An Independent op-ed (“Protests in the Negev region of southern Israel have been met with brutality”, Jan. 21) by Haifa-based activist Riya Al-Sanah begins by – per the headline – promoting the false narrative that Bedouin Israelis engaged in peaceful protest in response to the JNF’s afforestation project in the Negev Desert.
Last Thursday, thousands gathered in the Naqab region (Negev), southern Israel, to protest the dispossession of Palestinian Bedouin communities – and the response from the Israeli state was brutal.
Heavily-armed Israeli police showered crowds with tear gas launched from drones, while opening fire with rubber-coated metal bullets. Three people were hit directly in the face and needed surgery. One of them, Talib al-Sa’aydeh, suffered an internal haemorrhage.
The demonstration came after three days of sustained struggle led by residents of Al-Sua’a village who were resisting an afforestation initiative being carried out by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) – a quasi-state body – with the support of the Israeli authorities.
Al-Sanah fails to inform readers the Israeli forces were responding to violent rioting, not mere ‘protests’.
These acts of violence, which are being probed by the Shin Bet as possible terror incidents, include a Molotov cocktail hurled at a police station, a physical assault on a security guard, cars torched, rock throwing at passing vehicles, the burning of a journalist’s car and placing of rocks on train tracks leading to Beersheba which forced a passenger train to make an emergency stop.
Further, the afforestation work, which was limited to a small area of farmland, did not, as Al-Sanah claims, represent an effort to disposes Bedouin communities, many of whom have long lived in unrecognized townships scattered across Israel’s southern desert. Though the government has long sought to relocate them into planned, recognized cities, most Bedouins have refused.
Al-Sanah then attempts to elide the facts concerning rightful ownership of the land in question by use of pseudo-intellectual (Critical Social Justice inspired) jargon:
In a continuation of the settler-colonial discourse that has always been a feature of Zionist settlement in Palestine, JNF and Israeli officials claim that the Bedouins have no claim to private property and that the land is state land.
The question of who owns the land isn’t about “discourse”. It’s a legal case that goes back to 1973, and is still pending in Israeli courts.
According to Haya Noach, who co-directs the left-wing Negev Coexistence Forum, Bedouins are routinely “summoned to court and asked to prove their ownership” of the roughly 500,000 dunams of land in question, “but other than oral tradition, they often have nothing to show”. Further, Al-Sanah fails to acknowledge a compromise plan – reported in the Israeli media week before her Indy op-ed – being negotiated whereby the government would cease afforestation on the disputed land, along with recognition of 10 to 12 Bedouin villages that are currently illegal.
So, the op-ed’s dishonesty includes: eliding the violence by Bedouins which caused the Israeli police response; erasing the shaky legal foundation of the Bedouins claims; and ignoring the fact that Jerusalem was seeking a compromise which would give the residents some of what they’ve been asking for.
But, there’s one more piece of information relevant to understanding the op-ed: the contributor’s Twitter history which demonstrates just how extreme she is.
Here, when the conflict in May was erupting, she incites followers by falsely claiming “30,000 Zionist settlers” were storming the mosque:
Al-Sanah’s grievance against Israel isn’t limited to the their treatment of the Palestinians or the country’s Bedouins. It appears to be the Jewish state’s very existence she objects to.