Riot over Negev land plan
Riot over Negev land planIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The far-left group Rabbis for Human Rights has been accused of incitement over a film the group created comparing Israel’s policy in the Negev to the “pale of settlement” in Czarist Russia.

The deputy head of the Samaria (Shomron) council, Yossi Dagan, filed a complaint against the group in his local police station.

The video, titled “Fiddler with No Roof,” explicitly compares modern Israel with Czarist Russia multiple times. Dagan noted that the film included “a statement that if the Jews did not obey expulsion orders, it is clear what would happen to them.

“The average person is likely to conclude that the Bedouin’s lives are in danger,” he said. Later in the movie, a map of the Negev appears side-by-side with a map of Czarist Russia.

Czarist policy determined that Jews would no longer be allowed to live in large regions of the Russia; those living elsewhere were forced from their homes. Jews living in the “pale” faced educational quotas and pogroms.

The Israeli government’s Negev plan aims to deal with the dozens of illegal Bedouin encampments in the region, many of which were built on state land, in areas without access to water, electricity or other vital services. The plan will involve legalizing some of the communities, while relocating others. Those whose unauthorized communities are moved will be given financial compensation or alternate land.

The plan has drawn criticism from both right and left. Many Israeli Arabs and leftist activists have argued that the Negev land in question rightfully belongs to the Bedouin, and that relocation will only increase poverty.

On the political right, many have complained that the plan involves rewarding those who built communities illegally by giving them state land for free. In contrast, they say, Jewish communities built on state land in Judea and Samaria without authorization are simply destroyed.

Dagan noted that beyond the “Rabbis for Human Rights” film’s comparison to Czarism, the movie also used a fabricated newspaper headline stating “The Negev is Burning” alongside a Biblical verse exhorting the Jewish nation to “choose life.”

“This is even more serious incitement,” he charged.

“We in Samaria frequently encounter far-left activists who create conflict in the area,” he said. “The group ‘Rabbis for Human Rights’ is a particularly extremist group that hurts not only the settlements, but also the IDF and the state of Israel.”

He called on police to take the incitement seriously, and to deal with it “as they would if it were coming from a group on the nationalist side of the political map.”

The film includes an appearance from actor Theodore Bikel, who played Tevye in the movie “Fiddler on the Roof.” It has drawn criticism even among supporters of Rabbis for Human Rights. A recent column by Yediot Aharonot journalist Yochi Brands expressed support for the group’s work, but suggested that in this case, it would be best served by pulling the offensive film and apologizing.