NCF's Update from the Negev-Naqab
Happy Passover from NCF
This Passover, Jews and Arabs alike are saying:
"No ONE of us can be free until EVERYBODY is free"
Photo: Khitam. Bīr Haddāj, 2018
In the Past year, NCF has worked to promote equality between the Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel in the Negev/Naqab.
We exposed the brutal policy of house demolitions and the state's
failures in finding employment solutions for Bedouin women. We brought
thousands of people to tour the unrecognized villages, in hopes of
breaking down the barriers for a shared society. We had solidarity
visits with hundreds of partners in Israel and around the world.
We demonstrated against the unjust imprisonment of Sheikh Sayah, a
Bedouin human right defender, and lobbied the UN committees in order to
pressure the Israeli government to ensure the protection and the
implementation of the Bedouin people's rights.
In the name of freedom of speech, NCF fought (and won) in the Supreme
Court so that it can continue the valuable work of the Multaka-Mifgash,
the only joint Arab-Jewish cultural center in the Negev/Naqab.
But there are still many challenges ahead, and freedom for all is still out of grasp.
In order for NCF to continue its activities, we need your support!
at the United Office in Geneva
Bedouin community representative to the UN Committee on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR): “The so-called
development in the Negev/Naqab is done on our expense, we need the
support of the international community”.
* This publication was produced with the financial support of the
European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Adalah and
NCF and do not necessarily represent the views of the European Union.
The statement was given on the 11th
of March (Monday) during the pre-session of the CESCR Working Group.
Following a report submitted by NCF and Adalah, which depicted the
discrimination of the Bedouin community in the southern region of
Israel. The Committee will convene to examine the implementation of the
Covenant in Israel in September-October 2019. “Israel signed
the Covenant and is obliged to implement its
The report mentioned the severe neglect of the education and health
systems, and the inability of the state to effectively promote Arab
Bedouin employment. In addition, the organizations expressed concern
with the government’s “development” plans
that will lead to the displacement of 36,000 Bedouins from their
villages, and severe budgetary neglect in the fields of education,
health and employment, which causes huge gaps between Jews and Arabs in
Strong reservations were made regarding the Five-Year Plan for
Development (Government Resolution No. 2397), which they claim serves
as a pressure tool to evacuate the 35 villages that are being
denied recognition in the Negev/Naqab: "The residents of these villages
are completely excluded from the budgets ... The Plan includes an
allocation of NIS 42 million to increase the enforcement of the
Planning and Construction Laws in the Negev/Naqab, and another NIS 30
million to plant trees in the evacuated lands, in order to prevent the
residents from returning to their homes."
The pre-session of the Working Group, which took place in Geneva from
11-14 March, is part of the United Nations monitoring mechanism for the
implementation of the UN Covenant on Cultural, Economic and Social
Rights (1966), to which the State of Israel joined in 1992. Member
States who signed the Covenant are committed to promise the protection
of five central rights: the right to education, the right to health,
the right to work, family rights and the right to adequate standard of
living. The latter was discussed at length in the report due
to the housing shortage and the policy of house demolitions against the
Bedouin population in the Negev/Naqab, and included harsh criticism of
the Authority for the Development and Settlement of the Bedouin in the
Negev: "The Authority enters the villages in order to negotiate with
the families, while the eviction itself is not even
negotiable”, it said.
Speaking in-front of Committee Members, Amir Abo Qweder
NCF’s representative to the UNOG, said: "This
year, my brother 'Akef's house was demolished, his wife Amani and his
little children Judah and Gina had to return to live with their
grandmother to this day. They are still subjected to harassments and
investigations by the Yoav Special Unit”. Abuo
Qweder himself is a resident of an unrecognized
village, added: "Minister Uri Ariel is proud of
dispossessing and evacuating tens of thousands of Bedouin from their
villages. He does not treat us as citizens, but rather as criminals! ".
Tal Avrech, NCF’s
international advocacy coordinator said: “The
State of Israel deliberately and constantly chooses to ignore the
Bedouin living in unrecognized villages. It prevents them from
accessing their basic civil and human rights, in order to exhaust them
so that they will align with the agenda it is trying to promote. Israel
continues to ignore the Bedouin residing in unrecognized villages in
both its internal and external surveys and reports, acting as if they
just don’t exist. But they exist, and they are equal citizens
of the state. NCF chose to write its report to the CESCR so that the
voice of the Bedouin in the Negev/Naqab will echo in the hallways of
the United Nations”.
