The Guardian Misleads on Bedouin ‘Villages’
On Nov. 28th the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Harriett Sherwood ‘reported‘ on a letter (published at the Guardian on the same day) signed by 50 public figures such as “Antony Gormley, the actor Julie Christie, the film director Mike Leigh and the musician Brian Eno” (and Jenny Tonge) opposing an Israeli plan to remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from ‘their historic desert land’.
Sherwood quotes the letter thus:
The eviction and destruction of about 35 “unrecognised” villages in the Negev desert will, the letter says, “mean the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination and separation.”
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Leaving aside the absurd idea that people who had till quite recent times led itinerant lives moving across vast distances of the Middle East with no fixed national identity can be now labeled “Palestinian Bedouin” like politically correct produce in an organic food co-op, the article (and letter) conjure up visions of camel-riding nomads being forced to fold their goat-skin tents and leave from vast stretches of Sahara-like dunes.
The Guardian once again is trying to promote the idea that these are Bedouin living in little villages that are the equivalent of the quaint villages one sees in reruns of “Midsommer Murders.” The reality, however, is far different.
Had Sherwood and the signatories ever bothered to take a drive down Route 40 from Beersheva, they may have found that they rather approved of the idea of relocating Bedouin from ramshackle tin huts in slum-like groups that have no running water to planned communities that provide the modern conveniences and sanitary conditions that they themselves expect and enjoy.
The photo below (which I took myself last year) depicts one “unrecognized village” a few miles south of Beersheva seen from Route 40.
It is “unrecognized” because it is simply an ad hoc assembly of tin and cardboard huts. The bales of hay are to feed the camels you can see in the foreground, the only reminder of this family’s nomadic past. There are dozens of these encampments strung out along the highway, and the issues of pollution, environmental destruction, and sheer unsightliness are immediately evident.
So here’s the question for the 50 public figures in the UK:
If you left Hampstead for a trip into the country, and found “unrecognized villages” like this (and there are dozens like it) strung out along the M-1, would you be protesting against the idea of moving people to better housing with modern facilities, or protesting against the British government for leaving them there?
Adam Levick is the managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).