Bedouin Intifada

Thousands of Bedouin near Be’er Sheva stoned police as authorities destroyed a mosque illegally built by the radical Islamic Movement.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 09:00

Mounted police disperse rioters
Mounted police disperse rioters
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Thousands of Bedouin in the western Negev city of Rahat, near Be’er Sheva, stoned police early Sunday morning as authorities destroyed a mosque illegally built by the radical Islamic Movement.

Its leader, Raad Salah, has been jailed several times for incitement to violence. Salah was filmed on the IHH-sponsored Mavi Marmari ship last May 31 as he encouraged IHH terrorists to attack Israeli commandoes, who boarded the boat after it refused to change course from Hamas-controlled Gaza.

No one was seriously injured in the riot, the latest of a growing number of violent clashes between Negev Bedouin and the police and Israel Lands Authority. Police acted under a court order determining that the mosque was built on state land and was an effort to “create facts on the ground.” Hundreds of Bedouin immediately began to rebuilt the mosque after the demolition.

Police said they removed all holy objects from the mosque before bulldozers destroyed it around 2 a.m. Despite the hour, word quickly spread and thousands of residents attacked more than 700 police officers, who scattered the rioters with tear gas.

The mayor of Rahat accused Israel of "racism” and declared a city-wide strike, including schools.

The number of Bedouin in the Negev has soared, and they already comprise a near-majority of Negev citizens. Bedouin tribes, who are nomadic by definition, have built thousands of illegal structures on land they claim is theirs.

One of the reasons for the rapid growth of the Bedouin population is polygamy, which is illegal in Israel, but exceptions have been made for Bedouin on the grounds that the practice is part of their religious tradition. However, Bedouin leaders have publicly stated that Bedouin men are encouraged to marry more than one woman in order to leave the Jewish population in the minority and not because of religious or traditional reasons.

Many men have three or four wives, and it is not uncommon for men in their 60s to marry girls in their teens.

On the other hand, many Bedouin volunteered for IDF service in the past, where scouting is a field in which they excel. Terrorist and radical Moslem influence has made this a waning but still existing phenomenon.