“No Eastern land occupied by a sedentary population has as uncertain a water-supply as Palestine. Its Mediterranean climate leaves it without any rain for about half of each year, on the average. Since Palestine is at the southern end of the rainy westerly winds, its rainfall becomes progressively more scanty as one goes south towards the Negeb. Winters with inadequate rainfall are both frequent and unpredictable, and disastrous famines have thus been common throughout its history.”
The above words were written by the famous archaeologist W.F. Albright in his fascinating book ‘the Archaeology of Palestine’ in 1949, but Seth Freedman would have us believe that water shortages in this part of the world are not only relatively new, but somehow deliberately engineered. In his familiar florid style, Freedman recounts his visits to encampments of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe and with typical British romanticism – a sort of ‘Lawrence of Suburbia’ – dramatically depicts the suffering of these noble tribesmen at the hands of the dastardly Israeli regime.
Whilst there do exist many difficulties with Israel’s attempts to reconcile the existence of a modern, democratic welfare state with the traditional nomadic practices of the Bedouin in southern Israel (it should be noted that the case of the northern-dwelling Bedouin is quite different), it is certainly not correct to imply that Israel’s policies towards its Bedouin population are based on racism. At the Negev Conference of 2008 former PM Ehud Olmert made the following statement:
“I want to say a word to the Bedouin population, whose representatives, I hope, are here. I heard from the Foreign Minister that she visited Rahat today. The Mayor of Rahat is one of the most important leaders in the south, and we value and respect him. When I arrived in this area via helicopter, I could see the entire infrastructure development, which is close to completion, for the construction of 2,200 additional housing units in Rahat, with lands allocated by the Israel Lands Authority – a development made through budgets from the Israeli Government and the Ministry of Construction & Housing, in order to allow the Bedouin residents of the south a high quality of living, in areas that constitute an inseparable part of the Bedouin places of residence in the southern part of the country. This is part of the effort we are making, but we are doing more to solve the problems of the Bedouin population, as you know full well. We established a committee, headed by Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Eliezer Goldberg, to resolve the issue of Bedouin settlement in the Negev and address the issue of compensation in the allocation of alternative lands, as well as the enforcement of these arrangements and a timetable for their implementation, and I expect the committee to submit its recommendations soon. This is not a simple thing. We are not willing to accept illegal seizures of land, but we will not allow the eviction of the Bedouins without a settlement that will respect their needs, address their quality of living and enable them to live in areas slated for habitation by these populations, in accordance with their needs, while making certain that the law is enforced and illegal land seizures are prevented.”
In fact, a case which reached the Supreme Court in Israel would imply that anything but racism against the Bedouin is the case.
“Moreover, to provide affordable housing the Israeli government has sometimes leased residential land to Israeli Arabs at subsidized rates unavailable to Israeli Jews. For example, while the government charged Israeli Bedouins just $150 for a long-term lease on a quarter of an acre of residential land in the southern community of Rahat, Israeli Jews were charged $24,000 to lease similarly sized plots in neighboring areas. In response to such policies favoring Israeli Arabs, Eliezer Avitan, an Israeli Jew denied the subsidized rates, sued the government for discrimination. In Avitan v. Israel Land Administration (HC 528/88), Israel’s Supreme Court ruled against Avitan and in favor of the government’s “affirmative action” policy.”
With regard to the Jahalin tribe specifically, it is worth reading what CAMERA had to say on this issue some three years ago.
“The Jahalin have been making claims about the land of Ma’ale Adumim, and squatting on state land assigned to the community, since the 1980’s. They have been warned many times by successive Israeli governments that eventually they would have to move. Most of the Jahalin eventually agreed that they did not have rights to the land. For example, according to a January 29th, 1994 Los Angeles Times article, “no one, not even Hairsh (Mohammed Hairsh, a Jahalin leader) claims that his tribe has a legal right” to the land they have been occupying.”
