Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: The Truth About Bedouin Land Claims: Parts 5 & 6

This document clearly and irrefutably dismisses and disproves the various Bedouin myths in circulation, by using indisputable facts on the ground, such as aerial photography, maps and documents.
Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014 11:41 AM


For parts 1-4, click here.

Myth 5 Do Governmental Budgets discriminate against Bedouin?

“The Bedouin sector is the poorest in Israeli society; Bedouin local authorities are ranked at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in Israel. For years we have heard complaints from the Bedouin and leftist organizations about discrimination and bias on the part of the State. Take for example the claim of Professor Ismail Abu Sa’ad from the Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva:[10]

“Statistics about the situation of Bedouin towns in the Negev teach us of the abject failure of the urbanization policy implemented within this framework. The sources responsible for this failure include a shortage of land and accompanying services, budget crises in local authorities … The municipal budgets come from two sources: budgetary transfers from the government and independent income from local taxes. In addition to this, eligible municipalities are sometimes given grants for exceptional development projects. The offices of the government systematically discriminate against Bedouin municipalities. Formulae for consideration for Bedouin towns are biased and grants for development given to them are meager in comparison with their urgent needs and what is given to Jewish settlements.”

A table published by the Central Bureau of Statistics [11] regarding data about local councils in 2011 compares the budgets of local authorities for development towns to those of the Bedouin local authorities. The development towns that were chosen are also recognized as being ranked low on the socioeconomic ladder and having high unemployment rates. On the development towns side, data was gathered from Yeruham, Sderot, Ofakim, Arad, Netivot, Dimona, Kiryat Gat. and the regional council of Bnei Shimon. On the Bedouin side, data was gathered from Segev Shalom, Arara, Tel Sheva, Hura, Ksifa, Rahat, Lakiya, and the regional council of Abu Basma.

A comparison of data from 2011 displays the exact opposite: governmental participation in the budgets of Bedouin local authorities is almost twice as high as its participation in budgets of development towns.

1. Governmental participation in budgets of local councils:

The annual percentage of governmental participation in budgets of local councils for development towns (including “exceptional budgets”) stands at an average of 51.6%. For Bedouin local authorities, the annual governmental participation (including “exceptional budgets”) is an average of 79.4%. The regional council of Abu Basma stands out with a striking 98% (!).of its budget coming from governmental budget, with only 1.8 percent from independent income, including local taxes.

2. Property Tax Income as a percentage of the General Budget:

For development authorities, the percentage of independent income from property tax payments in the annual budget stands at an average of 21.3%. By contrast, the percentage of property tax in the annual budget for Bedouin local authorities stands at only 3.7%. It is noteworthy that for the Council of Arara, the percentage of property tax collection rose 142% from 2010 to 2011, following a change to a more effective administration. In contrast to this, during the same period, property tax collection for Abu Basma fell by 87%.

3. Governmental Budgets per Person

Dividing the governmental participation in budgets for development towns mentioned (767,949,000 NIS) by the total number of residents (192,900) amounts to 3,981 NIS per person. Dividing the governmental participation from the budgets of Bedouin local authorities (639,375,000 NIS) by the number of residents in all of the authorities mentioned (149,800)* leaves 4,218 NIS per person. Thus, the Bedouin local authorities enjoy a governmental investment per person that is 287 NIS higher than the governmental participation per person in the development towns.

4. Percentage of Actual property tax payments collected

Residents of development towns, numbering 192,900 people, were levied NIS193,170,000 in property tax payments for 2011. The amount of actual property tax collected in these local authorities was NIS137,618,000. This equates to 71% of property taxes collected vs. the levied amount. The residents of Bedouin local authorities, numbering 149,800 were levied NIS55,422,000 in property tax payments for 2011. The amount of actual property tax collected in these local authorities was NIS22,339,000. This equates to only 40% of property taxes collected vs. the levied amount. This data demonstrates the general dysfunction in the collection system of the Bedouin local authorities.

The full findings of the report conducted by Regavim [12] conclusively refute the claims of discrimination in budgets. In fact ,the percentage of governmental participation in the general budget for these authorities is 36% higher than the governmental participation in development towns. If one considers the amount of governmental aid per person, there is a difference of more than 287 NIS in favor of the residents of Bedouin local authorities.

The budgetary discrimination actually favoring the Bedouin (affirmative action) continues despite the unusually low amount of property tax payments within the Bedouin sector, where the amount is an average of only 3.7% of the total budgets for these authorities.

The annual percentage of governmental participation in budgets of local councils for development towns (including “exceptional budgets”) stands at an average of 51.6%. For Bedouin local authorities, the annual governmental participation (including “exceptional budgets”) is an average of 79.4%. The regional council of Abu Basma stands out with a striking 98% (!).of its budget coming from governmental aid, with only 1.8 percent from independent income, including local taxes.