NCF in the Media
Hala Abo Freh, Umm al-Hiran. Photo: Meged Gozani, Haaretz
“Photographing Umm al-Ḥīrān – Countdown”
Umm al-Hiran Photography Book, “Umm al-Ḥīrān Parting Moments”, prepared
by the village women as part of the Negev Coexistence Forum's
documentation project, is dedicated to the memory of Yaaqub Abu al-Qian,
may he rest in peace.
Haaretz’s reporter, Vered Lee, came to the village to speak
with the project’s participants and coordinators and hear about their
Taken from the article:
The photo book ... documents from a female perspective the residents
living in the unrecognized village in the Negev, forced in April 2018
after a long struggle to sign an evacuation agreement and move to the
township of Ḥūrah. The separation period from
the village, which is about to be evacuated, was documented by a group
of Bedouin women who take part in the "Yuṣawiruna – Photographing for Human Rights" project,
which has been operating in the village for the past four years on
behalf of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality. As part of the
project, participants receive a still camera and a video camera,
professional guidance in photography and exposure to human rights
issues. They meet once a week in a house in the village, go out to take
pictures throughout the village, present the photographs during their
meeting and learn to improve the language of photography and analyze the
photographs while discussing the situation in the village and their
lives as Bedouin women in Israeli society.
Hala Abo Freh, documentation coordinator for the Yuṣawiruna project, said:
"The process of working with the women flooded me with memories of my
childhood that connect me back to my roots. It really enlivens the past.
I see before me a population that is displaced by the state - it is a
path that my family has also made and through which I recognize how much
we have lost from our culture and our natural way of life. "
political persecution of NCF and the Multaka-Mifgash cultural center
Danilovich, Mayor of Beer Sheva Municipality, a continue to persecute
the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality and the only
Arab-Jewish culture center in the Negev, the Multaka-Mifgash.
The Beer Sheva municipality
demands that municipal taxes be paid in the amount of NIS 480,000
retroactively for seven years of activity from a public shelter in
neighborhood D in the city.
This was only one month
after the organization won its appeal in the Supreme Court against the
eviction order from the Beer Sheva municipality, which
demanded that NCF evacuate the shelter due to political activity that
it claimed violated the contract.
more than a decade of Arab-Jewish activity from the public shelter in
Beer Sheva, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality received on
January 20, 2019 a notice regarding the demand for payment of municipal
taxes for 7 years of activity (2012-2018), as well as for the current
year, totaling NIS 480,000 (the business
rate for municipal taxes, otherwise known as Arnona). This is the first
time that NCF has been asked to pay municipal taxes for using the
public shelter. Needless to say, NCF is a non-profit organization and
does not conduct any business-like activities from the Multaka-Mifgash
The payment notice was issued only ten days after a ruling was made in
the Supreme Court regarding the matter of NCF's appeal against
the eviction order that was issued in December 2017 by the Beer Sheva
municipality. The municipality claimed that NCF held activities that do
not conform to the allocation contract to which it is signed. Among the
events that NCF hosted were: A discussion of conscientious
objection; an event about the Nakba; and a workshop
to photographing demonstrations. NCF’s appeal alleges that
the municipality, after allocating the building to the organization,
cannot intervene in its content or cancel the contract based on its
interpretation of what constitutes legitimate political
activity. Attorney Dan Yakir from the Association for Civil Rights in
Israel (ACRI) said that the complex issues in society are the essence
of promoting a common space, and as long as they are not infected with
racism and incitement, the municipality does not have the right to
intervene in them.
This week, NCF submitted a letter to the municipality demanding that
the payment, which is tainted by extraneous considerations, be canceled
immediately. In a letter submitted by Attorney Yishai Shnidor and
attorney Carmel Pomerantz on behalf of NCF, it was argued that this
retroactive charge of municipal taxes is illegal, other than in
exceptional cases, and stated that: "The failure to issue
the charges for municipal taxes in the past was not a mistake of the
municipality. In that NCF, which is a volunteer
institution for the benefit of the public that conducts
social, not economic / business / for-profit activities, is
not supposed to pay municipal taxes." In addition, the
lawyers added that it is impossible to avoid a serious aspect of
extraneous considerations that exists in this new affirmation, which arises
"to actual harassment and an attempt to circumvent a ruling
... The connection between the two events is evident."
