Haaretz sometimes is a little slow on the uptake in reporting news. In the case of GOD-TV’s involvement with the dispossession of the Bedouin residents of al-Araqib, the newspaper is only about two months late. Neve Gordon reported in early December that the pro-settler evangelical group was funding a massive forest that would erase the outlines of the village. Subsequently, Max Blumenthal and I expanded on Neve’s reporting with our own research and blog posts. We also produced a video which documented the campaign against the Bedouin and GOD-TV’s involvement in it.
Haaretz’s reporter didn’t see fit to mention any of that. In fact, Nir Hasson claims he never read my work (he didn’t claim he hadn’t read Max’s). Which either means that he did limited research; or it means he, like so many Israeli journalists, just doesn’t give a crap about crediting the hard work of others. I say this as someone who relies heavily on the work of Haaretz in writing this blog and who always links and credits its reporters for their work. The difference between us is that I need to credit Haaretz in order to prove the bona fides of my blog posts, while neither Haaretz nor its reporters gains anything by crediting bloggers, even when they latter beat them to the story by two months.
Returning to our story, GOD-TV is sponsoring a 1-million tree forest on some of Al-Araqib’s land. It’s paying Jewish National Fund and Israel Lands Administration $500,000 to do so. For its purposes, the evangelical group is making the desert bloom, which in turn will attract the return of the Jewish exiles. That, of course, will bring the return of Jesus to His Kingdom (they believe). JNF and ILA get a partner who turns their treif enterprise–to commit a Nakba on the Bedouin of the Negev–into a kosher one. What can be more pleasing, after all, than a forest rising in the desert? Isn’t that what Isaiah spoke about in the Good Book?
There is a general Judaizing campaign under way in the Negev to implant new Jewish settlements there and “reclaim” the land for its Jewish inhabitants. There is an accompanying campaign to forcibly remove Bedouins from their traditional ancestral lands and place them in larger towns built with concentrated populations. This of course is alienating to a generally nomadic people who aren’t used to living in western style housing or a conventional town. As a result, social strife and decay of traditional values have accompanied this forced acculturation process.
GOD-TV has a modicum of shame for the role its playing. It’s placed a moral disclaimer on its website:
It has come to our attention that reports have been posted on the Internet…mislead[ing] readers to believe that GOD TV may be responsible for displacement of Bedouin people in the Negev Desert in Israel. These claims are false.
We cannot comment on any ongoing legal proceedings between the Israeli Government and the village of Al-Arakib, as GOD TV is in no way involved in these proceedings.
GOD TV is not responsible for, or involved in, the decision as to the specific places trees are planted across the country.
In other words, while the JNF and ILA may be displacing Bedouins, we have nothing to do with it. That’s an internal matter for Israel and its indigenous ethnic groups to fight out amongst themselves. What of course is entirely disingenuous about this is the claim that GOD-TV has no control over where its forest is planted. Of course it does. If it told JNF it didn’t want to be tarred with the brush of facilitating a Nakba, it could’ve chosen a less controversial spot for its forest. The fact is, GOD-TV doesn’t give a flying fig about Bedouins since they’re not part of God’s plan and the Jews are. They don’t need Bedouin to return to the Holy Land, they need Jews to before Jesus does.
The ILA defends its planting of the GOD TV forest by saying that it only plants forests on state land. This might lead someone who is naive to think that this constitutes a denial that the forest and destruction of the village have anything to do with each other. But in reality the State has confiscated ancestral Bedouin lands in the Negev and claimed them for its own. The State has forcibly removed the residents from al Araqib because it claims the land is Israel’s and not the residents’. So of course building a forest will contribute to the campaign to eradicate Arab presence in the south. It’s essentially not that different from the work Irving Moskowitz and Elad are doing in East Jerusalem, which they say is “reclaiming” (i.e. “stealing”) the Holy Land for its true and rightful Jewish inhabitants.
The Bedouin of the Negev have lived in their villages since well before the creations of the State in 1948. Residents of al-Araqib note the State first expelled them from their lands in 1951 by military order. They’ve never accepted their forced removal.
There is talk of an international boycott campaign against Jewish National Fund for its shameful involvement in this new Bedouin Nakba. Though few if any of my readers likely contribute to JNF, I’d encourage you to tell any Jewish people you may know why THEY shouldn’t contribute either. It’s bad karma.
This article first appeared at Tikun Olam