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October 8, 2004
 

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PAGE 14 HERITAGE OCTOBER By Dina Kraft WADI AL-NA'AM, Israel (JTA)--There is no sign for the turn of f to Wadi AI Na'am, a sprawling Bedouin village of tin shacks and black burlap tents, and you won't find it on any map. But there is an orange sign announcing the power station that shares the same barren hills of rock and sand. Thick black power lines, shuttling electricity to the Beersheba area, crisscross the sky above the village, though they provide no electricity to the 6,000 residents of Wadi AI Na'am. Like dozens of other Bedouin villages across the Negev Desert, this village is "unrecognized" by the Israeli government, and so does not receive basic services and in- frastructure such as electric- ity, running water, a sewage system, phone lines, health care and paved roads. A dry desert wind whips the long skirt of Najah Abu Gedea, 32, as she takes in the view outside her home--a closed military area to one side, a toxic waste dump to the other. "There are no streets, no main roads, people are shut off from everything," she says, noting that she and other residents worry about the health effects of living so near Ramat Chovev, a toxic waste incinerator across the way from the village. A recent Health Ministry re- port found a markedly higher incidence of cancer and other illnesses among residents of Wadi AI Na'am and others who live near the plant; as a result, the government has put on hold plans to recognize the village and begin putting in basic infrastructure. Israel does not want to give the vil- lage permanent status if it is unhealthy to live there. Wadi A! Na'am and eight other unrecognized vil- lages were identified by the government over a year ago to become full-fledged mu- nicipalities with rights to the same services as other Israeli towns. But changes on the ground have been slow in coming, and many Bedouin activists say the government's actions are not enough to make up for decades of neglect--nor do they solve the problems of some 40 other major unrec- ognized villages. About half of the Negev's 130,000 Bedouin live in such villages because they were built on land that is in dispute. The Bedouin claim the villages sit on land that rightfully belongs to them, passed down, in some cases, for generations. But the Israeli government considers it state property, based on laws that date to Ottoman rule claiming open Negev land as state land. The other half of Negev Bedouin live in the seven towns built for them by the government starting in 1966, part of what critics say is an attempt to urbanize and concentrate the traditionally rural and nomadic Bedouin in a contained area. Some Bedouin leaders say many Bedouin villagers will not heed the call by the government to move either to the seven established towns or eight now-recognized villages because they do not want to abandon what they consider their land and their liveli- hoods. "The Israeli government has no real intention to give a solution to unrecognized villages and the Bedouin community in general," said AmerAbu Hani, who heads the Council of Bedouin Unrecog- nized Villages. "The government wants all Bedouin to be in urban areas, to concentrate them in a minimal area. It does not deal with education, and does not care" about the social problems "that arise as the population makes the change into an urban setting." Although the Bedouin make up 25 percent of the Negev's population, they have control of less than 2 percent of its land. With one of the high- est birthrates in the world, their population is expected to double in 15 years--mak- ing a solution to their living problems especially urgent. According to Abu Hani, the government's intention is to make more and more Negev land available for Jew- ish settlement, even though This Special Issue is full of features relating to financial issues affecting you and Central Florida. Your ad in this Special Section will reach an audience of heads of households who are qualified business and professional people who have the income necessary to live well today and invest wisely tomorrow. Publication Date: October 22, 2004 Deadline: October 13, 2003 For information -- Call 407-834-8787 it has historically been dif- ficult to attract Israeli Jews to live there. Israeli Prime MinisterAriel Sharon, who owns a ranch in the Negev, has long been a proponent of expanded Jew- ish settlement of the region. His plans for a withdrawal of Jewish settlers from. Gaza include suggestions that at least part of the population relocate to the Negev. "All the new" Jewish "development is coming at the expense of building needed infrastructure in already existing and heavily marginalized populations in the Negev," said Devorah Brous, founder and director of Bustan Shalom, a peace activism organization that has worked with the Bedouin on the issue of unrecognized villages. "When people abroad are thinking as Zionists" who want to "make the desert bloom, they do not realize the funding is going to develop- ment projects that are not sustainable." Avishy Cohen, who oversees Bedouin issues as director for monitoring and coordination of national issues for the Prime Minister's Office, said the issue is not about Jewish development, but the complexities of the Bedouin situation. "It is not a simple