NCF stated in response: "It appears that even after the
Supreme Court's ruling, the municipality, under the pressure of extreme
right-wing elements, continues to persecute and silence those who are
trying to promote joint activity of Arabs and Jews in the city. The
decision to go after a non-profit organization for an astronomical
retroactive payment for municipal taxes is a brutal provocation and
illegal decision. Which marks a new record in the fight that the Beer
Sheva municipality is leading against freedom of expression. The
municipality failed miserably in the past when it tried to silence NCF
and evict us, and it will fail in doing so once more.”
Sayah will be sent for 10 months in prison starting 25th
of December 2018
by: Azez A-Turi
In an outrageous
decision, the Supreme Court rejected Sheikh Sayah Abu Madhi’m
A-Turi’s request for an appeal
Sayah Abu Madhi’m A-Turi is a leader in the fight for land in
his unrecognized village al-‘Arāgīb, and one of the leaders
in the longest battles for Bedouin land in the Negev/Naqab. Sayah, 69,
was born in the village in 1949. He was married in the village and had
his children and grandchildren there.
In December 2017, the Be’er Sheva Magistrates Court convicted
Sheikh Sayah of 19 counts of trespassing, 19 counts of unlawful entry
into public land and one count of breach of law. He was sentenced to
ten months in prison, five months' probation and a 36,000 ILS fine.
Sheikh Sayah appealed the Magistrate Court’s decision with
the help of the Human Rights Defenders Fund and Advocate Shehadeh Ibn
Bari who represents him in the criminal case. The appeal was denied. A
motion for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has recently been
filed. The court instructed the state to submit its response by
November 2018, before deciding whether to grant leave to appeal. The
motion was denied today by the Supreme Court.
The village of al-‘Arāgīb is located west of Road 40, between
the Lehavim and Goral junctions, in the midst of a large Jewish
National Fund (JNF) forestation project spanning tens of thousands of
dunams. Until 2010, when the state began its repeated demolitions of
the village, some 400-people lived in it, farming their land and
growing mainly winter crops. The population has since shrunk and
residents now live near the cemetery, where they were forced to move
after the demolitions a number of years ago. They continue to fight
against the demolition from there.
On June 27, 2010, the village of al-‘Arāgīb was completely
destroyed by state authorities and has since been destroyed each and
every month, including Ramadan. As of October 2018, the village had
been demolished 135 times.
Sheikh Sayah leads the heroic fight for the village and its land. He
faces a united front of state authorities that have joined forces to
prove his land ownership claims are false. The Israel Police, the State
Attorney's Office, the Negev Bedouin Development Authority, the Israel
Land Authority – all work against this steadfast man who
continues to live in impossible conditions, with no running water or
electricity, leading his community out of faith in the justice of his
path. Sayah uses his public position to raise awareness and promote
recognition for other unrecognized villages in the Negev facing similar
Two of Sayah's sons are on trial for similar offenses. The
criminalization of Sayah's living on the land and the findings that
these offenses carry prison sentences effectively criminalize dozens,
perhaps hundreds of thousands of Bedouin citizens with similar status
in the land. There is reason to believe Sayah and his family have been
singled out for enforcement action to the full extent of the law
precisely because they have opted for a non-violent struggle for
Bedouins' rights in the Negev. Throughout all legal proceedings taken
against him Sayah has repeatedly expressed a strong public stance of
determination and perseverance and shown he was prepared to pay the
heavy cost of refusing to give up the fight.
NCF will continue to support Sayah and his
family in their just struggle.
If you wish to join us in support of Sheikh Sayah on the day of his
imprisonment, please contact: email@example.com
If you wish to join the weekly protest in the Lehavim junction (every
Sunday, 15:00) please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
online on NCF's website
NCF's villages project website and start to read and watch photos and
videos from the Bedouin villages in the Negev-Naqab at: dukium.org/maps
out NCF's record of house demolitions in