CiF Watch prompts Indy correction – acknowledges that Arab towns were built since ’48

On May 7th we posted about Ben Lynfield’s column (Netanyahu’s ‘Jewish state’ law angers Arab Israelis, May 2) at the Independent, which included the following claim:

For example, while hundreds of new cities, towns and localities for Jews have been established since 1948, not a single new Arab town has been created

Whilst the suggestion that hundreds of “Jewish towns” have been established is itself very misleading (as we noted in our original post), the claim that “not a single Arab town has been created” is flat-out untrue. There have been 7 new towns built for the Arab Bedouin. (Bedouins are a sub-group with Israel’s Arab minority)

Since 1948, there have…been seven towns that the government planned and constructed for Bedouin residents of the Negev

Between 1965 and 1990, Israel indeed built seven new towns, which were able to absorb half of the Negev Bedouin…

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):

State-planned [Arab-Bedouin] towns…were set up in the 1960s and 1970s: Hura, Kseifa, Laqia, Arara, Rahat, Segev Shalom and Tel-Sheva.

We contacted Indy editors to point out the error, and they ultimately agreed that the claim was inaccurate – and revised the passage in question. 

It now reads:

For example, while hundreds of new cities, towns and localities for Jews have been established since 1948, not a single new Arab town has been created (aside from the seven settlements built specifically for the Negev’s Bedouin residents, which have been the source of considerable controversy). 

We commend Indy editors for responding positively to our complaint.

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The Independent fails to fact-check claim in story about ‘Jewish State’ proposal

As our posts noting CiF Watch-prompted corrections often demonstrate, beyond the UK media’s biased coverage of the region there lies another somewhat related problem – the failure to fact-check claims used to buttress their anti-Israel narrative.

A case in point is an article at The Independent by Ben Lynfield on May 2nd titled ‘Netanyahu’s Jewish state law angers Arabs‘, reporting on the prime minister’s proposal ‘to advance a constitutional Basic Law identifying Israel as a Jewish nation-state’.  While the article itself was predictably hostile to the proposal, and quoted critics who charged that defining Israel as ‘a Jewish nation-state’ would erode the rights of non-Jews, the following passage particularly caught our eye.

The Arab citizens of Israel, who number a fifth of the population, comprise Palestinians who remained behind when their compatriots were expelled or fled when Israel was established in 1948. They have the right to vote but regularly face discrimination from authorities. For example, while hundreds of new cities, towns and localities for Jews have been established since 1948, not a single new Arab town has been created.

First, Lynfield’s claim that hundreds of towns and cities have been built “for Jews” is, at best, highly misleading, as new Israeli cities, towns and localities generally do not distinguish between Jews, Muslims, Druze, Christians or members of other faiths.

Additionally, his claim that “not a single new Arab town has been created” since 1948 is false. In fact, there have been 7 new towns built specifically for Israeli Bedouins. (Bedouins are a sub-group within Israel’s Arab minority.)

Human Rights Watch:

in 60 years [there] have been seven towns that the government planned and constructed for Bedouin residents of the Negev

Ha’aretz:

Between 1965 and 1990, Israel indeed built seven new towns, which were able to absorb half of the Negev Bedouin…

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):

State-planned [Arab-Bedouin] towns…were set up in the 1960s and 1970s: Hura, Kseifa, Laqia, Arara, Rahat, Segev Shalom and Tel-Sheva.

We don’t know what led Ben Lynfield to believe that there were no Arab towns built since 1948, and why Indy editors didn’t fact-check the passage in question, but the claim is clearly inaccurate. 

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Indy columnist who ‘fears Jews’ smears the Jewish State

The Jews of today scare me and I find it almost impossible to talk to most of them, including relatives. Any criticism of the policies of Israel – including the disgraceful treatment of Holocaust survivors as well as refugees from murderous regimes – is regarded as treason and/or anti-Semitism. Most papers and journals will not even publish articles on the subject for fear of a Jewish backlash. Goyim (gentiles) are often treated with ill-concealed contempt, yet the Jews are always the victims. Am I prejudiced against Jews? Alas, yes. Mira Bar-Hillel

Mira Bar-Hillel represents proof that the stubborn reality of Israel’s progressive advantages in the region in the civil rights protections afforded to minority groups, and the absence of anything resembling codified discrimination, aren’t impediments for anti-Zionist commentators who wish to smear the state with the charge of Apartheid.

mira

Interestingly, Bar-Hillel’s Dec. 13 op-ed in The Independent, Israel and Apartheid: Confused? You will be‘, deals almost entirely with issues tangential to the narrative she’s trying to advance, such as Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision not to attend Nelson Mandela’s memorial, and Israeli arms sales to Pretoria in the 70s and 80s (which, contrary to her suggestion, actually represented a miniscule percentage of the regime’s military imports).  

So, Bar-Hillel actually bases her insinuation of a parallel between Apartheid South Africa and Israel on two sentences in her final paragraph:

Maps which were only revealed in the past few days show how the Israelis plan to create bantustans for the Nomadic Bedouin in its southern Negev region. Tens of thousands of them would be forced into ghettoes to make way for new Jewish towns and military zones. A-word, anyone?

