all its citizens, and the extension of full civil and national rights to the indigenous Palestinian Arab minority.
  4. Intensive educational and economic development for the Negev Palestinian Bedouin Arab population in particular, to better equip them for their dramatically altered environment, and to enable them to successfully integrate into the larger Israeli economy and regain control over the direction of their future development.
  5. Equitable settlement of Palestinian Bedouin Arab land claims through recognizing and respecting their land ownership traditions that pre-date the state of Israel as a working base for negotiation and compromise.
  6. Provision of alternatives to 'urban settlements' for the Negev Palestinian Bedouin Arab, such as the model of agricultural villages (moshavim) available to the Jewish citizens of Israel.
  7. Dismantling of the regulations and law enforcement forces (e.g., the Green Patrol), which are used to deprive the Palestinian Bedouin Arab of their land and pressure them to move into urban settlements against their will.

All sectors of the Palestinian Arab minority will continue to suffer from discrimination until the ethnic differentiation in Israel's political system is abolished and its Palestinian Arab citizens are fully incorporated.

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Ismael Abu-Saad
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Education Department
P.O.B. 653, Beer-Sheva, 84105 ISRAEL
Tel.: 972-7-646-1725
Fax: 972-7-646-1876
Email: abusaad@bgumail.bgu.ac.il


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