Israeli Bedouin Arabs are divided in their views of Israel, with some acting as loyal citizens of the state, while others side with Israel’s enemies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Bedouin citizens of the State of Israel hold divergent views about the Israeli state. Some Bedouin Israelis are very loyal to the Jewish state. These Bedouin proudly serve in the IDF as Israeli Arab soldiers, viewing it to be a family tradition, and some of them even work for the Israeli government in senior level positions. They love the vibrant Israeli democracy and view Israel to be a country that respects their rights. However, other Israeli Bedouins, especially the ones living in unrecognized villages in Southern Israel, support the Palestinians and engage in anti-Israel activism.
BEDOUINS THAT SUPPORT ISRAEL
In 1946, Bedouin tribal leader Abu Yousef al-Heib sent some of his men to fight alongside the Jewish people in their struggle for independence. Ever since that date, there has been a Bedouin presence in the Israeli Army, which continues to grow by the year. Bedouins mainly do tracking or scouting activities in the IDF, with the Israeli Army’s Desert Reconnaissance Unit consisting entirely of Bedouin soldiers, although Bedouins can be found serving Israel in other capacities. There is even a memorial for Bedouins who have died fighting for the State of Israel in the Galilee.
Maj. Fehd Fallah, a Bedouin from the Golan Heights, explained to the BBC his family tradition of serving the State of Israel: “It’s a legacy – it’s something that has been passed on from generation to generation in my family. My father and his father served in the army too.” He claimed, “I will do whatever is required from me to do the job with the full faith in the service of the Israeli state. Yes, I have fought against Muslims in Gaza. And I would fight again if I had to. Israeli Muslims who don’t serve in the IDF should be ashamed for not serving their country.”
One IDF medic, Rene Elhozayel, whose father is Bedouin, stated, “I think we can call ourselves a patriotic family. Almost all of us have served in the IDF, and some of us are career soldiers. When a family member decides not to join the IDF, the family isn’t happy.” Other Bedouins who have served in the IDF have now achieved prominent positions within the State of Israel.
Ismail Khaldi, who started out his career in the IDF, the Israeli Police, and at the Israeli Defense Ministry, is now working for the Israeli Foreign Ministry in London. Previously, he was Israel’s Deputy Consul General in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Aetef Karinaoui, a Bedouin Israeli Knesset candidate who has been politically active, also served proudly in the IDF and runs an organization called Social Equality and National Service in the Arab Sector, which seeks to encourage all Israeli Arabs to serve the State of Israel.
SOME ISRAELI BEDOUINS OPPOSE ISRAEL
Another portion of the Bedouin population looks dis-favorably upon the State of Israel. Not too long ago, thousands of Israeli Bedouins marched through the city of Be’ersheva, waving PLO flags and banners of the Israeli Islamic Movement, while chanting, “With our blood and our spirit we will redeem the Negev.” These Israeli Bedouin were protesting a decision by the Israeli government to settle them in permanent homes as part of a compromise agreement that recognizes Bedouin legal rights in over 60 percent of the land in the Negev that they have squatted on illegally.
For these Bedouin, this compromise deal was not good enough because they believe the Negev which makes up 66% of the State of Israel, belongs to the Palestinians and not the Jewish people, despite the ancient Jewish connection and presence in the Negev. These Southern Israeli Bedouin are cooperating with anti-Israel forces who seek to have the Negev become Palestinian, thus connecting Gaza to Judea and Samaria, as well as Egypt.
By Rachel Avraham, staff writer for United with Israel