Of course, the word “bantustans” was used by the Indy columnist specifically because of its common association with a system of codified racial segregation in South Africa.  According to the common definition of the term, it refers to the following:

Bantustan, also known as Bantu homeland, South Africa homeland, or black state,  any of 10 former territories that were designated by the white-dominated government of South Africa as pseudo-national homelands for the country’s black African (classified by the government as Bantu) population during the mid- to late 20th century. The Bantustans were a major administrative device for the exclusion of blacks from the South African political system under the policy of apartheid, or racial segregation.

The 1959 Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act relabeled the reserves as “homelands,” or Bantustans, in which only specific ethnic groups were to have residence rights. Later, the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act of 1970 defined blacks living throughout South Africa as legal citizens of the homelands designated for their particular ethnic groups—thereby stripping them of their South African citizenship and their few remaining civil and political rights. 

In contrast to such racist legislation, what’s known in Israel as the Prawer-Begin Plan (the plan, recently shelved by the government, which Bar-Hillel is alluding to) represented an effort to settle the problem of 70-90,000 Israeli-Bedouin living in unrecognized villages in the Israeli Negev, and the resulting land claims.  The plan would have legalized a large majority of the unrecognized land, but called for roughly one-third of this population to relocate (with full compensation in money and land) to recognized, planned and developed towns within a few kilometers of their current homes.

Alternatively, as these Israeli-Bedouin are Israeli citizens with full civil rights protected under the law, they could of course choose to live elsewhere – indeed anywhere in the country.  Bar-Hillel’s suggestion that even one Israeli Bedouin would be forced into a “bantustan” (conveying to readers the impression that they’ll be legally segregated from the rest of Israeli society) is a total lie.

As Bar-Hillel continues to engage in such smears, half-truths and distortions about Israel, it’s becoming evident that “the Jews of today” scare her a lot more than her increasing notoriety as a bigoted, dishonest journalist.

Did the Guardian double the actual number of Bedouins facing relocation?

harrietOn Dec. 1 we posted about Harriet Sherwood’s story at the Guardian titled ‘Israel’s plan to forcibly resettle Negev Bedouins prompts global protests‘. 

The legislation Sherwood reported on is known as Prawer-Begin (which passed its first Knesset reading) and concerns Israeli-Bedouin settlement in the Negev – a plan formulated to address economic development issues for the Bedouin and to resolve their long-standing land claims.

According to the commission studying the issues, there are some 210,000 Israeli-Bedouin in the Negev. Of this number, 120,000 already live in planned, legal communities (and won’t be effected by the new plan), while another 60,000 live in unauthorized communities which will now be legalized and developed by Israeli authorities.  Plans for the remaining 30,000, who live in non-regulated, illegal communities and encampments, will include relocation of only a few kilometers, and the offer of agricultural, communal, suburban or urban homes, all with full property rights.

We were able to confirm the accuracy of these numbers this morning with a spokesperson at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Interestingly, most blogs and news sites – even some which are extremely hostile to Israel – have accurately reported the number (30,000) of Israeli-Bedouin facing relocation.

Despite the characteristically one-sided nature of Sherwood’s report, we focused our original post on her inaccurate use of the term “Jewish settlements” to refer to future Israeli cities in the Negev which are envisioned under the plan. However, her Dec. 1 report also included another claim – in the following sentence – which seemed highly suspect.

Under the Prawer Plan, which is expected to pass into Israeli law by the end of the year, 35 “unrecognised” Bedouin villages will be demolished and between 40,000 and 70,000 people removed to government designated towns

Additionally, the title of her Nov. 29 story on the same issue also included this 70,000 figure:  ‘Britons protest over Israel plan to remove 70,000 Bedouins‘.  The story contained this passage:

More than 50 public figures in Britain, including high-profile artists, musicians and writers, have put their names to a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land…

This passage linked to the original Guardian letter, signed by the usual gang of anti-Zionist activists, and included this:

Earlier this year, the Israeli Knesset approved the Prawer-Begin plan. If implemented, this plan will result in the destruction of more than 35 Palestinian towns and villages in Al-Naqab (Negev) in the south of Israel and the expulsion and confinement of up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins.

So, how did the Guardian and their “high profile artists, musicians and writers” arrive at the 70,000 figure?

Here are the top Google hits when you type a few of the key search terms:

google

In the first link, Russia Todaycites the Guardian figure.

The second hit is the Guardian.

The third hit is Socialist Worker Online and links to the fourth hit, the site of the radical NGOAdalah.

The fifth hit, JewsNews, also cites the Guardian letter.

The sixth and seventh hits also go to the Guardian.

So, as Adalah seems to be one of the few ‘sources’ citing the 70,000 figure, we checked their claim and saw it in this passage from one of their many pages on the Bedouin/Prawer-Begin issue:

If fully implemented, the Prawer-Begin Plan will result in the destruction of 35 “unrecognized” Arab Bedouin villages, the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel…

However, even Adalah’s official legal argument – Adalah and ACRI Objection to the Prawer Plan – notes only that there are roughly 70,000 Bedouin (in total) currently living in unauthorized villages, and makes no claim that all of these 70,000 are facing relocation.

In other words, those suggesting that 70,000 are “under threat of displacement” are not taking into consideration the actual (Prawer-Begin) plan which – if implemented – will result in less than half of these 70,000 Bedouin (who are currently living in unauthorized communities) being displaced.

