By: María Landi / Source: Desinformémonos / The Dawn News / August 1, 2016. The last week of July, a powerful image showed up in my Facebook timeline: it showed a group of Bedouin women, with their backs to the observer, confronting a bulldozer that is headed to destroy their homes and the land they cultivate.
This sort of scene is sadly not infrequent, especially this year, when Israel has beaten its own record of demolitions of Palestinian properties: between January and June this year, they have destroyed 168 homes in Cisjordania, leaving 740 people homeless. Also, 384 of them are girls and boys (which is more than the yearly amount during the last decade). But if demolitions of Palestine settlements that Israel carries out routinely are almost never considered newsworthy for the rest of the world, this one seems to be even less newsworthy, because it’s a demolition that has been repeated on the same place over and over again.
However, this demolition is exceptional because of where it happened. In the morning of Wednesday July 27, Israeli forces destroyed the Bedouin village of Al Araqub, located on the Naqab desert (in Hebrew, Negev) for the 101st time. But there’s a detail that makes Al Araqib (and other nearby villages) different: the Naqab/Negev desert is located within the region that the international community considers to be the official territory of the state of Israel. So, unlike other demolished places, it’s not inside the occupied areas of Cisjordania and Gaza.
Governments, media and the Western public opinion ignore that almost 1 out of 4 inhabitants of the territory of the Israeli state are Palestinians, and that they live in communities that are segregated and face the same problems of exclusion, violence and prohibition to access resources as those who live in the occupied territories. There are also demolitions due to “construction without a permit”, because the State doesn’t give out the permits they demand, since the official policy is to prevent the expansion of their communities.
Within the Palestinian population, there are Bedouin communities that live in around 50 villages that are “non recognized”, according to Israel. This means they are not on the official maps and therefore they don’t receive basic services such as water, health, electric power and infrastructure. The only reason for this is that its inhabitants are not Jewish, but Arab. More than half of the approximately 160,000 Bedouin inhabitants of the Naqab/Negev desert live in unrecognized areas.
Bedouin tribes had been on Palestinian ground since long before the State of Israel was created in 1948. “Non-acknowledged” villages were established on Naqab/Negev in later years: Many communities were forcibly relocated to the areas that they now inhabit, during the 17-year-period where Palestinians that lived in Israel were submitted to a military regime, until 1967, when Israel definitively occupied the rest of historic Palestine. Sixty years later, their villages are still not acknowledged by the State and live under the constant threat of demolition and forced displacement.
Bedouins of Al Araqib have been resisting, since 2010, the repeated demolitions that seek to expel them from their lands and destroy their traditional way of life. The government’s goal is to confine them within reserves or artificial enclaves, so that the lands they originally owned are freed to accommodate Jewish people that come from all over the world.
In 2011, the then Special Rapporteur of the UN on the Rights of Indigenous People, James Anaya, published a report on the policies for Bedouin tribes in the Naqab/Negev, little before the Israeli cabinet issued a plan to reallocate the 30,000 inhabitants of 13 unrecognized villages in settlements created by the Israeli government. According to the Rapporteur, these settlements had the highest rates of overcrowding and unemployment, and the lowest socioeconomic numbers of the state of Israel.
The zionist narrative, hegemonic in the West, poses Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East”, and deliberately omits saying that Israel’s democracy is only for Jewish people —in other words, an ethnocracy. The only official nationality in Israel is Jewish. People from Arab, African, or any other origin, don’t have the same rights before the law, for the sole reason that they are not Jewish. Nationality and Religion are stated in personal IDs, and they define the place a person has in Israeli society….and their rights.
In the state of Israel, over 50 laws (plus a myriad of official policies and practices) discriminate against non-Jewish population and even assign them different geographic areas. A Palestinian can’t live wherever he or she chooses, but wherever the state allows them to live. It’s a geographic and demographic battle that is fought throughout the historical territory of Palestine —not just the territories occupied in 1967, as is generally believed. And this battle began nearly a century ago, with the zionist invasion. It became official in 1948 with the implantation of the State of Israel in the heart of the Arab world. The ethnic cleansing of the Arab population was not a consequence of the war, but of a systematic planification of the movement of zionist settlers, who wanted to get rid of the native population.
This is the main reason that academics and political analysts have cited for decades when they affirm,, time and time again, that the ill-named “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” needs to be restated using different categories of analysis. Historian Ilan Pappé just compiled a book with Israeli and Palestinian multidisciplinary essays that change the paradigm to understand the Palestinian question. Basically, they state that we need to stop understanding it as a “conflict between two national movements, with the same right and roots on the land, that fight for the territory”, and instead see it for what it is: a colonialist European project to substitute the native Arab population for Jewish immigrants. And the natural result of colonialism is a system of apartheid that guarantees segregation among native population and the colonizer group.
In the presentation for the book, journalist Jonathan Cook (resident in Nazareth) explained that, as in South Africa, Israeli apartheid has a double-purpose; the most visible side is physical and spatial segregation, it establishes borders between peoples, cities and even educative systems. There is also a psychological effect, especially in childhood: to create a feeling of rejection and antagonic identity in both communities. But the fundamental and strategic goal is the exclusion of native population from access to land, water and natural resource, which are appropriated and used by the colonizing group. Cook reminded that 93% of the land is available for the “world Jewish nation”, and not for its non-Jewish inhabitants. Likewise, water as a cheap, accessible resource is also reserved for Jewish population. Cook affirms that failing to address the fact that Palestinians are being submitted to apartheid policies is allowing Israel to “justify that their policies in the occupied lands are motivated by security, instead of systematic plundering and resource thieving”.
Once we understand zionism as a colonialist project and the State of Israel as a state of apartheid, the solution is clear, Pappé concludes: the decolonization of Israel/Palestine and the substitution of the apartheid regime for a democracy with equal rights for all of its inhabitants, regardless of their ethnic or religious origin. “Any paradigm that maintains the nature of Israel as a zionist state has no chance to succeed. In the same way we shook off apartheid in South Africa, we have to shake off zionism before we speak about reconciliation. No other solution is going to work”.
The Palestinian people have been resisting plundering, discrimination, jail, repression and exile for seven decades, in the oppressed villages of Galilea, in the arid desert of Naqab or in South Hebron, in the poor neighborhoods of East Jerusalem or in the overcrowded refugee camps of the West Bank, Lebanon or Syria, they know full well that the origin of their pains is zionism, and that only without zionism can they get back their land, their rights and their dignity.