Opinion |

Israel Conquered the Negev, Again

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Israeli police face local Bedouin farmers during protests in Sawa, on Wednesday.
Israeli police face local Bedouin farmers during protests in Sawa, on Wednesday.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

With no new targets in sight, the Negev remains the ultimate goal for the occupation junkies. The days of the great conquests are over: Egypt, Syria, Jordan. And so, like a camel that chews its cud, they conquer what has already been conquered. And if they run out of Arab targets, then get ready for tanks rolling through the streets of Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, all the rivers of incitement run into the Negev. The media’s heavy artillery has softened public opinion ahead of the impending conquest. 'What happened to governance,' the headlines cried out in rage. Hearing these cries, one might be tempted to think that the Negev is about to declare independence. All that remains is to find a graphic artist to design the flag, a poet to write the words of the national anthem and a composer to set it to music, and oh what joy, the Arabs of the Negev have themselves a state.

I had thought, naively, that governance was all about guaranteeing livelihood, housing, education, roads, water and electricity, but when it comes to Palestinians, the country’s leaders have a different interpretation: demolishing homes, destroying groves and orchards, expropriating land – in short, displacement. Jews have five-star governance; Arabs have apartheid governance.

Indeed, He that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor sleep. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is playing Napoleon Bonaparte; the latter looked at the walls of Acre from bottom to top, and the former looks at Rahat from top to bottom. Both seek total surrender, but Bennett did one better: He posed for photographs with a gun, and to drive home the point declared. “We are moving from defense to offense.”

Israeli police face local Bedouin farmers as Jewish National Fund plant trees near the unrecognized village of Sawa, on Wednesday.

A few days after Bennett struck his Bonaparte pose, an endless convoy of Israel Police and Border Police vehicles had already conquered the south. The message was deafeningly loud and clear: Every grain of sand in the Negev is a proud Jewish grain of sand, and a Jewish grain of sand will never permit the foot of a non-Jew to walk on it, even if his ancestors had lived there for generations.

And so, on the very same slice of land, we were privileged to see two completely opposite images. In the first, the sons of the desert protest their displacement; in the second, privileged individuals plant trees. A sharp-eyed observer would have noticed that in the first picture, even amid the brutal attack on the Arab inhabitants, vivid signs of life: children and adults of all ages doing what regular people have been doing for generations – struggling to survive amidst evil. The Palestinian Druze poet with Israeli citizenship Samih al-Qasim wrote, “The flag of the last generation calls to the coming generation: I struggled, you shall struggle.”

As for the second picture, it is far paler and its joy contrived The momentary came, had their photos taken in ridiculous patriotic poses and swiftly left. They’re lucky Tu Bishvat falls in January. If it were in July, it’s almost certain no one would have come – they couldn’t take the desert heat in the summer. Thus, after all the ceremonies and the declarations, only the people of the Negev remained with Mother Earth.

In 1953, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion moved to the Negev. He hoped that masses of Israelis, Jews of course, would follow him. Reality is stronger than dreams, however, and the masses stayed in central Israel. But the effort continued. Jews – even if they lived in Boston – were offered farms in the desert, hundreds of acres each: Just come! But they didn’t come.

This is the place to explain that despite the heavy fog of demagoguery, the truth is that Arabs occupy just 3 percent of the Negev’s land. The establishment, with its voracious appetite, forgot about the 97 percent and covets the 3 percent. So, unless they kill themselves, the Arabs can’t aid in maintaining the Negev’s Jewish character.

Naomi Shemer once wrote that “A Land of Israel that is empty of Jews is desolate and empty.” The establishment, with all its branches, is following in the footsteps of the benighted poet. Some see her as the national poet, a poet of apartheid.

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