If the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent decided to spend some more time researching the issue, she would have concluded that there is no evidence to support the 70,000 number.

Harriet Sherwood refers to future Israeli cities in the Negev as “Jewish settlements”

Harriet Sherwood’s Guardian report on Dec. 1, ‘Israel’s plan to forcibly resettle Negev Bedouins prompts global protests‘, focuses on objections to the so-called Prawer-Begin plan to resettle some of the Israeli Bedouin population in the Negev from unplanned encampments to planned communities.  

bedouin

(Under the plan, out of about 210,000 total Israeli Bedouin, roughly 30,000 will move, most only a few kilometers from their current homes, and will be compensated for their land.  Another 60,000 will have their homes legalized and developed under the initiative, per the graphic below.)

MFA graphic

MFA graphic

However, even more interesting than Sherwood’s disproportionate focus on an extremely small number of protesters in Israel (and a few cities abroad), is the extremely telling words she uses to describe the new planned Israeli towns which will replace the existing encampments.  

Sherwood writes the following:

Under the Prawer Plan, the residents of “unrecognised” villages will be moved into seven overcrowded and impoverished towns. Meanwhile, new Jewish settlements are planned for the region.

First, as with all Israeli cities, citizens of all faiths will be permitted to live in all new communities built in the Negev, and it is therefore inaccurate to describe them as “Jewish”.

Even more noteworthy, however, is her use of the word “settlements” to characterize these future towns.  These new cities, such as Hiran (currently a cluster of Bedouin encampments in what’s called Umm al-Hiran, 30 km from Beer Sheva), will be established in the Israeli Negev – that is, within the state’s boundaries as they were envisioned even under the UN Partition Plan of 1947, and as the boundaries were established under the 1949 armistice agreement.

Here’s a map of the area:

hiran map

Black arrow in upper right points to 1949 Armistice Lines – above which is the West Bank/Judea & Samaria. The Green arrow points to approximate location of Hiran.

Previously it seemed that the Guardian’s unofficial policy was to merely refer to Israeli communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) as “settlements”.  

However, the term “settlement” seems to have now taken on a more expansive definition: any place within the state (even within its ‘recognized’ 1949 boundaries) previously free of Jews but where Jews are now permitted to live.

h/t Noah

The Guardian once again disguises the reality of unrecognized Bedouin “villages”

A guest post by AKUS

On Nov. 28th the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Harriett Sherwood ‘reported‘ on a letter (published at the Guardian on the same day) signed by 50 public figures such as “Antony Gormley, the actor Julie Christie, the film director Mike Leigh and the musician Brian Eno” (and Jenny Tonge) opposing an Israeli plan to remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from ‘their historic desert land’.

letters

Sherwood quotes the letter thus:

The eviction and destruction of about 35 “unrecognised” villages in the Negev desert will, the letter says, “mean the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination and separation.”

Leaving aside the absurd idea that people who had till quite recent times led itinerant lives moving across vast distances of the Middle East with no fixed national identity can be now labeled “Palestinian Bedouin” like politically correct produce in an organic food co-op, the article (and letter) conjure up visions of camel-riding nomads being forced to fold their goat-skin tents and leave from vast stretches of Sahara-like dunes. 

The Guardian once again is trying to promote the idea that these are Bedouin living in little villages that are the equivalent of the quaint villages one sees in reruns of “Midsommer Murders”. The reality, however, is far different.

Had Sherwood and the signatories ever bothered to take a drive down Route 40 from Beersheva, they may have found that they rather approved of the idea of relocating Bedouin from ramshackle tin huts in slum-like groups that have no running water to planned communities which provide the modern conveniences and sanitary conditions that they themselves expect and enjoy.

The photo below (which I took myself last year) depicts one “unrecognized village” a few miles south of Beersheva seen from Route 40.

one

It is “unrecognized” because it is simply an ad hoc assembly of tin and cardboard huts. The bales of hay are to feed the camels you can see in the foreground, the only reminder of this family’s nomadic past. There are dozens of these encampments strung out along the highway, and the issues of pollution, environmental destruction and sheer unsightliness are immediately evident.

So here’s the question for the 50 public figures in the UK:  

If you left Hampstead for a trip into the country, and found “unrecognized villages” like this (and there are dozens like it) strung out along the M-1, would you be protesting against the idea of moving people to better housing with modern facilities, or protesting against the British government for leaving them there?

The Israeli Bedouin issue beyond The Telegraph’s sensationalist headline

Phoebe Greenwood’s report in The Telegraph, Ex-South African Israel ambassador likens Bedouin treatment to Apartheid‘, June 19, is in many ways quite typical of mainstream media framing of issues relating to the nomadic Arab tribes living in the Negev region in Israel. Though Greenwood balances the sensationalist charge of ‘apartheid’ leveled by the the former ambassador with a response by a foreign ministry spokesperson, the title and text legitimize an extremely misleading narrative about the remarkably complex interplay between the Israeli government and the Bedouin.

