May 1, 2008
On Tuesday, the Boston chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace sponsored a talk by Ra’ed Al-Mickawi, director of Bustan. Taking its name from a word meaning "fruit-yielding orchard" in both Hebrew and Arabic, Bustan is an organization fighting for environmental justice in the Bedouin communities of Israel.
Having cultivated low-impact agricultural practices over several generations in Israel’s Negev Desert, Bedouin culture has long been centered around self sufficiency, communal autonomy, and a deep connection to the land. In 1962 the Israeli government began a relocation program, forcing the Bedouins from rural and agriculture rich areas into small, contained urban townships.
David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, explained that the goal of this forced relocation program was to eventually clear Bedouins out of the Negev completely, "in order not to disturb development plans." Today, most of Israel’s nearly 200,000 Bedouin reside in seven "recognized" townships constructed by the Israeli government. The rest live in about 45 "unrecognized" villages subject to regular house demolitions and forced relocations. Read more...