Dozens of nationalist activists made their way to the Bedouin city of Rahat in the Negev on Sunday, with the goal of documenting the rampant illegal construction there and demanding that the government put a stop to it.
Rahat, population 44,000, is located north of Be’er Sheva and Ofakim – the only Bedouin community in Israel to have city status. Hundreds of local Israeli-Arab residents warned the Jews not to arrive in the city, threatening to throw rocks and shoes. In at least one case broadcast on Army Radio, a Bedouin resident said that activist Baruch Marzel would receive a “bullet in the head” if he arrives.
The march was headed by MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), Marzel, and Itamar Ben-Gvir of Hevron. The police managed to create a large buffer zone between the Jews and Bedouin, who flew black flags, chanted “Death to Marzel,” and threw rocks. No one was hurt other than one policeman who was hit by a rock.
MK Ben-Ari said, "We are here to direct the spotlights of Israel at one of our worst failures in recent years. Instead of taking care of this major land theft and rampant law-breaking, the authorities prefer to hide their head in the sand and ignore what's going on. Beinish is busy trying to destroy [fallen Lebanon war hero] Roi Klein’s house [in an outpost in Eli in Shomron] as well as homes in Haresha that were lawfully built and that Defense Minister Ehud Barak refuses to approve! Here in the Negev there are thousands of illegal outposts and a complete takeover of land, and no one says a word. We want the lights of the law to shine here as well."
Ben-Gvir made the following announcement on the bus traveling to Rahat:
“We are going to Rahat as a tracking team to check the illegal construction in Rahat. Unfortunately, the rule of law in Rahat is in danger. We feel the severity of the ongoing illegal Bedouin construction in the south, and we are coming to tell them that they are not in charge. Whoever has cameras, we ask that you please document what you see, and we will use these photos, as well as other evidence collected by others in Rahat and all over the south, to flood the Supreme Court with a series of petitions against illegal construction and lawbreakers.”
“Our message is that there must be one law for all,” Ben-Gvir continued. “The government, [Chief Justice] Dorit Beinisch, and the leftists all want to enforce the law in Hevron and Migron – and they are welcome to do so, but we demand that it also be enforced in Rahat, and in Umm el-Fahm, and in all the illegal Bedouin outposts in the Negev – no matter what the Islamic Movement says or does. We want to see if Dorit Beinisch will come out in her pajamas to issue orders against the Bedouin, or does she do so only against the Jews in Hevron and elsewhere.”
170,000 and Growing
The Bedouin population in the Negev is estimated at close to 170,000 and growing. Half of them live in Rahat and six other towns that were built for them, and the remainder live throughout the Negev in various illegal encampments, as well as a number of legal villages and mixed population Israeli communities.