Whilst my colleague Hadar Sela has done some superb reporting on the issue (which you can read here, here and here), blogger Elder of Ziyon recently filmed and narrated a very informative video on the subject – while on location in the Negev – that succinctly explains a few of the more vexing challenges faced by the Israeli government in determining how best to deal with unauthorized villages established by citizens who are part of this itinerant culture. 

a

Following our post, Guardian amends story claiming Hezbollah drone was shot down over Palestinian territory

On Oct. 14 we posted about a Guardian video story on Oct. 12 which falsely claimed that the Hezbollah drone which flew into Israel on Oct. 6 was shot down by the IDF over “Palestinian” territory.

Note the text on the screen (a screen shot from the original Guardian video) claiming that the drone was shot down over “Palestinian territory”.

However, the drone, which was launched from Lebanon, was not shot down over Palestinian territory.  

As we noted at the time, the UAV traveled down the Mediterranean coast before crossing into Israel from Gaza. Then, it traveled east across Israel’s Negev desert, and was shot down above the Yatir Forest – south of the border with the West Bank, clearly inside Israel.

Here’s a map we included in our post.

A = Israeli Yatir Forrest

Towards the end of our post, we asked readers to contact Chris Elliott, the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor, to point out the error.

It just came to our attention that on Oct. 17, a few days after our post, the Guardian corrected their error.  Here’s the text from their ‘Corrections and Clarifications‘ page.

Here’s a sincere thanks to those of you who heeded our suggestion and alerted the Guardian about their mistake.

(Final note: On the same Guardian ‘Corrections‘ page linked to above, there is another correction based on a CiF Watch report, concerning a false claim by ‘CiF’ columnist John Pilger about the death toll during the Gaza War.)

Guardian video falsely claims that Hezbollah drone was shot down over “Palestinian territory”.

The Guardian posted the following video story on the Hezbollah drone shot down by the Israeli Air Force on Oct. 6.

Note the text on the screen claiming that the drone was shot down over “Palestinian territory”.

The video included a clip of Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah claiming that the Iranian sponsored Islamist terror group had the right to send such UAVs over “southern Palestine”.

The Guardian’s caption for the video reads as follows:

“The Hezbollah leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, says it sent the drone shot down by Israel over Mount Hebron in the West Bank on Saturday. Nasrallah says it is the right of Hezbollah to fly drones in the occupied territories. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu says his country will act to defend its borders.”

However, the drone, which was launched from Lebanon, was not shot down over Palestinian territory.  

The UAV traveled down the Mediterranean coast before crossing into Israel from Gaza. Then, it traveled east across Israel’s Negev desert, and was shot down above the Yatir Forest – south of the border with the West Bank, clearly inside Israel.

“A” marks the Yatir Forrest

The text on the video, as with the caption, is not accurate.

You can contact the Guardian’s readers editor, Chris Elliott, to seek a correction.

 reader@guardian.co.uk

AKUS’s postcard from Israel: The Negev, Part 1: Hobbits, Spas, Camels, and Red Indians

A guest post by AKUS

I planned to head south from the kibbutz to visit the Nabatean ruins at Avdat, which has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and found much more than I had expected to see and visit along the way.

There had been a kassam launched at Sderot from Gaza that morning, but by 9:00 am all seemed to be clear, so I stopped in to take some money from an ATM and grab a cup of coffee, then headed south towards Beersheva. Much of Israel seems to be covered in hothouses made of brown netting like these near Sderot. I was told that the farmers have found that the netting allows in enough sun for the crops to grow well, while trapping in a great deal of moisture that would otherwise evaporate. The netting reduces the amount of water needed for irrigation and damage by insects and birds.

 

Passing Beersheva, and heading south on Route 40, a road sign makes you realize that you really are in the Middle East! 

 

The camels that wander onto the roads come from the dozens of Bedouin encampments and “informal” – i.e., illegal – settlements that line Route 40 for miles south of Beersheva. These small slums are the “villages” and “towns” occupied by Bedouin whom Israel would like to have move into townships with proper services and utilities. Of course, as another plank in its battle to always show Israel in the worst possible light, the Guardian accuses Israel of wanting to uproot the Bedouin rather than accepting that this is a reasonable attempt to improve their quality of life. 

 

Look carefully at the ridge at the bottom picture below and you’ll see some of the camels that the road signs warn travelers to look out for:

 

Continuing south I stopped to fill up the car, and was intrigued by a sign that said “Neve Midbar” – “Oasis” in English. Following a short road to a T junction, I had to decide to turn right or left, and chose left. To my surprise, this is what began to emerge in the desert – a village made for Hobbits!

 

Coming closer, a sign announced in Hebrew that this is “Makman Dunes – Guesthouses made from Mud”.  The houses are made from natural materials such as mud and straw, with electricity supplied by solar panels. Hobbits would be comfortable with their rounded doors and curved interiors.

 

As so often to happens in Israel, where there seems to be only two degrees of separation between people, not six, it turned out I know the owners distantly.  This unusual set of guest houses was built by Rodney Hirsh, the son of old friends of mine, and his wife Tali. Their own house features a hobbit-appropriate bar for guests:

 

The location is at the bottom of a small ridge that still shows the signs of a British Army position from the days of Allenby’s campaign against the Ottomans.

