Op-Ed: 6 Part Series: The Truth About the Negev Bedouin, Pt. 2
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For part I, click here.
Myth 2 Are the Bedouin Villages Historical?
In the past few years, the Bedouin of the Negev and extreme left non-government organizations (NGO’s) have repeatedly claimed that most of the Bedouin villages are “historical” and that Bedouin have inhabited these villages since before the creation of the State of Israel. Take, for example, the Joint Position Paper: Bill on Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, of May 2013).
“About half of the Bedouin population in the Negev, around 90,000 people, lives in approximately 46 Bedouin villages, the majority of which (around 35 villages) the State of Israel refuses to recognize and arrange for their planning and/or municipal administration. The majority of these villages existed before the birth of the State of Israel, and a number of them were established in the 1950’s, a time when the agencies of the State moved the Bedouin population from their ancestral territory under their ownership and/or control, to a smaller area in the northeastern Negev, known as the Sayag, termed a restricted area.
"In contradiction to the impression widespread among the Israeli public, the Bedouin are not intruders, but are rather the original inhabitants of the Negev, and they have the rights of ownership to the lands that they have worked and occupied. Among them are people who continue to live on their lands where they have lived for a long time before the creation of the State, and similarly are the internally displaced, who have been transferred from their historical lands to the restricted area by the State, as was stated.
"It may be emphasized that the Ottoman Empire as well as the British Mandate recognized the ownership rights of the Bedouin and the traditional methods by which they transferred ownership. Commensurate with this and based on this method of acquisition, lands were bought, and Jewish settlements were created in the Negev, such as Be’er Sheva, established on lands that were bought from the Bedouin in official transactions.” (Emphasis added)
The Bedouin’s claim of “historical villages” is proven to be a myth by the use of historical aerial photographs. Tens of aerial photographs of these so-called “historical” villages have been examined. Below are examples of aerial photos used to examine this “historical” claim for 5 Bedouin villages.
No one is denying that there were nomadic tribes living in the Negev prior to 1948. However, due to the nature of these tribes, no permanent residences were established. There are signs of cultivation in the aerial photography that was examined, but the form of farming used was seasonal, not long term, in order to supply feed for their herds as they moved from place to place.
The Village of Al Araqib
The illegal village of Al-Araqib is situated on state lands managed by the Israel Land Authority (ILA), about ten kilometers north of Beersheva. This village has been mentioned in numerous headlines, when Bedouin families who claim ownership of the land repeatedly trespassed into the area from which they had been evicted tens of times by the authorities. According to Bedouin from the A-Turi tribe, they have lived in the area since the Ottoman period, and were evicted from the area after the War of Independence by the Israeli Army, with a promise that the eviction was only temporary.
As evidence of the village’s long history, they point to a cemetery that they claim is “ancient”. The series of aerial photographs below, dating from 1945 to 2010, indicates that the reality is completely different. From a photograph taken in 1965, it is indeed possible to see the cemetery in its first stages, yet there is neither a village nor anything that looks like a village visible. In a photograph from 1956, the cemetery does not exist at all. So too the imagery from 1945, 3 years before the establishment of the State of Israel.
Conclusion: The “historic” village Al Araqib, which the Bedouin claim was established during the Ottoman period, was built in the end of the 1990’s and thereafter. The aerial photos from 1956 and 1945 have disproved the claim of the A-Turi clan that this location was a village prior to 1965. The Beersheba district court accepted Prof. Ruth Kark’s analysis to this end during the trial of Al Araqib.
Some other examples of so-called” historic” Bedouin villages can be seen on the Regavim site where beside photos from 2012 are the historical photos of the same places from 1945.
The above aerial photos speak for themselves, without the need for further explanation. It is fairly easy to identify the land described in the photographs when set side by side, in order to understand clearly that the claim voiced day and night that “our villages were here even before the founding of the state”, is an ongoing falsehood.
4. The Joint Position Paper: Bill on Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, of May 2013, sent by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Bimkom, to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation regarding the proposed Law for the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, 5773-2013.
5. The aerial photographs taken prior to the establishment of the State of Israel were done by the British Authorities, and then transferred to the Government Center for the Mapping of Israel, which is the source for all aerial photographs contained herein.