• Indigenous peoples in Israel

    Indigenous peoples in Israel

    Bedouins are the indigenous people of Israel. Their indigenous status is not officially recognised by the State of Israel and the Bedouins are politically, socially, economically and culturally marginalised from the rest of the Israeli population, especially challenged in terms of forced displacement.
  • Peoples

    150,000 Bedouins live in seven townships and 11 villages that have been “recognized” over the last decade
  • Rights

    2007: Israel was absent in the vote on the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Conditions

    75,000 Bedouins live in 35 “unrecognized villages”, which lack basic services and infrastructure

Israel

Indigenous Peoples in Israel

Israel’s Arab Bedouin citizens are Indigenous to the Negev (Naqab, in Arabic) desert, where they have lived for centuries as a semi-nomadic people, long before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Members of the Bedouin community are an integral part of the Arab Palestinian minority, as well as citizens of the State of Israel.

Their Indigenous status is not officially recognised by the State of Israel and the Bedouins are politically, socially, economically and culturally marginalised from the rest of the Israeli population, especially challenged in terms of forced displacement. Their representatives regularly attend and address UN bodies on Indigenous Peoples’ issues, but their Indigenous status is not officially recognised by the State of Israel.

Israel did not participate in the vote on the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and has failed to meet the declaration’s provisions. The country hasn't ratified ILO Convention 169 either, and it is violating many of its provisions.

The Bedouins of Israel

Israel’s Arab Bedouins are Indigenous to the Negev-Naqab desert. Centuries ago, they were semi-nomadic. Bedouins combined herding with agriculture in villages linked by kinship systems, which largely determined land ownership.

Prior to 1948, about 65-100,000 Bedouins lived in the Negev. After 1948 most were expelled or fled to Gaza, Egypt, the West Bank and Jordan, with only approximately 11,000 remaining in the area. In the early 1950s, the Israeli government concentrated this population within a restricted geographical area that was about ten percent of the Bedouins’ former territory.

Today, some 258,500 Bedouin citizens of Israel live in the Naqab, in three types of location: government-planned townships, recognised villages, and villages that Israel refuses to recognise (unrecognised villages). There are 35 unrecognised Bedouin villages in the Naqab that Israel refers to either as the “dispersion” or as “illegal villages”, calling their inhabitants “trespassers” on state land and “criminals”. These townships and villages hinder the traditional Bedouin way of life and provide few employment opportunities.

Main challenges for the Bedouins

A main struggle of the Bedouins in Negev relates to forced displacement as well as the few alternatives. The Bedouins comprise 34% or 240,500 people of the total population of 700,000 in the Negev-Naqab area, but only 18 settlements out of 144 are officially designated for them. Most of these settlements are overcrowded since hardly any construction permits are being issued and do not offer much in terms of infrastructure or employment opportunities. In 2017, there have been 130 violent incidents of demolition. Israel forces demolishing buildings in unrecognised villages, considered illegal, but they also demolished houses in recognised villages.

In 2017, all the petitions filed by unrecognized villages to the Supreme Court demanding government services and infrastructure have been rejected. Bedouin aged 15 or above who have studied for eight years or less may be as high as 50% or more.

The Atir-Umm al-Hiran case

The Israeli Supreme Court (SCT) ruled in 2015 that the people of the Bedouin village Atir-Umm could be evicted on the grounds that the state had merely allowed the Bedouin citizens to use the land. According to the SCT, the residents of Atir-Umm had acquired no ownership status or property rights to the land over the course of their decades of residence and land use.

This not only definitely closes the case for the 1,000 residents of Atir-Umm. It is also seen as giving the state a broader legal scope for destroying other Bedouin communities. By concluding that the state is within its rights to destroy Atir-Umm and forcibly displace its Bedouin residents, the SCT decision constitutes a dangerous precedent. It potentially implies that the residents of most unrecognised villages can be evicted for a clear discriminatory purpose in violation of their constitutional rights to property, dignity and equality.

Israel: Bedouins in the Negev suffer new crop destructions

For the past three weeks, the Israeli government (Israel Land Administration) supported by the Green Patrol and police forces have been destroying cereal crops of Bedouins in the Negev. This is carried out by plowing areas where the wheat has sprouted. On Tuesday, 19th February, 2013, the lands of Wadi El Na’am were ploughed under; on Thursday, 21st February, 2013, north and east of Hura, and between Rakhme and Qasr a-Ser were ploughed. It is estimated that this action refers to approximately 5,000 dunums (a dunum = 1000 sq.m).

Israel: Bill will force Bedouins to pay for destruction of their own homes

An urgent appeal to the United Nations The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality today appealed to various representatives of the UN to avert the passing of a discriminatory legal amendment aimed at placing the payment of house demolitions on homeowners. The proposed law will not apply to settlements beyond the Green Line and the main victims will again be the Bedouin-Arabs in the Negev.

Continue Reading

Israel: 40.000 Negev Beduins risk forced resettlement

Against the roar of Israeli military jets from a nearby airbase, Khalil Alamour considers what it means to be a Bedouin. "To be part of a family and tribe, to have open space, to have freedom to live in the traditional agricultural way that our forefathers lived in, to maintain our traditions and values, to be generous and offer good hospitality, to be patient, to help each other, to be human.

Continue Reading

  • 1
  • 2

STAY CONNECTED

About IWGIA

IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Contact IWGIA

Prinsessegade 29 B, 3rd floor
DK 1422 Copenhagen
Denmark
Phone: (+45) 53 73 28 30
E-mail: iwgia@iwgia.org
CVR: 81294410

Report possible misconduct, fraud, or corruption

NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

If you do not change browser settings, you agree to it. Learn more

I understand