Heading back to the main road, I noticed a building ahead and a parking lot full of cars. This was the real “Neve Midbar” – a spa set up in the middle of the Negev Desert. It was packed with visitors from Beersheva and nearby towns “taking the waters”. The mineral waters are pumped up from a depth of 900 meters at a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius and feed into a large poll inside the building:

 

 

Another surprise awaited just a few yards further down the road – the “Ship of the Desert” park which is run by local Bedouin who rent out traditional Bedouin tents and provide Bedouin food to their guests. Those willing to brave the smell of the “Ships of the Desert” can have a ride on what must be one of the world’s smelliest and ugliest beasts – a camel:

 

Leaving this eclectic collection of tourist attractions behind, I headed still further south, driving towards Avdat and Mitzpe Ramon. Before Sde Boker another unexpected tourist attraction appeared – the Wild West in the Negev? Wigwams or tepees for the traveler who really wants to get away from it all:

 

The camp is part of a small farm, which you can view on the Internet at The Desert Olive Farm”, established in 2002. Various desert crops are grown here and in a small neighboring farm. There are signs of Nabatean agriculture and a ruined Nabatean fortress that used to guard the spice route from Saudi Arabia to Europe some 2,000 years ago. As the Nabateans did, the farm collects as much rainwater as possible in the winter on some of the same terraces the Nabateans built.

Then it was time to start moving on towards Avdat before the mid-day sun made leaving the air-conditioned car almost impossible.

Next:  A winery in the Negev, the ruins at Avdat, and a brief glimpse of Mitzpe Ramon – the crater and the town.

AKUS’ postcard from Israel, Day 1: The Joe Alon Center for Bedouin Culture

A guest post by AKUS

[CiF Watch regular contributor 'AKUS' recently visited Israel and will be filing a few blog 'postcards' from his trip over the next few days. This is his first installment. - A.L.] 

Who killed Joe Alon?

A few minutes before 1 A.M. on Sunday, July 1, 1973, Col.Yosef (Joe ) Alon and his wife Dvora returned to their home in a quiet Washington, D.C., suburb. Alon, the air attache at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, had been at a farewell party for an Israeli diplomat. They parked the car. Dvora went into the house and then heard five gunshots. 

Joe Alon was one of the founders of the Israel Air Force, with Ezer Weizman and Moti Hod. His murder has never been solved.

While training and commanding air force units in the Negev, Joe Alon became familiar with the local Bedouin and the special character of the Negev. The Joe Alon Center near Kibbutz Lahav, not far from Beersheva, focuses on the life and culture of the desert tribes and is dedicated to this man who respected his fellow desert dwellers and their way of life.

Ouda Abu Kahud from the Bedouin township of Hura near Beersheba is a well-known guide in the area, and guides visitors from Israel and abroad around the two-storey Joe Alon Center exhibits depicting the daily life of the Negev Bedouin and their counterparts in Sinai.

 

Ouda Abu Kahud talking to group of policeman touring the area to learn more about Bedouin culture and life about typical Bedouin customs and life and how they differ among the various tribes.  His talk is punctuated by jokes about the Bedouin themselves, and their interactions with the wider world around them, adding his dry humor to the learning experience.

He is standing  in front of a model of an encampment of Bedouin of the Negev. Particularly interesting was the section on the Jebalyia tribe (Jebal/Jabal -= mountain). Ouda Abu Kahud explained that the tribe is descended from Christian slaves s brought from Romania by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD to serve and protect the Santa Caterina monastery on the presumed Mount Sinai. Over the centuries they intermarried with the local tribes, and are now Muslim.

Some of the many exhibits:

Full-scale models illustrating the lifestyles of different Bedouin tribes

Old Bedouin farming utensils, now superseded by modern tools

Woven and embroidered patchwork quilt made by Bedouin women to illustrate their communities and to express their dreams for their lives and the lives of their children.

Finally, in a full-size example of a Bedouin tent, Ouda Abu Kahud prepares coffee for his guests while he explains the complexities of Bedouin hospitality and the coffee ritual.

If you are in the Beersheva area on your next trip to Israel, make a small detour and spend a few hours at the Joe Alon Center – it’s well worth it!

Postcard from Israel – Mitzpe Ramon

Some eighty kilometres south of Be’er Sheva, in the heart of the Negev Desert and perched high up on the edge of the Ramon Crater, lies the small town of Mitzpe Ramon – established in 1951. Like the desert surrounding it, there is much more to Mitzpe Ramon than may first meet the eye. 

The unique geographical and geological characteristics of the 500 metre deep and 40 kilometre long Ramon Crater attract both outdoor enthusiasts and those just seeking to ‘get away from it all‘.

With most desert wildlife being nocturnal, a visit to Bio Ramon provides the opportunity to ‘meet the locals’ – including porcupines, snakes, lizards and gerbils – and learn how they survive in such a harsh environment. Other surprises nearby include an alpaca farm and Israel’s southernmost vineyards where Merlot and other varieties of grape thrive, incongruously surrounded by rocky desert. 

Be’er Sheva Court ruling on Guardian activists’ pet subject

 A guest post by Hadar Sela

As long-time readers of Cif Watch are well aware, the subject of the demolition of repeatedly illegally constructed buildings at Al Arakib in the Negev has been adopted by the Guardian as something of a cause celebre.

In July 2010 CiF provided a platform for Neve Gordon to accuse Israel of carrying out ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Negev Bedouin when illegally built structures in Al Arakib were demolished by the Israeli authorities and the Guardian still carries a video on the subject.

