Tuba Zangrya: Where Do Israeli Bedouin Loyalties Lie? – OpEd


As Bedouin communities throughout Israel demand more land and benefits and engage in violence, their loyalty as citizens and their identity as Israelis is in question. Which side are they on?

Torching mosques in revenge attacks for murdering Jews has taken place before – but those were in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). The attack on the mosque in the eastern Galilee Bedouin town of Tuba Zangriya is different because the town is within Israel’s official pre-1967 boundaries and its residents are not only citizens of Israel, but many have a long history of military service to the State.

Attacked by local Arabs before 1948 and Arab armies during Israel’s War of Independence, Bedouin soldiers, many of whom served in the Palmach, protected isolated and vulnerable Jewish farms and kibbutzim. Many still serve with distinction in the IDF, recognized in official memorials to Bedouin soldiers who died in combat.

Like other Bedouin communities in Israel and especially the Galilee, Tuba’s residents receive full benefits as citizens, including private Jewish philanthropic donations. Considered a successful example of Israeli co-existence, Bedouins, like Druze and Arabs are represented in the government and enjoy a civic and political status unequaled in any other country.

That explains why this attack prompted President Peres, the Chief Rabbis and other dignitaries to travel to the village in expressions of solidarity and support. The attack in Tuba represented an attack on the State itself and co-existence.

But the relationship with Bedouin communities has changed as criminal elements have taken over in many villages and influence of the radical Northern Islamic Movement, led by Raed Salah, associated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood has increased.

In conjunction with PA incitement, the cultivation of a Palestinian identity – as opposed to an Israel Arab identity — has challenged the Bedouin to shift their loyalties, especially in light of the prospect of a second Palestinian state and PA incitement.

As Bedouin communities throughout Israel demand more land and benefits and engage in violence, their loyalty as citizens and their identity as Israelis is in question. Which side are they on?

The attack on Tuba’s mosque, therefore, is not just a criminal problem, but one that raises societal issues for Israel and its Bedouin citizens and residents.

Ensuing riots in Tuba following the media blitz and unanimous condemnation of the attack reveal this darker side of the problem. Municipal and communal buildings, including a clinic were torched by residents of Tuba; large gangs attacked the police, motorists and government officials.

The mayhem exposed divisions within the community and indicates an internal power struggle and perhaps a historic shift that will ripple throughout all Bedouin communities.

Not all residents of Bedouin communities, however, are innocent.

Jewish farms, kibbutzim, and communities near Bedouin towns and tent-camps have been victims of Bedouin thievery, cattle, goat and sheep rustling, arson and violence. The ineffectiveness and/or unwillingness of the police to stop or even investigate these crimes have led to the organization of local self-defense groups to protect themselves against Bedouin and Arab marauders. In many cases, however, unable to withstand constant attacks and theft, Jewish farmers have simply given up.

According to Yoel Zilberman, head of Hashomer Hahadash, organized to protect Jewish farmers, Kibbutz Kfar Hanasi, after years of unrelenting thefts and arson by residents of Tuba Zangariya, abandoned more than 4,000 dunam (a thousand acres) of their land and built an electric fence around the kibbutz to protect themselves from Tuba’s gangs.

Chaim Dayan, head of the cattle farmers’ associaton, charged that residents of Tuba Zangariya “are notorious for stealing from local Jewish communities … taking cattle in particular. Entire families are ‘employed’ in crime, theft and extortion.”

Several years ago residents of the town were found guilty of kidnapping and raping young Jewish women who were traveling in the area. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/police-we-were-right-not-to-issue-photo-of-rape-suspect-1.214320

Nor is the Bedouin threat a rural phenomenon. Jerusalem’s Jebel Mukaber neighborhood, for example is composed of and ruled by Bedouin; one of their residents murdered eight students in Merkaz HaRav yeshiva a few years ago. Only police orders prevented a traditional tent of mourning to honor the killer. Interviewed, the mukhtar of the village would not condemn the murderer.

According to reports, the Negev city of Beersheva and surrounding areas has been taken over by Bedouin gangs; the local police seem helpless.

Bedouin smugglers and criminals in the Negev and Sinai traffic in weapons, women, drugs and.illegals.

Assisted by a number of foreign-backed leftist Israeli NGOs, Bedouin tribes are constantly in court claiming land they do not own; harassing Jews in Judea and Samaria, they have also murdered, as in Sussiya and Maon.

Attacking places of worship is despicable and intolerable; there is no excuse. The arson in Tuba Zangriya, however, should be treated not only as a criminal act, but used to explore one of the most serious national issues facing the nation.

A breach of civil society, attacks on religious sites cannot be condoned, but calling the arson at Tuba “terrorism” seems exaggerated, unless applied to all similar instances, regardless of the perpetrator. Using such acts for leftist political agendas – like the NIF — to condemn Israel and Jews is irresponsible. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/rabbis-stand-in-solidarity-with-burned-mosque/2011/10/07/gIQAhAlfTL_story.html?wprss=rss_middle-east

Condemning this arson attack should not blind us to the deeper crisis that is bubbling just below the surface. Criminal activity of some Bedouin won’t go away and will become more virulent unless confronted in its entirety.

The ultimate price in Tuba and other Bedouin communities has yet to be paid — by Israeli society.

Moshe Dann

Moshe Dann is a writer and journalist living in Israel.

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