Al ‘Arakeeb (aka Al ‘Araqib) and Uses of the New Media

Abstract The indigenous Israeli Bedouins are systematically marginalized. Within this population, the people of Al-‘Arakeeb, a small “unrecognized” village located near the main road to Beer Sheva, which was demolished in 2010 and has since been repeatedly rebuilt and demolished, are perhaps the most oppressed. The story of the people in Al-‘Arakeeb demonstrates an act of resistance by a technologically inferior and isolated community that was empowered by the new capabilities offered by the Internet and associated technologies

Keywords Bedouin • Al-Arakeeb • Al Araqib • Unrecognized villages • New media

There is perhaps no indigenous population more marginalized systematically in Israel than Israeli Bedouins. Residing mainly in the Negev (or Naqab as it is known in Arabic), a desert that covers nearly half of Israel in its south (Marx, 1974), it is indisputable that they are treated by the State of Israel as second-class citizens (Marx, 2008). Their history, lifestyle, and relations with the state have led to their acquisition of

An earlier, expanded version of this chapter appeared as: Schejter, A. & Tirosh, N. (2012). Social media new and old in the Al-‘Arakeeb conflict—a case study. The Information Society, 28, 304-315.

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Amit M. Schejter, N. Tirosh, A Justice-Based Approach for New Media

Policy, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-41510-9_7

a unique ethnoregional identity within Palestinian-Israeli life (Yiftachel, 1999). While major Bedouin groups have resided in the Negev since at least the early nineteenth century and perhaps even earlier (Bailey, 1985), mostly undisturbed by Ottoman and British imperialists (Hall, 2014), the annexation of the Negev by Israel following the war of 1948 was traumatic for them. Most, in a similar pattern to the rest of the Palestinian population, either fled their homes or were deported. Military rule was imposed on the 11,000 who stayed and lifted only in the mid-1960s. As part of the state’s ethos of “Judaizing” the Negev (Nasasra, 2012), the Bedouins were concentrated in an area termed the restricted area, which consisted of only a fraction of the area that was their traditional homeland (Jakubowska, 1992).

In the 1970s, the state adopted a new policy aimed at urbanizing the Bedouins. Seven townships were built in and around the restricted area. About half the Bedouins, mostly those who had no claim to land of their own, agreed to resettle to these towns, which have since remained underdeveloped; they are all ranked in the lowest clusters (Clusters 1 and 2) of the Socio-Economic Index published annually by the Central Bureau of Statistics.1 The rest reside either in their original villages (if they are included within the restricted area) or in makeshift villages within the restricted area (if they were deported from their original dwellings) known today as unrecognized villages (Schechla, 2001). Although the Bedouins are Israeli citizens, these villages are not connected to the national infrastructure and lack access to water, electricity, and telecommunications. The discrimination faced by dwellers in this so-called unrecognized form of living has “dehumanizing effects [as] a policy whose aim is to outlaw a whole collective form of existence” (Nevo, 2003, p. 184).

Since 2008 the government has been attempting to develop a coherent policy regarding the future of the unrecognized villages. A government- appointed committee headed by a retired Supreme Court justice and former state comptroller (the Goldberg Committee) reported that 62,847 Negev Bedouins resided in “insufferable” conditions in the unrecognized villages (Goldberg, 2008). It estimated that 50,000 illegal structures already existed in Bedouin villages and that 1500-2000 were being erected annually. The committee urged the government to recognize as many unrecognized villages as possible; however, in the years since the Goldberg report was published, the government presented a series of plans and reports eroding the original report, gradually proposing to recognize fewer and fewer villages. Nonetheless, in practice, no new policy was enacted and the haphazard forays of government forces into the Bedouin hinterland, demolishing dwellings erected on land on which the government wanted to settle others—more often than not Jews instead of Bedouins—was the only action taken. One such case is the case of the village of Al-‘Arakeeb.2 Al-‘Arakeeb, though, is special, and its story helps illustrate the media-justice framework proposed in these pages, as the behavior of its residents with respect to media is an example of an act of resistance by a technologically inferior and isolated community that was enabled by the new capabilities offered by the Internet and associated technologies.

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