In March 2011 Harriet Sherwood jumped on the bandwagon with her report from Al Arakib, quoting Ben Gurion University’s Professor Oren Yiftachel (Neve Gordon’s colleague) as an authority on “Judaisation of the Negev”.

In October 2011 CiF ran an article by MK Talab el Sana which repeated the ‘ethnic cleansing’ theme, as did a letter signed by most of the ‘who’s who’ of British anti-Israel activists published by the Guardian on the same day.

CiF Watch has provided background information and links to the outcomes of some of the many court cases on the subject of Al Arakib here, here, here and here.

On March 15th 2012, Judge Sarah Dovrat of the Be’er Sheva District Court gave her ruling after yet another protracted court case.  

“Seventeen Beduin, members of the al-Uqbi family, filed the six land claims. The complex and often bitter legal proceedings went on for over six years, and discussed in detail the history of the Negev Beduin and land laws dating back to the mid-19th century. The Beduin claim the land had belonged to their families since before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and that it had come into their possession by means of purchase and inheritance over generations.”

“Significantly, the land in question – south of the Beduin city of Rahat – includes the hotly contested area known as al-Arakib, the site of an ongoing and bitter conflict between Beduin and the state. Temporary shacks built by the Beduin in al-Arakib were demolished by the state and rebuilt on more than 10 occasions, the last in 2010, and last year the state filed a NIS 1.8 million lawsuit against two Beduin families over the issue.”

Guardian interviewee Oren Yiftachel appeared as an expert witness on behalf of the plaintiffs. The Judge took the unusual step of noting in her closing remarks Yiftachel’s somewhat less than professional behavior in that role.

“I felt uncomfortable with Prof. Yiftachel’s cross-examination when it transpired that he relied on sources and quoted from them without bothering to read them, instead he quoted from quotes that appeared in a different source. The expert’s squirming on the witness stand on this matter, not only left an uncomfortable feeling, more accurately a sense of embarrassment for the expert, for the predicament in which he found himself. The expert should not only be objective, in offering his opinion, but he should also read the sources to which he refers, or he should immediately state, without prevaricating, that he relied on secondary sources instead of undergoing lengthy and embarrassing questioning, at the end of which he confesses that that is the case, and there is no need to add more. A glimpse of his cross examination will suffice and I will not expound further on this.”

Judge Dovrat’s decision makes for fascinating reading, especially to anyone interested in the issue of the Ottoman-era land laws which are so central to the Al Arakib dispute. The entire decision is available in Hebrew here. Sections of the decision relating to Oren Yiftachel’s testimony can be read in English here and a newspaper report on the case here.

“They [the plaintiffs] also contended that the Ottoman, and later the British, authorities had granted legal autonomy to the Negev Beduin to organize land ownership according to Beduin law, which is why it was not registered as theirs in the Tabu.

However, the court did not accept this claim, saying that if the Ottoman authorities had wished to exempt a particular population from the law, then they would have done so explicitly.

Rejecting the claims, Judge Sarah Dovrat concluded the the land in question had not been “assigned to the plaintiffs, nor held by them under conditions required by law.”

“Regardless of whether the land was Mawat or Miri, the complainants must still prove their rights to the land by proof of its registration in the Tabu,” the judge said.”

….

“The judge held that the plaintiffs’ documents indicated that they knew they had a duty to register land in the “Tabu” (the land registry) but had not wanted to do so. “The state said that although the complainants are not entitled to compensation, it has been willing to negotiate with them,” the judge added. “It is a shame that these negotiations did not reach any agreement.””

This, however, is unlikely to be the last we will hear of Al Arakib either in the Israeli courts or on the pages of the Guardian as the plaintiffs are apparently now considering appealing to the Supreme Court. 

Guardian’s latest assault on Israel’s legitimacy includes more absurd charges of “ethnic cleansing”

On October 5th the Guardian published two items – an article by MK Talab el Sana and a letter signed by a number of well-known and prolific anti-Israel activists – on the subject of the Negev Bedouin. Due to their fact-free one-sided nature and the omission of any alternative perspective, as well as their being timed to coincide with a demonstration to be held the next day in Israel, both items can only be seen as co-operation with and enabling of a political campaign.

Cif Watch has covered the issue of the disputes between Israeli Bedouin and the State many times in response to the plethora of previous Guardian articles on the subject. Some of those articles can be read here, here, here and here.

The published letter employs the highly inflammatory –and totally inaccurate – phrase “ethnic cleansing” and falsely suggests that the residents of the illegally constructed Bedouin encampments do not have access to Israeli hospitals. The letter’s writers also employ the now popular political tactic of describing  the Bedouin as Palestinians, stating that “[t]he British government must condemn any move to evict the Palestinian citizens of Israel from their lands, which were documented under the British Mandate as privately owned Palestinian land – not ownerless as the Israeli state now claims.”

