Fact Sheet: Discrimination against Negev Bedouins in State Planning

Fact Sheet and Background Information, November 2007


  • The Arab Bedouin are an indigenous, national ethnic minority.

  • About half of Israel’‘s 160,000 Arab Bedouin live in 46 villages in the Negev, all of which are not recognized by the state.

  • As such, Israel does not provide the villages with a planning structure or basic and essential services such as water, electricity, sewage systems, transport, education, and health.

  • The abominable conditions in the unrecognized villages constitute severe violations of basic human rights: the right to live in dignity, the right to shelter, the right to health, and the right to education. Bedouin residents of unrecognized villages live in third-world conditions in a first-world state, alongside modern settlements, inhabited primarily by Jewish Israelis.

  • At the same time, Israel actively encourages Jewish citizens to relocate to the Negev region, with a wide variety of government incentives, while simultaneously pressuring the Negev Bedouin citizens to move to seven government-planned towns. This policy completely disregards the Bedouins’‘ needs, culture, and traditional way of life.

  • In total, the Bedouin represent about 28% of the population residing in the area encompassing Beersheba and the territory southward, but only occupy 3% of the region’‘s land.

  • The use of house demolition as an enforcement tool is applied in a discriminatory and cruel manner against the Bedouin citizens. Since the beginning of 2007, the state has demolished some 130 houses in unrecognized Bedouin communities.

  • The abovementioned facts point to systemic discrimination against Israel’‘s Bedouin population at all levels of government.

  • A history of the legal battle

  • 1996: The National Committee for Planning and Building published its District Outline Plan for the Southern Region (14/4), outlining its vision for the region over the next 20 years. The plan disregards unrecognized villages, presenting them on the map as open space. It allocates this land for agricultural, industrial, and military purposes. The government policy, as described in the plan, is to evict the Bedouin from the unrecognized villages and concentrate them into government-planned towns, blocking the possibility for members of existing agricultural communities to preserve their traditional agrarian way of life.

  • The same plan offers the Jewish population of 73,000 in the Negev the choice of living in 106 agricultural southern communities and dozens of cities, towns, and community settlements.

  • 2000: ACRI filed a petition to the High Court of Justice, challenging the inherent discrimination in the District Outline Plan for the Southern Region on behalf of representatives of three unrecognized villages and other human rights organizations.

  • 2001: During High Court deliberations on the ACRI petition, state planning authorities acknowledged the discriminatory policies in the District Outline Plan, and committed to redressing them in the Beersheba Metropolis Plan, also known as the Partial District Plan. The arrangement also requires the planning authorities to involve representatives of the Bedouin community in the planning process.

  • Meanwhile, government authorities began to implement a series of resolutions approved in 1999-2000 to develop outline plans for nine new Bedouin towns, some of which would have granted recognition to existing unrecognized villages and others which would have expanded the jurisdiction area of already recognized Bedouin towns.

  • However, the area of the existing seven Bedouin towns does not include enough land to meet the needs of their current residents – that being said, there is surely not enough land for new residents. Until now, the individuals who were ordered to move to the new towns have had to live in temporary structures in the towns, with no connection to infrastructure – just like the residents of unrecognized villages.

  • June 2007: The National Committee for Planning and Building published the partial Outline Plan for Beersheba. The plan recognized an additional two towns and marked areas for more Bedouin settlements. However, it did not include planning directives for these villages, essentially leaving the conditions at status quo.

  • The plan systematically allocates the land of existing villages for purposes other than residential use by the Bedouin communities, such as forestation and industrial zones, even though many of these villages have existed for decades.

  • This forces residents to live outside the law, in horrid conditions without basic services, and under the constant threat of house demolitions and expulsion. The plan also does not raise the issue of compensation for relocation.

  • In total, the partial Outline Plan fails to recognize 35 of the 46 unrecognized Bedouin villages.

  • July 2007: The High Court of Justice concluded that ACRI should withdraw its 2000 petition against the Southern District Outline Plan, effectively allowing organizations such as ACRI to submit objections to the partial Beersheba Plan to the National Committee for Building and Planning.

  • October 2007: ACRI, along with Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, and the Negev Coexistence Forum, submitted six objections to the National Committee for Planning and Building. The coalition chose six communities as paradigms of the challenges facing Bedouin residents of unrecognized villages. The communities are: Wadi Al-Na’‘am, A-Sera, Rachama, Sawa, Hashem Zane, and El-Ghara.
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    Categories: Arab Citizens of Israel, Land Distribution and Planning Rights, Negev Bedouins and Unrecognized Villages, Racism and Discrimination, The Right to Equality

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