A plan to remove the Negev Bedouin from their land has been inserted into the Finance Ministry’s Emergency Economic plan. The proposed "Removal of Intruders Law" deems the 70,000 Bedouin occupants of the unrecognized villages "trespassers" on "government land," and calls for their direct removal. If the "Intruder Law" slips through, these Bedouin will be displaced and transferred into 7 existent urban settlements, threatening their traditional way of life.
Despite general budget cuts, the economic plan provides 56 million shekels (about 11 million euros) to implement the law, and calls for its passage in the Knesset. This funding will be allocated mainly for the creation of new security forces to hasten the displacement of Bedouin households from their land. Normally, funding for implementation should be approved after the passage of a law. In this case, the process has been reversed.
Half of Israel’s Bedouin population live in villages not legally recognized by the Israeli government. Over the years, the other half of the Negev Bedouin have concentrated in 7 impoverished townships in the Beersheva region, via a process of forced sedentarisation. Bedouin citizens in these 7 townships receive sub-standard services from the government. The Finance Ministry’s recent economic package will further cut services to these communities.
In particular, since Bedouin families are some of the largest and poorest in Israel, the Finance Ministry’s proposed cuts to child subsidies will directly injure the Bedouin community. While the Bedouin suffer the highest infant mortality in Israel — and are denied access to healthcare, education, or sanitation because of the "unrecognised" status of the villages — only 2.5 million shekels (EUR 505 100) will address their health and basic needs. Furthermore, while 42% of the program funds will be allocated to enforcement of the new planning law, less then 1% of the total budget will go towards welfare and vocational training for the Bedouin community.
The first manifestations of the new transfer policy have already taken place. On February 5, government inspectors razed Tal al Milah Mosque in the Negev, after most residents had left for work, and before Bedouin representatives could appeal the demolition order. The Supreme Court ruled this demolition illegal on March 4th. On April 2, for the second time in a month, the Israeli government sent a fleet of crop-dusting planes from the Green patrol, a paramilitary environmental unit, to spray toxic chemicals over Bedouin fields. Following the February dusting incident, houses and people in the village of Abda, residents rushed their children to the nearest medical centre, nearly 100 km away, in Mitzpeh Ramon. The doctors on duty refused to see any of the exposed individuals and agreed to examine them only after two hours of pressure from the community.
In the past few years, the Green patrol has engaged in the eradication of flocks and demolition of Bedouin homes. Its recent strikes on Bedouin farmland represent one of the many ways the Israeli government is attempting to pressure the "unrecognised" villagers to move from their traditional lands.
The FIDH and Mossawa assert that as citizens of Israel, the Bedouins of the Negev are entitled to equal treatment, in particular in terms of access to infrastructure, education, healthcare and sanitation. We urge the Israeli government to end its policy of forced transfer, and put an end to discrimination, in accordance with international human rights standards.