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The Beduin of the Negev

1 January 1990

‘Places of bitterness’ was the phrase used by one researcher describing the ‘government settlements’ where the Israeli government plans to relocate its Beduin population. Nearly half of the 90,000 beduin in the Negev already live in these settlements. They have no industry and provide almost no employment. Their infrastructure is inferior to those of Jewish Israeli settlements and all but one do not have councils elected by residents, but government-appointed ones dominated by officials from the Jewish Israeli community.

Many Beduin do not live in the government settlements but in so-called ‘unauthorized villages’ or spread out in isolated groups of dwellings over their traditional lands. Because all these houses are illegal, demolitions regularly take place, thus pressuring the beduin to move to government settlements.

Beduin Arabs, formerly nomadic tribes, are a minority within a minority – about 15% of Israel’s Arab population. The Negev Beduin have over the past forty years suffered from forced exodus and expulsions, removal from their lands into a closed area, military government and resettlement. Most face continued exclusion from their traditional lands and harassment by the security forces of the “Green Patrol”.

The Beduin of the Negev, MRG Report No 81, outlines the history of the Negev Beduin from Ottoman times to the present Israeli government. Written by Penny Maddrell with additional research by Yunis al-Grinawi, it provides a detailed account of this little-known group and demonstrates why, despite efforts to separate them from the other Arabs of Israel, they are an intrinsic part of the Palestinian community there.

Please note that the terminology in the fields of minority rights and indigenous peoples’ rights has changed over time. MRG strives to reflect these changes as well as respect the right to self-identification on the part of minorities and indigenous peoples. At the same time, after over 50 years’ work, we know that our archive is of considerable interest to activists and researchers. Therefore, we make available as much of our back catalogue as possible, while being aware that the language used may not reflect current thinking on these issues.

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