Israeli prosecutors are preparing a $275,000 lawsuit against Bedouin families for the cost of removing them from government land they tried to take over northwest of Beersheba, national media reported March 2. The suit is said to target the sheikh of a Bedouin tribe that has staged 13 attempts to occupy government land near the Bedouin town of Rahat. A Knesset member has also proposed a bill providing for the immediate imposition of a fine against Bedouin who try to grab government land. Officials estimate there are thousands of “illegal” Bedouin settlements, also known as “non-recognized communities,” with tens of thousands of illegally constructed buildings, in the Negev.
The reports received most prominent coverage in the far-right Arutz Sheva, which implicitly cheered on the lawsuit—offering no acknowledgment that the “government” land being “grabbed” was land that the Bedouin had used for generations before it was “grabbed” by the Israeli government. Arutz Sheva’s account also contained the obligatory play to demographic paranoia and blame-the-victim thinking:
Aided by polygamy, prohibited by Israel law but with an exception for the Bedouin based on “religious tradition” the Bedouin Negev population has increased from a few thousand to more than 150,000 over the past four decades. Bedouin already make up a majority of the Negev population outside of Be’er Sheva. Some have begun to move into Jewish cities such as Arad.
Many Bedouin families with two or more wives include as many as two dozen or more children. Some of the families meet their expenses by collecting child support payments from the government.