Of course, that does not prevent the Jahalin and others being used by various NGOs (or journalists) posing as human rights campaigners to promote their own political agenda. Freedman lauds the efforts of NGOs to find solutions to an apparent water supply problem, but unsurprisingly fails to mention the recent controversies surrounding the methods employed by some NGOs in an environment in which water is scarce for all and is a commodity which has to be paid for by all sectors of society. We are by now well aware of the political use of water shortages in Israel as a method of delegitimizing the Israeli state.
So let’s take a look at what happened on that thread once Freedman had pressed the Pavlovian buttons of Bedouin (i.e. indigenous, poor, tribal, romantic) fighting as underdogs against a more powerful state ( i.e. authority, government, Westerners) for those most emotive of commodities, land and water. This first comment should be abundantly clear even to those who have lately been claiming on these pages that they have no idea why some of their posts of CiF are antisemitic.
3 Jan 2010, 3:53PM
Well, Shylock was never one for giving.
Many of the comments on this thread responded to Freedman’s prompting and equated Israel with a racist state guilty of ethnic cleansing.
3 Jan 2010, 2:54PM
Israel’s racist policy towards Palestinians and other Arabs has a historical background in the US treatment of native Americans. The whole of Israeli culture leans this way.
3 Jan 2010, 3:15PM
Cleansing the land as in 1947 to 1949.
It will never end.
No one can live here except those people who have been selected by God.
3 Jan 2010, 3:47PM
Well done Seth, for continuing to highlight the abuse of power and the chicanery which Israel uses to force indigenous people off the land so that it can be reserved for the Brooklynites, the Russians and anybody else who believes in a particular fable. Use of foodstuff, water and resources is a well established tactic in starving a people of their right to live in their ancestral lands.
3 Jan 2010, 3:59PMWhere is the USA or the EU in all of this?
Supporters of ethnic cleansing.
3 Jan 2010, 4:24PM
No it doesn’t. Only Israeli culture as mis-reprepsented in an endless stream of one-sided vilification on Cif.
Absolutely. For example, though a large percentage of the population of Israel supported Ariel Sharon, who committed genocide in a pair of deathcamps, large numbers of Israelis also protested against him. Though there are Israelis who stab gays, or slur dissenters, or who support racist Settlers; there are Israelis who created and joined Peace Now.
Of course, that there are honourable dissenters (like Seth) does not excuse the racist, weirdly-nationalist Israelis, or the fact the racist nationalists have, seemingly, a monopoly of control of the state’s warfare capability.
One cannot but notice two themes at work in these comments. First, the manipulative suggestion that Israel is a racist state, which of course prompts the reader to make the sub-conscious moral decision to oppose that state: no decent person would support racism. Second, there’s the old implication that Israelis are somehow ‘Westerners’ from the USA and Europe, artificially transplanted into the Middle East -or even forced to go there.
3 Jan 2010, 5:12PM
I can only say that I’m glad my grandparents moved to South America from Germany-via-Holland in 1939 and didn’t stay on to be murdered or herded off to the abomination that is Israel.
In fact, only about 4% of Israelis born abroad have their roots in North America, compared to 8.1% from Morocco, 3.6% from Iraq and 3.6% from Ethiopia. Of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, around 19% came from Asian states such as Uzbekistan (9%), Azerbaijan (4%) and Georgia (2%), all of which explodes the myth that Israel is made up of white Westerners. The other myth of so-called ethnic cleansing by these fictional hoards of white immigrants also takes a serious battering when one considers that in 1955, Muslims comprised 8.8% of the Israeli population, in 1972, 11.58%, in 1995, 15.21% and in 2000, 16.73% .
- 4 Jan 2010, 11:44AM
- JOHNROOSEVELT –
- “I guess you feel that Arabs have a massive case to answer for, then…or don’t you consider their aggression towards the Jews since 1947 be that?”
