Last month a conference was convened in Be’er Sheva to consider the issue of domestic violence in the Bedouin sector…. One organization that purports to speak for the Bedouin was conspicuously absent: Rabbis for Human Rights.
Instead, this organization continues to focus its energies in the Negev in supporting a campaign of a few Bedouin families to receive ownership of lands they claim belonged to them over sixty years ago The El-Araqib area, located just to the south of Rahat, has been in the news intermittently. Israeli courts hear legal petition after petition by the families in their attempts to annul an order from the 1950s that brought these open spaces into the public domain. Consistently, a range of judges were not convinced by the testimony about historic ownership and called the violent behavior of the petitioning Bedouin families into question.
Last week I saw a mass email sent out by Rabbis for Human Rights to their extensive list comparing the intrepid El-Araqib campaigners to Martin Luther King’s battle for justice. It is time to bring a little sanity into the discourse. The controversy surrounding El-Araqib has absolutely nothing to do with the civil rights campaign of fifty years ago. To invoke the heritage of great Rabbis like Abraham Joshua Heschel’s or Jacob Rothschild’s involvement with Dr. King is not just historically imprecise; it is downright disingenuous.
If Rabbis for Human Rights succeeds in its campaign, it will means that the 50,000 residents of Rahat – (soon to be 100,000) – will be suffocated to the south by the expansive homesteads of the present protesters, who received a substantial real estate prize for their lawlessness.