Written By: Wisam Salah
To answer this question we need to start with a short introduction about Bedouins in historical Palestine (to be referred to in this article as “Palestine”), sorry the two-state solution does not apply on Palestinian Bedouins in the area as their tribal system and connections are way stronger than borders and walls and political classifications. I can’t clearly state the total population of Bedouins in Palestine since there is no “Bedouin” classification used by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and the Israeli Central Bureau of statistics keeps claiming that the Naqab ( Negev) is barely inhabited!. I approximate the number to be around a million Palestinian Bedouins living in the west bank, Gaza, Naqab, and abroad. As most people know, Bedouins live mostly in the desert “ al Badia”, and in Palestine “ remember Historical” about half of the land is a magnificent desert, golden sandy hills in the southern part connecting to the Sinai peninsula, and a grand canyon terrain in the northern parts connecting to Wadi Rum and the Hauran Valley, Yes around half of the two states is Bedouin land!.
Who are Palestinian Bedouins ?!, My grandfather used to say we Bedouins don’t control nature like farmers do we just know how to bend with the winds. Bedouins are Arabic tribes with ancestry reaching the Arab peninsula especially Yemen and have traveled and lived in this area for thousands of years. Their main source of economic wealth was their livestock, mainly goats and camels, though in the last decade cows and sheep are climbing the ladder due to popular demand, it when it comes down to preferences nothing beats the goats ( Samar), local sheep ( kharoof Baladi) and camels. Palestinian Bedouins also practiced seasonal farming as they planted beans and cereals when they could. Bedouins lived in tents made out of goats hair and have no fencing to be always open for guests and travelers!. It can easily be moved when needed. Tribal members all abide by the tribal law and their elders and Sheiks, this law has been transferred from one generation to the second and from father to son. Even the most liberal Bedouin will still respect these thousands of year-old code. So in short, if you come from a specific Bedouin kinship line and know the names of more than 15 of your ancestors, whose grandfathers, fathers or even yourself depended on livestock raising as a source of income or financial household security, and believe that your elders and sheiks and Bedouin customary law has an essential role in your life, and don’t mind the cruelty of the desert you’re a Bedouin !.
So that answers simply the where when and who leaving the what and why to be tackled. So what is happening to Bedouins in Palestine “ yes the two states “ ?. In the west bank most Bedouins and Bedouin lands are in area C and vice versa, most of area C is a desert and home to most Bedouins. Around 200,000 Bedouins spread from Dqayqah village “on the 1948 line” south of Hebron, bordering with Naqab, to the northern Jordan valley. To describe the situation in the west bank you’ll find the following, No infrastructure, no mobility, no rights, no shepherding, no ownership, no access to basic services as more and more Bedouins leave their ways of life as they are pushed vigorously towards major cities Centers. In Gaza, Bedouins are all refugees !. Left from Naqab “ or the Negev according to the occupying state” in 1948, and as Gaza being overcrowded and maybe uninhabitable this year ! You can be sure Bedouins in Gaza are losing an essential part of their culture and way of life in addition to all that was mentioned in the west bank. In Naqab, a true Bedouin heaven, most Bedouin tribes in the west bank and Gaza originated from this charming desert, Naqab is occupied by Israel in 1948 and Bedouins in Naqab have Israeli citizenships, yes that’s all they have since all the no’s in the west bank and Gaza still apply to them too!. The Israeli authorities maintain the toughest grip on Bedouin residents of Negev attacking them 24/7. To put things in perspective If you are a Palestinian Bedouin in Gaza, the west bank, or Naqab you are faced with the same colonial tactics and violations, your necessities are the same, ignorance to you is the same as the only difference would propyl be your last name!
That leaves us with the why, why is this happening to Bedouins in Palestine ?. In my opinion, there are many reasons but I’ll mention the ones I think are most important. Land, Land, and Land, when you own and reside in the largest piece of land in the country everyone will hate you and they will try to cut you off and push you away closer to city centers and if lucky refugee camps. They will make sure you can’t survive in that land even if that was your talent “ surviving in the desert “. The second reason I think is related to our culture and ways of life, loyalty to the tribe, only abiding by tribal law, living on the edge, stubborn and hard-headed, valuing our ways of life more than ease of amenities is making us Bedouins the most undesired citizen in the region some might even say Bedouins are true anarchists, I don’t think so but some of that is true.
Now to answer the question in the title of this article ( are Bedouins immune to Covid-19 and Israeli annexation plan ? the answer is: they are not !, Yet Palestinian Bedouins have to combat the ignorance and marginalization and ongoing human rights violations by the controlling authorities, at the same time battle poverty as their only source of income is being forbidden and impossible to maintain and restricted and threatened by an army and severe climate change, holding on to your lands as they always did in the face of a greedy vicious occupation. All of that and hope not to get infected by any virus since the closest hospital is probably on hour or more away.