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December 3, 2013 11:44 am

Are Future Israeli Cities in the Negev ‘Jewish Settlements’?

avatar by Adam Levick

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Northern Negev Desert. Photo: Tzuriel Cohen-Arazi, Tazpit News Agency.

Harriet Sherwood’s Guardian report on Dec. 1, “Israel’s plan to forcibly resettle Negev Bedouins prompts global protests,” focuses on objections to the so-called Prawer-Begin plan to resettle some of the Israeli Bedouin population in the Negev from unplanned encampments to planned communities.

(Under the plan, out of about 210,000 total Israeli Bedouin, roughly 30,000 will move, most only a few kilometers from their current homes, and will be compensated for their land. Another 60,000 will have their homes legalized and developed under the initiative, per the graphic below.)

MFA graphic

MFA graphic

However, even more interesting than Sherwood’s disproportionate focus on an extremely small number of protesters in Israel (and a few cities abroad), is the extremely telling words she uses to describe the new planned Israeli towns which will replace the existing encampments.

Sherwood writes the following:

Under the Prawer Plan, the residents of “unrecognised” villages will be moved into seven overcrowded and impoverished towns. Meanwhile, new Jewish settlements are planned for the region.

First, as with all Israeli cities, citizens of all faiths will be permitted to live in all new communities built in the Negev, and it is therefore inaccurate to describe them as “Jewish.”

Even more noteworthy, however, is her use of the word “settlements” to characterize these future towns.  These new cities, such as Hiran (currently a cluster of Bedouin encampments in what’s called Umm al-Hiran, 30 km from Beer Sheva), will be established in the Israeli Negev – that is, within the state’s boundaries as they were envisioned even under the UN Partition Plan of 1947, and as the boundaries were established under the 1949 armistice agreement.

Previously it seemed that the Guardian‘s unofficial policy was to merely refer to Israeli communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) as “settlements.”

However, the term “settlement” seems to have now taken on a more expansive definition: any place within the state (even within its “recognized” 1949 boundaries) previously free of Jews but where Jews are now permitted to live.

Adam Levick is the managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)

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