The Bedouins in Israel are living their everyday life both in and outside of what counts as the Israeli society. About 80,000 of IsraelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 140,000 Bedouins are living in unrecognised villages in the Negev dessert. These people do not have what most of us take for granted: Water, electricity and infrastructure.
Besides the lack of basic needs the Bedouins are, according to them selves and different human rights organisations, harassed by the Green Patrol: A branch of the Israeli Environment Department, founded by Ariel Sharon in the seventies.
The Green Patrol looks after the environment, controls that pollution from factories and industries do not exceeds certain limits.
But the Green Patrol, or Green Police, who are in charge of land issues, do not just give out fines to the evildoers who poison the land of Israel. They are the ones who destroy houses, spray fields with herbicide and take sheeps from farmers who let their cattle graze on governmental land.
The thing is that these farmers and people whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s houses are being destroyed in the Negev area are all Bedouins. Last year, according to the Association of forty, a human rights organisation founded to work for the rights of Bedouins, 120 Bedouin houses were destroyed in the Negev.
Atia Elzam tells IMEMC that: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Every year the government destroys between 100 and 150 Bedouin houses. All houses are considered illegal. But Bedouins have been living here long before the state of Israel was founded.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The government have build seven recognised towns for the Bedouins to live in. Elzam do not think that these towns have been build to help the Bedouins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“People donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have work there. We are farmers. We want to be able to continue our traditional way of living. But the government wants us to move to these towns so they can build settlements on our land.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Like in the Galilee and the Golan hights the Israeli government is trying to get more Jews to live in the Arab dominated Negev. But in the Negev the state is using rather controversial methods to force the Bedouins to leave. In the village of Abda and other villages in the area the Green Patrol have been spraying fields and houses with toxic herbicides.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The village of Abda was sprayed two months ago. So were three other villages. 12000 dunums of land was sprayed by the Green Patrol. Not just the fields, even houses and people. In Abda two persons had to go to hospital after being sprayed by the chemicals. They were not in danger. But itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s illegal to spray people. When we go to the police they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do anythingÃ¢â‚¬Â, Elzam explains.
IMEMC meets Hagay Blechner from the Green Patrol in Beer Sheva for an interview.
IMEMC: What problems and conflicts do the Green Patrol have with the Bedouin population in the Negev?
HB: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Well, in Israel we have a law that says that anyone who wants to build a house must have a permission. The Bedouins they just go out in the fields and say that the land is theirs. But it is the governments.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Also, I work and I pay taxes. They donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t pay taxes. That bothers me. Only if they work in a gas station or in a supermarket they pay taxes. But most of them donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t work or work as shepherds.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The problems we have in the Jewish areas we also have among the Bedouins. But the Bedouin sometimes shoot at us when we come to their villages. The Government is trying to get these people to live in the seven villages that have been build for them. We say please come and live here. You will have water and electricity and roads. But they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to.
HB: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I tell you why. Because in the unrecognised villages the they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t pay any taxes. Still they get water and Electricity…
IMEMC: But I thought they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get anything like that.
HB: Well, hm, some do. Not all. And if they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have it, they steal water from the water pipes.
IMEMC: Why doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the government just recognise the unrecognised Villages and then the problem is solved?
HB: We can not recognised every little tent and house everywhere. We tell the to come to the recognised villages and live there. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s better for them.
IMEMC: The Bedouins say that they hardly donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have any work in the recognised villages, that they canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t live the life that they want to.
HB: It is not true! I will tell you what the problem is. All the people in the recognised villages have land. A little land, but still they have it. But they have to pay for it. In the unrecognised villages they have a lot of land but they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t pay for it. Maybe they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have water and all that. But they have a lot of land.
IMEMC: But the land in the unrecognized villages belong to the government.
HB: But you know they say has belonged to their father and grandfather and so on.
IMEMC: But isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it true that the Bedouins lived here before Israel was founded?
HB: Do you know what a Bedouin is? I tell you what a Bedouin is. A Bedouin is a person who live nowhere. They walk from place to place. They are nomads!
IMEMC: But the Bedouins in Israel DO live in specific areas where they always return to.
HB: Yes, But that is not to be Bedouin. Those are half Bedouins! The new Bedouins.
Hagay Blechner says he does not have information about the spraying of the Village Abda and four other villages, so IMEMC called the Green Patrole spokesperson: Amnan Nachmir, and asked about why the state of Israel is being accused for spraying people hoses and fields belonging to Bedouins in the Negevdessert.
IMEMC: Why is the Green Patrol spraying Bedouin villages and fields?
AN: The Green Patrol is not spraying villages. The Green Patrole is only spraying fields that belongs to the state of Israel but where some people live illigaly.
IMEMC: Have the Green Patrol ever sprayed people?
AN: Ofcourse not. No doubt about that. We have not sprayed on people. We have not sprayed on houses.