story. We need to remember this is about the illegal occupation of the land," he said. "They never owned this land and then they took it over." Traditionally, the Bedouin were nomads. Before Israeli statehood in 1948, various clans and tribes be- gan settling permanently for the first time. However, they do not usu- ally have deeds or titles to the land; transactions were made through verbal agreements in accordance with Bedouin tradition. Nevertheless, Cohen Said, the government is dealing with the situation fairly, working to provide services for newly recognized villages. "There is no precedent for this, but we are doing it any- way because of their special situation," he said. Dudu Cohen, the director of Israel's southern region for the Interior Ministry, said the government is trying to ac- commodate the Bedouins' demand for rural living by ensuring room for agricul- ture in the newly recognized villages. "One of the problems was that" before, "we only had urban-style towns and now will have villages with a rural atmosphere," he said. Again, some Bedouin lead- ers say the government is on the right track with the new plans, while others say the changes are insufficient. "The Bedouin are not a monolithic body speaking in one voice," said Avinoam Meirl a professor of geogra- phy at Ben-Gurion Univer- sity who has done extensive research on the Bedouin community in the Negev and other nomadic peoples. "There are internal politics among Bedouin, with differ- ent groups and coalitions with different interests." Meir also cautioned that the cultural clash between the govern- ment and the Bedouin is typi- cal of similar confrontations between indigenous nomadic populations and governments around the world. "Nomadic peoples and governments don't live in peace with each said, "whether it is rica, the Middle or even in These governments indigenous peoples, represent "two posing interests." Abu Rass, the director! Beersheba office New Israel Fund tive in the Negev community--and in geography at Ben- University, for optimism. "In the last is not enou moving said, speaking of the plan to recognize villages. But he said he a mistake by the ment to continue concentrate the urban settings such seven existing are rife with and crime. According to has acted as a how to improve of the unreco the government has stop using the land ownership as an and make a full on resolve the situation. strate I'm saying it as a a patriot because it is Israel," he said. "Otherwis~ go on and the and violence will go the Bedouin have some stron sion of what they see4 historical land." ShopPing Continued from page I filled with 15-20 percent sav- ings, fashion shows, demon- strations, prize drawings and other offers. JFS urges the community to "Indulge yourself in a fun-filled day of shopping and supportingdale's. KidsKonnect, too." KidsKonnect are To participate, send a year round. $10 check, payable to Jew- opportunities for a ish Family Services, to The are available. Call George Wolly Center, 2100 at 407-644-7593 for Lee Rd Winter Park, FL information 32789, attention: Bloom- Konnect. Sanctions Continued from page 2 to any operational policy vis-a-vis Iran, "although it does enhance the credibility of the Israeli threat to Iran's nuclear program." Senior Israeli officials warn that the international community should not count on Israel to remove the Iranian nuclear threat. Israeli policy, they say, has been geared to convincing the international community that Iran's nuclear program is an international and not an Israeli problem, and that it should be dealt with by the international community, not by Israel. "The world should not wait for us to do its 'dirty work,'" by taking out the Iranian nuclear threat, Yoav Biran, the outgoing director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, warned in a recent interview in the mass circulation Yediot Achronot daily. "No one in the world has any doubts about Iran's inten- tions, which remain to achieve full military nuclear capabil- ity with long-range missiles," he said, alluding to the goal of delivering nuclear warheads. "It's not solely an Israeli problem. First and foremost, it's a problem for the stabil- ity of the Middle East and the whole international order. Only persistent international pressure, which must include Europe, the United States and others, will prevent Iran from achieving its goal," he declared. Now, after years in which the Americans pressed for a hard line and the Europeans for "constructive with Iran, the communit~ to take the action Biran had in But whether or the threat of will be enough to the Iranians to nuclear ambitions an open question. And despite Bush's tough talk is an even bi sanctions fail tional comml militar~ rael, armed with bombers and ing" bombs, to dos risk the conse Leslie Susser is matic Jerusalem Report. Tobin Continued from page 4 cades of effort in interfaith dialogue with these church- es, the Episcopalians and any who would follow them should understand that they cannot continue on this path and still pretend to maintain a friendship with the Jewish community. The message that they must receive from every sector of responsible Jewish opinion must be clear: Divestment in Israel isn't merely wrong, it is a declaration of war on the Jewish people. Jonathan S. is executive the Jewish Philadelphia. He reached via Read the Jewish on-line at exponent.com.