- Except to note it, I’ll put to one side your generalised, and therefore racist comment about “Arabs”.
- But in the real world, rather than the fantasy world occupied by Israeli apologists, it was Israel who were the primary aggressors in this ongoing conflict, they started it by occupying Palestinian land outside of the area granted to them by the UN. And before that I seem to remember they were terrorists, with groups such as Haganah, Irgun & Lehi (the Stern Gang) assassinating Lord Moyne in 1944 and the UN Mediator Folke Bernadotte in 1948 amongst other acts of terrorism.
- Who do you think has a case to answer for those atrocities?
As we see in this comment above, the distortion of history in order to avoid dealing with inconvenient truths is a CiF staple. Let’s take a quick look at the Jewish population of Israel well before the state’s founding, partition or even the Balfour declaration, as recorded by Tudor Parfitt in his book ‘The Jews in Palestine 1800 – 1882’.
In 1882, for example, there were between 15,000 and 20,000 Jews living in Jerusalem out of a total population of 40,000. In the same year, there lived in Tsfat (Safed) 1,200 Jews, Jaffa (Yaffo) 1,300, Shefa Amr (Shfaram) 100 and Bukayy’a (Peke’in) 100. As is well known, there had been uninterrupted Jewish settlement in Peke’in since the days of the dispersion. In 1881 there were 1,200 Jews living in Hebron, and in 1883, 4,000 in Tiberias. Montefiore recorded 233 Jews living in Acco (Acre) in 1839 and in 1875, 1,500 Jews lived in Haifa out of a total population of 6,000. In Schem (Nablus) in 1839, Bonar and McCheyne found a community of 200 Jews – nothing remains of that community today, of course.
Another method of circumventing any inconvenient facts is to rely on the old conspiracy theories.
- 3 Jan 2010, 4:26PMDPerrone99
- This article will either give readers the impression that Israel is a uniquely malevolent state or draw attention to a larger problem – namely the denial to water resources to populations around the world. For the sake of the people in Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere who are being denied water by governments and businesses (almost always working in coordination), I hope it’s the latter.
- Yes, you’re quite right.
- But to be sure, let’s send a fact finding delegation from the Conservative Friends of Equatorial Guinea to find out if there’s any funny stuff going on. I’m sure they’ll deliver an authoritative rebuttal to all of Seth’s wild claims.
- Actually, I’m surprised Sderot hasn’t worked it’s way into any of your posts yet.
And when certain CiF commentators can’t think of any better way out, they just throw around wild accusations of misuse of the term anti-Semitism as a method of neutralizing the arguments of others against their own misrepresentation and defamation.
- 3 Jan 2010, 6:48PM
- Re raymonddelauney
- cited as an anti-semite on a hate-watch site.
- ## Oh you poor thing.##
- It is a big issue .. a shame you belittle it. I was horrifed at being called an anti Semite the first time on CIF. It is an effective and argument-destroying insult. It throws the listener and distorts the issue as it is intended to do.
- I have appealed on many occasions for CIF to treat this nasty , low insult as the serious and disgusting slur that it is. I live in hope. Here is to the wonderful pro Israelis who can defend their corner without implying people are motivated by hatred .
Predictable as it is to see the Pavlovian masses at CiF responding on cue to Freedman’s stimuli, one would have hoped that so-called intelligent and educated readers of the Guardian would have learned to think for themselves by now instead of dutifully swallowing whatever is dished out to them and reacting as programmed. Here’s one optimist who was deleted for his pains:
- 3 Jan 2010, 3:07PM
- The whole of Israeli culture leans this way.
- No it doesn’t. Only Israeli culture as mis-reprepsented in an endless stream of one-sided vilification on Cif.
- Did you know that Jimmy Carter has now apologized for his stigmatization of Israel? Maybe Rusbridger and his minions will follow suit one day.
Maybe, Sabraguy – we can only live in hope, but my money is on Israel winning the World Cup before that happens.