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Regional council denounces neglect of recognized Bedouin village in Negev

Dec. 12, 2016 4:13 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 13, 2016 10:13 A.M.)
NEGEV (Ma'an) -- A decade after the Israeli government officially began procedures to recognize the Bedouin village of al-Furaa in the Negev region of southern Israel, the regional council said that the thousands of its residents were still without running water or a sewage system.

Officials from the al-Kasom regional council, which oversees Bedouin communities in the northwestern Negev, told Ma’an on Sunday that, despite Israeli authorities having begun the regularization process in 2006, basic services were still not available to the estimated 6,500 Bedouin residents of the village.

The regional council officials added that the Israeli Ministry of Interior had not granted residents any licenses to build permanent structures in al-Furaa, whether housing or public institutions, reportedly due to disputes over land ownership in some areas of the village.

The severe lack of building permits has meant that more than 2,700 students in al-Furaa have been going to school in caravans for the past ten years.

However, al-Kasom regional council head Eyal Gamliel has recently taken what council members described as "unprecedented steps" with Israel's district planning and zoning committees to try and obtain construction permits for al-Furaa.

"The residents of al-Furaa have waited years for the Israeli government to fulfill its promises to establish the village and offer its residents needed services," Gamliel told reporters on Sunday.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Interior could not be reached for comment on the matter.

While al-Furaa is on its way to becoming officially recognized by the Israeli government, in effect its situation is no different from that of the 35 Bedouin villages “unrecognized” by the Israeli state.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages, which, in addition to lack of access to basic services, have been the targets of repeated demolitions.

Israeli authorities have also refused to connect many Bedouin villages to the national water and electricity grids, while excluding the communities from access to health and educational services, and basic infrastructure.

Rights groups have claimed that such policies are aimed at removing the indigenous Palestinian population from the Negev and transferring them to government-zoned townships to make room for the expansion of Jewish Israeli communities.

Indigenous rights groups have also pointed out that the transfer of the Bedouins into densely populated townships also removes them from their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyles which is dependent on access to a wide range of grazing land for their animals.

While Bedouins of the Negev are Israeli citizens, the villages unrecognized by the government have faced relentless efforts by the Israeli authorities to expel them from their lands in order to make room for Jewish Israeli homes.

Bedouin villages were established in the Negev soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war following the creation of the state of Israel. Many of the Bedouins were forcibly transferred to the village sites during the 17-year period when Palestinians inside Israel were governed under Israeli military law, which ended shortly before Israel's military takeover of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967.

Meanwhile, Israeli Jewish communities in the Negev continuously expand, with five new Jewish plans approved last year. According to an investigation undertaken by Israeli rights groups ACRI and Bimkom, two of the approved communities are located in areas where unrecognized Bedouin villages already exist.
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