Conclusion: The source of poverty and underdevelopment among the Bedouin local authorities is largely due to the fact that residents do not pay taxes as required by law. The key to improving quality of life in the Bedouin communities lies in the application of law and participation by residents in property tax payments - as is usual in any other authority in the country.

* The official number as stated in Myth 4 of 132,000 excludes Abu Basma Council towns. including the number of registered residents of these towns the total is 149,800.

Myth 6 Are the Bedouin “only” claiming 5% of the Negev?

Unilateral refusal by the Bedouin sector in relation of all generous offers from the government over the years is in fact a bargaining chip for the Bedouin position, which refuses any compromise and creates “facts on the ground.” For the sake of discussion, they claim that the percentage of lands needed for settling the Bedouin population is only 3% of the area of the Negev (around 86,487 acres), and the amount of private land claims of ownership amounts to “only” five percent (about 160,618 acres) from the total area of the Negev, which comprises some 3,212,400 acres.

“To remind you and to wake you from your slumber, the Bedouin comprise 30% of the residents of the Negev. The lands in dispute with the government are 5% of the Negev … what is the fuss over? It’s all over 5%. Over this the government establishes an administration? Over this the government establishes staff upon staff? Over this the government makes new committees each day? Apparently there is too much unemployment in the public sector. Shame on the State of Israel that chastises the Bedouin over such meager amounts of land in the Negev.” (Knesset Member Taleb Abu Arar) [13]

These numbers waved before us are completely divorced from reality, both in terms of the amounts of land on which the Bedouin reside today, and also in relation to the amount of land claimed by individuals.

The aerial photographs printed above in Myth #3 (“only 45 villages”) gives tangible evidence to the great spread of Bedouin settlement. The investigative division of Regavim has made an updated map of settlement, showing this spread covers 148,263 acres, as will be explained below.

The fact that the Bedouin are only claiming 5% is nonsensical because obviously not all of the land in the Negev is available for settlement or agricultural use. The true extent of land used for Bedouin settlement today is approximately 20% of the available land in the Negev.

After taking away the area of the firing ranges used by the IDF, the nature reserves and the areas protected by the National Master Plan (Plan 35), the remaining lands reserved for settlement of the Negev amounts to only 687,200 acres.

It should be emphasized that the settlement area is not actually ever fully used for settlement and agriculture, since it also includes parks, open areas and the like. As such, the numbers have a completely different meaning: The Bedouin actually occupy 21.5% of the land, 148,263 out of 687,200 acres allotted for settlement throughout the Negev, and make claims for a similar amount of land.

For the sake of comparison: There are 205,000 residents in the city of Be’er Sheva, living on only 8,650 acres of land. The Bedouin population, numbering around 211,000 lives on an area seventeen times larger, approximately 148,260 acres of land!

Percentage of Land Claimed: All individual land ownership claims that have come to the courts since the 70’s until today, whether initiated by the Bedouin or in the context of opposing claims filed by the State of Israel in the past ten years[14] have been dismissed. The State of Israel has declared over the years that according to the law and according to the registrations, it is the owner of the scattered areas of the Negev and it is willing to clarify all claims of ownership of the Bedouin in court. Only 12% of the Bedouin population have any form of ownership claim over land in the Negev.

In other words: 15,000 Bedouin are claiming private ownership over 23% of the Negev that is reserved for settlement!

In order not to leave an opening for the Bedouin claim that some individual farms and agricultural settlements in the Negev receive vast lands; it should be mentioned that this claim is NOT genuine. The farms in this region are placed there as guardians over government land and live under a tenant agreement. None of them make ownership claims over the lands they work and none of them expect to receive the land as private land.

Conclusion:

The true extent of land which the Bedouin claim, is not only 5% of the area of the Negev, but rather 23% of the area of the Negev that has been allotted for settlement. Among all of the sectors of Israeli society, there is no sector so small that makes a claim of private ownership over an area so large, despite the fact that from a legal perspective, it has been proven time and time again that their claims are without basis.



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Sources:

10. Bedouin towns in Israel at the beginning of the 21st century.Professor Ismail Abu-Saad, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

11. Israel Bureau of Statistics Hebrew Document.

12. “Discrimination or Lack of Inspection?” A report comparing the Jewish and Bedouin budgets in the Negev. Regavim. July, 2013

13. Knesset Member Taleb Abu Arar – Ra’am Ta”al Party, from a speech in the Knesset over the Regulatory Act (27/05/2013) 

14. Regavim position paper, “The Renewal of Opposing Claims for Land Regulation in the Negev.”

This document has clearly and irrefutably dismissed and disproved the various Bedouin myths in circulation, using indisputable facts on the ground, such as aerial photography, maps and documents. We are convinced that this document will clear the air and return the discourse to one that will allow a more informed and educated discussion on the way forward for the Negev.