On Sunday, the Israeli government decided that it would raze the Bedouin-Palestinian village of Umm al-Hiran – and displace those Israeli citizens living within the village – to make room for Jewish, national-religious developments.

As Noam Sheizaf at +972 reported, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet met not in Jerusalem at the Knesset to make this decision, as per normal. Rather, they met Sde Boker, the kibbutz where Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, is buried.

Why did they meet in this symbolic location? Simple: the Negev desert, where those Bedouin villages to be razed are situated, was considered by Ben-Gurion as “Zionism’s final frontier.”

Israel’s justification for razing the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran is that, in its 57-year existence, the village never received ‘official’ zoning approval. However, as Sheizaf writes, this is due to Israel’s unwillingness to grant official approval to the village, despite ordering the villagers to live in Umm al-Hiran in 1956:

[Umm al-Hiran] residents are originally from the western part of the Negev (Palestinians call the same desert Naqab); they were expelled eastward by the IDF following the 1948 war, and a kibbutz called Shoval was built on their land. After several years of moving from site to site, the army finally told those members of the Al-Qia’an tribe to build their homes in Umm al-Hiran and Atir, and so they did in 1956. Here is the army’s order (via Adala). It is marked “confidential.”

Despite the fact that it was the state who told the Al-Qia’an tribe where to move, the new villages were never made part of a zoning plan, and their residents still lack basic infrastructure like water and electricity. The government is finally deciding to build a proper settlement there – but not for the Palestinian Bedouin (who are citizens of Israel, some of whom even served in the IDF).

These are Israeli citizens – citizens in a ‘democratic’ state, some of whom have even served the country militarily – who are now having their homes destroyed.

And in their place, Israel will build developments dedicated to and intended for Jewish residents. Netanyahu made this clear when, in announcing the development plans, he cited Ben Gurion’s desire to develop the entire Negev for Jews. And razing Bedouin villages will “expedite” this process.

These are developments being funded, in part, by the North American Jewish community, and by diaspora Jews around the world, through the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an organization dedicated to developing Israel for Jewish settlement and sustainability.

Almost all North American Jews know about the JNF, and look upon it as a favorable, benign entity. Their blue ‘charity’ boxes are ubiquitous in Sunday schools and Jewish institutions.

However, few North American Jews understand that their donations are leading to the dispossession of Bedouin-Palestinians and the razing of their homes. And fewer still, if they understood where their funds were going, would drop quarters into those blue boxes with such frequency.

Which is why the dissemination of stories such as this one is so important.

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David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, now out from Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter@David_EHG.


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