Leaders of the Negev Bedouin fired back immediately Sunday at Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Yisrael Beytenu), who called Sunday for an end to polygamy in the Bedouin sector. Shamir, who heads the Committee on Regulation of Bedouin Settlement, told a Bedouin group that he is considering reviving a plan proposed in the past to place limits on Bedouin marriage.
MK Taleb Abu Arar (Raam-Taal) responded by saying that he is not surprised by Shamir's words. He referred to them as “extremist statements that exposed the true face of minister Shamir, who has been charged with improving the life of the Bedouin.”
Abu Arar added that “it appears that Shamir stands behind previous statements that see the Bedouin as a demographic and security threat, and if he truly believes in these ideas then his failure is guaranteed.”
The MK – himself a Bedouin who belongs to the southern section of the radical Islamic Movement in Israel – explained that “only a few days ago, Minister Shamir said in the media that the destruction of homes [in the Bedouin sector] is an immoral act and we expected after this that he would stop the demolitions, and attempt to find solutions for the lack of housing for the young couples – until this anti-democratic proposal to limit Bedouin births came up. It seems that this is the purpose for which he was appointed, and he is adding fuel to the fire.”
Shamir, elaborated Abu Arar, “must operate in a trustworthy way and with a clean heart in order to allow youths to build homes in order to live in, and to take into account natural population growth.”
The Chairman of the Committee for Unrecognized Villages, Atia al-Assem, told the newspaper Maariv that “the matter or procreation is a personal one and no one can force the Bedouin not to bring children into the world, when the Jews have the mitzvah of 'go forth and multiply.'”
"We know that the goal of the state, which adopts the policy of home demolitions, is to prevent the Bedouin from marrying and establishing families, which is an elementary right. Unfortunately, many Bedouin grew older and did not marry because of this policy.”
Polygamy is common among Bedouin, and is considered a key factor in the population growth of the community. The official Bedouin population in the Negev is now about 200,000, but it has the highest rate of growth of any population anywhere in the world – doubling every 15 years.