The facts are of course somewhat different than this emotionally charged letter would suggest. Dr. Thabet Abu Ras, a professor of political geography at Ben Gurion University and director of the Adalah Negev Project (also a member of ACRI and a former director of Shatil), has documented the actual sequence of events:

 (emphasis added, Naqab =Negev)

“In 1858, the Turks enacted a law requiring that the names of landowners be officially recorded as a means of regulating land-related matters in the Ottoman Empire.  There were five categories of land in the Ottoman Empire: Mulk (land under private ownership),  Miri (state-owned land that could be cultivated for a one-time fee), Mauqufa (land in a religious trust or Islamic endowment), Metruka (uncultivated land), and Mawat (wasteland unsuitable for cultivation). Most of the land in the Naqab was categorized as Mawat. The Bedouin of the Naqab were opposed to the creation of a written record of their land holdings, since doing so would make them subjects of foreign rule. As such, they would be required to pay taxes and serve in the Ottoman army. 

In 1921, the British Mandate government issued an order calling for residents of the Naqab to register their land. The Bedouin, who were given a two-month extension, did not do so, and their land remained unregistered. According to the Land Ordinance (Mawat) of 1921, a Bedouin who cultivated revitalized and improved Mawat land was given a certificate of ownership for that land, which was then recategorized as Miri. The courts of the new State of Israel, a country born 27 years later, ruled that any Bedouin who passed up the opportunity to register Mawat land in his name in 1921 and did not receive a certificate of ownership was no longer eligible to do so.”

In other words, the fact that many contemporary residents of the Negev cannot produce documentation in support of their claims to various lands is a result of the choices made by their ancestors. It should be made clear that all privately owned land (‘Tabu’) in Israel (whether owned by Jews, Arabs, Bedouin or any other section of the population) is exclusively land which was purchased and registered before the establishment of the state and that the government has issued compulsory purchase orders for lands privately owned by individuals in all sectors in order to facilitate town planning and development.

In his article MK Talab el Sana also promotes the myth of Bedouin ownership of most, if not all, Negev land and he too employs the term “ethnic cleansing”, as promoted by the Higher Steering Committee, and despite the fact that a contemporary population of 200,000 (more conservative estimates place the figure at 160,000) compared to 11,000 in 1953 would indicate quite the opposite. No-one is suggesting the removal the Bedouin from the Negev; in fact at the time of the return of the Sinai in the early 80s, many opted to remain in Israel under an offer made by the Israeli government rather than to return to Egyptian rule. 

The Israeli government has made numerous attempts over the years to solve the disputes with the 40% of the Negev Bedouin population which does not currently live in one of the seven purpose-built towns. Additional new towns are planned, with offers of free land, a waiver on infrastructure development costs and financial relocation packages for those moving there from illegally constructed encampments. No other sector of Israeli society is eligible for these benefits. 

Rahat – one of the seven Bedouin towns in the Negev

As anyone who has driven along the southbound road out of Be’er Sheva in recent years will appreciate, the much-used term ‘unrecognised villages’ in fact refers to an ever-expanding network of unauthorised shanty towns such as those pictured below.  The provision of 21st century facilities and services to such a vast number of illegally constructed encampments is simply impossible. 

 

In order to fully understand the issue of the disputes between successive Israeli governments and certain groups of the Negev Bedouin, (and why they are so difficult to solve) it is necessary to appreciate the political agendas of some of those promoting the subject both at home and abroad. That, of course, is essential background which the Guardian does not provide for its readers. 

Talab el Sana, for example, is a member of the ‘Ra’am’ party, otherwise known as the United Arab List, which enjoys particularly strong support among the Bedouin. That party is dominated by the Southern Islamic Movement which, although more moderate than its Northern counterpart under the leadership of Raed Salah, does not recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state but takes part in the political process. Its ideology is closely related to that of its parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Another organization heavily involved in the promotion of the dispute between the Negev Bedouin and the Israeli government as a means of delegitimisation of the Jewish state is Adalah which calls for the replacement of the Jewish state with a ‘democratic, bilingual and multicultural’ country in which Jewish immigration would be limited to strictly humanitarian cases but Palestinian refugees and their descendants would be entitled to the ‘right of return’. The director of Adalah’s Negev Project, the abovementioned Thabet Abu Ras, is also a prominent member of the NCALC which constitutes the majority party in the High Follow-Up Committee. The joint manifesto of these two bodies calls for Israel to lose its Jewish identity and become a ‘state of all its citizens’.  Ironically, Adalah is also involved in a legal campaign to remove Jewish residents from the Negev area.

In publishing both Talab el Sana’s markedly subjective article and the highly inaccurate and inflammatory accompanying letter from well-known anti-Israel activists, the Guardian has once more offered its services as collaborator with and propagandist for political organisations which, through exploitation of the Bedouin’s grievances, seek to delegitimize and undermine the state of Israel. 

Guardian correspondent’s wish for the Jewish state? That it kindly cease to exist

This is cross posted at Anne’s Opinions

With respect to Israel, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency includes the following in their working definition of anti-Semitism:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

Every time you think the Guardian has reached bottom, it digs and finds an even lower depth of hatred towards Israel. The glee with which their writers speculate about the possible demise of Israel, sorry, Zionism, is completely nauseating. It is a mystery to me that a newspaper which claims to be liberal and pro-democracy could so ardently wish for the destruction of a liberal democratic state and find a plethora of writers to promote their desire.

The article which has so shocked me today is by the execrable David Hearst: “Could Arab staying power ultimately defeat Zionism?”.

