[News] Poverty rife among Bedouin women denied status by Israel

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 3 10:40:13 EDT 2011



Poverty rife among Bedouin women denied status by Israel

http://electronicintifada.net/content/poverty-rife-among-bedouin-women-denied-status-israel/10227
2 August 2011

TEL AVIV (IRIN) - More than 180,000 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/bedouins>Bedouins 
live in the 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/naqab>Negev 
(Naqab) desert but there is a big gap in terms of 
life opportunities between those Bedouins who 
live in 35 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/unrecognized-villages>unrecognized 
villages, and those for whom Israel has created 
seven towns or who live in seven officially 
recognized villages, say human rights workers.

Those in unrecognized villages face a constant 
threat of eviction and are cut off from even 
basic services. Aside from the threats to their 
homes, not enough is being done by Israel to lift 
these Bedouin communities out of poverty, they say.

Amal Elsana al-Hajooj, a Bedouin woman living in 
the Negev and the director of the Negev Institute 
for Strategies of Peace and Development, explains 
that unemployment and poverty rates among the 
Negev Bedouin in unrecognized villages are the highest in Israel.

“Residents of unrecognized villages have no 
status,” she says. “They have no address, their 
Israeli IDs state only the name of their clan. 
They have no claim to land. Their communities 
have no water, electricity or roads. There are no 
education or health services. The Negev is the 
backyard of the State of Israel. We are struggling to get any investment here.”

Al-Hajooj says the situation is most difficult 
for Bedouin women who face the dual challenges of 
living as Bedouin in Israel but also as women in 
a patriarchal society, where 30 percent of families are polygamous.

The conditions for women living in unrecognized 
villages are dramatically worse than for their 
counterparts in Israeli-built Negev towns, she 
says. “Today 75 percent of the Bedouin students 
[largely from recognized Negev towns] in 
university are women. But in the unrecognized 
villages the situation is very different ­ 65 
percent of girls are out of school because there are no schools.”

Sued to pay demolition bills

The Israeli government’s recent suing of the 
Bedouin residents of al-Araqib village in the 
Negev ­ for $500,000 to cover the cost of 
repeatedly demolishing their homes ­ has sparked 
fresh debate over Israel’s treatment of its Bedouin minority.

Claims by Bedouin residents that al-Araqib is 
built on ancestral land have been dismissed by 
Israel, which has carried out more than twenty 
demolition and eviction operations in the village 
since July 2010. Israel considers al-Araqib, 
along with 34 other Bedouin villages in the Negev, an illegal village.

Ortal Tzabar, spokesperson for the Israel Lands 
Authority, says, “This case is not about 
demolitions; these people are criminals. This 
land has been deserted since 1950, when it was 
taken by Israel. We had even leased the land to 
other Bedouins for agricultural use and they 
chased them away. But their claim that the land 
belongs to them is now under investigation and if 
it is found they have any rights at all, they will be allowed to return.”

In response, a spokesperson for al-Araqib 
residents, Awad Abu Freih, says: “The court 
[process] is going to take some time, the next 
hearing is not soon. It has been very exhausting. 
The government doesn’t like us; they don’t want 
us but this is our land. They have been using our 
land for over sixty years. We don’t owe them any 
money. They should give us compensation.”

Empowerment through weaving

Khadra El Saneh is the director of Sidreh, the 
only organization of its kind in Israel working 
to educate and promote the rights of Bedouin 
women. A mother of four, El Saneh overcame 
initial opposition from the traditional elements 
in her community to set up a weaving center. The 
center now employees seventy local women to make 
rugs that sell in boutiques across Israel and are 
exported as far afield as New York and Tokyo.

“Our aim is to empower women here with basic 
things. Bedouin women are at the lowest level of 
employment in Israeli society; 90 percent of 
Bedouin women living in recognized villages are 
illiterate. In unrecognized villages, that number 
is more like 100 percent. If a woman has 
education and economic empowerment, she can take 
more control, make decisions, be more useful to her society and her family.”

In an effort to combat low literacy rates, Sidreh 
also runs courses teaching Arabic, Hebrew and 
English. Since it opened in 1998, 1,400 women 
have graduated from its literacy course. It also 
offers community services, like early childcare.

Sidreh’s weaving business was launched in 2007. 
The 70 women employed to spin wool, stitch and 
weave the rugs each earn on average 2,000 shekels 
($586) a month. The organization is supported by 
a number of international and national aid 
agencies, including Oxfam, but has received no 
support from the State of Israel.

According to El Saneh, the solution to her 
community’s education and employment crisis is 
simple: “If we have schools, girls can go to 
school. If we don’t have schools, girls can’t go. 
If a woman doesn’t have skills, transport and 
basic logistics she can’t open a business. If she has, she can.”

This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN 
humanitarian news and information service, but 
may not necessarily reflect the views of the 
United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN material 
may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; 
refer to the 
<http://www.irinnews.org/copyright.aspx>copyright 
page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of 
the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.




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