Sky News Weighs in on Bedouin Issue

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The Israeli government eventually backed down and decided that it would make changes to the Prawer-Begin Plan.

Arriving late to the party, this hasn’t stopped Sky News’ Sam Kiley from encouraging the view that Israeli plans for bringing the Bedouin into the 21st century are “racist.” The framing of the story is set by a sensationalist headline:

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According to Kiley:

Dozens of homes built in what the government calls “unrecognised villages” have been bulldozed over the last few years.

And the village of Umm al Hiran has been served notice that it will be flattened, its 500 residents forced out and a Jewish development built in its place.

 Israeli journalist Ben Dror-Yemini addresses the very issue of Umm al Hiran:

Let’s take, for example, the repetitive chorus of the past few weeks, which sounds like this: “The Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran is slated to be turned into Hiran, a community for Jews only, via the disinheriting and transfer of the Bedouins, in accordance with the racist policy of the State of Israel.” This is also a summary of the claims in a series of articles in Haaretz.

After setting sail on the sea of lies, it’s worth returning to the solid ground of facts. First, the Bedouin members of the Al-Qian tribe, who are the focus of the current fuss, were transferred to the Yatir region of theNegev decades ago, of their own volition and at their request, due to a dispute with another tribe.

Second, when Hiran was being planned, a little over a decade ago, there were only a few Bedouins there, if any. The move to Umm al-Hiran occurred mainly in the wake of the plans for the new town. Aerial photographs prove this.

Third, only a small part of the master plan for Hiran is on the land occupied by the new squatters.

Fourth, adjacent to the Al-Qian compound, the state built Hura, a proper Bedouin village, with paved roads, electricity and water infrastructure and more.

Fifth, every family in the tribe is entitled to receive nearly a dunam of land. Even a bachelor over 24 is entitled to a plot of land, in preparation for future generations.

Sixth, in addition to the free land, with free infrastructure development, each family also receives monetary compensation for the previous, illegally built house where it lived.

Seventh, and here we’re in for a surprise, most of the tribe – 3,000 of the 4,000 members – actually felt this was a fair arrangement, and they indeed moved to Hura.

Eighth, Hiran is not designated only for religious Jews, and also not only for Jews. Any Bedouin who wishes to buy land there is invited to do so and is entitled to do so. Of course, that would cost money. In Meitar, for example, Bedouins from the surrounding area decided to buy plots of land. No one stopped them.

Kiley’s report simplifies a complicated situation and fails to include important context. Referring to these types of reports seen in the media and from various politicized non-governmental organizations (Kiley interviews Rabbi Arik Ascherman from Rabbis For Human Rights), Haviv Rettig Gur writes:

One key problem with this spectacularly excessive rhetoric is that for all the noise it generates, it fails to provide actual information to its audience.

For example, one cannot discover from the Rabbis for Human Rights video that almost half of the Bedouin being moved — roughly 15,000 – actually asked to be moved, even appealing to courts to get the state to grant them a new planned town in a separate location because the site where they had encamped was too close to the chemical works ofRamat Hovav, Israel’s main hazardous waste disposal facility.

Similarly, Guardian readers had no way of finding out in the paper’s coverage or the artists’ letter that Israel has already recognized several of the haphazard tent-cities of the Bedouin “dispersion,” but could not keep doing so indefinitely for the simple reason that the Negev Bedouin are the fastest growing population in the world, according to the Israeli government. They double their population every 15 years, and are expected to reach 300,000 by 2020. There simply isn’t any sustainable way to accommodate such a fast-growing population without municipal planning and multi-story housing.

And nowhere in the EU Parliament’s gathering of Socialists and Democrats could one learn that the Bedouin are being moved just three to five kilometers down the road from their current place of residence, and not out of the country.

Sam Kiley’s untimely report is just another in a plethora of one-sided journalism focused on the Bedouin.


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