By his title alone Hearst displays his ignorance about the history and meaning of Zionism and simply conflates it with the existence of Israel.  Zionism is not the State of Israel.  Zionism is the political national movement of the Jewish people aspiring to have a homeland of their own, an aspiration that has thank G-d been fulfilled and exists as the State of Israel.

Hearst begins his article with words of praise for “sumud” – the word the Palestinians use for steadfastness, staying put. However he lets his imagination bias run away with him when he uses obfuscation and outright lies instead of just stating the facts.

Staying put against overwhelming odds is regarded as a victory. But it is more than just a word. It’s the look in Rifqua al-Kurd’s eyes as she fights eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. She lives out of boxes, because when the police throw her out and the settlers move in she doesn’t want the clothes thrown into the street.

No mention of the fact that whenever Palestinians are evicted from Sheikh Jarrah, it is not done at the whim of those eeevil settlers, but only when and if Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that the houses in question legally belong to the Jews, and that the Palestinians have effectively been squatting illegally.

Sumud sums up the attitude of the Bedouin struggling to stay in 45 unrecognised villages in the Negev, without a supply of water, electricity or schools. Once the entire Negev was theirs, now only 6% is. Israel wants to put the Bedouin in townships while establishing 130 Jewish villages and agricultural settlements on the land. Talab al-Sana, their MP, says: “They want Jews to be Bedouin and Bedouin to be Ashkenaz [European Jews].”

Again, lies and obfuscation. The Negev was part of Israel since partition in 1947.  The Bedouin by definition are nomads and possess no land at all. Under Israeli rule the Bedouin have benefited hugely. To ignore the rights and benefits granted to the Bedouin is breathtaking in its dishonesty.

Sumud crops up in some unexpected places – not only East Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza, but in Jaffa, Lod, and in Arab communities all over Israel among people who have nominally the same rights as any other citizen.

So now we come to the real aim of Hearst and his Palestinian followers. By stating that they wish to remain “steadfast” in towns like Jaffa, Lod and other Israeli Arab towns, towns that by any definition and border-drawing are and will always be part of the State of Israel, they are in essence advocating the Palestinian takeover of these towns and the rejection of Israeli ownership of them.  This is another way of advocating the “one-state solution”, i.e. the destruction of Israel as the Jewish homeland.

If Israel ends its occupation of the West Bank, and allows it to join with Gaza, the result could be two states – a Palestinian one alongside an Israeli one. But if you accompany that with a civil rights movement inside Israel, the goal could be very different – a secular, democratic state “for all its citizens”, where Jew, Christian and Muslim are equal. A one-state solution in which Jewish citizens lose an inbuilt majority. The end of Zionism, no less.

Here Hearst specifically confirms my words above. But once again he conflates “Zionism” with the State of Israel. He refuses to see that the destruction (G-d forbid) of the State of Israel will not end Zionism. It never ended for the 2,000 years of our Exile and it will not end with the wishes of an antisemitic journalist and his Arab heroes.

Hearst goes on to quote from the discredited anti-Israel “historian” Ilan Pappé:

Trying to be “good Arabs” in Jewish eyes was tantamount to collaboration in Arab ones. But much has changed.

Pappé says: “The people in the West Bank understood what the minorities inside Israel felt like, after years of deriding them for being lesser Palestinians, and that when the main impulse of the power that controls everything in your daily life is expulsionist, staying put is quite an achievement.”

Just the fact that he quotes from Pappé reveals his well-known bias, but the quote itself exposes Pappé’s own prejudice.  Calling Israeli actions “expulsionist” is not only false, but quite hilarious when he himself brings the population figures of Israel’s Arab population:

More than 100,000 Arabs stayed on after 1948 and today number more than 1.5 million, roughly a fifth of the population of Israel.

Next in line for Hearst is another inciting “historian”

Sami Abu Shehadeh: …doing his doctoral thesis on Jaffa as the major Arab cultural and economic centre during the mandate period. It had its own Arabic press, eight cinemas, five hospitals and about 120,000 people. After the 1948 war, 3,900 were left.

It is standard practice for historians at Tel Aviv University to explain the time frame of their research and why it ends when it does. Shehadeh stopped his in 1948 because that was when Jaffa stopped existing as a city. “

I’m sure the present day residents of Jaffa, both Arabs and Jewish Israelis, will find that rather puzzling.

The discrimination suffered by his community is extensively documented. Half live below the poverty line, 48% can not build a house for the next 15 years because there no permits or plans. Only 19% of Arab women with Israeli citizenship are in a job, compared with 65% of Jewish women.

Shehadeh is being –  surprise – dishonest here. Who is it that is preventing Arab women from working? Is it Israeli discrimination or the backward Arab culture that wants its women to stay at home?

But the terrain of their changing identity and allegiance is not so well mapped. Israel demands expressions of loyalty from them.  Loyalty to what, they ask. A democracy or a supremacist state?

The antisemitism displayed in this one last sentence is the real kicker.  Israel, a homeland for the Jews, with a sizable non-Jewish minority, including Arab citizens who make up 20% of the total population – and whose leaders [in the Knesset] often declare the destruction of Zionism as their ultimate goal, and yet still possess full legal, political and property rights with full access to an (independent) judiciary. This is a supremacist state?

Methinks the dishonourable professors and their journalist advocate protest too much.